They start with a discussion with the trainer asking what you want to gain from the experience, and what your flight experience is. My friend was interested in doing a proper flight (taxi - takeoff - circuits - landing), and stated that he has held a commercial light airplane license for about a decade.
Next was a pre-flight briefing video that shows you the basic cockpit controls and talks a bit about the Boeing 737, which is the most popular commercial airliner in the world.
We then walked into the simulator, which is basically a large room, with a projector screen set up in as you can see on the right here. The Simulator has all the switches and dials that a real 737 has and they function as it would in a real 737, so when you adjust the electric trim - the trim wheels spin, the throttle levers moved relative to the power that the autopilot was giving the engines as we adjusted height or bank.
There are 4 seats, the pilot sit on the left, the co-pilot (trainer) sits on the right and there are two seats behind these ones where the passengers sit, which is where I was sitting - behind the pilot - with another friend sitting behind the copilot.
Once inside the cockpit the pilot and copilot were strapped in - using a 5 point harness as the real planes used, the whole process was done as realistic as possible, a 5 minute run through of all the controls was gone through, this was the most interesting part for me of the whole process, as when you first look at the cockpit it looks like controls and buttons everywhere, but once the logic and grouping of the controls was explained, it made things lot easier. This also helped the back seat passengers be aware of what was happening with the plane. We knew where to see air speed, vertical speed, Angle of attack and so forth.
We began taxing and I was impressed at how realistic the experience was - I have spent a lot of time using flight simulators on computers before - but having this large a screen that totally encompassed your view and having the cockpit layout increased the realism effect.
We were using runway 19 (which means it runs at 190'), we taxied the correct way to the beginning of the runway and then once lined up properly the trainer began explaining in detail the take off procedure, it was while we were sitting here, that i noticed that another Jumbo was lining up for takeoff and was driving right through our plane, the three of us were all IT guys each with over 25 years experience so understood what was happening and commented on it. The trainer was slightly embarrassed and told us to 'ignore that', this did not detract from the realism of the event and to me added a coolness factor, as its not often you get to sit in a realistic 737 cockpit and have a 737 run you over.
We were uninjured from the other 737 running over us and we let that plane clear the runway and my mate applied power and we started to roll down the runway - he did a very good job of keeping it in the center of the runway and once "rotate" was reached we gently climbed into the air. We were soon at 3000 feet and the trainer instructed my friend to start doing gentle turns and talked him through the turns, this is where it became obvious that his experience as a real pilot was advantageous. He was very quickly able to turn a 737 to the exact required heading and too level it out in one smooth operation - where as I tend to do a series of smaller jerkier movements when i am adjusting a plane - whether a real plane, remote control plane or one within a simulator - but i am getting better.
We continued to do some circuits around Brisbane, and occasionally the trainer would pause the simulation which surprisingly did not detract from the realism of the experience for me or the other people with me. When the simulation was paused the trainer would explain things in more detail about the operation that was going to be done next and then we would do that operation.
Once several circuits were done, we were going to do a Touch and Go, which is you land as normal, then instead of applying reverse thrust and brakes, you apply full power and take off once again. From what I understand Touch and Go is a pretty common procedure in pilot training as you get to practice a landing and takeoff.
Once the touch and go was completed we came in for a full landing. and then taxied the plane off the run way and then our time was up.
All up I think this was an amazing experience and was glad that my mate invited me along for the ride, but I think with my limited piloting experience I wouldn't get my moneys worth out of the experience. I am sure that for beginner pilots like me they would have a simpler procedure that they took me through, but then I could do that on my home flight simulator.
Once we walked out - we were all slightly buzzing from the experience as it is a very realistic experience, but soon reality came back and we had to return to work for a few more hours.
See http://www.flightexperience.com.au for more details.