Student’s airport simulation business takes flight

A 20-year-old business student from Swansea University student has built on his passion for aviation to develop an airport and flight simulation software business that now boasts over 3,000 customers worldwide.

Joe Charman launched Pilot Plus at the age of 16 with the software replicating real world airports – including Gatwick, Bristol and Geneva - in a digital 3D format, with the imagery captured creating a virtual environment for its users who can simulate navigating a plane through that particular airport.

The software has been sold to flight schools for pilot training purposes, as well as commercial pilots and aviation enthusiasts, with sales of the products coming from nearly every corner of the world.

At present there are seven products in Pilot Plus, and the team are currently working on their next product for London City Airport.

Joe – who is about to go into his third year of Business Management – was introduced to Big Ideas Wales, which is funded by Welsh Government and the European Union Regional Development Fund, aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.

The youngster also set up Swansea University’s first Entrepreneurs Network alongside a fellow student, a group which encourages students to follow their business ambitions.

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Speaking about the creation of the company, Joe said:

“When I was growing up I wanted to be a pilot and was desperate to explore the industry. Before long I realised that airport simulation didn’t really exist as a product for the mass market, so with about £200 to my name I started to develop my first product for Southampton Airport. I had my first few customers, which then turned into more and the customer base has kept growing since.

“I have always found it easy enough to manage my university work and business life, knowing when to give one more attention than the other when up against deadlines. In my final year, I plan to take on more people to help expand our product range and continue to push to be the main market leader, competing with others that have launched in the last few years.

“I believe the future of Pilot Plus is bright, we are creating products that lead innovation in the market. As we focus on our current project, London City Airport, the roadmap is then to bring all past products to the same standard. We’re also planning to invest in different markets where our skills and tech can be applied, such as interior design with VR as well as architecture visualisation.”

Julie Walters, development manager for Big Ideas Wales said:

“Joe is a shining example of a driven young person who Big Ideas Wales is proud to support. His entrepreneurial flair from such a young age is so impressive and we wish him continued success with Pilot Plus in the future.”

Rhodri Evans, Enterprise Support Officer and Enterprise Champion at Swansea University said:

“At Swansea we encourage all our students to act upon their entrepreneurial flair to enhance their own experience at university and increase their employability when they graduate. Thanks to his natural aptitude for business, we know Joe has a bright future ahead of him.”