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SEA-TAC AIRPORT - Inside of Alaska Airlines operations center is a simulator so new, pilots haven t been trained on it yet.

But inside Capt. Douglas Burton, Director of Flight Training shows how the state of the art has just taken another leap.

Full flight simulators have been around for decades. Hydraulic or electronic jacks move around an enclosed capsule that contains a full-fledged cockpit. The movement helps give pilots the sensation of acceleration, even though they re inside of a building.

A screen visible through the cockpit windshield shows the virtual world outside. Simulators are so good, just the motion of the screen can draw you in to the point where you think you re moving, even when you re not.

But the new simulator for a 737-800, built by CAE systems out of Canada, takes that reality to a new level. The screen wraps around the cockpit for 200 degrees - 20 degrees more than the more typical 180-degree view. The screen is now 48 inches high, but it s the detail provided by the software that really draws the eye.

It s an illusion, said Capt. Burton. It s an illusion that can help us increase safety.

It s not so much the flying, said Burton. He says what pilot training is really focused on is helping pilots make better decisions, especially during difficult situations involving bad weather, mechanical troubles or a combination of the two.

They get lost in the scenario. said Burton.

The reality of the simulation helps draw the pilots in, to work through those decisions while safely on the ground and get ready for the time if they ever confront that type of reality in the air.

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