So you wanna be a pilot? Sometime when I was growing up, I had that dream of becoming a pilot (okay, next to being an astronaut). I mean who wouldn’t? You can fly across the globe and I heard the pay was good too. But of course reality took stride and I had gone to the creative work instead, but no regrets there. There’s always that bit of curiosity on what’s it’s like to be a pilot. Does one need a brilliant handling of math (since I’m bad at math) to easily fly? Our visit to AirAsia Academy sheds some light what AirAsia’s staff and crew go through before actually going inflight.
Coming from the LCCT AirAsia Office, we had a short drive to AirAsia Academy in Selangor. The building looks flat like a mall from the outside, but inside, it’s a deep structure with many rooms, chambers, halls and even a pool where pilots and crew train for water landing incidents. We met our guide Mr Liew Kang Hwa who immediately led us to the tour.
The first stop of course was the Simulation Hall. This is my favourite part of the Academy as it’s like walking inside a set of a Sci Fi series shoot. There were 6 simulation machines there for planes like A320s and Boeing 747s. It was jaw dropping as each of these units cost millions of dollars. I think we only have one of this simulation machines in the Philippines owned by our flagship carrier.
We had a chance to have a dumbed-down simulation test, meaning, the craft movement and sound were disabled. The faux-cockpit has everything a regular plane has – from the automated chairs to numerous buttons and controls. The simulation computer also has simulations of various airports of destinations like Chang Mai, LCCT Airport, Solo, Indonesia.
Each of us took turns to “try” to fly. The simulation was like a giant video game but better. Those virtual 1st person simulation games from PCs and Playstation pales in comparison to this machine. It’s a good thing the movement simulation and sound were disabled since we had to crash the plane several times on the runway. Training pilots use this simulation machines as one of their final exam before they do the actual flying, but of course there’s a step up process before going here like mastering the classroom simulations first. Looking at the scheduled simulation room bookings, we learned that this is also open for other airlines to use. Amusingly, local airlines like Zest Air, Cebu Pacific and Seair Train here as well.
Pilots are not the only one being trained here but the flight crew as well. We were showed the rooms were pilots are thought and groomed on proper attire, make-up and hairstyle. There are also rooms simulating the interiors of a cabin so the crew can be trained appropriately who to move around on board. When the pilot and staff have accomplished their academic requirements, they move on to the graduation and the Academy has their own fall for this.
Clearly, even if AirAsia is a low cost carrier, they invested good amount in making sure their staffs have the appropriate and quality tools to train. It is also worth noting that the Pilots and Crew of AirAsia Philippines were also trained in this Academy. Learning more about their training surely made me appreciate the pilots and the inflight crew.