Technology meets history at grain store

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Taking flight . . . The Pacific Simulator 3.5, a twin engine jet simulator, is moved into the historic Smith's Grain Store on Tuesday. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

The historic Smith’s Grain Store in Oamaru’s Harbour St has a new tenant – the New Zealand Airline Academy.

On Tuesday afternoon, a twin-engine jet simulator was moved into the ground floor of the grain store building.

A recreation of the cockpit of a twin-engine jet, the simulator will be mostly used by students of the New Zealand Airline Academy for transitional training, and is the only one in use in the South Island.

When not being used for training, it will be open to the public.

New Zealand Airline Academy director Jonathan Manuel said pilots would use it two at a time, as it allowed them to practise cockpit communication, change the environment, follow procedures and train for emergencies.

The Oamaru-based pilot school now has 20 students, all of whom must complete 20 hours on a simulator over the course of their training.

The Pacific Simulator 3.5 was invented by Russell Hubber, who first built a prototype from scratch 16 years ago and now exports from Christchurch to places as far-flung as Bolivia, Spain and the Middle East.

“I once put one on the sixth floor of a building in Shanghai, but this is pretty unique,” he said, overseeing the Oamaru installation.

Waitaki Deputy Mayor Melanie Tavendale said the location of the installation made it decidedly Oamaruvian, bringing together science and Victoriana and celebrating the South Island’s little-known aviation past, while providing vital training for pilots.

The cockpit of the simulator weighs 3 tonnes and arrived in Oamaru on a B-train before being shifted by forklift into the grain store.