Last June I crashed the first plane I ever flew, a Boeing 737, at the Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport. It was a beautiful day to fly. Skies were clear and the winds were kind.
Heading west from John Glenn International Airport in Columbus, I guided the jet to the designated turning point about 6 miles out, made a hard right over Alum Creek and sped on to our final destination just 50 miles to the north. The flight was a bit of a fight, trying to keep the plane on course and at the proper altitude. But all seemed to be going well until I became so fixated on my instrument panel as we approached the airport that I lost visual sight of the runway itself.
My co-pilot, John Price, coolly kept calling out instructions to get us properly lined up for the landing. But I had lost our position so severely on the primary flight display that I had no way of saving the flight. We crashed in a grassy field far right of the runway.
The good news is that I managed to stop the jetliner before slamming into the woods and that I, my co-pilot and two passengers somehow survived the tragedy.
After bringing the aircraft to a complete stop in the field, I turned to Price and declared: “I thought this would be the perfect spot for a picnic.” My co-pilot responded with a big smile and a heartfelt fist bump.
Welcome to Take Flight Ohio.
Take Flight Ohio, a true-to-life flight simulator, landed in northwest Columbus when Worthington resident John Price opened the doors to his new business in December 2018. While it does not provide professional aviation training, it does give customers the rare opportunity to take the left seat of a Boeing 737 cockpit. And Take Flight Ohio’s cockpit is the real deal.
Price knows of only three other such simulators. According to Price, there’s one in Anaheim, California, one in Clearwater, Florida, and another in Toronto, Canada. Each set-up is different. Regarding Price’s simulator, it “flies” true to the real thing. That’s according to Bill Bolinger, a professional pilot who’s flown the 737 for a decade and who now serves as one of Take Flight Ohio’s coaches. Price’s simulator flies as sluggishly as the actual plane does.
Price says Take Flight Ohio is designed to introduce children 12 and older to flight; to serve as a restart for aviation students who may be burned out; and to answer the call of so many dreamers who have always looked up to the skies wondering what it would be like to be a pilot.
“I really want to be some kind of positive impact for people,” explained Price, a former dispatcher for NetJets. ”I thought, wow, this would be a neat experience. Pretty much everyone who leaves here says, ‘That was pretty cool. I’m really glad I did that. That was really unique.’ So it’s really very fulfilling.”
Price’s clients come from all over for the experience. Portsmouth. Louisville. Nashville.
Most of Price’s clients are men coming in to fly a particular package purchased by wives and girlfriends. But Price would like to see more women take the 737’s controls.
“Women can do it too,” he said. “They seem to have a great time just like the men do.”
Take Flight Ohio also attracts its fair share of seasoned pilots. One wanted to practice landing on Key West’s short runway in a crosswind.
Yes, Take Flight Ohio can control the weather. They can make it snow or create a driving rain. Pick your poison.
And customers can take off and land at virtually any airport in the world. Want to see what it’s like to land in The Big Apple? Dial up LaGuardia. Or if you prefer a more scenic view, give a go at landing among the Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The choices are endless, as there are more than 23,000 airports in the simulator system.
As Price’s brother once quipped: “You can fly anywhere in the world and be home for dinner.”
Price says his main objective is to see every client leave with a smile on their face.
“I want you to have the experience you were looking for,” he said. “I don’t want you to leave feeling like you failed. That cockpit is overwhelming. The last thing I want is for you to feel like an idiot. I think that’s why they leave happy because they’ve accomplished something. The joke I always throw in is even if you mess up we’re still okay.”
I messed up big time but ended up in a lovely spot for a picnic.
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William J. Purpura is the editor of AAA Magazine.
Take Flight Ohio is at 4816 Sawmill Road, Columbus, Ohio. Call (614) 947-7370 or visit Take Flight Ohio.