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    iPilot Westfield trip

    Hi all.

    Today I took a trip to Westfield, London's newest and biggest shopping mall, for an 'experience' at iPilot. This outfit is opening branches in shopping malls in the UK and elsewhere in Europe featuring fixed-base FS2004-based sims. I couldn't specifically identify the kit they were using but I dare say it's FDS or FlyEngravity of one of the big guys - if anyone has any idea I'd be interested.

    I thought spending some time in a pro-grade sim might be the kick in the rear I needed to get serious on my own project, which is languishing for want of time and effort.

    While the iPilot prices were pretty steep - 200 for an hour - in the beginning, lack of business has forced them to come down a little. Their standard hour rate for weekdays is now 129, and via Groupon I got this for 69. Result.

    At Westfield they have two sims - a 737-NG-700 and a helicopter sim of some description (I didn't see this). At Bluewater (a large shopping mall in the SE of England) they have another 737 sim (though I keep hearing about an Airbus sim that's supposed to be coming 'real soon now'). There's also a 'mobile' Trident sim for corporate events and parties. Enough of the promo, though - what's it like?

    Well, the sim is basically a standard 737 shell without a rear bulkhead, so it's open to the watching audience. You clamber in - the seats are free-standing and sadly not on castors or any form of rail, so it's a bit of a job to get yourself seated ideally, and once sat down it's basically a fully-featured environment with all the glass, MCP, EICAS, overhead panel etc. The TQ is fully automated with auto-throttle and trim wheels. All standard stuff, clearly all off the shelf, nothing fabricated. I was put in the right seat which was not my preference and not what they'd normally do, but it turned out the yoke on the left seat was broken.

    The original visual system was a single screen in front of the enclosure. Latterly they have moved to a 3-projector system with the standard 3 screens at 45 degrees arrangement. Sadly, they don't seem to be using any kind of blending or warping software and the bent horizon syndrome is in full force (to be fair, it's much less prominent from the cockpit seat but it's hardly a fully immersive blended display). Minus 10 points for lack of effort there. That said, I spent so much time looking around the cockpit at the instruments and panels while flying that much of the time I wasn't bothering to look out at all.

    The audio is speaker-only; I didn't feel any kind of vibration or butt-kicking in operation, and there's no headset or intercom; nor do you talk to ATC at any point. I think the sim is capable of this, it has the right jacks and radios set up, but they probably only offer this to the off-duty pilots who apparently come to use the sim from time to time.

    Every visitor gets their own fully-qualified airline pilot as an instructor. Mine was a nice chap called John who apparently flies for Easyjet here in the UK. He barely seemed old enough to be out of flight school but there was no question that he knew the 737 very well. He took me through the full engine startup procedure, during which we pushed back and then taxied to the runway at Heathrow. One slightly rocky take-off later he pulled an engine failure on me and I had to turn back and make an emergency landing at Stansted. Plus 10 points for a fun scenario. Frankly my landing was awful and proves I have a lot to re-learn, not having flown a sim at all for several months.

    Then we tried the famous VFR approach in to St Maarten, which I managed reasonably well, and then I bit off more than I could chew and requested the checkerboard of death approach into Hong Kong Kai-Tak. One go-around later I barely managed to set the thing down; by this point John had taken over almost all of the flying except the yoke and the flaps so that I could get it down without going loooooooong. One thing I will say is that coordinating all that stuff in real-time is much, much harder then using a keyboard and joystick!

    Basically, it's a bog-standard sim - frankly, I think many people here have better setups - and has seen better days (the left thrust lever was floating about freely with no resistance, clearly something broken internally in the TQ). That said, it works and is a fun diversion, and having a properly qualified instructor adds to the experience. The visuals are sub-par in my opinion, the sound is disappointing, and the seating is poor; but in most other aspects it's excellent, and the feeling of immersion was certainly there. My heart rate leapt up on the rocky single-engine approach into Stansted!

    A few things I learned:

    1. Airline pilots really shouldn't be quite as rotund as me. I'm a big guy (not so much tall, but certainly broad-shouldered and barrel-chested by nature, and let's be honest, really rather fat). To get my feet on the pedals I needed to get so near to the yoke that pulling it back more than 30% meant I was compressing my own beer belly. In the end I resorted to creative application of trim to compensate!

    2. Problem 1 causes more problems when you need to operate overhead switches, the gear lever, the EICAS etc, because as soon as you need to stretch, you're fouling the yoke.

    3. My arms are obviously a bit short, because at full throttle I could barely get my fingertips on top of the thrust levers.

    4. Never ask to fly the Kai Tak approach when you're rusty.

    All of which I will factor in to my own sim design.

    iPilot will, for an extra tenner, record your session and give you a DVD of it, but as it turns out the discs they're using can't hold a full hour so mine cut out shortly before my emergency landing. That's a bit of a gyp, to be honest. I doubt I'll be putting any of it on YouTube

    However, below are a couple of stills to show you the general layout of the iPilot enclosure.

    Would I do it again? Probably not at Westfield, but according to my instructor the Airbus sim at Bluewater has just had a major upgrade and is now using large LCD panels for the display which he thinks are an improvement. I might just check it out. If you have money to burn and the inclination, I guess I could recommend iPilot, particularly if you don't have to pay full price. Alternatively, you could just ask Ian Sissons nicely if you can come and fly his sim - I suspect it's rather better than iPilot's.

    And now, I must get back to my build room... there's a long way to go yet.

    NH

    vlcsnap-2011-03-08-18h03m47s133_800x450.jpgvlcsnap-2011-03-08-18h03m19s118_800x450.jpgvlcsnap-2011-03-08-18h03m33s255_800x450.jpg
    Last edited by Neil Hewitt; 03-08-2011 at 08:20 PM. Reason: Factual errors

  2. Thanks ian@737ng.co.uk, wledzian, Sean Nixon, AlexJ thanked for this post
  3. #2
    500+ This must be a daytime job ian@737ng.co.uk's Avatar
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    Re: iPilot Westfield trip

    [QUOTE=neilh;117134]

    Alternatively, you could just ask Ian Sissons nicely if you can come and fly his sim - I suspect it's rather better than iPilot's.

    QUOTE]

    Neil, you silver tongued little devil "I suspect it's rather better than iPilot's. " it is, it is
    and a you get a cake and coffee but the best bit is it's free and a whole load of fun.........

    take care

    ian
    Mr. Ian. P. Sissons is hereby recognised as an Honorary Flight Sim Captain following his passing in February 2016. This is in recognition for his commitment to Flight Simulation.

    www.mycockpit.org Featured Builder August 2008 www.737ng.co.uk
    FS9/PROSIM737/CPFLIGHT/Lots of BU0836X's and a Beer Fridge

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    150+ Forum Groupie choffmann's Avatar
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    Re: iPilot Westfield trip

    Quote Originally Posted by neilh View Post
    I couldn't specifically identify the kit they were using but I dare say it's FDS or FlyEngravity of one of the big guys - if anyone has any idea I'd be interested.
    This is definately cockpitsonic equipment. The shell is oversized compared to the real thing.
    Pooh, one yoke only is a no-go! in the MEL list, urrgh!

    Regards,
    Chris

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    Re: iPilot Westfield trip

    Quote Originally Posted by choffmann View Post
    This is definately cockpitsonic equipment. The shell is oversized compared to the real thing.
    Pooh, one yoke only is a no-go! in the MEL list, urrgh!

    Regards,
    Chris
    Yup - you're dead right. I had a look at the CockpitSonic site and they have photos that look exactly the same to the last detail.

    NH

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