A childhood visit to the cockpit of an Eastern Air Lines plane sparked a lifelong love of commercial airplanes for John Price. The 51-year-old recently opened Take Flight Ohio, a high-tech flight-simulator operation complete with an interactive cockpit filled with switches, computer screens, lights, sounds and vibrations. Both novices and experienced pilots can take the controls of an airplane modeled after a Boeing 737 to “fly” to a destination.
Price recently invited Columbus CEO to “fly” with him from Dayton to Columbus and talk about his passion for large airplanes and how he hopes his business will inspire others to become pilots.
Q: What did you do before launching this business?
A: I worked for my father running a gas station convenience store. I also worked at NetJets as an aircraft dispatcher for a period of time. I always wanted to run my own small business and looked and looked. It took a long time to find something that I could be passionate about.
Q: Are you a pilot?
Q: Why not become a pilot?
A: If I was 15 or 16 and flying in a Cessna and knew someone, I’m pretty sure I would have become a pilot because I know that under low stress I would have been able to get the feel of an airplane. With this business, I can inspire younger people to say, “I can do this,” compared to “I’m not sure if I can do this.”
Q: What was it about flying commercial airlines that drew you?
A: When I was young, in kindergarten or something like that, my parents took us to Disney World with good old Eastern Air Lines, and we were waiting to depart. 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. When I walked up into the cockpit and saw all the gadgets and knobs, I just fell in love with it. I’ve never been a fighter jet guy or into the small planes; it’s always been about the commercial airliners.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for Take Flight Ohio?
A: We had gotten a smart TV and 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.” That’s where the dream kind of began for me.
Q: Are you aware of anything like this in Ohio?
A: Not that I can find. It’s a tough Google search to find a business like this. If you Google “flight simulator,” you’re going to get software pieces for the most part. I went to four businesses around the country and Canada to check this out and see what it was about.
Q: How does it differ from flight simulators used by pilots?
A: This is not a certified flight simulator. Basically, what we’re trying to bring is that experience to somebody who has zero experience. We put them in an immersive situation to make them feel like they’re really doing it in a safe environment. The fun thing with this is that in my world if you mess it up, we can laugh about it as well as learn about it. 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.
Q: How hard is it to fly?
A: For some people they pick it up pretty quick and for some people it can take a little bit of time. For the average person, they pick up on the premise of it in about five minutes or so being in the air. But it still takes a lot of concentration and you need to be focused. This is where my role comes in. We want them to have their experience, not my experience. If they want to take off looking out the window the whole time, that’s OK.
Amy Beth Graves is a freelance writer.