June 22, 2017
Okay, I’m gushing. I got to sit in the cockpit of a 747 while in flight and even on landing into Hickman Air Force Base in Honolulu. That was just amazing!
The pilot teams are neat. SOFIA flies with 2 pilots, flight engineer and a navigator. Now, for today’s commercial long hauls, the roles of the navigator and flight engineer have been taken over by combined airplane computer aided by the pilots. SOFIA’s cockpit has been updated with modern navigation tools, but the way the dials, knobs and readouts are configured, if you were sitting in the front seats, you could not see them all. Here’s where the flight engineer comes in, doing engine heats, checking projected speed vs. fuel vs. heading, among many other “background tasks” thinking ahead. It was fascinating to watch those three individuals work, common language provided by the 747SP.
When you are far from ATC/air traffic control, the pilots got commands to/from a sat nav system. That was fun to see, as they plugged in their heading or altitude request, and got back instructions to proceed or not. In addition to the weather requests, which got printed out in 20th century means. For the checklists, a variety of modern (ipad) and not-so-modern (pen and paper) plus laminated sheets, were used.