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The Aviator Experience – from Tauranga to the world
The Aviator Experience – from Tauranga to the world

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to fly a military fast jet or a World War II fighter?

The Aviator Experience is the first military flight simulator company in NZ and is based right here in Tauranga. The immersive virtual reality experience allows users to pretend to be Chuck Yeager, Tom Cruise or Douglas Bader and experience what it is like to be a military combat pilot without ever leaving the ground.

Born about six years ago as a single simulator, the company now operates six fully networked simulators with NZ’s only full-motion F-18 and the highly impressive brand-new Mk IX Spitfire simulator.

Strangely, many are still not aware of this hidden little gem basing itself at the Tauranga Airport, looking over the runway as they have built the business up via word of mouth and limited social media exposure.

 “You do not have to be a pilot to enjoy it, with our oldest customer being 95 years old. It is also not just for the boys, many mothers, wives and daughters have flown here,” says the developer and owner Craig Saunders.

Craig has loved aviation his whole life and spent seven years in the Royal New Zealand Air Force as an avionics technician. Alongside this, he has spent 19 years working in the IT industry. He proudly states that the short time in the Air Force is what gives him the key skills to drive this passion into a business.

The company does Tauranga proud, bringing in two Trip Advisor Excellence Awards for 2019 and 2020 and hopeful for a 3rd after what has been a difficult year for the event/hospitality sector.

It is easy to understand why – this company is built on passion and innovation. A visit to the website and reading the Trip Advisor reviews illustrates this, with articles sharing the significance and historical background of these wonderous aircrafts.

They believe strongly that we should never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men and women of yesteryear so that we can live our lives today. An important part of what drives them as a business is to help customers experience what it was like to be a fighter pilot by taking you back in time virtually, learning about these machines and the teams who piloted them. An example of a team is "The Suicide Squadron", the Lancasters from 617 Squadron who flew as low as 10 meters, in the dark, dodging enemy fire to attack four German Dams (the legendary Dam Busters).

The future is bright for the company as the goal has always been to expand overseas although this means that sadly within the next 12 months this will see the local space become solely R&D focused, as they are currently looking for a highly relevant investor(s)/partner to help take the public experience to an offshore location.