It’s a flight of fancy and it’s about to take off

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By John Keast

Ready for take-off, flight path logged.

The plane is at Dunedin, bound for Christchurch.

It gathers speed up the runway, lifts off.

Except it doesn’t.

The Ashburton airport.

Ashburton airport is home to the Ashburton Aviation Museum, and the museum, thanks to computer whiz Owen Moore and software engineer, and others, has a flight simulator.

Although not a training tool, it provides a realistic flight experience – and would-be pilots can fly anywhere in the world, and the software built in to the simulator gives a real-flight experience.

At the moment, the scenery is limited to New Zealand, but more may be added to give a real-world view of the flight.

On a flight, say, from Dunedin to Christchurch, the pilot and co-pilot see the world from above just as a pilot would – including the street lights of Ashburton and even the lights at the Synlait factory near Dunsandel.

The operator can also adjust the flying experience, say, to show snow in winter.

The simulator uses the controls of an ATR aircraft used in provincial New Zealand – and pilots, although they are in effect sitting inside a giant water tank and in front of computer screens, would think they are in the air – flying.

Mr Moore said the simulator was built to a stage in a garage in Christchurch, but completed in Ashburton.

He said he and Mr Hill each probably put in 200-odd hours, and others at the museum also helped.

Now that it is operating, with the latest software built in and with electronic solutions provided by Mr Hill, the simulator – as long as an instructor sits alongside – is available to the public.

A donation is expected from would-be flyers.

Flights can be sped up to shorten time at the controls.

it provides a realistic and entertaining experience,said.

When the unit came from Christchurch it was on a wooden base.

Museum volunteers decided it needed to look a little better and fitted it inside a giant water tank.

It has been cut into sections so, if needed, volunteers can get access to the maze of wires behind the fascia.

where people can fly it,said.

Interested flyers should go the museum between 9am and 3pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays; an appointment would be needed at any other time.

Mr Moore said a donation would be expected.