Dispatches, February 1998
'Normally, if you were flying 80 miles per hour at six feet off the ground, you wouldn't be long for this world," figures thrill-broker John ten Have. "What you see on this flight is what most jet pilots see right before they die." A morbid sales pitch, to be sure, but one that doesn't seem to deter 40-plus people a day from subjecting themselves to ten Have's "Fly By Wire," a crude jet-fighter simulator that could well be the most inventive daredevil tourist attraction ever conceived.
Located above the sleepy sheepherding town of Paekakariki, on New Zealand's North Island, Fly By Wire is — from the safety of ten Have's office — a rather low-key affair. After forking over a $75 fee and donning a flashy red flight suit, adrenaline junkies enter a cockpit-like capsule attached by wire to a network of cables stretched across a 200-foot-deep valley. They are then hoisted, via hydraulic winch and 24-horsepower engine, 17 dizzying stories into the air, at which point the pilot hits a release lever, sending the "jet" screaming towards Earth. What follows is somewhat less low-key: seven stomach-churning minutes in which clients can soar, bank, nosedive, and perform figure eights. Or as ten Have, who expects to host hordes of international pilots as New Zealand's tourist season peaks this month, puts it, "This is to bungee jumping what riding a motorcycle is to riding a horse."