Now any Denverite with $7.50 in a bomber jacket pocket can unleash his inner Top Gun.
Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum in Lowry purchased the MaxFlight plane and rollercoaster simulator – a pod that can spin 360 degrees sideways and nose over tail – using a $150,000 donation it landed at the end of 2015.
For five minutes, visitors can strap into the cockpit of a passenger airliner and fly over Denver, man the controls of a combat plane in a dogfight or ditch their wings for a rollercoaster.
Museum COO Mark Hyatt said bringing a flight simulator to Wings has been a top priority because he thinks it’ll get visitors excited about flying in a different way than touring the museum’s collection of aircraft.
“Our mission is to educate and inspire learners of all ages about aerospace,” he said. “And this fits our mission perfectly, because we have a lot of fighter aircraft in here – bombers, other aircraft – and this way you can actually experience what it’s like to be in a fighter jet.”
If playing fighter ace and pulling barrel rolls isn’t for you, riders can cue up a Boeing 737 and fly different terrains: Denver, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Miami, Newark, San Francisco and the Grand Canyon all are options.
The museum purchased its new simulator using a donation from the son of a stunt pilot named Ben Lowell, who thought the simulator would be a perfect homage to his father.
“This thing goes upside down, you can fly right side up – it does all those things that his dad liked to do,” Hyatt said. “So he gave us a $150,000 check.”
Besides museums, MaxFlight simulators also can be found in hotels, casinos, shopping malls and amusement parks.
In addition to exhibiting aircraft and memorabilia, Wings Over the Rockies rents its hangar on the former Lowry Air Force Base for events and hosts its own events. It also runs a charter middle school with Elevate Academy, which includes STEM courses provided by the museum and online courses provided by Elevate.
The nonprofit reported $4 million in revenue in the year ending December 2014, the most recent tax year for which data is available.