Technology: Into The Wild Blue (Digital) Yonder

The new simulators re-create reality -- and fantasy -- with gut-wrenching accuracy

The McDonnell Douglas MD-80 turbofan jet had just lifted off from New York's LaGuardia Airport and was streaking toward the Manhattan skyline when its left engine burst into flames. Pilot Bob Harry kept his cool. Banking sharply, he cut a swath over the city, put the Statue of Liberty behind his right wing and headed back to LaGuardia. In a matter of minutes, he had lined up his plane over an empty runway, pulled out the flaps and felt the familiar jolt of a successful touchdown.

But this was one emergency landing that was not greeted with relieved applause from the...

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