Thursday, October 10, 2013

Flight Adventures

My first post! How exciting! Welcome to Groupon Diaries. I buy Groupons and see where they take me, who they introduce me to and what I discover.

A little about me and how the idea for this blog came about...

I'm 25 years old, single and love trying new things. Vancouver, BC (the lonely city) is my home. I work in hospitality and do not have your 9-5, weekends off kind of schedule. At the end of my last "weekend" I was feeling a little unsatisfied with what my 2 whole days off had consisted of. I had watched some HBO movies, gone to lunch with a friend (the highlight of my weekend) and ran whatever errands were necessary to get through my next work week. Not too exciting. So as I was sitting on my bed, laptop on lap, I thought to myself "what a waste of a weekend." I had done nothing new and knew I would have anything slightly interesting to report about my weekend when asked the following day at work. "How was your weekend?" "Oh, good. Got some cleaning done, you know." LAME. The last few weekends, ever since summer had ended, had all been the same. LAME. I needed to get a hobby or something. This led me to recall all of these food bloggers that march into our restaurant from time to time. There hobby is going around to different restaurants from time to time, eating food and then heading home to their computers to write about their experience. I love food, what a great idea, but it seems that everyone in this city does that. Plus, I don't have the money to spend on eating in restaurants all the time in order to obtain writing material. I need something cheaper. Something... discounted. And then it came to me, Groupon. Not only can one find great deals, the deals can be kind of random sometimes. Random. The most exciting and eye opening experiences tend to be random.  Random is also a great conversation starter. With my job, I have to talk to a lot of people. How perfect. Done and done. So I started shopping...

I had purchased the first Groupon before I thought up Groupon Diaries. Flight Adventures had been a gift for my father Christmas of '11. He left Vancouver before getting a chance to use said Groupon so, in order to get the bang for my buck, I had to use it. What a perfect way to begin my Groupon endeavour, with one truly random.

This is the photo from the Groupon
Flight Adventures did very well in the Groupon world, selling over 1,000. I purchased it for $69, instead of the regularly priced $139. The description read "$69 for a 30 Minute Flight-Simulator Experience Modeled After Boeing 737 Next Generation at Flight Adventures." Typically, I read reviews before purchasing Groupons. Yes, it is a discount, but I still don't want to be wasting my hard earned moolah on something that other people have described as terrible. I didn't read the reviews on Flight Adventures, so I had no idea what I was in for. I had bought the Groupon because Daddy dearest likes his planes and I figured he would enjoy such a thing. He would have.

Flight Adventures is located out in Richmond, appropriately by the airport. I had to google map directions, but it was pretty easy to find. I was a little freaked out when I first arrived at my destination. It looked quite sketchy to me.

Where the eff am I?
This image was kind of concerning. The address matched up. Those large numbers, 6080, told me I was in the right place. What the hell? Luckily, being as intelligent as I am, I quickly realized I was most likely at the back of the building.

Ah ha! The front looks much better!
At last! I had arrived at Flight Adventures, or rather Aviation World. The title seemed appropriate, so I headed on in.

Now, unfortunately, this is where I get camera shy. I feel awkward pulling out my camera in front of people and taking photos of everything. I promise, I will be putting forth some serious effort to overcome this issue over the course of this blog. I have no more photos of my own for this entry :( So here is Aviation World's webpage!   There are a few photos on the site so check it out!

When I walked through the door of Aviation World, there stood two gentleman. At first I wondered if they worked there or if they were customers, as they were not wearing obvious uniforms or sported any name tags. As a 25 year old woman walking into a plane enthusiast store alone, I think they were just as confused as I. After saying our hellos, one of the men inquired if I was looking for the flight simulator. He was expecting me and even knew my name, as I had to book an appointment online for the experience. He introduced himself as Jason and explained that when he sees a woman's name on the appointment booking it is usually a Groupon that has been bought for a man as a gift. That is exactly what I had done, but stuff happened and it was me!

Jason proceeded to lead me outside, to a separate entrance for the flight simulator. After climbing the stairs, we reached a room containing a chair, a large white stand alone wall in the shape of a half circle and some posters of airplane controls. As I sat in the chair, I wondered if some images were going to be flashed on the stand alone wall, like a lame imax experience and I was to reference the controls on the posters. Well, this will be interesting. Jason began explaining the controls and just what a pilot is looking at when he or she is flying a 737. The "steering wheel" of a plane is called the yoke. Pull back on the yoke and the plane would climb, push forward and it would descend. I would take off from Vancouver airport, vear towards Howe Sound and then Pitt Meadows, put the plane on autopilot and then land the plane. He would be my co-pilot. Once the debriefing was complete, Jason asked if I was ready to begin and then guided me to the simulator.

The simulation wasn't anything like the initial part of the room lead me to believe it may be. What it actually was was friggin amazing and Jason had made it. Jason is a plane enthusiast, just loves loves loves planes. You could tell by what he had created. It was (or at least it appeared to me) to be a perfect replica of a 737. He had even made the little area of the plane before the cockpit.  I sat in the pilot's seat to the left and Jason sat in the co-pilots seat to the right.  While I oogled the amount of buttons and knobs, Jason secured the cockpit door. He explained the buttons and asked me to turn on the fasten seat belts sign. The seat belts switch was complete with the little ding you hear as a passenger on a plane. How satisfying! Jason went over the computer screens in front of me and informed me again of what I would be looking for.

Photo by Wai V. on Yelp

After reading off a checklist for take off, it was time for us to leave the Vancouver airport runway. I found myself really wanting to be good at this simulator. I most definitely did not want to crash. I wanted to fly this simulated plane expertly!  During take off, pilots don't look out the windshield as much as you may think. I spent the entire take off staring at the computer screen, trying to keep the little black box (representation of the plane) in the right spot on the screen. I pulled back on the yolk 15 degrees and began to climb. After a successful take off into the simulated sunset, we put on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot is a little more active than you'd think. After inputting information into the plane's computers using dials, the plane turned itself! That made me rather giddy. The computers in a plane are insane!

While the plane flew itself, Jason and I chit chatted a bit. Very friendly guy, great with his "pilots." Turns out, real pilots like to try out the simulator. Pilots visiting from out of town had bought the Groupon. One gentleman who flew it was 92 and had flown in WWII. Apparently, he wasn't all that great at flying a simulated 737. Back in WWII the planes weren't as reliant on computers. I guess he really wanted to look out the windshield like he would have in the planes he flew instead of at the computer screens. Another customer was working for NASA and really enjoyed himself.

Then it was time to descend. I'll admit, I got nervous at the thought of landing. I did not want to fail! I tried my darndest to keep that little black box in the right place. I pulled the yoke back and pushed it forward, turned right and veered left and success! The plane was safely on the ground. I had done it and very well according to Jason.

After paying $8 in GST, I left Flight Adventures and Aviation World with a smile on my face, happy that I had tried something new and learned something in the process. My Daddy would have loved it. Jason had mentioned that he is in talks with the airport about getting it placed by the terminal so airport patrons could use it while waiting for their flights. What a fabulous idea and I really hope that happens for him!

Now what's the verdict?

Worth the Groupon?  YES
Worth the actual price? YES

I would definitely recommend Flight Adventures with Jason to anyone with even the slightest interest in planes. What Jason created is so impressive and his flight simulation was a very enjoyable learning experience. His knowledge and obvious passion about planes is fantastic and his customer service is superb. THUMBS UP!


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