Most Dubaians have at least three things in common: a love of travel, a love of flashy gadgets and a love of (or a love-hate relationship with) malls. Enter the new iPilot flight simulator, which manages to combine all three.
Located opposite Sega Republic in The Dubai Mall, iPilot is a flight simulator that’s designed to give visitors a taste of what it’s like to be a real pilot in the cockpit of a Boeing 737. Unlike arcade simulators,
which lurch around in an attempt to persuade you you’re falling down a mine shaft, this far more realistic device is aimed at adults, or anyone who has always dreamed of a career in the skies. There’s no motion experience, so you won’t be clinging onto your seat for dear life. Whatyou will learn is the basics of how to take off and land a passenger jet (warning: this is not a shortcut to your career as a pilot).
iPilot’s founder, Wolfram Schleuter, points out that this is the first venue in the UAE where the public can try this experience. He decided to bring the concept to Dubai after a constant string of enquiries from Emirati and UAE-based visitors to his outlet in London’s Westfield shopping mall, and is confident it will do well in the new location.
He explains the main bulk of his business has tended to be from ‘wives buying the experience as a gift for their husbands’, although he also offers a 60-minute fear-of-flying course. This practical application of the concept, and the knowledge of the instructors running the show (many of whom have been pilots by trade), seems to give iPilot a great deal more purpose, especially when you consider Schleuter’s remarks that most people only come for a one-time experience, rather than feeling the need to better their skills.
When my friend and I head to the mall to try iPilot for ourselves, the outlet is still applying the finishing touches to its appearance, and the brainy team behind the software are still perfecting the local vista at some of the destinations. One of the fun parts is that you can choose to take off from one of 24,000 airports around the world. All the ‘flights’ are taken in real time, so whichever destination you choose, you can only fly somewhere reasonably close by, or loop back to your starting point. ‘Where are you from?’ asks my instructor as I settle into the captain’s seat. Once we’ve established I’m from London, he chooses Heathrow airport as our starting point, and explains we’ll be aiming for London City airport, a few minutes’ flight away. Takeoff is reasonably easy, but I soon discover that I’m not quite as adept at keeping my plane in the
right position once we’re airborne. We loop around and turn back towards Heathrow, by which point I’m feeling surprisingly stressed. My landing is far from perfect, and there’s a lot of steering to balance the wings, and to make sure I don’t drift off the runway when we land.
Next, it’s my companion’s turn: he decides to take off from Dubai International Airport. He gets us into the air without a hitch, and does a far superior job of doing what the monitors (and our instructor) tell him. Meanwhile, I’m mildly berated by another instructor for not being a more helpful co-pilot. We loop around the two Burj Al Arabs currently in play on Dubai’s coastline (a mark of the pre-launch software tweaks) and head back to the airport to land. Having scoffed at my quivering attempt, I’m amused when my self-confident captain is forced to make a second attempt after flying straight across the runway. He then decides to land next to it instead, scraping up the plane in the process.
iPilot is certainly worth a visit, and there are extra seats available if you wish to take spectators with you. For wannabe pilots who missed their calling, there’s nothing like it in Dubai. For everyone else, it’s certainly a diverting way to spend 15 minutes.
From Dhs299 for a 15-minute flight, Dhs899 for 60-minute fear-of-flying programme. iPilot, The Dubai Mall, www.flyipilot.ae (056 738 7444).
More simulators to try
The highly realistic Hexatech racing simulators in Mall of the Emirates’ Magic Planet offer drivers the chance to race in pairs against one another.
Dhs20 per person (Dhs10 on Tuesdays). Magic Planet, Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4444).
Practise your skills in skeet, double trap, sporting clay and strap shooting, or rabbit, duck, grouse and pheasant hunting, with Meydan’s impressive ST-2 shooting simulator.
Dhs120 for 40 minutes. Meydan Hotel, Nad Al Sheba (04 381 3405).
Not wild about the idea of throwing yourself out of a plane? iFly’s indoor skydiving simulator means you can recreate the thrill of freefall inside a 10-metre vertical wind tunnel, with wind speeds of up to 200kph.
Dhs195 for first-time flyers. Mirdif City Centre (04 231 6292).