Review - SimSpot flight simulator - Nottingham

FLYING a plane – it’s one of those jobs everybody fancies having a go at but no one really gets the chance to do.

So as I sat on the runway of East Midlands Airport, in the cockpit of a Boeing 737 – the plane used by Ryanair and others – I knew this might be my one and only chance to literally take off.

Ok, it wasn’t really at East Midlands Airport, it was in the East Midlands though – in the centre of Nottingham at the Cornerhouse, where firm SimSpot has installed the replica cockpit looking out to a screen loaded with a host of world airports.

The simulator, I am told, includes all standard 737 features such as overhead panel, throttle quadrant and communications and navigation equipment.

The centre is used for a number of things including training pilots and running “fear of flying” courses.

I had never been into a cockpit before so my initial reaction was one of shock – what on Earth do all these buttons do and how am I ever going to make enough sense of them to make a plane fly?

My instructor – a former pilot and clear lover of the job – sat me in the captain’s seat and said I would be making the decisions.

I only had an hour and as the simulator is in real time, I obviously couldn’t fly from London to New York – so after a short journey from East Mids to Birmingham to get used to the controls we moved over to Hong Kong.

My co-pilot told me Kai Tak airport – which closed in 1998 but features in the simulator – was the most challenging runway to land on in the world.

The airport is in the middle of the city and the runway is surrounded by water on three sides. Flashing lights on the top of high-rise buildings – people’s homes – direct the pilots to the runway. Only a certain number of people were permitted to land at the airport due to its complexity. I flew there - succesfully - from the new Hong Kong Internationally Airport.

It was a great experience and certainly different to how I had imagined. Despite hundreds of buttons and a number of screens surrounding you – 90 per cent of flying is looking out of the window. The feel of the plane, especially the sensitivity of the turning is really something to get used to.

Flying a plane is something everybody would like to do – and now anybody can.

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