VIDEO: Down to earth with a bump in hi-tech flight simulator

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You’re on a plane and there’s an announcement the pilot has taken ill – and that someone will have to volunteer to take control and then safely land the aircraft under instruction from ground control.

And you see me puffing out my chest as I make my way up the aisle with the steely-eyed determination of Bruce Willis at his trouble-shooting best.

British Airways Senior First Officer Paul McCaughrean at the controls of the 787 Dreamliner simulator at Belfast City Airport

British Airways Senior First Officer Paul McCaughrean at the controls of the 787 Dreamliner simulator at Belfast City Airport

At this stage it is imperative that you wrestle me to the floor before I get anywhere near the vast array of gizmos, buttons and levers.

I can say this with some authority, having spent a morning in the imaginary skies over London in the British Airways 787 Dreamliner simulator with Senior First Officer Paul McCaughrean.

In fairness to myself, when I did eventually get the plane back on the ground I managed to bring it to a complete standstill ... with more than a little help from Terminal 1.

Carnage would have ensued had anyone been foolhardy enough to let me take charge for real, and the travelling public can be eternally grateful I shall be flying nothing but my desk at the News Letter for the foreseeable future.

British Airways First Officer Nick Kerridge in the 787 flight simulator

British Airways First Officer Nick Kerridge in the 787 flight simulator

The hi-tech simulator was at Belfast City Airport on Thursday along with a team of experienced pilots.

Among them a number from various walks of life who gained their wings through the British Airways ‘Future Pilot’ programme.

Entry requirements for candidates aged 18-55 are three A-levels, at grades BBC or above, or a honours degree (2:2 or higher).

First Officer Nick Kerridge shares a cockpit with former computer programmers and many others who changed careers to land their dream job.

“There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ pilot. I work with people from all backgrounds, and all ages, including many who always harboured a dream to be a pilot but did nothing about it until later in life.”

The 35-year-old History graduate flies 747s for BA all over the world. He describes the modern pilot’s role as multi-functional.

“You obviously need a passion for flying but you also have to be a people person. At British Airways a pilot can find themselves in a terminal explaining to passengers what’s going on if there are delays.

“You do need aptitude but there are tests along the way to measure aptitude which are very accurate,” First Officer Kerridge added.

Trainees develop their skills at one of three centres in England and Spain.

If ultimately successful, they will progress to the airline’s state-of-the-art flight simulator at Heathrow – before taking the controls of an Airbus A320 for their first taste of the real thing.

Details of the BA Future Pilot programme can be found here