Pilots Of The Future: Children Fly Turkish Airlines Boeing 777

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Turkish Airlines has let a group of children take control of a Boeing 777 in celebration of Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day. Using motion capture technology, the children, aged between seven and 10, commanded the huge plane to pitch, roll and land, making for a very interesting experience. Turkish Airlines has become the first airline in the world to use this technology to communicate flight data.

Turkish Airlines Child Pilots
Turkish Airlines has let a group of children control its 777. Photo: Turkish Airlines

A flight, flown by children

April 23rd is Turkey’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, a public holiday that commemorates the founding of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in 1920. Founder of the Turkish Republic, Ghazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk declared this day as a day to celebrate children and the independence of the country.

The whole nation gets involved in the celebrations, including its flag-carrying airline, Turkish Airlines. Last year, the carrier drew a flag of Turkey in the skies above the country using a Boeing 777. This year, the airline has performed an equally incredible feat, celebrating the children of Turkey in a unique way.

This year, the airline undertook a flight that was directed entirely by kids. Using ‘motion capture’ technology, Turkish children aged between seven and 10 years old donned special suits and sensors to provide data to a Boeing 777 in the air.

Turkish Airlines Child Pilots
Motion capture let the children dictate the path of the 777. Photo: Turkish Airlines

The aircraft used was TC-JJI, a Boeing 777-300ER, which departed from Istanbul Airport. The aircraft flew at around 6,000 – 8,000 feet above Antalya, performing a series of maneuvers as dictated by the children on the ground. Pilots Serpil Köstepen and Cihangir Kılıç were at the helm of the aircraft, as it rolled and turned in an echo of the kid’s movements.

You can watch the flight unfold in the captivating video below:

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The event begins with the children requesting clearance for takeoff, and performing those important pre-flight equipment checks. The ‘child captain’ then takes off from the ground, just like the plane, and the infrared cameras and sensors on their clothing direct the flight in its movements. The pilots remained very much in control of the plane, but nevertheless, it’s an incredible demonstration of this technology, and rather cute too.

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Turkish Airlines Child Pilots
Sensors and IR cameras translated the children’s movements into data for the pilots. Photo: Turkish Airlines

A first in aviation

With this initiative, Turkish Airlines has become the first in the world to carry out this type of activity using a real-world flight. While today’s celebration is something of a novelty, it demonstrates the potential of this groundbreaking technology in a way that’s never seen before.

Turkish Airlines Child Pilots
It’s the first time this technology has been used in aviation in this way. Photo: Turkish Airlines

Commenting on the activity, Turkish Airlines Chairman of the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee M. İlker Aycı said,

“April 23, National Sovereignty and Children’s Day, which Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk presented to the children of the world, is the most important symbol of the value we give to our children as the guarantee of our future. As an indicator of the value we give to them, we have entrusted our children with our flight, where we use data-based technology, to commemorate this important day.

“As the National Flag Carrier of our country, we will continue to bring together new generation technologies with aviation and use them in every field.”

Back at its hub in Istanbul, Turkish Airlines’ home airport is also celebrating the children of the nation. Istanbul Airport is positioning itself as a family-friendly facility, highlighting the unique attributes it boasts that make traveling with kids even better.

The airport features reserved parking for families, a separate space shuttle-themed entrance for kids, and more than 700 square meters of play space.

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