Hello everyone, today we have a bit of an unusual Dream Flight blog post. Normally we share the exciting news about our missions or what’s going on with our simulators. But today, I’m going to write on a more personal note. It all revolves around a special simulator that very few people know about: the IKS Gallant:
This is the IKS Gallant… or, I should say it’s the Gallant when it was about 80% complete. The main viewscreen projector and crew control stations are all missing. Please pardon the dim photo—this shot was taken during our early tests of our multi-color lighting system.
The IKS Gallant was the first simulator I ever built. I built it within my own home way back in 2011, and it completely filled my living room. It was designed to fit six people and was made mostly of PVC pipe and expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam. This was back in the early days of Dream Flight Adventures—before we had partnerships, any products in the market, or really anything beyond stacks of concept sketches and design files. But we did have a dream—and a passion to bring it to life.
At the time I had completed a major milestone in the development of our simulator control software and just returned from the INplay conference in Toronto, which centered around using apps, digital media, and storytelling as an engagement tool, particularly for education. We had officially formed the company just a month or two prior to that, and it was high time to start sharing our vision with the world.
There was just one problem—our experience is really something that you have to see to believe. No amount of enthusiastic hand-waving while spouting off superlative adjectives could do it justice. The photos and video from the Christa McAullife Space Education Center (Dream Flight’s inspiration) helped, but it still wasn’t enough. I had to show people and let them experience it firsthand. So, I built a spaceship in my living room.
The original plan was to move the simulator to a new location once a partner was identified, so the Gallant was built so it could be easily disassembled, moved, and then reassembled in another location. However, before we finished building it things started falling into place with our first partner—Shaler Area School District—and work on the Gallant stopped while we shifted our attention toward the IKS Titan.
Since that time Dream Flight Adventures has soared to new heights, with new simulators and missions being created all the time. But whatever happened to the IKS Gallant? Well, it stayed right where it was, dominating my living room for the past three years. It was hugely inconvenient, but it sure made for a good conversation starter when we had guests over. It also made for an interesting guest bedroom and board game room from time to time. And to top it off, the Gallant was the very first Dream Flight simulator to host a birthday party: my son’s sixth birthday in 2012.
So for the past three years the IKS Gallant has partially blocked my front door and served as a powerful reminder of where Dream Flight Adventures all began. But time stops for no one, and it eventually became time for the Gallant to be decommissioned. Two weeks ago a rainstorm put a damper on my weekend plans, so I dusted off the old tritanium arc welder and set to work.
Here’s the IKS Gallant as seen from the rear and facing the viewscreen right as deconstruction began. You’ll notice the piles of miscellaneous junk that had been tossed onto the old bridge. The small round holes in the walls were points where the crew control desks would connect with into the walls. The giant gap beneath the main viewscreen was never filled because it was going to be covered by the front row of crew stations. The back row of crew stations sat on a raised platform at the rear of the simulator.
One by one the wall panels came off to reveal the underlying skeleton—and to restore access to parts of the living room that hadn’t been seen for years.
Here is the ship completely stripped of its paneling. You’ll notice the bookcase in the back corner—holding a whole slew of books we hadn’t had access to since the Gallant was first built.
I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for this experience. I thought I’d be reclaiming my living room and packing pipes into my basement, but the experience was much more than that. In fact—and much to my surprise—I found myself getting choked up. Taking down the Gallant took only a few hours (it took several months to build!), but that was a long time to reflect on all the sweet memories it provided as well as all the profound experiences it subsequently brought into my life.
The Gallant was the beginning of what has been the most invigorating and rewarding journey of my career—and the realization of a childhood dream. Now that dream has come to life and is inspiring new dreams in thousands of children—most of whom I’ll never even meet. The Gallant may not have ever been fully constructed, but it completed its mission far more successfully than I had ever hoped. It flew well, and I was honored to create it. And who knows? Perhaps like a phoenix it will rise from the ashes and take on a new form. The IKS Gallant will fly again!