How Flight Simulators Prepare Pilots for the New Boeing 777-9

Before new aircraft like the Boeing 777-9 are even built, Cathay Pacific pilots are able to learn to fly them, because the fidelity of the full-motion simulator is so accurate

It’s bigger, better and brand new. From 2021, Cathay Pacific will start receiving its new flagship aircraft: the Boeing 777-9.

Offering four cabin classes from Economy to First Class, the aircraft will ply the routes to the US and London with new levels of comfort and connectivity on board.

While similar to the existing 777-300ER, the 777-9 is longer, its fuselage wider and its wingspan so great that it has folding wingtips in order to use airport gates.

But with the prototype still carrying out ground tests, and its first test flight not scheduled until early next year, how will pilots get to grips with the upgrades?

Credit: Moses Ng

Dave Lohse, Cathay Pacific First Officer and Head of Flight Technical Services, has the answer. He has been in the strange position of flying the first full motion simulator for the plane, even as the craft itself is still on a journey between drawing board and sky. ‘My team is responsible for accepting aircraft into the Cathay Pacific Group, but also making sure simulators meet the regulatory requirements for “zero flight time training”,’ he says.

This means that 777-300ER pilots with a ‘common type rating’ licence can learn to fly the 777-9 without ever setting foot in the aircraft, because the fidelity of the simulation is so good.

By using data from design, engineering and wind tunnel scale models, Boeing has an enormous data pack that’s been programmed into the simulator. The result? Lohse says: ‘The control response was excellent. Boeing has worked more with fly-by-wire technology in the 777-9, and the digital flight control systems get this bigger aircraft to fly like a smaller one. I think the guys will love flying it.’

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