Airlines routinely hone the skills of their pilots using simulators. But in a first for any airline, Emirates recently debuted several simplified versions to the general public as part of its new Emirates Aviation Experience attraction in Greenwich, London.

Opened 6 July, visitors can choose between four flight simulators for the Airbus A380 and Boeing 777. Then during a half-hour, instructor-led session, you decide which weather conditions are the most optimal to fly through on a route between Heathrow airport and Dubai, and attempt a takeoff, a brief cruise and a landing.

As your hand guides the throttle and your feet touch the pedals, an enormous screen mimics the horizon, all while you keep an eye on the dashboard’s multiple gauges. As you push the throttle forward, like hitting the accelerator in a truck, the virtual aircraft lurches forward.

The slightest touch to the controls can result in huge movements of the aircraft. The autopilot version is best for people without any pilot experience, with the instructor periodically handing over one or two of the controls, but guests who do have some training as amateur pilots can take advantage of the manual mode.

Family fun
The Emirates Aviation Experience offers more than just simulators, with multiple interactive exhibitions detailing what's involved in running a major airline.

A wall of TV screens broadcasts behind-the-scenes time-lapse footage of the work involved in parking, unloading and refuelling an Airbus A380 in the allocated 120 minutes. It's accompanied by a computer game where players unload and re-load a virtual plane in a race against the clock.

Inside a life-size mock-up of an A380 nose cone is a cinema that plays a film illustrating what it's like to be a piece of luggage at Dubai Airport, with a camera attached to a bag charting its journey from check-in to the arrival carousel.

Elsewhere, a hologram lets visitors peer into the guts of a virtual A380; interactive touch-screens give hands-on instruction in the scientific principles behind flight; and replica seats let passengers watch short movies on such topics as what it’s like to be a flight attendant.

Admission to the general exhibition is £3 for adults and £1.50 for children. The adult-only flight simulator sessions have to be booked in advance and cost £45.