The German entrepreneur Wolfram Schleuter,the founder and chief executive of iPilot, is bringing a flight simulator to Dubai Mall where residents and tourists can take control of a Boeing 737-800 airliner from Tuesday. Here he talks about what could be the city's next tourist attraction.
How did you come up with this idea of iPilot?
The whole idea was born out of my passion for flying. I was once given a flight simulator gift voucher for an airline in London. It was very good but it had two problems.
It was difficult to book it because the airline is very busy, and it was very expensive - US$1,000 (Dh3,673) for an hour.
I wanted to make it accessible to the public and affordable. So, we started iPilot three years ago in London.
You have 10 simulators in Europe. What makes the UAE attractive as the next destination?
We actually had a flight simulator in Doha but had to close it after the fire [last May] in Villaggio shopping mall.
We are currently relocating there. Also, the Middle East is a strategic location for us. We know this because many of our visitors at the London flight simulator had asked us when do we open in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait and even Saudi.
How much does it cost to install a flight simulator in a mall?
It costs around €350,000 (Dh1.63m), including everything. We rent the space from the mall and operate it.
Do you want to just go on adding locations or do you want to add features to iPilot?
We want to add locations. We want to have three to four in Dubai and one to two in Abu Dhabi by 2014. We are also looking at the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. In Europe we look at downtowns, busy airports or shopping centres. Here we want to open in the main malls and Dubai airport … In the Middle East we are also looking for a local investor to increase the expansion. Features-wise it is almost difficult to make it more realistic.
Even professional pilots find it a one-to-one replica of the cockpit. There are 600 buttons, which are all connected to the programmed routes, you can change the outside weather, we can put you in 24,000 airports in the world, and, for instance, if you are landing in Sydney airport you will have the exact scenario of Sydney. But we do want to add newer aircraft. We started with Boeing 737 here because it is a popular aircraft in the region. We want to bring Boeing 777, Jumbo Jet 747, Airbus 330 and 340, and in 2014 we want to bring the next generation Boeing 787 Dreamliner. We also have a program where we demonstrate to people with a fear of flying what is going on in the cockpit, and that it is a manageable situation.
How much will you charge?
It would cost Dh299 for a 15-minute flight experience, Dh499 for half an hour, and Dh899 an hour. The 60-minute fear of flying programme would also cost Dh899.