This July, Wings Over The Rockies opened its newest adventure — the Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery. The 15-acre campus features flight simulators, tools for pilots and aspiring pilots to plan and learn and even an observation space for guests to watch planes take off and land. We spent that day with Wings Over the Rockies Director of Marketing Ben Theune to get the inside scoop on this elevated new space.
“We have Lowry, it’s on a former air force base, which is all well and good, but there haven’t been flights there since the ’60s. So how do you get people really energized about wanting to fly and learning about flying without seeing any airplanes taking off?” Pondered Theune as we walked the property of Denver’s newest aviation exploration facility. “Enter the Blue Sky Gallery. We are located on the east-west runway. Centennial airport is the second busiest general aviation airport in the country.”
The Boeing Blue Sky Aviation Gallery opened July 21 at 12 p.m. and will be open every Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The goal of Blue Sky is to get the community interested in aviation with interactive tools and displays. It features dozens of exhibits from a g-force simulator to flight simulators, virtual flight tours and live airplanes that show the present, past and future of flight.
“You’ll see as we walk around that the 19,000-square-foot space is an open space hanger,” explained Theune. “We have three permanent aircraft, this one is the boom supersonic prototype. Boom supersonic is a company at Centennial airport. They’ve revolutionized supersonic passenger transport and they are working on their full scale right now. This is their prototype and they have commitments from Japan Airlines and Virgin Galactic. This craft can go from New York to London in three and a half hours.”
In addition to the Boom supersonic, Blue Sky temporarily features the Sun Flyer (otherwise known as the Cessna 172 Turbo Skyhawk, an electric plane that aims to drastically reduce the cost of flying lessons by eliminating the use of gasoline) and a classic Boeing Stearman built in 1936. And if seeing a full-size airplane up close isn’t enough, this space has interactive exhibits to put you in the pilot’s seat.
“We feature two different components in Blue Sky. The first floor, which is the experience of flight and upstairs, the sequence of flight,” explained Theune. “Like what does the g-force stress mean to pilots? People can hop in this g-force ball and it spins 360 degrees which allow guests to experience what flying does to your body and that’s all about physiology.”
In addition, the first floor features an interactive exhibit for guests to experience what it feels like to fly in difficult weather. The navigation exhibit has two compartments for guests to stand, one with a mock-steering wheel. The person on the left drops a ball into an enclosed maze and tells the person on the right how to navigate the ball to the end of the maze — but here’s the catch, the person navigating has to rely on their partner’s instruction because, throughout the journey, fog is blocking their vision. This game is meant to simulate the relationship between an air traffic controller and a pilot.
From start to finish, The Boing Blue Sky Aviation gallery is fascinating and informative. It manages to show both aviation’s past, present and future and allows guests to interact with each individually. It is not, however, the last stage in Wings Over the Rockies upgrade process. They plan to add a sister facility right next door — and rather than featuring the blue sky, it will focus on the black.
“Blue Sky is phase one. Two is going to be the black sky space gallery that’s going to be located right next door,” described Theune. “It’ll be 12,000 square feet. The space will concentrate on the present and future of outer space.” “So now, Wings Over the Rockies has sister facilities, one in Lowry and one at Centennial Airport that both fulfill our mission, which is to educate and inspire people about aviation and space, past, present and future.”