A Newcastle husband and wife couple are flying high as they offer frustrated globetrotters the chance to fly their own aircraft anywhere in the world – with no passport, travel restrictions or quarantine guaranteed.
The only catch: your genuine Boeing 737 cockpit will never actually leave the ground.
The award winning Flight Sim Centre is Europe’s foremost and largest flight simulation centre and is located just outside Newcastle International Airport. It is regularly used to train professional pilots but also allows ordinary people to come and test the hyper-realistic equipment themselves.
The centre has four qualified instructors and has been operating since 2014 led by qualified pilots Neil and Amanda McCarthy. Neil, an ex- military display and jet fighter test pilot and instructor Amanda have been flying together and displaying at airshows for many years.
And, with the downturn in global travel 2020, the centre is hoping their unique experience will help ease the pain for frustrated voyagers desperate to scratch their travel itch.
“2020 has been a year unlike anything I have ever experienced in my entire flying career. There’s been a lot of uncertainty about the airline industry but the genie’s out of the bottle. Too many people have got used to the unbeatable freedom that air travel brings. We’ve just got to ride out the COVID storm and that’s where places like the Flight Sim Centre can help people keep their dreams alive,” said Neil.
While unable to accept users during lockdowns, Neil and Amanda took advantage of the down time by having the centre expanded and re-furbished to include a new Boeing 737-800 cockpit and complete working Bell 206 Jet Ranger Helicopter.
“I can tell you from the experience of being a pilot myself, that sitting in our Boeing-737 cockpit is the absolute nearest thing you can get to the real thing. You easily forget it’s a simulator. It’s amazing,” he said.
“It has full realistic controls, 230 degree wrap around cinema quality screen, automated throttles, stick shaker stall warnings, tactile transducers, a spacious 6 person passenger cabin, and the ability to simulate flights to 52,000 airports across the world. All with no travel restrictions or COVID quarantine, guaranteed.”
To help keep alive the North East’s love of aviation, and adapt to the new COVID normal, the Flight Sim Centre has halved the cost of its flight simulations up to Christmas, and made them even more COVID proof by making the vouchers valid for up to two years, in case of further unplanned COVID restrictions particularly relevant for their corporate and birthday party events. For those looking for a more serious reason to visit the centre, they also offer fear of flying courses for those anxious about travelling in an aircraft and future pilots course where the trainee learns the fundamental basics of the “Private Pilot’s Licence.”
For highly qualified instructor Amanda, who has supported Neil’s dreams ever since he built his own Spitfire and spontaneously bought a vintage British WWII DeHavilland Vampire at auction, adapting the business to COVID is just the latest evolution of their aviation adventure.
“We’re both aviation crazy, which is why the Flight Sim Centre is now the leading one of its kind in Europe. It fulfils all the professional training needs of pilots but it’s also just tremendous fun. I think that’s what we bring to it,” she said.” In lockdown, we replaced and upgraded every simulator and increased our facilities to nine different experiences. We are particularly pleased in this, the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Britain year to be able to offer a dog fight in a single-seater Spitfire or Messerschmitt Bf 109. We have the ultimate in big boys toys and with Christmas around the corner you may even see Santa up in the clouds.”
The couple’s two sons, Nathan (8) and Ryan (10) have also inherited their parents passion for aviation. Ryan has already had experience of flying a real aircraft and reinforces his learning through lessons on the simulators.
If flying a passenger jet isn’t your thing, you could, start small in a Piper Cherokeee, be like Tom Cruise in a ‘Top Gun’ F35/F18 Fighter Jet, or even try full motion 4D Car Racing or Virtual Reality gaming.