Tom Haines

Is it real, or is it Gibson Boulevard?

July 16, 2008 by Thomas B. Haines, Editor in Chief

I laughed when I saw the sign for Gibson Boulevard, which runs just north of Albuquerque International Sunport (ABQ). It’s a real place! After 16 hours in the simulator at Eclipse Aviation earning a type rating in the Eclipse 500, I was very familiar with the simulated Gibson Boulevard, but it hadn’t really sunk in that it was real.

A circling approach is one of the requirements for a type rating. At Eclipse, it’s usually done as an approach to ABQ’s Runway 8, circling to 17. One of the tricks you learn is that once you turn north for circling, you quickly cross Gibson Boulevard (with its simulated cars and trucks zipping by)–then count to about 8 and then make a left base leg turn and the end of Runway 17 will magically appear.

Eclipse 500 Level D Simulator

Author at the controls of the Eclipse 500 simulator.

So by the time I was driving to ABQ to airline it home after the checkride I had flown the circling approach a half dozen times. And there was the sign announcing the exit for Gibson Boulevard–it was a weird moment of realization of just how real the Level D simulator is.

It was a surreal moment a few weeks later when I touched a real Eclipse 500 for the first time. Sitting in the cockpit in Maryland, I expected to see only ABQ’s taxiways through the windshield.

Check out the video to see what it’s like to move from the high-zoot full-motion simulator and its spectacular visual system, all of which costs tens of millions of dollars, to the real thing, priced at a seemingly reasonable $2.15 million. For more on the Eclipse 500, see the August cover story of AOPA Pilot and my previous blog and videoThink you can fly the Eclipse 500?”


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