I gripped the yoke tightly as the Boeing 737 thundered down the runway on Thursday afternoon. It was a beautiful blue-sky day and as we lifted off I took time out from concentrating on the instruments in front of me to admire the myriad islands littering Moreton Bay off Brisbane’s east coast. Beyond the calm waters of the bay the turquoise expanse of the Coral Sea sparkled, but it was not there we were heading. We were on our way to the Gold Coast for a quick half-hour flight.
I had never in my wildest dreams imagined myself at the controls of a jet airliner but here I was in the second officer’s seat with my hands on the yoke. I would have been worried about my ability to be in charge of such a massive plane had it not been for a few factors: My husband was beside me in the captain’s seat; we had an able instructor, Brian Hamilton, behind us, looking over our shoulders and giving advice; and the plane contained no hapless passengers. We were, in fact, flying his and wife Heather’s brand new Boeing 737 jet aircraft flight simulator situated in a trailer down near Banora Point in New South Wales.
As we banked to fly south over the land, I could make out the features of the topography just south of Brisbane and then gradually more familiar sights came into view. First we saw Mount Tamborine and then later the distinctive buttress of Springbrook in the Gold Coast hinterland. As Second Officer, I took a turn at the controls and made a few unscheduled though not disastrous turns, learning how to give small inputs and then level the yoke again as the massive jet responded to my touch. There was a lot to watch at one time: airspeed, height and keeping the wings level when not turning, but Brian explained it all clearly and I found the experience exhilarating, a real adrenalin rush. But it also gave me a sense of accomplishment for doing a task well. Had there been passengers, I’m sure they would have been relieved that I managed to keep the plane relatively straight and level too.
To the left, we passed over the Nerang River leading down to the high-rises of Surfers’ Paradise and the still waters of the Broadwater. And then, as we began our descent into Coolangatta airport, I handed over control of the yoke to my husband while I looked about at the scenery again. I even spied a flock of white birds winging their way far below us.
Then my husband was lining up with the runway and I had to concentrate again, working the flaps, and reading out our descent rate as we headed inexorably for a touchdown on what looked like a narrow strip of tarmac.
Once out of the second officer’s seat, and perspiring from the excitement, I took some time to take in more of my surroundings. The cockpit of the simulator is remarkably realistic, with instruments, gauges, switches and seats taken from a genuine Boeing 737. If you’ve ever flown in a modern jet, you’ll instantly recognise many of the sounds, from the APU providing power for the aircraft while on the ground to the sound of the jet engines roaring. There is even the sound of the undercarriage being stowed beneath the aircraft and I fancied I could feel the ‘clunk’ as it found its home. There’s also a real sensation of speed as the aircraft accelerates down the runway and lifts off into the air.
When we left the trailer where the flight simulator is housed, I felt as though I had just flown from Brisbane to the Gold Coast on a joy flight, and the feeling was amazing.
The Hamiltons have come up with a novel concept: a mobile flight simulator that can be taken to the client rather than the client come to them. There are a wide range of experiences to be had, from the full deal where you can go through all the intricacies of pre-flight preparation to ones where you can already be in the air, ready to take control and fly into any one of a number of different destinations around the world.
The simulator will suit those who just want to have a fun time doing something they have always found interesting but never imagined they would be able to do, as well as those who are interested in learning all the pre-flight procedure necessary in order to qualify for a commercial licence.
If you’d like to learn more, contact Eagle Flight Simulations, Brian or Heather Hamilton, at
(+61 0)7 5513 1092
If you’ve ever wanted to fly with the Eagle, you’ll have a fun time, regardless of your pre-flight experience.
At Brisbane airport ready for take-off