London - Formula One star Jenson Button, who recently announced his retirement from the track, isn’t exactly desperate to find a new job, but he seems to be having fun exploring his options.
The 2009 World champion even got to ‘drive’ the A380 flight simulator at British Airways’ flight training centre near London’s Heathrow Airport. Button is, of course, no stranger to driving simulators; track testing time is severely limited by Formula One regulations, so all the drivers do their ‘homework’ in state-of-the-art simulators, getting to know the car and the circuits before they get there.
But it’s still a big step up from driving a Formula One car weighing less than a ton at 340km/h to flying the world’s largest commercial aircraft at three times that speed.
Button spent 90 minutes practicing take-offs, cruise and landings in the iconic double-decker four-engine aircraft - including three landings into Hong Kong International Airport, notorious for its difficult approach, coached by BA head of technical and training Captain Dave Thomas, and senior First officer William Swinburn.
“It was so cool!” he said afterwards. “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 had been passengers in the back we might have had a few complaints about my first landing. Let’s just say it was a bit bumpy.”
Thomas was impressed by Button’s aptitude.
“Being a pilot is about calmness under pressure and preparing properly with safety always the top priority,” he said. “Coming from a Formula One background Jenson definitely has some of those attributes.”