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Cockpit-Fest opens simulated flight to all

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, May 4, 2013, at 7:33 p.m.

Gabe Messenger appeared to be in total control of his airplane right up to the moment he crashed trying to land on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean .

But the 12-year-old from Arkansas climbed out of the flight simulator Saturday morning feeling pretty good about it.

“I meant to do it. It’s just fun to sometimes crash,” he said.

The King Air simulator he flew was built by Matt Bailey, of Moore, Okla. It was among the simulators and cockpits on display during the second annual Cockpit-Fest USA underway this weekend at the Kansas Aviation Museum, 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.

The event includes the debut of a President Kennedy Air Force One replica cockpit and stateroom, and simulators of a 1967 Link-4J Phantom II, a plane flown by the Blue Angels in the 1960s, as well as a B-52 Stratofortress, DC-9, A-7 Corsair, F-84F Thunderstreak and F-15A Eagle.

About 80 exhibitors of simulator hardware and software from around the U.S. and the world, some from as far away as Poland and South Africa, are attending the event. It is being held in association with the Newkirk Air Museum, UK.

Cockpit-Fest USA continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. At 1 p.m., it will feature a fly-by of three historic Stearman biplanes.

Bailey, who is attending with his wife, Ruth, and three-month-old son, Jonathan, keeps his simulator in his garage. It took a year for him to build the hardware and 21/2 to write the software. And he’s still working on it, he said. It uses three computers and has radios from real airplanes.

Bailey said he loves to fly and has been flying since he can remember because his dad is a pilot.

Justin Messenger, Gabe’s uncle and co-founder of the event who works for Nu-Tek Simulations, based in Augusta, said Cockpit-Fest USA appeals to fans of general aviation and computer technology, giving them a chance to combine two hobbies at once.

“Some people spend more time developing software and hardware for flight simulators than they actually do flying them,” he said. “I’m one of them.”

Three exhibitors from Poland staffed a booth at the event. Wojciech Krzywda, head of VFRPoland, which offers photographic scenery of Poland for flight simulators, said he learned about Wichita’s aviation history before coming.

“Looking at the map of Wichita and seeing 11 airfields around the city .. wow. It’s amazing, it’s just amazing,” he said.

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