New Boeing 737 simulator gives UNO Aviation students first-class experience

Flight simulation is an authentic way to learn piloting a commercial plane -- and UNO's Aviation Institute has its own piece of the pie.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 10:23 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Jonathan Corey hasn’t piloted a Boeing 737 yet -- but when he does, he’ll feel right at home.

“The air speed’s starting to increase, we’re coming up on 80 knots...we got a positive rate of climb, so we go gear up,” he explained. “We just took off out of Omaha heading kind of northwest.”

The department’s new tool: UNO Aviation’s new Boeing 737 Flight Deck Solutions Flight Training Device with Sim-Avionics Flight Management System software. In layman’s terms, UNO’s program just got elevated to first class.

Scott Vlasek, director of UNO’s Aviation Institute, said it’s much more than a simulator.

“It’s a fully-tactile training device, meaning all the knobs and switches work, so when a student is in there it’s just like they’re in a 737,” he said.

Flight training coordinator Skip Bailey’s job just got a lot easier -- preparing future generations of pilots and landing them in jobs as soon as they’re able.

“Everybody tries to tell them this is what you’re going into and it’s going to be great,” Bailey said. “But when I can actually set them in there and say ‘this is what you’re going to do’ and then they can get an idea of what’s coming in their training and they can actually do it here in a non-pressure situation and have a leg up on in’re going to have better and safer pilots, which is important to all of us who are flying in the back of the airplane.”

Vlasek says the critical thinking skills necessary during flight will be even more valuable in this simulated experience.

“The skills that will come into play when we start introducing an engine failure or hydraulic failure or something among those lines, or they have a weather issue,” Vlasek said. “They’re going to be able to go through those in a simulated environment. It’s tremendous.”

Flight team member Hunter Pehrson appreciates having a leg up when it comes time to train with the airlines, having already experienced the 737 simulator.

“When we walk into that training center, you only have a couple months to learn a new airplane,” Pehrson said. “We’re going from a 172 to a big jet like that. That’s a big step. You’re going to have a lot of information thrown at policies and all this other stuff. If you already know the jet somewhat, that’s a big step up.”

UNO aviation instructor Alison Adams started flying at age 15, and shares her students’ excitement.

“There’s the wow factor, obviously, from a pilot standpoint, and it’s just thrilling,” Adams said. “Then as an instructor, you start thinking about all the things that you can do for your students and allowing them to make those connections and getting that practice. That’s going to give them a leg up in the industry.”

A $200,000 gift from the Ethel S. Abbott Charitable Foundation enabled UNO to land the FTD. From here, it’s in the hand of the student pilots.