Preparing for take off
I believe I can fly,” R Kelly croons, “I believe I can touch the sky...” He specified no vehicle to reach the skies, and at Flight 4 Fantasy, a flight simulator experience store, I choose a world war one aircraft, the Thunderbolt for my maiden tryst to fly. The floor attendant helps me tighten my seat belt, points to the throttle on my left, and the navigator on the right as I curl my fingers around them and hold a tight grip for the journey ahead.
With my feet fixed on the rubber pedals, at a speed of 156 knots, I push into full throttle, powering the engines to take off. But wait, why is the sky below the earth and why are the mountain peaks upside down? “Your fighter has turned over,” the flight attendant warns, as I anxiously move the joystick from right and left. A free flight, there are no enemies to shoot down, but I must dodge the mountains of Scotland. Three minutes airborne and I am convinced of being a bad flyer. As I struggle to maintain balance, I nose dive and crash thrice. And the seat jerks to add to the effects.
The virtual simulator has been constructed using original parts of a professional aircraft and The Cessna is one of the easiest to fly. Pics/Sameer Markande
With a minute left to go before I end my experience, I crash into a rocky range ahead of me. It’s crash and burn this time. I remove the 3D glasses and I’m back to reality. Before I go for my next flight, K Vybhava Srinivasan, who founded the first Flight 4 Fantasy along with his friend Deepak Agarwal, chats about the venture they started in May 2012 in Bangalore. “Here, you get the first hand experience of flying a professional simulator. We also sell softwares and flight simulation hardware, which can be downloaded onto PCs for a home flying experience, along with collector’s aero models,” explains Srinivasan who is the current President of International Virtual Aviation Organisation.
As he ushers me to the Cessna, which I will be flying next, the panels are all collected from professional aircrafts, he tells me. I settle into the captain’s seat and a professional first officer slips into the adjacent. The screen transfers me to Princess Juliana International Airport, in the island of Saint Martin. I must concentrate on the air speed indicator, altimetre and Heading (direction compass). Here, I will also learn to fly on auto.
The view outside the cockpit is a beautiful beach, sunny and sparkling blue waters. I push the throttle with my left hand and balance the yolk (steering) with the other, pulling it up to take off. I also learn to use it to balance the aircraft, preventing it from turning its nose too high or too low. Using the heading meter, I make a perfect U-turn and fly into the horizon with the sea beneath us. My second round is much better that the rickety first. Arjun Malhotra, a trained pilot, suggests we try the autopilot mode, and this is all about manipulating the altitude, direction and speed.
Having tackled my air sickness, I look forward to my flight on Boeing 737. But before that, I am escorted into a room for a pre-flight briefing.
A Boeing, I learn, consists of a main instrument panel, which looks at a dark sky filled with switches instead of stars. Here too, the altimeter, airspeed indicator and heading play vital roles, along with a navigator display. The overheard, which forms a slanting roof on our head and is used to man the air-conditioning, electrical, hydraulic, lighting and engine systems, is pre-set and we don’t fidget with it. I settle into the captain’s chair and Srinivasan joins in as first officer. A large spherical screen before us and we are at Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong, its runway jutting out into Victoria Harbour, causing a difficult crosswind forcing pilot to land by taking a dangerous swerve.
We make a smooth take-off, switching to auto pilot. Following Srinivasan’s orders, I turn knobs and pull levers but the most interesting is the heading, the one that helps you change direction. Similar to a compass, it is exhilarating to put school-level geography to use. Landing is fun, too, as we pull the wheels down, open up the side flaps to break the speed and perform a safe landing. Yes, now I do believe I can fly.
At: Flight 4 Fantasy, first floor, Phoenix Market City, Kurla
Call: 022 61801771
Log on to: www.flight4fantasy.com