Travel

Heart-pounding pursuits in the skies of Las Vegas

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As America's thrill mill, Las Vegas knows how to please all comers and does so with much-heralded roller coasters, monumental magic acts and racy stage productions. But few know about the adrenaline-inducing activities available high above the city's neon glow.

Indeed, the sky's no limit to visitors who want to jump, soar and fly upside down in a vast array of airborne activities stretching from the Strip to the Grand Canyon. Here are a few to keep in mind when planning your bachelor (or bachelorette) party weekend:

JUMP FOR JOYThrill junkies can reserve an afternoon with Skydive Las Vegas, which specializes in first-time jumps. Participants pay per sky dive but can take all the pre-flight training they want free from classes at 8 and 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. daily (appointments only).

Flights, which take off from Boulder City Municipal Airport near Hoover Dam, offer a bird's-eye view of the landscape: Lake Mead and the Colorado River, the dam and the Strip hotels in the distance.

All jumps are tandem and start at $199, including a personal keepsake video of the entire thing. Jumpers can be picked up by a shuttle van at 8 a.m. and noon from a central Strip location (across from Mandalay Bay).

The complete session lasts two to three hours and requires that a jumper be in good health and weigh less than 240 pounds.

For those not up to hurtling from a plane at an altitude of 2,000 feet, Flyaway Indoor Skydiving still provides a "Look, Ma, no hands!" experience at its location just off the Strip.

After 20 minutes of instruction (and a $70 fee), you'll get a flight suit and helmet and a full three minutes suspended in the air, no strings attached. An instructor demonstrates how to splay your body for maximum lift, and tuck and roll for crash protection.

Then it's off to the padded room where the propeller of a DC3 provides winds of up to 120 mph. Participants (no more than 10 at a time in half-hour segments) float about 20 feet above the net within a roaring tunnel of pure exhilaration. Do it again the same day for half-price. Group discounts are available.

FLOAT ON A 737Breathless yet? Check out Zero G flight, possibly the most frightening and thrilling ride anywhere. Zero G takes a Boeing 737, pulls out the seats and galleys, covers the windows and flies around two dozen people at top speed into the upper altitudes of commercial air space for a zero-gravity experience.

Passengers start by lying prone on the floor of the plane and then float upward as the aircraft dips and arcs in a series of parabolic maneuvers, ultimately mimicking the effects of weightlessness.

Passengers get their fair share of 20- to 30-second floats during a three- or four-hour flight. They float to piped-in music during dips and arcs and enjoy a Champagne toast upon landing.

The experience, based out of McCarran International Airport, isn't cheap. The tab for each participant is $3,675, which includes all taxes and fees.

DOGFIGHTS OVER THE DESERTIf jumping and floating don't get the adrenals working, perhaps a few war games will. Air Combat USA, based at North Las Vegas Airport, offers a pre-set schedule of "Top Gun" experiences over the Mojave.

The session does not require pilot training and allows the guest to take control of the dogfight once the Italian-built SIAI Marchetti SF-260 fighter is aloft and the "enemy" is in view. The aircraft has side-by-side seating, dual stick controls, 260 horsepower and flies at 270 mph, in a range of +6 to -3 Gs for stomach-wrenching realism.

Most of the instructors at the controls have served as military pilots, and tips come with the tariff as do fitted flight suits and helmets, parachutes and instructions. A dose of preparation in ground school covers the tactical maneuvers required for a dogfight.

Guests actually fly the aircraft most of the session and take aim with electric bullets and an electronic tracking system. Direct hits register with sound effects and smoke trails. Three cockpit cameras record all the action for keepsake videos. The entire experience lasts around three hours.

The cost of combat? $1,195 to $1,895 per person; $11,950 for groups of 10. Flights book up fast, but Las Vegas dates currently in the roster are Oct. 27 and 28 and Nov 17. and 18.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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