Flight simulator lets children soar at OW WOW

YOUNGSTOWN — Young visitors to the OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology now are able to take a flight to Boston, Los Angeles and other destinations.

The newest addition to the downtown center’s Avionics WOW! Zone is “Big John’s Flight Trainer,” a flight simulator purchased through a donation from the Lallo family, originally of Girard. The equipment has been added to the existing airplane that has been a fixture of the center since it was known as the Children’s Museum of the Valley.

“A flight simulator has been on our wish list for a long time,” said Lisa Long, associate director of the center.

Long would not give an exact figure, but described the donation as “upwards of $10,000.” It was made by the four Lallo children in honor of their parents, John and Diana Lallo, who were killed in a plane crash in 2013. John Lallo was the founder of McRoyal Industries, which fabricates furniture, racks and other equipment for use in food service and other commercial, industrial and residential buildings.

Children can climb into the cockpit, pick a destination and then use the controls to keep the plane on course.

“They can navigate from Youngstown to different locations that were picked by the Lallo family, either places that they live in or like to visit as a family,” Long said.

As her four children took turns in the cockpit of the airplane, Tiffiny Vesey of Poland said, “I love that they actually get to steer it. It’s not fake. They’re really doing it.”

It’s also educational.

“It teaches them things like longitude, latitude, distance,” Long said.

And by showing them at the end where they made mistakes, they can apply that knowledge when they try it again, essentially applying the scientific process until they master it.

Like many of the attractions at the center, the kids may be having so much fun, they might not realize they’re learning something along the way.

“It makes noise, it vibrates a little bit. It’s been a big hit,” Long said.

The permanent attraction opened just before Christmas and has attracted a steady stream of young pilots.

“It was open for First Night Youngstown, and we had a line all the way down the ramp of children waiting to give it a try,” Long said. “It’s popular with first-time visitors and it (the airplane) is refreshed for recurring visitors.”