Hanoians experience flight at Airbus simulator

By Quynh Nguyen   November 19, 2023 | 01:00 am PT
Hanoians experience flight at Airbus simulator
Minh Anh (right) starts  up the Airbus engine at the simulated cockpit in Hanoi's Ba Dinh District, Nov. 9, 2023. Photo by VnExpress/ Quynh Nguyen
Customers can now fly an Airbus simulation cockpit in Vietnam for $50 an hour.

Nguyen Cuong, a 49-year-old Hanoian residing in Cau Giay District, experienced the Airbus A320/321 simulator at an aviation academy in Ba Dinh District.

His childhood dream was to become a commercial pilot, but it was something he never achieved.

After earning some money later in life, he went to Japan to purchase a cockpit simulator and simulation software to run on his computer.

However, both were more like video games and not as realistic as he wanted.

After learning recently that an establishment in the capital was offering a realistic flight simulator experience, Cuong immediately went to check it out.

"For someone who’s passionate about airplanes but isn’t a pilot like me, this experience is incredibly realistic. It’s just like sitting in a cockpit, from the controls, the radar system, to the screens. The only difference was that we never left the ground," Cuong said.

Minh Anh, a 34-year-old teacher in Nam Tu Liem District, Hanoi, also visited the academy to try the simulator.

First setting foot in the cockpit, she was awed by all of the buttons and controls that surrounded the pilot’s chair.

Although she was guided by a staff member, Anh admitted that she could not remember all the functions of the control board and how to operate the plane.

"I felt like I was sitting in a real cockpit. I’m going to return in a few days to find out more because 60 minutes isn’t enough," she said.

The simulator that Cuong and Minh Anh experienced is a service designed by an aviation academy in 2021.

Trinh Hoai Linh, vice president of the academy and manager of the simulated experience, said the experience is still used in real training for real pilots.

But in 2022, the academy opened the service to those with no prior knowledge of aviation.

The customers are divided into three main categories, according to Linh.

The first group is pilots who need to practice their flying skills. This group does not need guidance and can operate the simulator on their own. The second is people with a passion for airplanes who have a basic grasp of flying. The third group is people who came simply for the unique experience and to take pictures.

"Through this experience, we hope give those who have an interest in airplanes a chance to explore, and let those who want to become a pilot fulfill their dreams," Linh said.

In the 12-sq.m. cockpit, customers go through five processes: a lesson from a staff member explain the cockpit and the functions of the controls, training on how to start the engine and how to lift off, how to adjust the speed and navigate using the screen, how to handle emergency situations such as turbulence and water landings, and finally, how to land and park in the correct spot.

After over a year of operation, the simulated cockpit has received more than 100 customers. Recently, interest in the experience has risen sharply: the simulator is now fully booked through the end of the month.

"The experience lasts 60 minutes, so every day we only accept a maximum of 10 guests. The price is US$50, and two people can be in the cockpit each time," a representative of the academy said.

Dang Huong in the simulated cockpit, early 2023. Photo courtesy of Huong

Dang Huong in the simulated cockpit, early 2023. Photo courtesy of Huong

Dang Huong, a resident of Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, said she had tried many virtual reality experiences, and she considered the simulated cockpit the most interesting.

"When I sat in the passenger’s cabin, I thought that flying an airplane was similar to driving a car or motorbike, but the reality is that it’s harder. Just to start the engine, I had to do a dozen different things," Huong said.

After her first visit, she went back with her children, 15 and 8.

Some people said that the experience is too costly, but in Huong’s opinion it’s a must-try. While she had the opportunity to learn about the cockpit, her children had the chance to explore and discover new things, and perhaps become interested in becoming a pilot in the future.

"This is a place to both learn and play," Huong said. "It was worth the money, so my family and I will be coming back."

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