This course marks the eleventh consecutive year that this popular Interterm class has been offered. We will meet in Merrill 4 from 1300 hrs to 1500 hrs on Wednesday 10 January through and including Friday 19 January. No class on Sunday or Monday Martin Luther King day.  

In our classes at the College we will review the basic principles of flight and jet-propulsion (Newton’s third law, Bernoulli’s law, Boyle’s law, thrust, lift, drag, trim, angle of attack, and stalls).  We will then focus on the Boeing 737 and examine the aerodynamic design, principles, and interrelationships of its flying and control surfaces. This will include wing-sweepback and dihedral considerations, winglets, leading-edge Krueger flaps, articulated trailing-edge Fowler flaps, vortilons and vortex fences, and the cross-coupling of speed brakes, ailerons, and ground spoilers.  Mach tuck, Mach buffet, and ballistic thrust will also be discussed.  

Additionally we will study the historical evolution of turbojet and fanjet propulsion. The engine that powers the 737, the 26,000-pound thrust General Electric CFM 56 turbofan is the most successful in history. We will examine its genesis, design, and development. Some recently declassified documents of this American / European built engine clarify its fascinating history.

We will also experience the flight dynamics of turbine-powered aircraft first-hand via the newly-upgraded (and quite impressive) high-res Panasonic audio visual system in Merrill 4. There, interfaced with Microsoft’s “Flight Simulator 2015 Steam Edition” running on a powerful 64 bit OS machine, we will learn the protocols, procedures, and techniques of jet-flight germane to the Boeing 737.

Note that this 2015 iteration of Microsoft’s flight simulator, with its dynamically accurate flight physics and spectacular graphics is more realistic than the multi-million dollar simulators used by the US Air Force and the major airlines just three decades ago. Some pilots polishing their instrument skills in preparation for their FAA Instrument and Air Transport Pilot examinations use “FS X” as a training adjunct.

“Flight Simulator 2015” will also be integrated with radio transmissions (running in real time) from both tower and ground at BDL. Radio traffic at Bradley International on a snowy and always busy winter’s morning is an interesting study.

We will focus our training ab initio on the large, powerful, and popular mid to long-range one hundred eighty-nine ‘pax’ Boeing 737-800, aboard which we will log all of our simulated flight time. While the aircraft’s components and sub-systems are complex, they can be mastered with practice and the use of procedural checklists. Each of you will be provided with an eighty page flight manual that will clarify the checklist and operational procedures of the Boeing 737-800.

Many flight lessons will originate from BDL where ‘our’ “Seven-Three-Seven” (AC ONE) will be based. Special attention will be directed towards checklists, V / Vref speeds and inertia considerations, the ‘glass cockpit’, GPS navigation, instrument flight, straight-in ILS descents, and proper aircraft configuration for various points in the flight envelope. Here, in an eighty million dollar airplane (albeit a simulated one) many of us will experience the intended and original meaning of the cliché “behind the power curve.”

Everyone will assume the appropriate in-flight duties of Captain and First Officer in turn. Each flight crew will complete a leg from Providence’s T.F. Green Airport (PVD) shooting an ILS intercept and landing in restricted visibility at BDL.

The course will culminate in the Boeing on a stormy summer evening in the Virgin Islands with a particularly challenging Tortola (TUPJ) to St. Thomas (TIST) over-mountain low-altitude descent and short-field crosswind landing.

The three hundred sixty-one page “Boeing 737 Technical Guide” by Captain Chris Brady, a British airline pilot, is the instructor’s main reference. This (excellent) manual is currently in use by many Southwest 737 pilots in their routine flight ops. The Department of Physics and Astronomy has provided us with a copy, which is on reserve in the Keefe Science Library in Merrill. You are encouraged to spend a couple of hours reviewing the bookmarked sections of this volume prior to the first class.

Due to the lengthy real-time requirements of hands-on simulator flight, enrollment is limited to eight students. 

Addendum: This year we will also incorporate the Oculus Rift CV1 and HTV Vive Virtual Reality Headsets as part of your flight instruction. Thus each of you will spend an additional four hours in the College’s Cessna 172 ‘AC2.’ Two hours will be spent as a flight observer with two additional hours under the tutelage of Kwadwo Eck as a virtual reality flight student. This will be an academic experience you will long remember. 


 The instructor for this course, Henry Parker Hirschel, flew sub-sonic fixed-wing multi-engine jet aircraft in the USAF and was a beta tester for Sublogic’s “Air Transport Pilot” flight simulator for the Intel/Microsoft platform. Captain Henry is an Interterm instructor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy where he has also taught Celestial Navigation for the past eleven Amherst College Interterms.

The additional instructor for the Virtual Reality component of this class, Kwadwao Eck is currently a student pilot. He graduated from the College in 2008. Mr. Eck is employed in the IT department and is Amherst’s virtual reality specialist.