The unexpected added value of KLM: Virtual Reality

I give gasoline. like an accomplished driver I turn the handlebar from left to right. Big blue KLM planes are parked on the platform at Schiphol.

At full speed I maneuver myself through all those beautiful blues. Sharp turn to the right, facing the cockpit, while trying to maintain the correct distance from the aircraft. I turn my head, glance quickly behind me to see if there is traffic, but there isn’t. Gasoline on that shelf! ‘Woooo!! Goooo!! It’s buzzing in me. How cool, how cool that I get to drive my own blue KLM car here in all that flying traffic! IM so lucky….

Suddenly it’s dark. Schiphol’s lights come on and it’s foggy. I can barely see a hand in front of my eyes and I slow down. “Should we finish it now?” I hear a voice from a parallel world calling me back to reality. ‘No!’ something screams inside me. ‘Let me play some more! Just a little while to recharge! Enjoy a while…..’

Today I am a guest in the KLM Virtual Reality department. To be fair, my ‘brief’ acquaintance with Chris Koomen, VR specialist and VR founder at KLM, is now just under three hours long. He pulled me into his world, though he couldn’t know that, once fired up, I won’t let go quickly. I just put out a fire in the cabin with halon. At the same time, I tried to calm down a passenger when he came towards me, coughing and angry. I have made colossal mistakes in my approach. I realize: I’ve been ‘out’ for a while.

For the first time in my life I also have a aviobridge allowed to join the aircraft. Some of the readers might just shrug their shoulders and think: what’s so exciting about that? But it’s the atmosphere. With glasses on my head, I sincerely imagine myself on the bridge. I look out the side window and see the plane, the windows, the wing, the KLM logo on the tail. Looking back across the bridge, I can almost feel the chill of the morning wind blowing across the bridge, waiting for a stream of passengers or (perhaps even more fun) my crew to join me for new adventures at a moment’s notice.

I am in the office of Chris Koomen, KLM’s virtual reality specialist, at Schiphol-East, but I am of the world, of this world, in a new world where literally anything is possible. With a sigh, he handed the white glasses with the blue KLM letters back to Chris. How bold was this… and disturbing at the same time. This reality, which is not reality. My body moves on what my brain thinks it detects. But what my brain sees is not really there. However, I lean, I walk, I feel the adrenaline rush through my body when there is action to be found. In this world of Virtual Reality, I honestly imagined myself back at KLM.

Chris, who has been working with VR since 1996, sees this happen over and over again. He is an expert in this field. Or has he also become an expert at reading body language? Because in a world of virtual reality, where everything comes to life within an illusion, the body continues to tell the truth. I’m an open book now, so that doesn’t sound like high math to me. With red spots on the neck, a slightly shaky right hand (because, gosh… making a mistake and therefore getting out is of course not allowed) and feet firmly on the ground, I think there is a lot to analyze. But Chris reassures him: Virtual reality provides, like no other place, the safe environment in which mistakes are allowed.

Snapping back to reality, we gaze together from the window of his office at Schiphol-East at the blue planes taking off. That’s where it all started. In Engineering and Maintenance, Chris learned how important it is to be able to make mistakes. But even more so, how important it is when mistakes are made, to correct them: without making concessions, without giving up and with enormous perseverance. To take responsibility for his own actions, his own negligence, his humanity so to speak. ‘Wow,’ I think, ‘a lot of people in senior positions could learn from that.’

“Don’t resign yourself to something that doesn’t work,” says Chris. When I ask him about his past, he says that he can’t keep up with the educational system. As a child he attended a school for children with learning difficulties and then at the MBO level he couldn’t find his place. That, as an autodidact, he is open to stimuli that other people are not aware of, but where with an enormous thirst for knowledge and with a willingness to want to see more than what the eye initially shows, he wants to engage with others. people. Because what do we really see in this world? And how do we process what we see in our brain, in our thinking and in the choices we make on a daily basis? Something to wake up…

Chris sits across from me. The words particularly intelligent, impulsive, estimative and empathic come to mind. A man with vision and ambition, because in a world of unlimited virtual reality possibilities, he wants to set up the largest training room in the world. A training room for everyone, whether you have a high or low level of education, whether you like the theoretical framework or are pleasant and practical. And I believe him.

Because you can create complete behavioral changes in the world of virtual reality. You can create a world of inclusion. Because in the real world mistakes are still being made on a daily basis, such as the assumption that ‘worthiness’ and educational attainment are linked. These mistakes shouldn’t last. But what responsibility! While I would like to see the good in people and continue to believe in it, I also realize that in the wrong hands, VR can go in the wrong direction. What dream do you bring to life?

Chris’s dream is clear: virtual reality has to connect. He has to unlock, get us all off our island of thought, park our (erroneous) assumptions about others. How? Through behavioral change. By using VR at all levels, from management to the workplace and literally looking into someone else’s kitchen. Learning from each other, because we must, we can and we can learn from each other. Giving back to the community.

Therefore, I am proud to write that since November 11, two MBO institutions under the wings of the KLM VR department have started training their MBO students in aviation services. A golden takeoff if you ask me, because within the MBO I have experienced enormous enthusiasm, drive and connection with both teachers and students.

I also know that enthusiasm is also present in HBO and in universities. With our youth. So I hope that you will continue, so that we can go together for a change in our behavior, a change in our thinking, including our assumptions about each other.

KLM, what a big role it has there in the near future… VR is the future! And that future is now!

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