2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button is finding a lot of fun things to do during this winter. One of them almost looked like a test drive for a new career – as a British Airways pilot!
Jenson spent 90 minutes perfecting take-off, cruise and landing of the world’s largest commercial aircraft A380. That happened at British Airways’ simulator at the Flight Training Centre near London’s Heathrow Airport. It uses cutting edge motion, audio and graphics technology to deliver a completely immersive experience. This is the facility where the airline’s 4,200 professional pilots are trained.
Jenson was coached on the flight deck by British Airways’ Head of Technical and Training, Captain Dave Thomas and Senior First Officer William Swinburn.
The 37-year-old made three landings into Hong Kong International Airport in total. He was thrilled to take control of the iconic double-decker four-engine aircraft. The A380 forms the centrepiece of British Airways’ fleet along with the Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Jenson Button: “I think I did pretty well for a first timer”
Jenson said: “It was so cool! I’ve flown all over the world but this is the first time I’ve experienced what it’s like to be at the controls and it was a pretty incredible feeling.
“It’s like you’re in a real aircraft and after a while you forget it isn’t the real thing. I think I did pretty well for a first timer – though if there were passengers in the back we might have had a few complaints about my first landing. Let’s just say it was a bit bumpy.”
“Jenson obviously has experience travelling at high speeds. He adapted well to taking control of the A380”, the impressed captain Thomas added.
“Being a pilot is all about calmness under pressure, preparing properly and getting from A to B with safety being the foremost priority at all times, so I think coming from a Formula 1 background Jenson definitely has some of the attributes required of a pilot.”
Button signed a new 2-year contract with McLaren in 2016 but will not drive for the team in the 2017 F1 championship. Now he is McLaren’s ambassador, while having an option to return as a regular driver in 2018.
In December 2016 Jenson received an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath and captain Thomas joked that now he can call himself “captain doctor Button”!
“That would be cool!”, agreed the British driver.
Thank you British Airways 4 giving me this opportunity to fly such a big bird! To be fair she handled better than some F1 cars I’ve driven! https://t.co/58BCbJ1gk3
— Jenson Button (@JensonButton) 26 January 2017