Posts Tagged ‘Puma Helicopter’

This week I was fortunate enough to be able to have a go on one of the RAF’s

Puma Helicopter flight simulators at RAF Benson in Oxfordshire. The occasion was a talk being given by Chris Bones to the officers and personnel from the squadron, and my host, Steve McCann, was kind enough to organise some valuable time (trust me, these things are not cheap) inside the “sim”.

Probably this would every gameboy geek’s dream, but I have never really been a video-game junkie, so I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing to report is how relaxed and friendly everyone on the base was – although it was a well practised, punctual and disciplined relaxed kind of friendliness.  Steve took me into the simulator building, which houses six massive virtual Disney rides on computer-controlled hydraulics, and after a brief health and safety talk (and a really good tip from an old pro on how to stop from getting sick), I was sitting in the (real) cock-pit of a Puma looking out on a simulated wrap-around view of Afghanistan.

Flying a helicopter is both remarkably simple and incredibly complex. You’ve got to be using all four limbs, but once you get the hang of which limb is doing what, and how each complements the others, it’s actually quite straightforward. Taking off was really smooth (because Steve was doing it), and when I was given control mid-flight, I thought, well, this is a piece of cake.

However, the cake crumbles as soon as you upset the delicate balance of controls and allow one of your four limbs to go too far. However, I did manage to land (with a bump, and then a long sliding stop, foot hard down on the brake, into the dust) and a rolling take-off (very cool!), as well as dodging being shot at from the ground. I crashed only once. Mind you, in real life, that would be it!

I can report that there is no Wagner button. There are buttons, for sure, and lots of them, but as Steve (possibly jokingly) pointed out “you just switch them all on before you take-off, then switch them all off when you land”, so I barely glanced at them.

Chris spoke well and held their interest, speaking around the topic of Inspiring Leadership, and we were given a tour of the Merlin helicopter, which is what the RAF is using in Afghanistan at the moment. At one point in the simulator, I asked whether I was flying as low as they did in Iraq (thinking, heroically, that I was), but then he took the controls and showed me how fast and low they fly in combat zones. Believe me, there’s no room for error, so I’m left in awe of the skill.

The photo is of me and my young co-pilot in the Merlin. I had just opened the side window, having been warned “whatever you do, don’t touch the black and yellow button”, which, to be honest, I thought was what you opened the window with…

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