An Emirates A340 aircraft flies from Dubai to New York and back, through thunder storms and turbulence, with a nine-year-old at the controls, in less than half an hour – yes, you read that correctly. And it was all in a morning’s work for would-be First Officer William Adderley, taking his first flight under the watchful eye of one of the airline’s most experienced flight trainers and getting a step closer to his dream of becoming a pilot.
The Emirates Training Centre opened in 1995 and trains an average of 600 pilots a year.William’s mentor for the morning is Captain Alex Reithausen, who has been in the air since he was bitten by the flying bug at just 16 years old and now has more than 25 years of professional experience under his belt. “We pilots have the world’s best office,” Captain Alex tells us, as we start the tour of the facility.
“A permanent, 180-degree view of the world that constantly changes.”
Flying is also in the blood for William, whose father also flies for Emirates and couldn’t be more proud of his son’s chosen future career. “William has always been interested in aeroplanes and already seems knowledgeable about flying,” says mum, Claire, who is excited to share this unique experience with her son, and see him so at ease with the bewildering lights, switches and buttons of the control panel.
“Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked. I could never imagine working a regular desk job, where the only thing that really changes about the view from your window is the weather,” Captain Alex admits, as we make our way around the aeroplane-shaped building, where we’re able to spy on pilots in training, listening to lectures and working on mini-simulators, before we head up to the control room to see the bank of computers responsible for powering the enormous A340 simulator William is itching to get inside of.
We cross the bridge into the simulator with much anticipation and William makes a beeline for the First Officer’s chair, where Captain Alex hands him a hat and jacket so he looks the part. We are surprised to learn we will actually need to fasten seatbelts for take-off even though, technically, we’re not leaving the ground.
Alex runs through the routine for take-off for their first flight around Dubai with an eagerly attentive William, guiding his hand to take the controls himself. “How many different types of aeroplane have you flown?” William asks, concentrating on the runway lights ahead as we feel the plane set in motion. Captain Alex counts seven different types of aircraft in his aviation career, as we take-off, with the realistically odd sensation of climbing high into the air without actually going anywhere. But William is keen for a little more adventure, so Captain
Alex sets the course for a flight to New York’s JFK... with a twist. “Shall we make it rain?” he asks a wide-eyed William. “A thunderstorm? Maybe some high winds? Plenty of turbulence as we land? Okay, let’s do it!”
We feel the plane accelerating until we have lift off and we are in the air again. “This is unique!” William declares.
“William, you are in control and we need to find the runway, but visibility is poor,” Captain Alex warns the stern-faced mini-pilot. “Hands on the stick and see what the green cross is doing,” he suggests, pointing to the navigation screen, as William expertly guides the aircraft into descent through the storm, spotting famous landmarks on the way.
So, what does it take to become a pilot, asks a curious William? “Well, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist,” Captain Alex laughs. “But it’s a job where you are a lot of things at the same time – you are an engineer, an aviator and you also are a weatherman because you should know something about the weather and guiding the aeroplane itself. And, I think, quite smart.
“You need to have a love of learning, good grades in Maths and Physics and to be open-minded dealing with different cultures, because you’ll be doing that all the time as you cross borders with Air Traffic Control.” William wants to know if Captain Alex has a favourite city to fly into, too. “Oh, yes! I love flying into Rome, Sydney, Hong Kong and San Francisco,” he admits. “All amazing skylines and great people on the ground to work with, but I also love Frankfurt because that means I’m flying home.”
As we reluctantly leave, William’s mum can’t wait to share the experience with her pilot husband. And we reckon Captain Alex may have just inspired an Emirates cadet of the future. Watch this (air) space!
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