Sunday, July 2, 2017

Birds Share Skies with Flying Humans at the National Aviary

Getting Flight Instructions Before Take Off with Birdly Credit: Bill Rockwell

Birds do it. Bees do it. And now humans can do it too.

Abandon all fear of flying when you gear into Birdly®, the virtual reality flying experience that opened on April 20 at the National Aviary on Pittsburgh’s North Side. It’s as safe as lying in bed but much more fun.

At first glance the contraption and electronic apparatus that provides the aerial adventures looks a bit innocent, but it packs a big emotional thrill. Keep in mind that mounting the staging platform is probably the hardest thing you’ll do. Under the careful guidance of an Aviary attendant, you’ll ease yourself onto what resembles a diving board, chest down, on a padded surface.

Next step - Stretch out your arms and put your hands into the grips at the end of the wing-like appendages while the attendant helps fit the headset complete with VR goggles over your noggin, then slides your earphones into place. The momentary sense of sensory deprivation soon opens up into the Birdly experience as you find yourself flying over the skyscrapers of Manhattan.

Flap your arms, and you pick up speed while the fan in front of you simulates the wind. Raise your wings, and you rise higher up into the sky. One wing up and the other one down and you turn with the ability of seeing a 360-degree sweep of Manhattan from the air.

I was told that if  you crash into a building, the ground or sea, the attendant can get you restarted with the push of a button. On the other hand, crashing through one of the billboards with a sparkling border will take you to one of three scenarios - the Swiss Alps, the ocean at sunrise and a clip of the 1933 King Kong flick that positions the giant ape at the top of the Empire State Building.

The mechanism is completely responsive to your body and allows you to go where and how fast you want. (I was told one youngster was able to maneuver himself through the space between King Kong’s arm and the skyscraper). The experience is also social in that family and friends can see what the rider sees via a large flat screen mounted on the back wall.

Attendants ask that participants wearing glasses try the experience without them. (If you need them, though, you’ll be able to keep them on). You also have to have an arm span of at least 50 inches so your hands can fit comfortably in the grips at the end of the wings. For a quick measure, the Aviary has installed a cutout of an eagle with the minimum wingspan against an adjacent wall.
Pittsburgh is only one of two Birdly sites in the nation; the other is The Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, California.

"The Birdly experience is a perfect fit with our mission as we engage visitors through experiences that inspire in them a connection to birds and the natural world." said Carly Morgan, marketing manager at the National Aviary.

For more information, phone 412-323-7235 or

Additional Information
Weight capacity is 395 pounds.
Skirts and dresses are not recommended, as participants will climb aboard and lie down (in a flight position) on the simulator.
If you have a pacemaker, experience seizures, have limited mobility, or have any medical condition that could pose a risk to your health while flying on Birdly, please do not participate. Consult with your physician if you have questions.
Tickets are $8 plus Aviary admission. Experiences are booked in ten minute timed increments with two people per ten minutes. Participants must arrive at the Birdly exhibit ten minutes before their scheduled flight. Late arrival may result in cancellation. Refunds will not be granted.

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