Expensive? Yes. A simulator may cost roughly the same as the airplane it represents. It is approximately the same level of complexity. It has the virtue of being repeatedly crashable. Crashes can damage simulators though, and many a time instructors have frantically jabbed the button to suppress them.
Rare? Because of their cost airlines typically buy about one less than they actually need. They are often scheduled continuously, almost around the clock. Even the back side of the clock is sold to customers with less ferocious pilot unions. (I've long wondered if FedEx pilots complain when they have to go to the sim during daylight. "How can they expect a pilot to be sharp at that hour of the day?
We have a couple of different concepts in use in sim training. One, the LOFT is supposed to be 'line oriented' like the acronym implies, with pilots flying a long drawn-out sequence the outcome of which depends on the choices made. The other is a 'first look' situation where I might put you in the box with the motors running at the end of the runway, ready for takeoff. After that brief scenario is complete I might put you in flight ready to start an approach or something. Little realism here, it is not even something we strive for. It is just a way to acquaint you with a number of procedures, maneuvers, and situations one after another, in a short period of time.
I'd not heard that expression. Thanks, it is nicely descriptive. It works in books too - yanking the reader out of the story by some intrusion of out-of-place words. I can hardly stand to watch movies anymore because script writers insist on putting 2008 slang in the mouths of ancient Romans or 1940s soldiers.
Many items are for the debriefing: correcting exact wording of a callout, for example. Some are cause to freeze the flight, interrupt, point out just where they have gone astray, correct the situation, then proceed. About the only time we want to do this is when the training value will be lost if we proceed.
Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.