Dubai: Residents will be able to pilot the world’s biggest passenger aircraft, the Airbus 380, in a flight simulator in Abu Dhabi from next year.
iPilot, which already has a Boeing 737 simulator in Dubai Mall, plans to open the A380 simulator in March in the upcoming Yas Mall on Yas Island, said Alastair Orr, iPilot’s chief operating officer.
The cockpit will be a replica of the superjumbo and so will the experience of flying it, added Orr, a licensed pilot. He expects prices to be about the same as those for the 737 simulator in Dubai — from Dh299 for 15 minutes to Dh1,349 for 90 minutes.
iPilot simulators are so real that even actual pilots use them for ‘practice or pleasure’, said iPilot instructor Jason Pereira, also a professional pilot.
“It’s like the cockpit has been sliced off the real plane and put here, it’s as close as you can get to the real thing,” he said.
Pilots can choose from 24,000 airports worldwide to take off from or land at.
“Usually people want a very quick experience,” Pereira said. “Fifteen minutes doesn’t sound like much, but it’s enough to take off from the runway, fly around and come back for landing. Most people come back for a one-hour session.”
An instructor — the co-pilot — sits besides the pilot and guides them every step of the way. Three huge panoramic screens bring spectacular lifelike views from the mock cockpit. The synch with sound effects and response to controls creates a sense of motion even though the simulator is fixed-based.
“You do get the sound and vibrations,” Pereira said. “I’ve had people feel kind of sick [because of the illusion of motion].”
Most customers are advanced flight simulator enthusiasts who ask very detailed questions, many are regular, everyday people and some are professional pilots. Pereira said there is something in the simulator for every level of interest and skill.
“Some people just want to follow the pink [navigation] lines on display, others ask very technical questions on the fly.”
The hardest part of the flight is the landing — come in too slow and the plane can stall; too fast and it can overshoot.
“No landing has ever been exactly the same,” Orr said. “You can’t take your eye off the ball for even one second. It demands your absolute attention.”
The more daring customers want to simulate engine failure or fly through turbulence, with some using the experience to help manage their fear of flying, added Pereira.
The iPilot Boeing 737 simulator is located near the KidsZania interactive ‘edutainment’ centre in Dubai Mall.