You start at 10,000 feet at 20 degrees from the horizontal. It's not so much flying as a controled plummet. The idea is to pull the nose up at just the right time so as to gently drop the wheels onto the runway at a vertical descent just less than 2 feet/sec. Or you can smack the backside of the thing into the tarmac at Kennedy at 10 feet/sec as I did on my first attempt. But at least all the pieces were on the runway. They gave me another shuttle and this time we put it down at Edwards as you can see in the video above. Unfortuantely this one had a defective tire which was somewhat beyond my pay grade.
The Vertical Motion Simulator at NASA Ames is one of two flight simulators that the astronauts trained on. The name comes from the 10 stories of vertical travel that the simulator is capable of. It can also travel 40 feet horizontally and tilt the cabin in all directions. You can definitely feel the cabin tilting 20 degres earthwards at the start of a shuttle landing simulation. And if the pilot is none too gentle in moving the stick, Great America amusement park has got nothing that compares. They call it pilot induced oscillation.
On meeting the controls for the first time there is way too much information to absorb. The head up display offers an indication of your velocity vector—basically, where you are going to plant the nose if you don't make any corrections. There is also an indication of where the velocity vector should be pointing, generated by the shuttle guidance system. Just keeping the two aligned was about all I could do. Though you do need to rememeber that when you get close to the ground ignore the guidance system and point the nose at the horizon.