“C’mon, let’s go in,” I said to DH, who didn’t need that much encouraging, to be honest.
We were about to ride the Emirates Air Line cable car, which crosses London’s River Thames at a vertigo-inducing altitude, when we noticed a small building housing the newly opened aviation experience.
I must have been feeling a bit homesick, because suddenly the idea of paying money (£3 each) to get a little Dubai fix seemed a good idea. It might even be air-conditioned, I reasoned (this was a few weeks ago, during the hot spell).
Inside the £4m attraction, we walked round a real-size replica of the A380’s nose and a 165,000-brick Lego engine. I tried an aviation-themed interactive game and decided we didn’t need to sit in the mock economy cabin and put the headsets on to watch the TV screens, as I’ve only spent, like, a MILLION hours sitting in those seats for real. (Now, if it was business class and they were serving champagne ….)
And, I can honestly say I really enjoyed the panoramic video following a suitcase’s journey, from check-in to the plane’s hold via a system of rollercoaster-like conveyor belts.
But it was upstairs that DH and I had the best time. In one of the A380 simulators, where you can try your hand at flying a superjumbo (sort of).
Though nothing like what pilots actually train in (just the stick, rudder and thrust work), it allows you to take-off, manoeuvre the aircraft and land – or crash, in my case. The high-definition screen and advanced graphics simulate a flight between London Heathrow and Dubai, with weather conditions of your choosing. You could opt for drizzly rain coming into LHR, buttery sunshine in Dubai, or a starry night sky if you want to command a night flight.
My DH isn’t one to boast about what he does so as I took the controls he kept his job quiet, until the staff pretty quickly figured it out and left us to it. But let’s just say that, even with him coaching me, I’m not the most coordinated of pilots.
“Just small corrections,” DH instructed as I attempted to keep the plane on the glide path, while watching the landing lights. Half red and half white is the ideal. Nose up. Left a bit. The runway starts rushing up towards me. Those small corrections rapidly turn into clumsy lurches and I plunge the aircraft into the ground, where it bumps along noiselessly, magically passing through highly pixelated objects.
My second attempt is much the same, and I have to concede that, in the unlikely event that the entire crew of a 380 is struck down by a dodgy prawn, I’m not your hero.
After a while, I hand over to DH to watch and marvel. And then something occurs to me: “Try flying it under Tower Bridge!” Why, the worst that could happen is they’d have to reboot the software.
The simulator costs £40 for a 30-minute session. This isn’t a sponsored post. I actually did spend my birthday riding the Emirates Air Line.