The joy of flight simulation is that you get all the thrill of flying multiple aircraft, wherever you want in the world, without the large price tag of training or having to leave the comfort of your desk chair. Most people, for one reason or another, are limited to the experience of sitting in front of their PC, learning different aircraft systems and basic flight handling without even touching a real aircraft. In the effort to immerse yourself even further into the realm of virtual flying, one step further would be to start to build a home cockpit. For the same price as a Private Pilot’s license, a Boeing 737 cockpit will certainly quench the thirst for the ultimate virtual flying experience but can be both time consuming and costly. A satisfying middle ground is visiting one of the pre-built simulators that can be found in garages, caravans, lockups and business parks all around the globe. Most of these are meticulously put together by like-minded virtual flight enthusiasts, with the view to achieving the highest level of immersion possible and sharing that with visitors who purchase block time to spend in the sim.
I visited recently established Airline Experience, a 737NG flight simulator based at Fairoaks Airport (EGTF), in Surrey, UK. Airline Experience has been assembled and run by four real-world airline pilots: James, Anna, Graham, and Nick who all met at Fairoaks over the past few years whilst learning to fly or operating different aircraft from the small WWII GA airfield. Now, James and Anna operate an Airbus A320 fleet out of Heathrow, Graham flies 737s from Luton and Nick flies out of London City using Embraer aircraft. The team have all progressed to real-world flying from experiencing simulation in one form or another and provide great insight as to what it takes for others to do the same.