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Become a pilot for a day at Anaheim’s Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center

Written by on July 5, 2019

Have you ever wanted to channel your inner Maverick or Iceman? Maybe Capt. Sully?

That’s possible at a warehouse in Anaheim.

The Flightdeck Flight Simulation Center offers would-be pilots a realistic experience commanding a fighter jet or commercial airliner. The facility near Angel Stadium houses facsimiles of eight fighter jet cockpits and one Boeing 737. Plans for a virtual reality headset experience and a Korean War-era dogfighting program are in the works.

Before participants can take the yoke, they start their experience — as real flight school students do — in the classroom with a lecture on the basics, said Steve Leong, Flightdeck’s director of operations.

“But we try to make it as easy as possible,” Leong said.

Next, pilots head into a locker room to don former military issue flight suits, which are made from fire-proof Nomex.

“It’s a onesie,” Leong said with a smile. “It’s the most comfortable uniform.”

Down the way from the locker room is the Officers Club, or “O Club.” The large area features tables, chairs and monitors to view live footage of the action taking place around the corner, where the eight fighter jet simulators are .

These stationary simulators are custom-made for Flightdeck. The 13-by-7-foot screens project what a pilot would see, giving the sense of movement without the stomach-churning forces of gravity.

Still, for some, it all feels pretty real.

“You’ll laugh when you see people actually lean in the aircraft,” Leong said.

The simulators share the same virtual airspace, allowing all eight pilots to engage in dogfights.

Once inside the cockpit, pilots grasp the control stick and throttle for a standard 30-minute flight. The stick is not between the legs (like in “Top Gun”), but at the side in a more ergonomic fashion. Gauges, such as altitude, horizon line and radar, are displayed on a digital screen.

The two-person Boeing 737-800 cockpit, though stationary, is more advanced and closer to the real thing. It features a 180-degree, wrap-around screen and the requisite switches, levers, buttons and knobs.

Standard flight packages range from 30 to 90 minutes, simulating takeoffs, landings and different weather conditions.

In addition to corporate parties, birthday outings and tourists, Flightdeck attracts its fair share of bona fide pilots and flight students, Leong said. Some want to use the Boeing cockpit for affordable simulator time. Others are retired commercial or military fliers.

“They’re done flying, but they want to keep dabbling in it,” Leong said.

Flightdeck, which took off in 2006, plans to expand when it moves to the Anaheim GardenWalk in the Resort District this fall.


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