John Price is optimistic his recreational business will soar.
Whenever John Price steps into the back room of his business, he enters what he calls his “fake world.” It’s a place where with the flip of a few switches, he can fly anywhere in the world and enjoy the view of the clouds above or rolling landscape below. All this happens without him actually leaving his business located in a Columbus strip mall nestled between an American Red Cross donor center and a JPMorgan Chase bank branch.
Price is owner of Take Flight Ohio, a high-tech flight-simulator operation complete with an interactive cockpit filled with switches, computer screens, lights, sounds and vibrations. The flight simulator is modeled after a commercial Boeing 737, and the “windows” are a seamless 210-degree wraparound visual screen. While the simulator is motionless, the experience is realistic enough that Price warns his customers that they may have motion sickness.
“It was really cool. You really felt like you were flying in an airplane. I was pretty impressed because it really felt like we were moving,” says Angela Wood, who bought a simulator session for her fiance, Tony Trass, who used to be a pilot and hadn’t flown since the late 1990s. “My fiance said it was the best gift anyone had ever given him.”
Take Flight Ohio is for people like Trass who haven’t flown for awhile or those who want to fly a big airplane or are considering becoming a pilot. Participants have to be at least 12 years old. Price’s simulator is for entertainment and practice but not certification. The simulators that pilots use at training facilities like FlightSafety International in Columbus cost millions of dollars. He declined to say how much his simulator cost.
Price says he’s not aware of a similar flight simulation business in Ohio.
“There’s not many of these that you can find. It’s a tough Google search to find a business like this,” he says.
Take Flight Ohio, which opened its doors Dec. 1, offers four packages that range from $35 for 10 minutes to $300 for 110 minutes. The most popular package so far has been the 50-minute Adventure Flight, which allows participants to choose where they want to fly to and in what type of weather and do multiple takeoffs and landings at one or more airports. Another option is a 30-minute flight from Dayton to Columbus, with Price pointing out easily recognizable sites such as the Scioto River and Hoover Reservoir just north of John Glenn International Airport.
A childhood trip to Walt Disney World on Eastern Air Lines sparked Price’s interest in commercial airplanes.
“We were waiting to depart and I don’t know if there was a mechanical issue or delay of weather, but they let all the kids talk on the PA and say hi to mom and dad, and when I walked up into the cockpit and saw all the gadgets and knobs, I just fell in love with it,” says Price, 51, who started to pursue a pilot’s license while working at NetJets but didn’t have enough free time to stick with it.
The purchase of a smart TV and Price’s desire to run his own business led to the concept of Take Flight Ohio.
“[We] thought it was pretty neat we could watch YouTube videos on our smart TV, so I’m showing my wife [Linda] a guy who has one of these [full-scale simulators] in his house and she’s like ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool.’ I thought, ‘Hmmm, she doesn’t like airplanes and she thinks it’s pretty cool and I wonder how many other people would think [that],’ ” he says. “Because I had a passion for it at the time, I just didn’t think of it as a business idea. But as soon as she said ‘Wow, that’s pretty cool,’ that’s where the dream kind of began for me.”
Saying he’s a “hands-on type of guy,” Price visited four similar flight-simulator businesses around the country and Canada before opening Take Flight Ohio. Having a motion simulator wasn’t an option because of cost —the lowest-priced one he saw would have required him to charge at least $450 an hour and deal with expensive maintenance issues.
Helping his father run a gas station convenience store and working as an aircraft dispatcher at NetJets gave Price the experience and confidence that his business would take off. He loves teaching both young and old how to fly and marveled at a commercial pilot who came in to show his wife what he does for a living. That’s when Price kicked up the settings, making the weather and short runway a challenge for the veteran pilot.
“We’ve had real pilots in, but most of our clients want that experience of trying to get their teenage children into aviation or live the dream that they didn’t get a chance to live,” Price says. “They seem to really enjoy their experience and they leave and have a huge smile on their face.”
Photo by Rob Hardin