Going so far you come home again
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.