Go­ing so far you come home again

Selwyn and Ashburton Outlook - - OUT & ABOUT - MATTHEW SAL­MONS

Sit­ting in the cap­tain’s seat I can see ev­ery peak sur­round­ing Lake Wakatipu pretty clearly, we’re get­ting low and ready­ing for land­ing.

As we sweep low around Queen­stown, warn­ing alarms blare in the cock­pit. ‘‘Pull up! Pull up!’’

Sweat beads on my brow. It’s my first flight in a Boe­ing 737. Copi­lot Rus­sell Hub­ber be­gins to calmly talk me through what to do.

I’m at Pa­cific Sim­u­la­tors’ Wi­gram work­shop, and Hub­ber has just taken me on his first sim­u­la­tor flight with a Christchurch cus­tomer in years.

Although the com­pany has been mak­ing flight sim­u­la­tors in Christchurch since the early 2000s, their orig­i­nal Flight Ex­pe­ri­ence sim­u­la­tor at North­lands Mall closed seven years ago.

Now, thanks to the clo­sure of a Gold Coast fran­chise, the Pa­cific Sim­u­la­tors team have brought flight sim­u­la­tion back to the city.

‘‘I’m re­ally proud of it be­cause this is where it all started,’’ Hub­ber said.

Look­ing up at crop dusters from his par­ent’s South­land farm, a younger Hub­ber never dreamed he would fly, let alone over­see flight sim­u­la­tor man­u­fac­tur­ing and sim­u­la­tors in 15 coun­tries.

Later in life, de­spite be­ing li­censed to fly solo, Hub­ber was strug­gling to find time to get air­borne. To com­pen­sate he took to Mi­crosoft Flight Sim­u­la­tor.

‘‘I’m sit­ting there with kids run­ning all around me think­ing ‘this isn’t very re­al­is­tic’. If I stick it in a box that looks like an aero­plane it will look bet­ter. So I built my first sim­u­la­tor in the garage in 1989.’’

His garage con­trap­tions got bet­ter and bet­ter. Even­tu­ally it was sug­gested to Hub­ber and friends Stuart Whe­lan and Steve Clarke that it could be a busi­ness in it­self. The three took the plunge, came up with a plan and quit their day jobs.

Us­ing ac­tual aero­plane cock­pits and gen­uine parts, Pa­cific Sim­u­la­tors pro­duced more than 40 sim­u­la­tors for pri­vate users, flight schools and Flight Ex­pe­ri­ence out­lets all over the world.

The aim of the Flight Sim­u­la­tor out­lets was not for teach­ing peo­ple to ac­tu­ally fly a 737, Hub­ber said, but give peo­ple a chance to be the cap­tain.

‘‘As much as we can, we let the cus­tomer do the fly­ing. It’s just a case of talk­ing peo­ple through. If needed, we’ll lend a bit of a hand so they don’t end up up­side down,’’ Hub­ber said.


Re­porter Matthew Sal­mons swaps pen and pad for flight con­trols with Rus­sell Hub­ber to guide him.

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