At first glance, this looks like a picture of runway 28R at the San Francisco International Airport, taken from the flight deck window of a Boeing 737, just before dawn with the aircraft's landing lights illuminating the foreground. In actuality, it's a 3-dimensional holographic image in Houston, TX photographed by yours truly, as I saw it from the window of Continental's Boeing 737-800 full motion simulator at 4 in the morning on Day 2 of my trip.
This simulator not only provides a genuine reproduction of an actual Continental B737 flight deck like the FTD we saw the day before, but in addition to this, provides a panoramic view of photo-realistic scenery and all the forces of acceleration one would feel in a real aircraft. The simulator operates on a set of hydraulic lifts, which are used to simulate the feeling of steep takeoffs, turbulence, rough landings, and anything else you would ordinary feel in a real aircraft.
Continental pilots who are training to become B737 First Officers will spend plenty of time in this device. The simulator is so realistic that the FAA permits it to be used for 100% of a pilot's training. This means that the first time a first officer will ever handle the controls of a real 737 aircraft will be during actual airline service with passengers on board.
For the most part, my 3 hours of flying in the simulator were quite smooth, except for the brief wing fire, engine failure during takeoff, thunderstorm, and complete loss of hydraulics we encountered while circling around the Golden Gate Bridge. During the session, everyone flew as both Captain and First Office at one point. I flew both positions twice, one round with "pops" and another with a guy named Clifford.
Here's a picture of me, feeling rather gratified by the whole thing after recovering from all those disasters and saving the day:
In all, the simulator session ran from 4 AM to 8 AM, with a 1 hour break. After the session, we were debriefed and then taken back to the hotel. By 9 AM, the day hadn't even begun and it was already over! I can really get used to this simulator. Seems like it would make an excellent addition to my downstairs area at home, hydraulic tanks and all. Now if I can just convince my loving wife... :)