Everyone has a childhood experience that they remember forever. For some, it’s the first day at school, for others the first goal they scored at football. For me, it was my first virtual flight in a flight simulator.
It must have been in the early nineties. I was nine, maybe ten years old. My uncle and aunt worked for KLM and we visited them on a regular basis. Every time we went there, we listened to great stories from the countries around the world that they’d visited and my uncle regularly told me stories about KLM and the adventures that he’d had on trips to Asia or other destinations. Destinations that seemed further away than the moon to me. At least you can see the moon. You can’t say that about China.
A couple of times, my uncle took me to places close to where the aircraft landed. I’m not really a plane spotter, but I like big, noisy machines, so any aircraft rocks actually.
My special memory came on the day when he took me to Schiphol-Oost. As we drove up to the security check at the entrance gate, he told me, “This place is more secure than Amsterdam’s best prison”. This comment made me excited but a little nervous too. I can understand the tight security a lot better now than when I was a kid. After receiving the “visitor’s pass”, we went to look at some planes in the hangars. The sight of these massive aircraft never ceases to amaze me.
Eventually, we came into a huge hangar where a couple of immense, alien machines were moving up and down. These were the flight simulators – pretty much the coolest computer-based simulations anyone can experience. Expecting the answer ‘no’, my uncle asked if we could make a flight and, to our surprise, we could! We made a night flight over Amsterdam and I can tell you it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. If you want an impression of what a flight simulator is like, this video is a nice example.
My uncle said it was pretty rare to be allowed to make a flight on the simulator and I’m still very grateful that he gave me the opportunity to experience this. If you’re interested in experiencing this too, there are some websites on the Internet where you can buy one or two hours in a flight simulator. But be sure to save some money though, because it’s going to cost you a couple of hundred euros. It’s great to have a nice uncle. It’s even better to have a nice uncle who works at KLM.
PS: Times have changed though. These days, due to even stricter safety and security regulations, visiting the hangars is not really an option anymore.
Tim van Waard
Tim van Waard currently lives in Utrecht and works for an online communications company where he handles the @klmfan account. His interest in the company means that he keeps a close eye on KLM’s social media activities as well as a lot of other aspects.