We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Who knew taking the highway to the danger zone would involve so much flop sweat? My photographer friend Darrow and I are snugly shoulder-harnessed into one of the new MaxFlight simulators at the Air and Space Museum. We are upside-down. We are spinning. And one of us needs a towel (plus, if I can’t get this goddamn F-16 flying right, a bucket for my breakfast). It’s not Darrow who’s wigging out: His two cameras may indeed be jangling everywhere as the simulator has us simultaneously pulling a loop and a corkscrew, but he’s laughing his ass off. I, on the other hand, am just about the drippiest, loudest (“I’m so sorry, Darrow!”), and lamest Maverick ever. The 15 simulators, resembling monstrous metallic lollipops, feature forward-of-axis technology, which allows them to spin 360 degrees on two different planes—pitch and roll—while a 58-inch virtual reality screen inside the close-quarters cockpits provides the ultimate flourish of sensory overload. Video-game consoles are provided for quick and free preflight lessons; however, the actual controls are—”I can’t stop turning left!” (pictured)—a bit more sensitive. On top of all the looping, spinning, etc., the ride features combat against faceless baddies—hence the available machine-gun and rocket buttons. But who can fight enemy aircraft when your own plane is flying like a one-winged pigeon? The ride, which lasts three minutes, is intended to be educational, but come on: This is the ultimate Nintendo experience, and parents are in for some serious wallet-dumping. (Kids must be at least 42 inches tall to qualify for a ride.) Once Darrow and I are safely on the ground, we wobbily endorse: “Wow, that was really cool.” The simulators are open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily (until Monday, May 27, when they will be open from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily) at the National Air & Space Museum, 6th and Independence Avenue SW. $6.50. (202) 357-2700. (Sean Daly)