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Lundi, 26 Septembre 2011 12:00

Try Before You Fly: How Dreamliner Pilots Train Without Lifting Off

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It's been more than four years since Boeing unveiled the 787 Dreamliner. In that time, the company has achieved as many setbacks as milestones. But after spending billions building the plane and racking up billions in orders, the company delivers its first composite airliner to a customer today.

But long before today's handover to All Nippon Airways, Boeing started training the pilots who will fly the company's most advanced airliner ever. Much has been made of the 787's advanced technology — its composite airframe, the fuel-efficient engines, even the windows dimmed at the touch of a button. But Boeing has put just as much thought into the technology used to train the pilots.

We recently visited Boeing's flight training center south of Seattle to see what it takes to become a 787 pilot. We couldn't spare the time needed for a proper training session, so we settled for a two-hour overview of a program that can take as long as three weeks.

Anyone who's flown a Boeing 777 can get up to speed with the 787 in as few as five days as the two airplanes share a type rating for pilots. A pilot with no experience in a Boeing airplane will need as long as 22 days to receive a type rating and master the 787.

No matter their experience level, none of them will actually fly a 787 during training. It's all done electronically. There are no books to study, airframes to inspect or airplanes to fly. From learning about the airplane's hydraulic system to making a virtual walk around pre-flight inspection to even learning how to take off, pilots learn everything needed for their type rating without ever even seeing a real 787.

At one of the 787 training centers it all happens inside a nondescript office building south of Seattle. This is where pilots learn the difference between traditional airplanes that use bleed air to power systems and the 787 that uses generators. They work through checklists and practicing landing the Dreamliner in a severe crosswind, in the clouds, and with an engine out.

But even before they learn how to fly a 787, they learn what the cockpit is like. And they do that sitting in an office cubicle.

Above photo: Boeing, All other photos: Jason Paur/Wired.com

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