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“Fun and fantasy in Cambridge” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Virtual Aviation

Virtual Aviation
Ranked #6 of 16 Fun & Games in Cambridge
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Attraction details
Owner description: Prices start from £290. The simulator is available 16 hrs a day, 7 days a week (advance booking required - please call before visiting). Experience a thrilling flight at the controls of Virtual Aviation's new Boeing 737 flight simulator at Cambridge Airport. This brand-new, multi-million pound flight simulator is the most advanced of its kind. It's normally used for training airline pilots, but it's also available to members of the public. Book a 'Flight Simulator Experience' and you'll get to experience the sheer thrill of flying a large passenger jet - with hands-on guidance from an experienced airline pilot.
Purley on Thames, Reading
Level Contributor
42 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 39 helpful votes
“Fun and fantasy in Cambridge”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed February 10, 2013

I had wanted to be a commercial airline pilot but my career path took a very different turn. Since my teenage years, commercial aviation has been a major interest of mine and the availability of real simulators has allowed me to fulfil some of my adolescent fantasies (sic!). Some years previously, I had experienced a shared session on an MD11 based at London Gatwick -LGW when all I really did was take off and land the aircraft at Kai-Tak in Hong Kong (not the ‘checkerboard’ approach, though). I have now been in the left-hand seat on two ‘flights’ with Virtual Aviation. The first was a 2 hour session in late 2009 on a Boeing 737NG full-motion simulator at LGW (purchased as a 60th birthday present from me to myself).

In late 2012, Virtual Aviation installed their own Boeing 737-800 HDX simulator at Cambridge Airport and I was one of its earliest users. This simulator is a ‘fixed-base’ model, i.e. there is not quite the same feeling of motion as on the full-motion models. However, the advantage is that the cost is only about a third of the ‘commercial’ full-motion simulators that Virtual Aviation are able to reserve with external flight training companies. A second advantage is that training is held at Virtual Aviation’s Cambridge base and this offers a little less-formal environment than at LGW. For those arriving at Cambridge Airport, head for the Cambridge Aero Club clubhouse. The simulator is situated in a hangar next door and the helpful staff in the Aero Club will contact the Virtual Aviation staff (Mark Green and Steven Beech when I went).

I had arranged a 4 hour session on the B737-800 simulator. On arrival, I met Steven Beech and Mark Green. My instructor was a Senior First Officer who arrived at the airport in good time for my ‘flight’. I had made contact with my instructor prior to my session and made some suggestions as to what I might like to try. We started the session in the simulator itself with about 30 min of revision and familiarisation with the instruments (better than at LGW where instruction was carried out outside the simulator). However, I suspect that the availability of the simulator for this ‘pre-flight’ instruction might depend whether it is in prior use.

I started the session at London Heathrow (LHR) and took off from runway 09R heading out over the Thames estuary. We had intended to fly to LGW and make an instrument landing system (ILS) approach to runway 26L. However, we couldn’t pick up the ILS (a minor technical glitch, I believe) and so went back to LHR. There I did a number of take-offs and landings, with variations in the use of the instruments and external indicators. For example, I made approaches using the precision approach path indicators (PAPIs) at the side of the runway as I had done on my first session in 2009 but, in the end, we decided it was probably better to use my primary flight display (PFD). The PAPIs are aligned for B747-400s, so they tend to display that a B737 is below the glide-slope, which is somewhat misleading.

In the interim and whilst in-flight, I practiced recovering from a stall, and a few TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) incidents which I thought were rather fun. We then relocated to Nice Airport and I tried landing the aircraft in a 30 knot cross-wind at night and experiencing windshear on take-off (unfortunately ending up in the sea on the first attempt). The session ended with my aiming the aircraft at the mountains to the north of Nice, actuating the ground proximity warning system (GPWS) and avoiding a CFT (controlled flight into terrain).

So, in summary, the whole session was most enjoyable. I learnt a lot and enjoyed a good dialogue with my instructor with each of us making suggestions as to what we might try. The simulator graphics were excellent. I did not have time to try everything that I wanted to, having concentrated quite heavily on practicing landings. For example, I had wanted to try an ‘engine-out’ approach, but time did not permit this. The whole four hours passed very quickly. I was a little concerned that I would find the session too tiring but the fact that the simulator was not being fully utilised allowed time for a short half-time break.
The matter foremost in my mind before the session was how the fixed-base simulator would compare in terms of ‘feel’ with the full-motion simulator. Obviously, it is not quite as realistic and I did miss experiencing the feeling of the gear touching down on the runway. There is obviously no ‘bump’, something that I found particularly useful in my previous session on a full motion B737. Set against that, there is a distinct cost advantage in the Cambridge simulator and the graphics are superior. I do not know whether it is feasible, but it might be nice to be given a CD that contained recordings of my manoeuvres. I still have the print-outs of my MD11 landings. I suppose the real test of the day is whether I think that I would pay for the Cambridge simulator again, and the answer is a resounding ‘YES’.

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
Thank MADPhilOxon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virtual A, Manager at Virtual Aviation, responded to this review, February 15, 2013
Thank you so much for providing such an in depth review, we are looking forward to welcoming you back for your next session soon.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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90 reviews from our community

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Date | Rating
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English first
1 review
“Awesome!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 31, 2013

Fantastic experience, fantastic price, fantastic people, fantastic location... Need I say more Awesome!

Helpful?
Thank Colthecrow
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virtual A, Manager at Virtual Aviation, responded to this review, February 1, 2013
Thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to leave us a review. We are glad you enjoyed the experience. See you again soon!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge, United Kingdom
2 reviews
“Simply awe inspiring.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 30, 2013

Excellent tuition, completely enthralled throughout. It seemed to be one long "wow". A real personal experience and would recommend to literally anyone. Thank you so much!

Helpful?
Thank JamieMacD
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virtual A, Manager at Virtual Aviation, responded to this review, February 1, 2013
It was great meeting you, thank you for taking the time to do a review. Look forward to seeing you again soon!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
20 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“WHY IS THERE NO SIXTH STAR?”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 30, 2013

Having never experienced a Flight Simulator before, I was unsure as to what to expect. But the team at Virtual Aviation put me at ease with their unique brand of humour and professionalism.
Despite my young age, I was treated with the same absolute professionalism an experienced pilot would expect and be afforded.
The Simulator was fantastic. With most of the parts actually taken from a real Boeing 737-800.
Every switch was wired in to give the most realistic and authentic experience imaginable. I honestly couldn't find fault with anything. It is an experience that I would recommend to all, as it showed me just what commercial airline pilots have to do.
Incredible, breathtaking, superb.
Beyond all expectations. Thank you to the Virtual Aviation Team, for an unforgettable experience.

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank Scott G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virtual A, Manager at Virtual Aviation, responded to this review, February 1, 2013
Thank you for your comments Scott, it was a great session! The instructor was very impressed with your handling skills. See you again soon!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Level Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Could be the start of an amazing hobby!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 30, 2013

I really had no idea what to expect when booking up to go along. With vague memories of the Krypton Factor, and a few flight simulator games I played 20 years ago, nothing could prepare me for the experience I'd let myself in for.

It's cool enough visiting Cambridge Airport, but the trip through the working Hangar full of light aircraft whets your appetite nicely. Upon entering the simulator, my jaw dropped. It was like nothing I'd seen before. A full nose cone from a 737, with more switches, dials and gauges than I'd ever seen in one space before, let me know that I was in for a real experience!

With the choice of countless airports around the world, I opted for a lap around Salt Lake City. Rendered so perfectly, it was difficult to believe it wasn't real, and with the wrap-around display viewed through real aircraft windows, it even fooled my brain into thinking we were moving.

Take off still stirred the excitement I feel in a real plane, with the roar of the engines spooling up, and that feeling in the pit of the stomach as you nose-up the 737 and finally leave the ground! Words don't do it justice.

I'd like to think I took to flying quite naturally, but with Steven on hand to guide me, and help out where needed, the right amount of excitement and worry washed over me as I FLEW A REAL PLANE!

With a nice, if not a little low, landing, I was pleased to hear that I'd done rather well, and vowed to return for another go, or 10!

This could be the start of an expensive hobby, but for the money, it can't be beaten!!!!

Helpful?
Thank OliverJH
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Virtual A, Manager at Virtual Aviation, responded to this review, February 9, 2013
Well done on your flight Oliver! We are so pleased you have 'caught the flying bug', looking forward to flying with you again soon!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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