How to destroy V Australia’s $23M flight simulator

I thought that I was the luckiest person in the world when Ken Pascoe and Marty Khoury, two pilots from V Australia invited me, a lowly blogger, out to visit them and their flight simulator out in Australia last week. Sure, I edit a travel blog and I do run Linux, but that usually can only get me so far.

So I was thrilled to accept the invitation and join the crew out in Silverwater, just outside of Sydney, last Monday. As I detailed last week, Ken picked me up at the train station and showed me around the CAE facility and cockpit, then the safety briefing started.

“Should we lose power and the gangway not extend to the sim, the escape hatch and rope are just outside of the cockpit,” Ken explained.

“Furthermore, if anything goes wrong during the flight, emergency stop buttons are here, here and here.” He pointed to a spot next to each seat and to two on the wall of the cockpit. “But you won’t have to hit those — I’ll have probably already reset the system once you realize something has gone wrong. Now, grab a seat.”

Pulling my SLR camera out of its bag and stepping towards the left seat, I paused, and turned to my companion, thinking that it would be best for me to film part of the experience before taking my turn. And that’s when the lights turned off and everything ground to a halt. Think of the noise you hear when a subway or train shuts down, it’s eerily quiet and something doesn’t sound right. Or the sound of broken dreams. That’s the one. I had pressed the emergency stop button with my shoulder when I turned around.
Note, that there are two emergency stop buttons on the wall of the cockpit: there’s the “turn off the movement and relax” stop and then there’s the “pull the plug on thirty computers, rip the circuit boards from the machine and stomp on them” stop. That second one is the one that I pressed.

“No worries,” said Ken, “this has happened before.” And as we left the cockpit, he gave a nervous chuckle. “We’ll be up in no time.”

Ah, but we weren’t. After an hour of pulling circuit boards out of the machine, two techs determined that they might have to order another board. My session and a later, real pilot’s session were definitely canceled.

Later that evening I got a text message from Ken saying that they figured out the problem after replacing two circuit boards, and that I should swing back as soon as I could. But by that point I was already headed towards Auckland.

Maybe next time, V Australia.