You have to spend a move action to essentially concentrate with the boots to move yourself and you can only go up or down, which is hardly flying. Basically unless there is some means of grasping and pulling yourself along or other means of locomotion, you pick a square, can move yourself very slowly up or down, but can't leave that square until you are back on the ground. There are also other incidental penalties for using this in combat.
Levitate allows you to move yourself, another creature, or an object up and down as you wish. A creature must be willing to be levitated, and an object must be unattended or possessed by a willing creature. You can mentally direct the recipient to move up or down as much as 20 feet each round; doing so is a move action. You cannot move the recipient horizontally, but the recipient could clamber along the face of a cliff, for example, or push against a ceiling to move laterally (generally at half its base land speed).
A levitating creature that attacks with a melee or ranged weapon finds itself increasingly unstable; the first attack has a -1 penalty on attack rolls, the second -2, and so on, to a maximum penalty of -5. A full round spent stabilizing allows the creature to begin again at -1.
am i reading this correctly that boot of levitation allow you to fly without any time limitations?
Roughly speaking: For a caster yes, for a martial no. If your goal is to be unreachable for non-flying melee opponents, Boots of Levitation do the job well if you don't make attack rolls. If you're a melee trying to reach a flying opponent, not so much, both because of the inability to move laterally, and the severe penalty to attack rolls.
Levitate is an inferior form of flight which is why it is a lower-level spell. In reality it resembles climbing more than it does actual flight. Even if you have a way to move laterally it is slow and inefficient. You are also somewhat exposed when levitating. You can only go up or down 20 feet a round by using a move action. So, if you move up more than 20 feet it is going to take you more than a round to get down. With flight you could descend at double the rate of flight.
With flight you could descend at double the rate of flight.
Where are you getting this double speed? Reasonably if you're just dropping straight down up to 500ft, you just need to pass a DC 10 fly check to restart your flight and avoid falling to probably your death but then can spend your move actions however. The fly skill says if you're descending at an angle and not just straight down, you only move at your normal speed.
You generally need only make a Fly check when you are attempting a complex maneuver. Without making a check, a flying creature can remain flying at the end of its turn so long as it moves a distance greater than half its speed. It can also turn up to 45 degrees by sacrificing 5 feet of movement, can rise at half speed at an angle of 45 degrees1, and can descend at any angle at normal speed. Note that these restrictions only apply to movement taken during your current turn. At the beginning of the next turn, you can move in a different direction than you did the previous turn without making a check. Taking any action that violates these rules requires a Fly check. The difficulty of these maneuvers varies depending upon the maneuver you are attempting, as noted on the following chart.
From the second sentence of the description of the spell Fly. Other forms of flight may not grant this.
The subject can fly at a speed of 60 feet (or 40 feet if it wears medium or heavy armor, or if it carries a medium or heavy load). It can ascend at half speed and descend at double speed, and its maneuverability is good. Using a fly spell requires only as much concentration as walking, so the subject can attack or cast spells normally. The subject of a fly spell can charge but not run, and it cannot carry aloft more weight than its maximum load, plus any armor it wears. The subject gains a bonus on Fly skill checks equal to 1/2 your caster level.
What is disconcerting is that AD&D 1st edition had better flying rules than 3.x and derivates.It shows which developer was a hardcover simulationist and who privileged narrative. ;-)
Ironically, I'd say that 3e (and thus derivatives) is more the simulationist over what is I'm assuming AD&D that you're implying, as so much of the way skills, ability scores, etc. are statted at least at lower levels but even then how they scale is meant to mimic real life capabilities of people. Sure, AD&D had rules for "throwing people" down to how to figure out exactly what happens/how far, but it obviously ignores basic physics to say its possible at all, even if you have an 18/100 strength score being equivalent to say an actual Giant's strength, the simple matter is that for say Aragorn to throw Gimli who weighs approximately the same, he would would be shoving himself approximately as hard in the other direction. This would in most instances leave a rpg character prone from torqueing forces, especially in the example whereby someone "threw another character up at a dragon to grapple it to the ground".
But to quote Gigax himself on same said issue of strength,
Adding a d% roll to an 18 Strength roll is hardly complicated. It was done because Strength was the only stat that needed to be increased in steps by the d% mechanic so as to improve fighters to hit and damage chances. So that was used because I favor interesting play over any imagined elegance, that being quite unlikely in an RPG in my view. RPGs are games, not art, and I don't give myself airs.
Can you imaging the increases of stats going into the 20s needed in order to get the same result as 18/00? The human norm bell curve of 3-18 down the tubes in a jiffy. Not elegant at all, and simply foolish ;-)
So maybe I'm also just sitting here with a flipped perception of your perception :P