We only briefly peeked into the flight operations center as, you know, they had planes in the sky and had to, like, control them or something. It must be said that their HQ location is pretty excellent, since instead of complete reliance on weather forecasts, the team can step outside onto a balcony at any time to check out real-time conditions at SFO; they're just across a piece of San Francisco Bay from the runways. Indeed, before even entering HQ, we stopped in our tracks in the parking lot to watch an Air China 747 ascend beneath a perfect rainbow.
Now onto the real action, which takes place down the street from HQ in a building that can handle the awesomeness of an electric, full-motion A320 flight simulator. If you've never seen one of these babies in person, we can only say that they remind us of the AT-ST Walkers from Star Wars and, watching one in action from the outside, look as intimidating. On the inside, however, it's the Airbus cockpit you've likely peeked into time and again while deplaning a real aircraft.
Virgin America's flight sim instructor Stefan was super enough to let us grab the sidesticks and practice taking off from SFO, some Bay Area flying, and ("survivable") landings at SAN and SEA. Good news: turbulence really isn't that big of a deal.
Formerly of Frontier and Air Wisconsin (which you probably know better as flying for United Express), Stefan enjoys his flight sim instructor position here at Virgin America because it allows him to "just enjoy flying" without a typical rigorous pilot schedule of up-down-up-down, cross-country and back. One day he could be here in the sim, throwing all kinds of weather and tech situations at pilots to test their skills, and other days he's at the controls in a real A320, heading between SFO and San Diego. Why San Diego? Well, it's simply his favorite airport for the picturesque final approach. Love that.
As for the offices themselves, they're very Virgin. A timeline of Virgin Group stretches down hallways, a London telephone booth takes pride of place in the lobby and the individual cubicles of customer service reps are chock full of "flair" from the various route launches and SF Giants events (foam fingers!). Walking in to HQ, there's the thought, "oh man, this is going to be fun"...kinda like the impression you have when boarding a Virgin America plane, hmm?
Andy kicks back in First Class of the cabin trainer
[Photos: Cynthia Drescher/Jaunted]