by Sowmya Rajaram
Too slow. Too fast. Too much to the right and ...crash. Drat. Trial two. This time, I'm a tad slower, consciously making sure I, prostrate in a contraption, don't tug too hard at the control and tilt forward and crash. But it's no good. I haven't figured out yet how much to turn and overdo it, bringing the behemoth down sideways with a thud. Third time's the charm, though. I manage to stay in the air for a good couple of minutes before freaking out at the sight of the ocean ahead and crashing again. Full marks to me for the effort at the 1903 Wright Flyer Flight Simulator -- Asia's first -- to be inaugurated at the Visvesvaraya Industrial & Technological Museum (VITM) at Bengaluru on Saturday.
I'm one of a gaggle of about 10 adults -- eyes wide open, gaping mouth and generally dorky -- queuing up for a turn at the novelty on Friday afternoon. The simulator has been brought to the museum at a cost of Rs 30 lakh from the one place that makes it -- Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company -- in Ohio. Although the 1:1 model, a replica of the Wright Brothers first flight that they undertook in 1903 was installed at VITM in 2003 and hangs just above us on the ground floor, nothing beats the thrill of actually lying down on a shaky section of a wing and controlling a simulated Flyer onscreen — in the same way that the Wright brothers did. There's no fancy cockpit with blinking lights and controls, no chairs, and definitely no auto-pilot. This is all you, and damn, is it fun.
Director KG Kumar is all smiles when asked why the simulator was brought to our city at such a hefty cost. "Even if you see the Kohinoor, you want to touch it. That's human nature -- you want to feel it, experience it. Kids think you have to sit in a cockpit and fly the plane, but when you realise you have to lie down the way Orville Wright did on that day, you understand how significant an achievement it was." He's right -- the hands-on experience of actually controlling the movement of the aircraft is unbeatable.
The simulator is one of three new facilities being launched at VITM on Saturday, as part of celebrations in its Golden Jubilee year. The others are a Science Show Hall and a Travelling Exhibition called 'Disasters-- Preparing for the Worst', which has come from Calicut and will stay here till March 10. At the Science Show, I'm like a kid in a candy store, and I'm not the only one. Science comes alive with a demonstration of the wonders of dry ice, from soapy 'crystals' that are formed atop a beaker to its quick conversion into liquid as the temperature is increased, all in the capable hands of the genial Education Officer, R Bharadan. The principles of sound come alive as his colleague demonstrates how it travels and can be controlled by striking an aluminum rod. And just like that, adults turn into kids -- ones far more interested in science than they ever were in school.
But it's the simulator that's the unbeatable centre of attention. Even as preparations are made for its unveiling, parents and their children surround the installation, hoping to sneak their way past the watchful security for a turn at wearing the pilot's hat. At a cost of Rs 50 for a three-minute flight (that feels much longer), it's a bargain. Now awaiting the Vedic plane simulator where it won't crash me when flying sideways and may help even go in reverse.
Courtesy: Sowmya Rajaram and Banglore Mirror, (Printed with permission from Bangalore Mirror, where the article first appeared)