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Aviation museum’s F-4J simulator lets anybody fly a fighter plane

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Dec. 26, 2012, at 10:36 p.m.

If you go

What: F-4J fighter plane simulations

Where: Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

How much: Museum admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors 65 and older and $6 for children 4 to 12. Flights are $20 for a 30-minute session and $60 for a 90-minute session. Reservations are recommended for the simulator; call 316-683-9242.

A restored F-4J fighter plane cockpit is available to the public for flight simulations through Sunday at the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.

It allows prospective pilots an opportunity to fly the plane for a 30- or 90-minute session. It costs $20 for 30 minutes and $60 for 90 minutes, which includes suiting up in a functional G suit and strapping into the ejection seat.

Once in the plane, pilots are in full control of the throttle, altitude, speed, steering and all other aspects of flying. In the 90-minute option, the G suits will inflate if the pilot exceeds normal g-force levels.

The simulator is the personal project of Justin Messenger, the museum’s aircraft ramp director. With mostly analog parts, it is an authentic re-creation of the 1967 plane.

“Most of the interior is original,” Messenger said. “It’s actually pretty rare to have an F-4 with this much of it intact.”

Lon Smith, the museum’s executive director, said the simulation is appropriate for all ages.

“I really think it’s for anybody,” Smith said. “Once they’re in the simulator, they have a great time.”

The public has a limited window of time to test the simulator, however, as it will go off exhibit in the new year. After Sunday, Messenger will continue to work on it so the museum can use it as a pilot training tool.

The simulator will be a staple in the museum’s new education center, set to open March 16. Smith said the museum is hoping to become more of a center for students in flight school to train and hone their skills through simulation.

“It’s going to be a huge deal for us,” Smith said. “There will be a lot of technology there. We’re really excited about it.”

The simulator, the same model the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels used from 1969 to 1973, was restored by Nu-Tek Simulations, based in Augusta.

In recent years, the company has built simulators for film and television, for shows such as ABC’s “Pan Am” and the movie “Knight and Day.”

This is not the first time the museum has worked with Nu-Tek, of which Messenger is an employee.

“We have a wonderful partnership with Nu-Tek Simulations,” Smith said. “We work with them to create educational and fun experiences.”

Smith said the goal of the simulator is to spark interest in aviation among youth.

“You get high school students that think they want to be commercial pilots, and now they can come in and test their skills,” Smith said. “We want to get young people excited about aviation.”

Messenger, a former pilot, said he hopes the simulator will be a worthwhile educational tool for the museum.

“It will directly reinforce what kids are learning in the classroom,” Messenger said. “This is possibly the most high-fidelity simulator in a museum in the United States, possibly the world.”

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