The Aviator Experience concept was dreamed up by Craig Saunders and backed up by his very supportive wife Anita and their four kids.

Craig is passionate, like really passionate, about military aviation.  He joined the RNZAF back in the days of Top Gun, which he watched about 30 times.  Due to his passionate nature and tendency to bend the rules, a bit like Maverick in Top Gun, he didn’t fit the mould for a career as an Airforce Pilot.

He got over his dream of being a Fighter Jet Pilot and worked hard in the Airforce as an Avionics Technician instead.  Working on Aermacchis and Andovers, he got to take the occasional joy ride in the jump seat of these jets before H & S was considered a thing. The technical skills he learnt and the attention to detail required (we call it his ‘Obsession for Detail’) are now well utilised at The Aviator Experience.

Craig went on to get his Private Pilot License and his favourite type of flying is doing aerobatics in a Russian Yak 52 Warbird. Flying straight and level is not in his nature, it’s all out fun or not worth doing.  A bit like how he has developed The Aviator Experience.

How did The Aviator Experience start?  As a single home-built simulator in our lounge. It became the centrepiece at dinner parties and we soon realised that it was far too cool to keep to ourselves. After three years or so (Anita is a very patient wife) we went from having what sounded like an airport in our lounge, to being set up at the Tauranga Airport. The quiet suburban neighbours were probably quite happy about this move.

The Aviator Experience has since morphed from one static simulator into two statics, and our favourite, the Full Motion F-18 cockpit.  Most of our set up has been manufactured in Tauranga – keeping it local.  The sims are decked out with replica ejection seats that are regularly mistaken for real ones, and instruments that have been crafted to include every little original detail. It’s all set up in modified shipping containers and the look is completed with Military Aviation paraphernalia that has been sourced from all over the world.

We think it’s pretty cool and hope you will too.

Fly an F18 Fighter Jet | Full-Motion Virtual Reality Experience available on Pre-Sale now! Dismiss