I'm sure you have seen them advertised on the Internet however have never been quite sure exactly what they entitle? Quite a few people have often put the question to me 'how can you associate flying as a gift?'
If you are looking for different gift ideas this Christmas, then a flying experience certainly fits the bill. There are quite a few different categories on offer which we will cover in this article, all of which will give the opportunity for your special someone to have complete freedom of the skies. Excuse the pun 'it will certainly leave their head in the clouds'.
There is such a vast amount of experience gifts available all giving the opportunity to view the world from a different angle. The most popular of them I will go over in this article. For those laid back types out there, consider a microflying experience or a sightseeing flight and enjoy the peace and quietness of roaming through the sky admiring the stunning views below. For those romantic types out there you could consider a hot air balloon trip for two. Casually float across the English landscapes and toast the occasion with a glass of bubbly. If you are in need of something a little more action packed however then try an adrenaline filled aerobatic flying experience and perform loop the loops through the air, or even better put the nerves to the test with a skydiving activity. If throwing yourself out of a plane at 12,000 ft doesn't get the blood flowing I don't know what will!
Is the above beginning to whet your appetite? Then read on to get a better idea of great flying experience gifts available.
Microlight flying is the ideal option to get airborne and have a go for the first time at flying yourself. Once you have been through a general introduction to the plane and the pilot has taken off he will then hand over the controls allowing you to enjoy piloting a small aircraft.
Trust me; it is definitely an fantastic feeling having the power and freedom of flight when being behind the controls.
Microlight planes are tiny little aircrafts which are incredibly easy to manoeuvre. They are great for short journeys over the countryside with their fantastic panoramic views. They remind me of early aviation - pioneering, thrilling and a touch eccentric!
Nothing quite matches the excitement of a vertical take-off. It is certainly more enjoyable than taking off in a conventional aeroplane. From the minute the helicopter lifts off to the minute it gracefully settles back on the ground you really feel the rush as you can hear the great roar from the rotary blades spinning round.
After a brief induction you will normally be given the chance to view and listen to the helicopter up close and personal. Then it's time for take-off! Climb through the side door (I always feel like the rich and famous when traveling by helicopter) then sit back as you quickly rise to over 1,000 ft. You will hover over vast landscapes reaching top speeds of 120 mph whilst having the chance to talk with the pilot using the headsets before gracefully returning to earth.
Hang Gliding and Paragliding.
This is the nearest thing that will let us to experience what Mother Nature never gave us - wings!
Hang Gliding and Paragliding are both very similar and you will regularly find the two next to one another launching from a high point over breath-taking views below.
Hang Gliding involves holding onto a bar underneath a wing with nothing else between you and the ground. It definitely is the nearest thing to flying like a bird you will ever get. You use the bar and your own body weight to control the direction and speed of the glider. If you have ever seen one in the air without realising what it was and saying 'I'd love to try that' now you do!
Paragliding involves sitting in a harness with a parachute overhead, that's all there is to it! They can be either motorised or not. None powered ones last a long time and can fly for great distances. Similar to Hang Gliders the direction is controlled by body weight whereas the speed is controlled by foot and brakes by hand.
After a quick induction with the equipment and controls you will join an instructor in a tandem harness. Once secure you will be either lifted into the air by a microflight place connected to you using a harness or by starting from a high point. If by a microlight plane once you have risen to a height of around 2,000 ft the harness will be disconnected and the microlight plane will fly away. You then have the freedom to enjoy the magnificent views and coast lazily through the skies before coming to a gentle landing below.
For me this is the ultimate adrenaline ride. It's one of those experiences all people must try at least once in their life. It's also one of those things you will talk about time and time again throughout your life!
Leaping out of plane 10,000 ft in the air is very scary I must admit, however you will be strapped to a professional who will take care of everything on the way down. All you have to do is appreciate the ride, scream a little (or a lot like me) and remember to keep your eyes open!
Your day will as always start with an induction on skydiving, safety and landing procedures. You will then board the plane; this is when the stomach really starts tightening in knots. Once airborne you will be attached up to an instructor and begin to realise there is no chance of you getting out of it now! All I can say is that once you leap out of the plane and you experience free fall it really is such an unbelievable feeling I couldn't begin to explain it. After around 30 seconds or so and traveling at 120 mph the instructor will release the parachute (as much as I enjoyed the free falling this bit was a relief!) and control after the descent while you try to relax and take in the surroundings.
Have you ever wanted to fly like Maverick in Top Gun? Do you love the feeling you get in your stomach when on a roller coaster ride? Experience wingovers, barrel turns cuban 8's (no idea what they are exactly either) and learn just what one of these planes is capable of.
The day kicks off with the normal induction before climbing aboard your plane. Once airborne your pilot will put the plane through it's paces. Make sure you have an empty stomach as the plane goes through various manoeuvres such as rolls, loops and spins. Then if you are brave enough to try yourself you will get the chance to take over the controls and put your skills to the test. As Iceman said to Maverick 'You can be my wing man anytime'.
This is something I have yet to try however is most certainly on the agenda. I expect the trill of performing stunts through the air make a memorable experience!
Hot Air Ballooning.
Let's be honest, the times we see a hot air balloon drifting through the skies against a beautiful background we all stand back and stare. Imagine what it would be like to look in the opposite direction for once?
Once you have met the pilot and been through a flight safety briefing you will join in with helping inflate and get ready the balloon. Then it's time to climb into the basket and slowly ascend up to heights of 5,000 ft. You needn't have to worry about the wind either as the balloon moves with the wind meaning you won't feel any. Just enjoy the peace and tranquility (in between the propane burners) as you casually drift through the air looking down on the the scenery down below.
I must admit when I first heard about indoor skydiving I pictured a huge indoor tower which people would jump from! I definitely felt quite stupid when I understood it's actually an vertically blowing air tunnel. It's basically the same experience and feeling of normal skydiving without the fear and the views, however at the same time you definitely feel safer and don' have to have an instructor attached to you.
The day will start with a short class brief and video before changing into the required clothing. You will then join with wait amongst people and take it in turns to float above the extremely powerful blast of air. This is where you get to enjoy a free falling experience.This is a great alternative to normal skydiving for youngsters, elderly or people who just have a head for heights!
I hope some of the information above clarifies things a bit if you are contemplating a flying red letter day activity as a gift. There are certainly lots of options that range from suiting people who just love high thrill seeking activities to those who are a little more reserved!