Fasten your seat belts for take off...with Star reporter Richard Marsden

Richard Marsden pictured at the SimSpot flight simulator

Richard Marsden pictured at the SimSpot flight simulator

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It’s the ultimate test drive... 500mph, 30,000 feet in the air with the world opening out beneath...

Fortunately, there aren’t any passengers on board and you won’t cause a great deal of damage if you have any problems with the landing.

Instead of actually being airborne, I was having a go on the next best thing - an ultra-realistic flight simulator which is one of only three in the country open to the general public.

But the interior is an exact replica of the cockpit of a Boeing 737 passenger jet, one of the most well-used planes in the world - the Ford Focus of the skies if you like.

It looks a little intimidating to begin with, with the huge array of switches and dials stretching from between the seats up onto the ceiling above.

Every dial, button, switch and instrument is fully functional, just like in a real aircraft.

But all becomes a lot clear er after a quick debrief.

Most of the controls relate to igniting the engines and switching on the electrical systems before take-off, so no need to panic.

In fact, the main things to concentrate on are the pedals, which steer the plane on the ground, and the joypad-like control for the nose and rudder, which is in front of the pilot’s and co-pilot’s seats.

It’s simple - pull the pad towards you to bring the nose up on take-off and increase height in the air, push away to lower the nose and reduce altitude, and turn left or right to steer.

What is surprising is just how little you need to move the controls to have an impact on the path of the plane.

Around the cockpit is a projection of the simulated landscape and horizon, and just a small movement can send the plane into completely the wrong direction.

But as you keep your eyes peeled not just out of the windows but on the instrument panel, there is help to keep the aircraft going where it should.

Displays include a screen plotting the aircraft’s course on a dashed line to the desired destination, and an altimeter for height and a monitor showing how level the plane is flying - so keep an eye out and it’s plain sailing.

Well, that is until you come close to landing.

Again, particular care must be taken on the approach - smooth, light movements are key.

I just managed to land my flight from London Heathrow to London city via somewhere in Essex, but having had a last-minute panic to avoid clipping the top of a boat in the Thames, I was slightly off-course and came to a halt in the grass next to the runway.

A crash landing in a cloud of dirt and dust in real life.

My friend negotiated a more difficult approach to the old Hong Kong airport having to steer an exact path between buildings, and the plane had a perilous landing with its nose striking the ground.

But instructor Darren Wheeler - a commercial pilot and RAF veteran, kept calm and praised us for both making a ‘decent attempt’ on our first time in the simulator.

He then showed a far more difficult manoeuvre - recreating when a passenger plane landed safely in the Hudson River, New York, after a bird strike knocked out the engines.

The simulator, on the top floor of the Corner House, in Nottingham city centre, is available for people ranging from trainee pilots to stag parties.

Sessions are available from £49 per person, making the experience an affordable treat - and something to remember when you fasten seatbelts for take-off on your holidays.

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