Enjoying a flight in the British Airways i360
PUBLISHED: 10:17 20 September 2016 | UPDATED: 10:17 20 September 2016
Brighton's new seafront landmark the British Airways i360 opened in August. Duncan Hall was among the first to travel up the world's tallest moving observation tower
When the West Pier opened in 1866 it was sold as a chance to walk on water.
Exactly 150 years later the British Airways i360 offers the opportunity to walk on air. The world’s tallest moving observation tower opened its pod doors to visitors for the first time in early August. From a height of 138m (452ft) up to 200 visitors can enjoy an unbroken 360 degree vista across Brighton, the South Downs and even on a clear day as far as Beachy Head, the Seven Sisters and the Isle of Wight.
Sadly cloudy skies prior to the official opening prevented invited media, including Sussex Life, from seeing quite so far. But despite the mist the experience was still breathtaking as the pod noiselessly ascended the 162m (531ft) tower. Cameras and mobile phones were much in evidence as everyone searched for their favourite landmarks or former homes among the cityscape – and realised how little they really knew about their home town.
“We can’t recreate the much-loved West Pier,” said architect and British Airways i360 chairman David Marks at the press launch. “But we can offer a modern-day equivalent. It’s a world-first design and construction as the West Pier was in its time.”
He and fellow architect-entrepreneur Julia Barfield – who previously worked together on the London Eye – have spent 12 years putting the seafront project together. “It shows that if enough people fight for something hard enough then the impossible can happen,” added David. “As Nelson Mandela said: ‘It always seems impossible until it is done’.”
“British Airways i360 is a fantastic example of European co-operation,” said Julia. “The team includes many key individuals and firms we worked with on the London Eye and it has been our privilege over the past 12 years to see the commitment, determination and enterprise with which they have turned the designs and plans into reality.”
The steel tower, which lights up at night, was crafted in the Netherlands. It has been awarded with a Guinness World Record for the world’s most slender tower at just 3.9 metres. The glass came from Italy, and the tower dampers – which ensure the pod barely moves despite howling winds on the media preview – came all the way from Australia.
Visitors can enjoy a drink from the Nyetimber Sky Bar within the pod as they admire the view. And work is continuing on the Belle Vue restaurant and West Pier Tea Room which is based on a reconstructed West Pier toll booth. A replica toll booth also houses the on-site ticket office.
Tickets for 20-minute day flights, or half-hour night flights after 6pm, cost £13.50 in advance for an adult, or £15 on the day. Children aged four to 15 are half-price, with £11.25/£12.50 concessions for students and the over-60s. Priority flights including fast-track entry and a guide book cost £22.50 per person. Annual passes are also available for £90 or £45 per child. Brighton and Hove residents can sign up for discount tickets, and every child attending a state school in Brighton and Hove between the 2016 and 2017 school year will be offered a flight.
For more information visit www.BritishAirwaysi360.com
• Gatwick Airport at 80: How such a large-scale business is run - This year Gatwick Airport celebrates 80 years serving residents of Sussex, Surrey and all over the UK. Steve Roberts visited to find out how such a large-scale business is run