On the return journey from this year’s skiing holiday, we had the misfortune of being boarded onto the plane, whilst a large number of passengers were known to be stuck in the aftermath of a road traffic accident. The decision was taken to wait for them, resulting in us being sat for over an hour on the stand. On the plus side, one of our party was cheeky enough to ask for a peek into the cockpit, and then shouted me over for a look. In these security conscious days, it was a rare opportunity. Although we couldn’t put one foot inside the cockpit, we spent a good 10 minutes crammed into the doorway talking to the First Officer about various aspects of the flight deck, and the similarities and differences between the real thing, and FSX.
Although the 757-200 isn’t a full glass cockpit, there were plenty of displays as well as the old ‘steam’ gauges – though these were so large, clear and well illuminated, they did look like virtual gauges from where we were stood.
I asked about the FMC (those green screens and weird ‘ABCDE’ keyboards that FSX shows but doesn’t simulate). I also asked whether the position is obtained by radio beacons or GPS. It turns out both feed into the nav systems, but the position is maintained by (random phrases coming back to me) laser gyros (?), intertial navigation, and lots of other inputs – need to read up on that so it makes more sense.
If I’d had a few minutes to think about, I’d have had a lot more questions – all of which are answerable online, but always more interesting when talking to a person. “What is the difference in training between the First Officer and a Captain (as both are qualified to land the plane)”. “What are those funny extra levers that sit behind the throttles?” and probably a lot more.