I flew a 747-400 over the USA!

From:         entmlf@cr41.staffs.ac.uk (Martin at Staffs University, UK)
Date:         20 Jul 94 02:13:02 
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In Europe, unlike in the US, airlines welcome interested visitors to the
flight deck, provided they don't talk over radio calls, and leave when the
Captain gets irritated by with them!  I used to work in the aerospace industry,
and am currently learning to fly, and also lecture in aeronautics.  I therefore
know the sort of subjects that airline pilots like to talk about, and tend to
get on well with them.  Because of this, I have been allowed to sit on the jump
seat for the landing on the majority of my recent flights, both scheduled and 
chartered.  On a recent flight it went one better - I got to fly the 'plane!

I flew from Europe to Rio, an 13 hour flight.  As usual I asked if
I could visit the flight deck, and was soon taken up there.  The pilots were
both First Officers - the Captain was sleeping in First Class.  I got on well
with them, and soon got them to say I could sit in on the landing at Rio.

After an interesting chat about IRS system drift, they asked about
what aircraft I had flown.  They then asked if I'd like a go at flying the
747-400.  "Yes please" I gulped.  They slid the left seat back for me to get
in it, and the pilot on the right slid forward (I wonder why?!).  I also slid
forward until I was behind the controls.  They told me not to touch the rudder,
but otherwise to keep her level and on course.  The autopilot was then
disengaged to the sound of a hooter.

I was surprised at how heavy the roll and pitch inputs were.  Thinking about it
afterwards, we were at, I think,  FL330, at M0.82,  and so had  no margin to 
climb, or increase or reduce speed, so I guess they need to be pretty heavy. 

It was very difficult just keeping the wings level, let alone keeping on track.
We were also 20ft low, an excuse to try climbing - a very heavy pull was needed
to even make the rate of climb needle move.   After a couple of minutes, the
autopilot was re-engaged, but in manual-heading-selection mode, so I then 
dialed in headings to get us back on track - as the flight management
computer was complaining that we were 3 miles left of track.  At this time
a mother an son arrived to see the pilots.  She asked who on earth was flying
the 'plane.  The pilots told her I was an XXX Airline test pilot, checking out
the autopilot for them.   After she left, L-Nav was reengaged, and I let the
First officer have his seat back.

Well - a great experience, but SURELY it's wrong to let passengers fly
a jumbo jet with 400 people on board?   Even sitting on the jump seat
for the landing is OK if it's me - but I'd hate to see someone else go
up there at such a vulnerable time!

Martin
entmlf@cr41.staffs.ac.uk