Going flying at Lufthansa’s Airline Training Center Arizona

As an airline customer based in the United States I’m mostly used to the way that American carriers source their pilots. Most are former military or have paid a huge sum of money to fund their own private training and then hope to make it through the long days of work at regional carriers before making it into the big birds. Lufthansa’s approach to pilot recruitment and training is quite different. They subscribe to the Ab-Initio training plan, where each pilot is brought in completely green and trained from the ground up in the Lufthansa way.

As part of StarMegaDo 2010 a group of about 30 of us were invited to visit the Airline Training Center, Arizona (ATCA) where aspiring pilots are given their initial in-flight training experiences. We got to meet with the students and the folks who run the program. Oh, and we all got to actually experience the flight training through flights in the same simulators that the pilots learn in.

IMGP6918IMGP6919We were welcomed to the facility by Matthias Kippenberg, the President and CEO of ATCA. A pilot who was trained in the same facility more than 30 years ago, who flew the 727, 737 and 747 for various private groups as well as Lufthansa, Matthias has been leading the training group in Arizona for 3 years now. Mr. Kippenberg oversees the training of approximately 240 pilots annually, helping to continue feeding the tremendous demand that the parent company has for additional pilots.

After a brief introduction outside the facility we were escorted onto the flight line (“Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”) to see one of the Bonanza aircraft that the aspiring Lufthansa pilots start their training in.

We got to climb in the plane and get a feel for what it is like inside, including the fact that they planes are not air conditioned which can be a bit warm in the summer months.

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Following the walk-through on the flight line we got to see the maintenance facilities and then, the highlight of the day, actually flying in the simulators.

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Click here to view the embedded video.

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Click here to view the embedded video.

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IMGP7013After the flying we headed over to the cafeteria for a delicious lunch and a Q&A wrap-up with the student pilots and training coordinators. Along the way we happened upon this celebratory scene walking the grounds of the facility. The pilot being carried had just completed his first solo flight and his class-mates were helping to celebrate the event. There is a tradition in the flight world that says following the first successful solo flight one cannot have their feet touch the ground until they have been in the water first. As such, the next stop of this caravan of friends was the swimming pool facility on the property. I’m sure he doesn’t mind getting wet for this one.

The food was top-notch (and we were thanked by many of the students for showing up as it meant they get the upgraded catering for the day). Here’s dessert, ice cream in chocolate. Hard to complain at all.

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It is worth noting here that the 20 folks who got to participate in the flight simulator portion of the event were chosen not by luck and not randomly. They were chosen by their generosity. All told, we raised over $5,000 in charitable contributions to Help Alliance, the Lufthansa corporate charity. Simply amazing.

A tour of München in Frankfurt

StarMegaDo is an amazing experience at many levels. This afternoon IMGP6609we experienced that by being in two places at the same time. We were standing on the ground in Frankfurt and then walked up the stairs and suddenly found ourselves in München.

In this case München is the name of D-AIMB, one of the Airbus A380s that Lufthansa has in service. And they had it available for all of us to tour this afternoon to kick off the Frankfurt portion of StarMegaDo 2010. I’ve seen the A380s a few times and I still have trouble processing just how absolutely HUGE the airplane is. That means, among other things, that it makes for a great tour because of all the different sections, cabins and features.

The first class lavatory on the A380 is actually larger than the bathroom in my apartment. That was a rather depressing and shocking discovery though I also realize that the rent I’m paying is quite a bit less than buying F seats every night. On the plus side (I suppose),

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I have the advantage that at least my feet actually reach the cushion/ottoman.

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We spent time in the cockpit:

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We spent time in Coach:

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And we spent time in the crew rest bunks, too:

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Did I mention that the A380 is HUGE???

 

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Seriously beautiful plane.

Outward Bound

The Lufthansa lounge at JFK is a bit like heaven — it gets better as you ascend. Business class passengers are confined to the ground floor, with Star Gold members reside up a flight and First Class passengers sip single malts up top. The trio of Swiss passengers in our group were sentenced to Purgatory (i.e. the Swiss lounge in Terminal 4), prompting Pat to drop $2,800 for a gate pass (i.e. a fully refundable walkup ticket) to sneak in.

Early arrivals for tonight’s flight to Frankfurt were offered a tour of the higher levels — the rest of us snuck up every now and then for some tikka chicken masala and a cocktail. After several hours of sipping champagne, our hosts hailed our return nearly a year to the day and explained why Lufthansa was the launch customers for the Boeing 747-8i — which we will visit on the assembly in Everett near the end of the DO — because LH’s chairmen are historically engineers, and there’s nothing an engineer loves more than power. “We told Boeing years ago if you extend, renew, refurbish it, we will buy it,” and it did.

After welcoming remarks, Tommy took to the mike to “guarantee to we’re doing things in Frankfurt we didn’t do last year.”

“Sleep?!” came the hopeful reply.

“No, not sleeping!”

Star Mega Do 2010 Bookings open on Friday!

By now you’ve probably read all about the itinerary and just how much fun is going to be had during Star Mega Do 2010, so much so that you’re ready to book. Right? The wait is almost over. Booking will open this Friday, June 11, at 12 noon EDT.

The best part is that you do not need to pay the full booking price this Friday. You will need to pay a non-refundable $100 deposit for your space on the charter. The balance of the payment will be due towards the end of July. Space on the charter is limited and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you want to guarantee a space for yourself – particularly in the highly demanded first class cabin – you’re going to need to book quickly.

The booking process will require you to specify, among other bits:

  • Your personal details
  • The legs and class of service for the charter
  • which of the scheduled flights you intend to book and on which date (UA feeder flights, TATL eastbound on LH/OS/LX, TATL westbound on LH, final TATL eastbound SEA-Europe on LH)
  • Specify if you require a discount / Continental MeetingWorks code to get to/from IAH and later SEA
  • Indicate if you will stay at the Starwood properties that will host the event on the ground

If you do choose to stay as part of our negotiated group at the hotels then we’ll take care of all the ground transport issues and the booking process; you’ll be responsible for paying the hotel directly at the time of the stay.

Got any questions? Post a comment or send an email to airbusdo@gmail.com.

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