“Watch out, you’re flying towards the Burj Khalifa!”

There’s a place in The Dubai Mall where you can experience what it’s like to fly the world’s largest passenger aircraft.

Emirates has more Airbus A380s than any other airline in the world, and the Emirates A380 Experience allows you to pilot one of its iconic planes using a high-tech flight simulator.

We’re joined in the cockpit by Sam, a trainee flight dispatcher. He says the simulator is as popular with retired pilots as it is with aviation geeks and tourists who simply want to experience the thrill of piloting a plane. It’s also good for nervous flyers.

You can choose from 12 different airports, and select your own flight path, weather conditions, and flight time. Think you can cruise on autopilot? Nope, this simulation is totally manual.

Sam gives us a pre-flight briefing, demonstrating the functions of the array of controls and buttons at our fingertips. We learn that Airbus aircraft are flown using a sidestick, while most Boeing planes use yokes.

After making our way through our pilot’s checklist, we’re ready for take-off. With sweaty palms, we tilt the nose of the plane up, and find ourselves soaring above Dubai.

“Watch out, you’re flying towards the Burj Khalifa!” Oops.

Sam talks us through what happens if one of the A380’s four engines should fail (“it’s no big deal”), and explains what causes a plane to lose cabin pressure. We even try a mid-flight stall that has us descending rapidly – and live to tell the tale. All in all, it’s a strangely reassuring, educational experience.


Soon it’s time to land at DXB, and Sam instructs us for our final approach. Left… right… a little bit more to the right… no, nose up…

It’s too late. We’ve completely missed the runway. We have no choice but to lift our landing gear, and make a go-around. “Fortunately, it’s just a simulator,” Sam laughs.

After a successful second attempt, we’re inspired to try something a bit more difficult – a landing at Hong Kong’s notorious old Kai Tak Airport, famous for the hair-raising descent past skyscrapers and residential buildings.

We guide the superjumbo through the maze of high-rises, teeth gritted in concentration. When we finally touch down on the runway, we let out a sigh of relief. It’s more intense than any video game we’ve ever played.

That’s one common misconception about being a pilot, Sam says.

“Sometimes people say, oh, it’s just like a computer game. But you can’t really understand it until you’ve sat in that seat.”

Emirates A380 Experience, ground floor, The Dubai Mall. Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 10pm, Thursday to Saturday 10am to midnight. Each session lasts 30 minutes. Priced from Dhs325. For more information and to book visit emiratesa380experience.com

– For more about Dubai straight to your newsfeed, follow us on Facebook.