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Simulator Weekend Attracts Hundreds of Virtual Pilots

February 17, 2003 - For virtual flying, this past weekend at EAA AirVenture Museum was as good as it gets. The museum held its second annual Simulator Weekend, attracting over 600 eager virtual pilots of all ages. They had opportunities to fly everything from barnstorming biplanes to World War II fighters, Viet Nam-era fighters to Cessna 172s—even the airplane on which all others are based, the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Perhaps the most popular exhibit, the Wright Flyer simulator, was being test-flown for the first time in public before its heads to the EAA Countdown to Kitty Hawk touring pavilion, set to debut in Lakeland, Florida, April 2-8. Would-be Orvilles and Wilburs had an interesting time figuring out how to manipulate the aircraft, which is really a portion of the newest Microsoft Flight Simulator hooked to a working apparatus built by the EAA Restoration Center staff.

In it, the pilot actually lies facedown on the cradle and controls the aircraft with his hips and hands.

"It's crazy that they were able to get this thing in the air back then," said one amazed visitor.

"It takes a lot of muscle to turn," another said.

Museum Director Adam Smith taught a basic Cessna 172 flight school in the EAA Leadership Center, graduates of which were allowed to fly in Patty Wagstaff’s aerobatic Extra 300. "It was really nice to see so many people trying out flight simulators for the first time. The quality of simulators has improved greatly in recent years, and they are an excellent way to introduce people to aviation."

Those sentiments were illustrated by this Oshkosh visitor’s comment: "I usually wouldn't have come to a museum, but now that I got a chance to fly, I want to learn more about the real thing."

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