National Aviary Simulator Lets Visitors Take Flight

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Pittsburgh International Airport and the National Aviary are teaming up to give you the chance to take flight.

It’s a one-of-a-kind experience to make you feel as free as a bird.

KDKA-TV’s Rick Dayton was one of the first people in the country to take a test flight.

“Most people have always dreamed of flying, and so this gives them an opportunity to experience what flight may be like for birds,” Patricia O’Neill, of the National Aviary, said.

The Birdly simulator combines the mechanical movement of wings with a headset that makes you feel free as a bird.

“You have a virtual reality headset on, so whenever you look or turn your head, you are seeing the experience and you are actually flying over New York City,” O’Neill said.

Even your body position mimics that of the birds.

Once your hands and arms are positioned over the wings, you realize there is a large fan not far from your face.

“You don’t see the fan, but you feel it as you are flying. The faster you fly, the faster the fan blows,” O’Neill said.

Then, it is time to fly. When you turn, the machine turns with you. Try to fly higher and you rise up. And your ears are part of the experience too.

“It’s all in how you are powering the experience — so all these sensory areas of the exhibit are helping you experience it just as if you were flying over New York,” O’Neill said.

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The virtual reality flying machine costs a little extra. You can add the experience for $8 and each ride lasts a little more than 2 minutes. Kids can do it, but they have to be big enough to work the wings.

“You do have to have a minimum wingspan of at least 41 inches. We will have a measuring panel for kids to measure their wingspan. If they have that minimum wingspan, then they will be able to fly,” O’Neill said.

And while Birdly makes you look and feel like a bird, there are some extra adventures awaiting you too, including a bird’s eye view of King Kong, a flight over the Swiss Alps or being higher than the clouds. The best part for Pittsburghers is that it is right here in our back yard.

“We are only one of two locations in the United States where you can have the experience,” O’Neill said.

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