Taking to the skies again with Flight Experience Singapore
Updated: Aug 17, 2021
When it comes to flying, it’s always been more about the destination than the journey for me. I developed a fear of flying many years back, which thankfully got better when I started to travel more often and take long-haul flights.
Still, I’ve never liked the feeling of turbulence or being up in the air, as well as the sound of the flight engines during landing or take-off. But being grounded in one country during COVID has made me long to travel again - even if I might need to reconquer my fear of flying.
So when I heard about Flight Experience Singapore, I was excited to try it out. The flight simulator lets you run the controls in a commercial aircraft, with professional pilots to guide you along.
There are multiple flight experiences to choose from, running from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. Prices range from $195 to $395 per person, and you can use your SingapoRediscover vouchers to offset some of the cost. There are also ongoing promotions like 30% off for students, which you can find on the website.
Obviously, controlling a plane is way more difficult than driving a car, but I was up for the challenge.
Flight Experience Singapore is located in the same building as Singapore Flyer. The nearest MRT is Promenade, and you can also take a Grab or taxi and stop just outside Singapore Flyer.
Flight Experience is located on the second floor of the Flyer building. Do follow the instructions in your booking form (sent vie email when you schedule a flight) on how to get there. On days when the Flyer isn't opened, you may have to use a side entrance.
The venue itself is a well-appointed space that’s filled with displays of airplane models, flight-related merchandise and a cosy waiting area with a table and sofa. The waiting area resembled a living room in an apartment.
After being checked-in, we sat on the couch to watch the pre-flight instructional video on operating the plane controls. Not to worry if you can’t remember everything that’s mentioned, the pilot guiding you will explain everything again.
Once the video was done, our friendly pilot Ardel introduced himself and brought us into the simulator - a Boeing 737-800.
As I entered, I really felt like I was in a plane again! To the right were pictures of rows of airplane seats, and straight up ahead was the familiar sight of an emergency door. Turning left, I headed into the cockpit, where countless buttons and lights awaited me.
The sight of all these controls can be overwhelming. Thankfully, most of them (such as the overhead panels controlling heat/light switches and other functions) were pre-programmed and we only needed to operate a few. After all, an hour certainly isn’t enough time to memorise what every single thing does!
Before we begin, our pilot introduced us to the core controls required to learn flying. These included the following flight instruments:
Throttle levers: These control the engine power. Pushing them increases power, and pulling them decreases it.
Control column: Positioned right in front of each pilot seat, this controls the airplane’s steering functions. It enables the plane to move up and down (a term known as pitch), as well as left and right (roll). By pushing the control column forward, the plane’s nose moves down toward the ground. Pulling back causes it to move up.
Rudder pedals: These help steer the aircraft left or right when it is on ground, by pushing on them with your feet. They also allow you to steer the aircraft's tail left and right in the air (what's known as yaw), similar to a boat rudder.
Primary Flight Display: Includes key info about the plane with the altitude indicator (its pitch and roll characteristics). It also displays its airspeed and how high it is above ground/sea level.
Navigation Display: As its name indicates, this is like your “compass” that tells you where you’re heading.
After a brief run-through of the flight instruments, it was time for takeoff. We started off with a short beginner run from the San Francisco Airport to Oakland International Airport. I was impressed by how realistic and detailed the simulator visuals were. I could see the water bodies surrounding the airport, as well as other elements like buildings and hills.
As I steered the aircraft left and right on the runway, I realised that the rudder pedals were pretty sensitive. A very small push resulted in a huge veer in either direction. However, this is just the flight simulator's setting - the pedals are much less sensitive on a actual aircraft.
Taking off for the first time was an exciting experience too, as I pushed the throttle lever and pulled back the control column to direct the plane up. See how I did in the video above!
As the plane ascended into the sky, our pilot guided me to turn left and I caught sight of the Golden Gate Bridge!
A while later, I spotted the runway approach lights (seen on the simulator screen as blinking dots) of Oakland International Airport. Also known as PAPI lights, these tell you if your approach is too low, too high or on target. If the lights are all red, this means you're too low and you'll miss the runway. If it's all white, you'll overshoot the runway. Ideally, you're looking for a mix of red and white, as pictured in the first photo above. We then prepared for landing by activating the landing gear/wheels of the plane.
Once we were about 50 feet from the ground, I pulled back on the throttle to reduce the aircraft’s power as the wheels touch the ground. I've included my landing video above too!
After that very thrilling experience, our pilot showed us what it’s like flying during bad weather. He changed the settings to the worst possible storm, where we pretty much couldn't see a thing throughout the whole flight!
Obviously, no one enjoys flying through a storm, but Ardel's expert flying skills made it look easy. The Navigation Display is key to helping pilots fly in such bad weather. It helps pinpoint the plane’s exact location and flight route, enabling it to land safely.
I think I’ll be more reassured when flying in a storm now, knowing that pilots possess the know-how and technological equipment to navigate the worst weather!
After our very stormy experience, my partner took the controls and tried one of the more challenging airport landings - the mountainous area of Bhutan. He did require lots of help from our pilot, so we could weave through the mountains without crashing into them!
As our pilot did most of the work on that, we then tried a much easier route - Singapore to Johor. Here, he was able to steer the plane better and made a smooth landing.
After about an hour and a half, our experience came to an end. It was bittersweet stepping off the simulator, and I do long for the day I can take flight on a real plane!
We’re all hoping for some light at the end of the tunnel (or in this case, the runway), especially for the aviation industry. After speaking to our pilot, I also realised how tough the situation is for him and his co-workers.
Like many others, he studied for years to become a pilot and spent almost a year taking entrance exams. He was offered a position with an airline carrier, but unfortunately his intake has been pushed back indefinitely due to the pandemic. Hopefully some travel bubbles do emerge by late 2021 or early 2022, and more pilots can start working again.
I’m afraid of flying, but I did enjoy my simulator experience immensely and would highly recommend it to both kids and adults. Understanding the dynamics of flight made me feel more reassured about being on a plane.
Whilst I’m prone to motion sickness using VR equipment, I didn’t experience that at all here. It’s not a full-motion simulator, and the cockpit doesn't move along with the screen. But if you’re particularly susceptible to motion sickness, do prepare some medication and take them before your flight.
If you miss jet-setting, this is a great recreation of the experience. What's more, you get to be captain for the day and learn how these engineering marvels work. You’ll be awarded with a certificate of achievement too, which you can proudly display at home.
For more info on Flight Experience Singapore and to make a booking, check out its website and follow them on Facebook and IG.
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