As a professional pilot we are send into the simulator twice a year for checking and training. Throughout the last twenty years I’ve spent more than 600 hours in a simulator to practice every possible emergency situation which hopefully will never show up in real life.
A simulator is an exact copy of an aircraft, well at least from the cockpit point of view. Being mounted on three stilts which are hydraulically operated the simulator creates a 3D motion. And with a few monitors it creates the natural environment of almost any airport. Mountains, cities, sea and even cars can be programmed to be displayed just ahead of our eyes. After a few moments I almost forget about being still on the ground sitting in a simulator.
Every simulator session normally lasts four hours. Four hours of intense training: engine failures, smoke and or fire on board, electrical or hydraulic failures and much more. Once in a while we have to be in the sim for special training which is necessary before flying to a special airport. Just like Innsbruck. This airport, surrounded by mountains is a so-called category C airport. We distinguish between category A, B and C. While A airports are comparatively easy to fly to, a category C airport requires special training. It can be done either in a simulator or with a flight instructor on the aircraft. Innsbruck however, needs extra training. With prescribed procedures, tracks and waypoints it really works fantastic and even in marginal weather we will find our way to the airport.
Sure, there are many airports surrounded by high terrain but the airport of Innsbruck in the Austrian alps sometimes calls for a special approach: the foehn approach. The foehn is a very gusty, warm wind and due to the topography it creates lots of turbulence and the ride really gets a bumpy one. On days when the wind is forecasted to be blowing from the south we follow a special approach which keeps us high overhead the city. once passed this area of turbulence we dive for the runway. Since this approach requires proper visibility we can at least see what’s coming ahead. Some companies treat this airport even more special so as it is only the Captain doing the landing.
I always enjoyed flying to INN ( Innsbruck ), especially in winter time when the mountains are neatly covered with snow.