Take Flight at Morehead Planetarium

Morehead Planetarium introduces a 25-minute show on the principles of flight.
Takeflightwright Plane
Courtesy of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

I was extremely honored to attend the premier of Morehead Planetarium’s newest show, "Take Flight," a 25-minute animated exploration of the four principles of flight — lift, weight, thrust and drag. Funded by a generous grant from NASA, the show was originally intended to be about test pilots, but NASA decided they were more interested in exploring the rich avionics history of North Carolina and thus the focus was shifted to the principles of flight. Viewers join Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who famously had the first successful flight in nearby Kitty Hawk, as they explain the science behind how planes fly and take us on a tour of both the history and future of avionics.

I took my second grade son with me to experience "Take Flight" and as we entered the dimly lit GlaxoSmithKline Fulldome Theater at Morehead Planetarium, his infectious excitement instantly transported me back to my own childhood. I have fond memories of being a child and going on class field trips to our local planetarium. There is something supremely special and magical about leaning back in one of those seats and gazing up at the 360-degree dome above you. If movie theaters are fun then the planetarium takes it to an entirely new level. As soon as the show begins you feel completely immersed in the experience, much like you do at an IMAX movie, only more so.

The show takes place in a home on the coast of North Carolina. After following along as paper and toy airplanes fly through the house, you are introduced to famous figures from the history of flight such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Bessie Coleman, Chuck Yeager and Amelia Earhart. You learn about each of their specific accomplishments that helped bring aviation to where it is today. The writer cleverly sprinkles historical facts and scientific principles into the story and the animators weave it together in such a way that it feels more like you’re watching a fun video game — and not so much like learning.

After hearing about the history we jump forward with Orville and Wilbur into the future. We are offered a glimpse at some of the exciting areas of cutting edge avionics scientists are working on now, things that will, hopefully, become part of our reality very soon – including an airplane that can take you from New York to Paris in only an hour and a half!

The show is a fast-paced and exciting journey that truly makes the viewer feel fully engaged in the experience. There were no scary moments that would cause me to hesitate to bring a young child to the show. I do want to caution parents that if you or your child have issues with motion sickness, there is at least a small possibility you will feel it during this show. Often the animators were able to create a very realistic feeling of flying and diving towards the ground that could potentially make some viewers feel a little woozy.

Preshow Fun

Before the show began we were introduced to Todd Boyette, director of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center. He shared with us the history behind the creation of this show, as well as the history of the planetarium itself. I was surprised to learn that Morehead Planetarium has animators on-staff who created this entire show right here in Chapel Hill. Since 2010, they have produced seven shows for their digital dome which they have shared with more than 70 other planetariums across the U.S. and in 15 different countries.

Boyette explained that the staff's goal was to design the show to match up to North Carolina’s educational guidelines, making it a fantastic choice for school field trips. He also spoke about the staff's deep desire to spark interest an in science/technology/education/math (STEM) careers in the hearts and minds of children who see the show. I think it’s safe to say that when it comes to "Take Flight," mission accomplished.

My son really enjoyed the show, even though he is younger than the intended fourth-grade-and-older audience. He recited three of the four principles of flight in the car on the way home, so I consider that a win! This was a fun and educational outing at one of the true local gems in our area. We are fortunate to have a facility like Morehead Planetarium in our backyard.

Family Science Day

Morehead Planetarium is hosting Family Science Day on March 6th from 1-4 p.m. This is a free event that will celebrate this new planetarium show and offer guests a chance to meet scientists, learn about their research and conduct their own experiments.


This post was not sponsored. All opinions and selections are my own.

Categories: Education, Searching for Balance, Things To Do