Boeing 737 Transition: Week 1

Owned by Virgin Australia and managed by Boeing Flight Training , the simulator centre at Brisbane Airport (near the old International terminal) houses a number of Boeing 737, Embraer and Airbus A320 simulators. The facility serves a number of airlines in Australia and other private and military operations.

There’s really not a lot to share this week; It’s all paperwork to speak of.


The induction to the Boeing 737 transition program is everything you would expect from a big company like Boeing. We all sat in a modern classroom and enjoyed a death-by-PowerPoint presentation on the course content, building specifics and simulator program. After receiving our manuals, we were quickly ushered into one of the few computer rooms on the premises to commence our online type course. The nature and speed of the induction was a stern reminder that the course wasn’t designed for a good time.

CBT Computer Based Training

As with virtually all Boeing types, or at least is with the case with all training conducted by Boeing, a student must complete an online aircraft systems course via their in-house Learning Management System. The Computer Based Training, or CBT, is a modular package that includes a number of Boeing subjects – and a few airline specific or equipment specific packages – that all terminate with their own online examination.

My Cubicle

My CBT Cubicle

I learned my ‘CBT lesson’ when I undertook the Boeing 777 training. I took comprehensive notes throughout the course that consumed enormous amounts of time. While my peers were celebrating the end to their online torture, I was slowly and methodically working away through earlier chapters. I ignored advice from our Boeing 777 training manager to get through it “as quickly as possible” and, instead, decided that the systems course offered by Boeing was a worthy time investment. I was wrong.

The CBT (initially) comes at the expense of real practical study. Although the course is immensely valuable, and it is extremely effective as a broad introduction to the aircraft, it serves a (more valued) purpose a little later in your training when you have a practical understanding of the new airframe. With this in mind, I worked away at the program as quickly as possible. When I finished after two and a half days, some of my colleagues had barely completed 30% of the same material. Seven days in total were rostered for CBT although it’s not until late February that course completion is required (which is the date of our engineering exam).

With that said, the aircraft systems knowledge required at the time of course completion far exceeds any legislated requirement… so it’s important to meticulously study the copious quantity of information in the order in which the CBT presented it (in addition to the practical application of what is learned and what company SOP’s dictate). For anybody that’s completed any kind of privately run course in the USA (and I have), they have a tendency to feed information to the students that trains them to a rote level of competency. With the oversight of my airline, this same degree of spoon-feeding doesn’t apply. It’s a matter of training to proficiency and testing for suitability. Additional training is provided if required.

The Boeing 737

Very little has been done thus far in terms of practically applying what we’ve studied. On Tuesday, I’ll commence structured sessions in a fixed base trainer that are virtually identical to the aircraft, other than the lack of motion. That follows with full-motion simulator training and assessments. The actual program is about five weeks in length (with another few weeks of airline-specific courses tacked on the end).

Upon first inspection, the 737NG panel gives off a very 777’ish feel… if only for a few seconds. The way information renders to the pilot on various displays differs significantly enough to make this a completely new aircraft. In the words of one wise instructor, “you can’t polish a turd”; the 737 is an archaic aircraft dressed up to look like something it isn’t. The overhead panel, for example, looks like engineers randomly threw different buttons and switches into illogical and non-conforming locations (let’s hope MAX changes that). Despite this, the automation, FMC, handling philosophy and general Boeing feel of the machine is enough to make the transition comfortable.

The Manuals

It’s not hard to appreciate the benefit of an iPad or Android device in situations like type training. We were provided with a big box of company manuals and Jeppesen charts… but I’m not required to carry any of it into the classroom thanks to a tablet loaded up (and synchronised to accuracy) with all the relevant information.


The company has provided ‘vacation-style’ accommodation in the heart of Brisbane’s CBD. The fully furnished apartment is within a few steps of cafes, bars and club (not that I’ll get to enjoy them). An open balcony overlooking the city and river is a reminder of what we’re not enjoying while we study. Daily allowances are provided and a shuttle service picks us up on the hotel doorstop when it’s required. After discussions with my USA brethren, it’s not hard to appreciate the excellent treatment one receives from our airline.

Fully Furnished and Serviced Apartment in Brisbane

Fully Furnished and Serviced Apartment in Brisbane

Hopefully I’ll have more to share next time.

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