Virtual reality flight of the future

Yesterday my friend S offered me a free ticket to try out a virtual reality experience, the BA Flight of the Future, as his son – for whom he’d booked the ticket – got called into work. I was a bit sceptical, but since I hadn’t even heard of the event, and I am committed – as you’ll know by now – to trying new things and getting out of my own comfort zone, I said yes. And, wow, I am glad I did.

Flight of the Future is a virtual reality experience that takes you through the history of flight – from the workshop of Leonardo Da Vinci, through to the test ride of the Wright Brothers and onto the cockpit of Concorde, into a future of fast, eco-friendly flight where ‘gaze-activated’ navigation is used to dock in the upper atmosphere. It was first staged at the Saatchi Gallery in London, and is in Gateshead for a couple of months before transferring to New York.

It’s being hosted in digital production facility Proto, which is located near Gateshead College (just behind the Baltic Mill), and the whole thing felt very space age. My friend and I were greeted by two friendly, slightly nerdy guys who took us into a big white room that hosted what looked like a giant, colour-changing space pod. We took turns to step into the machine – I made S go first! – and get strapped into the headset and earphones. The ‘ride’ starts standing and ends seated and is only about 10 minutes long, but it’s tremendously affecting: a VR newbie, I found myself laughing out loud in sheer shock and delight as I was launched into the air in the Wright Brothers’ plane, or ‘piloting’ a space age aeroplane.

The tickets are only £10 (cheaper than they were in London) and although I couldn’t find an easy link to booking, if you google Flight of the Future and the date you want, you should be able to find it (or search via the Eventbrite site). Definitely recommended!

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