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Feature Story

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787 Dreamliner's first flight

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The 787 full-flight simulator, built by Thales, uses hydraulic and electric systems to reproduce the flying sensation.

Flying the 787 Flight Simulator

By Bernard Choi

As the 787 Dreamliner cruises over the River Thames in London, Capt. Ted Grady points out the flight deck window.

Adrian Butler

Boeing/Bernard Choi

Capt. Ted Grady commands the 787 full-flight simulator after takeoff from Tokyo Haneda Airport.

"You can see Big Ben and House of Parliament," he says.

The 787 chief technical pilot presses a few buttons in the flight deck, then banks left over Sydney Harbor Bridge.

"There's the opera house in Sydney."

Just minutes before, the Dreamliner with Capt. Grady at the controls was smoothly lifting away from Tokyo Haneda Airport.

Though the rules of physics make this flight impossible, even for the Dreamliner, it's a button-push away in the 787 full-flight simulator.

"It's an amazing device," says Capt. Grady, who co-piloted the 787 Dreamliner on its first international trip to the 2010 Farnborough International Airshow. "The simulator is by design very similar to the airplane. The physical space is the same. The functionality of all the controls is the same."

"The physical space is the same. The functionality of all the controls is the same."
Capt. Ted Grady, 787 chief technical pilot

In fact, scanning the large monitors that serve as the primary flight display and vertical situation display and the dual head up displays above, it's hard to tell you're not actually climbing to 36,000 ft.

Before entering the full-flight simulator, students learn about the 787 Dreamliner through an interactive curriculum that lets them "touch and feel" the airplane.

Built by Thales, the state-of-the-art device uses hydraulic and electric systems to reproduce the flying sensation. It's a cost-effective way for pilots to practice normal and non-normal maneuvers without having to put a real airplane or an air crew at risk.

"As you progress through the lessons, you'll get into more and more complex, non-normal situations, such as loss of hydraulic systems, loss of pressurization, difficulties with electrics and things like that so you really cover all of the systems that are required by regulation," says Capt. Grady.

The full-flight simulator is the last step in a curriculum that can take up to 20 days for pilots who have never flown a Boeing jet or as little as five days for pilots rated on the Boeing 777.

Before flying in the simulator, students practice on a simpler version of the device as they get used to the flight deck. And prior to that, students take computer-based training to learn about the basic characteristics of the Dreamliner. [See the smaller video on this page to learn more about this part of the training.]

There are eight 787 training suites based in five cities: Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Seattle and Gatwick, U.K.

"The innovations of the 787 have inspired us to deliver a training curriculum based on our customers' training needs, matched with efficient delivery and modern simulation tools," said Boeing vice president Sherry Carbary, who oversees the Training and Flight Services organization.

Boeing tooling engineer Kelson Na

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An instructor can manipulate the flight and weather conditions from a station behind the pilot and first officer.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has granted provisional approval for the training curriculum. The 'provisional' designation will come off once the 787 Dreamliner is fully certified.

Currently, there are eight 787 training suites based in five cities: Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Seattle and Gatwick, U.K.

After a pit stop on the runway at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Capt. Grady is ready to land back at Tokyo Haneda. He commands the 787 [flight simulator] to descend and then glides the plane safely onto the runway.

"A great flight and no jet lag," he says.