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NZ flight simulators on world market

Media Release September 9 2008

NZ flight simulators on world pilot training market

International pilots will soon be training on New Zealand built aircraft simulators, with the first professional flight training simulator being developed by the Flight Experience Group of Christchurch with help from the TechNZ arm of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

The simulator being developed is the PS4 which is modelled on a Boeing 737NG Professional Flight Training Device. NG refers to ‘Next Generation’ Boeing 600, 700 and 800 aircraft, which are the latest in the 737 Series. Flight Experience Group CEO Bill Highet says several export orders are pending.

The pending orders mark a milestone for the company which began developing replica aircraft cockpits in 2003 and now produces simulators for the entertainment market and professional pilot training.

Investment of $500,000 from TechNZ the business investment arm of the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, is helping the company develop software and hardware needed to produce a new model that incorporates computer systems, wrap-around visual graphics of the outside flight environment, and the effects of wind, engine noise, cooling and sound systems along with vibrations in the seat to trick the brain of those at the controls into believing that they are flying anywhere in the world and landing at any airport.

“This is a smart organisation which has identified a niche market,” says TechNZ Senior Business Manager Carmel Howley.

“The management team has a substantial track record and the company has created an equation for success, with an ability to conquer global markets. It is forging great international connections, making it exactly the type of business TechNZ likes to support,” she says.

The TechNZ investment is to help produce a simulator that is modelled on the Boeing 737NG jet and meets international flight training standards for professional pilots.

The Civil Aviation Authority from Scandinavia has been contracted to provide independent certification that the model meets the necessary international standards and specifications.

“We expect to receive certification in the not too distant future and will then be able to close a number of deals for other sales already in the pipeline,” Mr Highet says.

“Given that these units will be used for training pilots to fly with a significant number of passengers on board there are very strict standards to be adhered to.”
The Flight Experience Group operates its professional training subsidiary under the Pacific Simulator brand and is confident of building global sales rapidly.

“Growth of the world’s jet airliner fleet is likely to result in the need for an additional 18,000 pilots in the next six years, and that’s not taking into account the number of pilots retiring,” says Mr Highet.

Pacific Simulators intends to occupy a niche market between full motion trainers, which cost up to US$20 million and smaller flat panel trainers, which replicate the cockpit with computer screens.

“We’re not looking to displace either of those but if we can put a major part of professional pilot training onto a lower cost simulator like ours, airlines can train a greater number of pilots more quickly,” he says. Pacific Simulators’ training devices are priced at around the US$1 million mark.

Another subsidiary of the group, operating as Flight Experience, is franchising simulators in the entertainment industry. There are already five franchised in New Zealand, three in Australia, and one in Singapore. One franchise with two simulators is about to open in Hong Kong, outlets in China are being investigated and the company intends to operate its own simulator operations in the United Kingdom and the United States to showcase its thrill-seeking equipment to those markets.

With the two streams of revenue, the group is forecasting rapid growth over the next five years with the potential to generate around $35 million, mostly from exports.

Another potential market for the Flight Experience units is wealthy overseas buyers wanting the ultimate boy’s toy.

“The TechNZ support has been critical for a small company with tight cashflow and in rapid growth mode that needs resources to commit to major R&D programmes,” says Mr Highet.

The group has 23 staff with five working full time on research and development.

The company will be promoting its simulators later this month at the Asia Pacific Airline Training Symposium in Bangkok and a major aviation trade show in Vienna in November.


The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology invests over $530 million a year on behalf of the New Zealand Government in research and development to enhance the wealth and well being of New Zealanders.

TechNZ is the Foundation’s business investment programme. It puts $50 million a year into cutting edge research and development by New Zealand companies, targeting key sectors of the economy with strong growth potential including specialised manufacturing, information technology, biotechnology and food and beverages.


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