Upon reaching a cruising altitude of just above 30,000ft following a smooth takeoff from Istanbul Ataturk International Airport, Turkish Airlines flight Captain Mustafa is discussing the weather at the final port of destination with his co-pilot. He is suddenly alerted by a cockpit alarm. Here is the one the worst nightmares of a captain: one of the aircraft’s two engines is on fire. Keeping his cool, Mustafa initiates a self fire-dousing mechanism, while his co-pilot alerts the ground control seeking permission for an
Mustafa is able to douse the engine fire, but the aircraft now has to land with a single engine functioning. A Turkish Airlines veteran, he meticulously follows all emergency procedures with his co-pilot and the aircraft smoothly touches down on a runway at Ataturk airport.
An incident-free, textbook-perfect emergency landing for sure. But it takes place not from the real skies, but inside a hi-tech flight simulator at Turkish Airlines’ high-security, round-the-clock captain training centre during a rare media visit.
The nine simulators for both Boeing and Airbus commercial aircraft at the carrier’s Flight Training Centre, each worth around $20mn, helps the pilots hone their flying skills to keeping pace with the latest technology upgrades and global practices.
“Our captains retire at the age of 65. No matter how experienced they are, every six months, they’re required to visit the captain training centre and practise for stipulated hours inside the simulators. Turkish Airlines is always committed to maintaining top levels safety record,” a senior official at the centre told Gulf Times.
She wouldn’t reply directly when asked if the carrier had modified its simulator training manual after the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 tragedy, but said: “Our training envisages all possible scenarios and behaviours. Our captions spend endless hours at the simulators so that they’re always ahead of others with technology and emergency procedures. And we’re sure this will go a long way in ensuring top levels of safety for our passengers,” she said.
The simulators can virtually create almost every flying situation; be it bad weather, heavy downpour and slippery runways, or zero-visibility fog.
Dubbed CATIII-BRAVO in pilot parlance, the aircraft usually lands on full autopilot mode in zero-visibility. “You got to trust the machine and system in such a situation,” an instructor inside the simulator said.
“Takeoffs and landings are the toughest part of flying as most incidents occur during that time. The chances of an accident at cruising height are extremely low,” he said. “You’ve seen only the glamorous side of a captain’s life. But we perfect the art flying with endless hours of practice at regular intervals.”
The Flight Training Centre of Turkish Airlines, which employs a total of 3,500 captains and 7,500 flight stewards, is located within the premises of Istanbul Ataturk International Airport. One of the largest in the world, the facility also includes four fight training devices (FTDs) as well as two cabin emergency evacuation trainers (CEETs) and two door trainers for cabin crew
The carrier also leases out the training centre for pilots and cabin crew from other airlines to generate sizeable revenue.
Turkish Airlines enjoys a top six-star rating out of the total seven issued by airline safety rating agency Airlineratings.com. Most Gulf national carriers enjoy either a seven or
Commercial airlines are by far the safest mode of transport in the world with death risk for passengers put at just one in 45mn flights, according to Arnold Barnett, a professor of statistics at MIT, US.
International Air Transport Association chief Tony Tyler early this month in Doha reiterated the industry’s commitment to working together and with governments in the constant pursuit of improved safety. “Flying is incredibly safe. And we are determined to make it safer,” he said.
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