Taking flight at home

Taking flight at home
Mr Fabian Lim, in a pilot’s uniform bought from a US company, says his favourite flying route on his flight simulator is from Hong Kong International Airport to the territory’s former Kai Tak Airport.

SINGAPORE - Walk into the room and you would think you have entered the cockpit of an aeroplane.

A curved, 2.5m screen shows a runway. There are blinking lights and a "captain's" control yoke. The LED screens show the outside "temperature", "altitude" and "direction" and there are knobs and buttons controlling everything from the "brakes" to the "fire extinguisher".

Welcome aboard Mr Fabian Lim's bedroom.

The 42-year-old Internet entrepreneur has turned one of three bedrooms in his 1,378 sq ft condominium unit in Somerset into a replica of a Boeing 737 cockpit.

The total cost? More than $125,000.

And all because of his love for aviation.

He says: "All my life, I've loved aeroplanes. As a teen, I read aviation magazines and built model planes.

"Too bad my eyesight wasn't good enough then," he says when asked why he did not become a pilot. So he chose to stay a hobbyist, going on imaginary flights through the video game Microsoft Flight Simulator.

But that was not enough. He wanted the right equipment to make the experience more realistic.

At age 33, he bought his first flight simulator via an overseas website for $12,500.

He gave this to a friend last year to make way for his current full-sized version.

This new 400kg flight simulator is 1.8m tall, 2m wide and its base runs for 2m, ending just where the "plane door" would be.

"Captain" and "co-captain" sit on adjustable replica seats that even come with life vests.

Mr Lim ordered the parts online from companies in Spain and Britain last year.

He says: "I spent days deliberating over which components to get. I wanted my set-up to look as realistic as possible."

To power his flight simulator, he built two computers from parts purchased at Sim Lim Square .

Last September, his simulator parts were eventually couriered to his condominium in four wooden crates, which were each up to 2m long.

He says: "Before ordering, I measured the size of my doors and even the lift in my condo to make sure everything could fit. Even then, we had to do a lot of angling to get everything through."

The next two weeks were spent assembling the simulator and getting the parts to "communicate" with one another. He bought a pilot's uniform from a United States company to look the part.

The whole project - from planning to final installation - took two years.

"It was hard work," he says. "But I was determined to see it through."

The flight simulator also lets him practise his flying skills. Over the years, he has signed up for various flying lessons and courses. Eight years ago, he received his pilot licence at a flight school in Washington in the US.

Two months ago, he bought a five-seater jet - an Eclipse 500 - for US$2.5 million (S$3.2 million), which he is currently flying in the US.

He flies it periodically and plans to bring it to Singapore in June.

"My flight simulator is like my friend. It allowed me to practise so many manoeuvres, it was much easier for me to get certified as a pilot," he says.

"While flying, I can actually see myself going over mountains, padi fields, even through thunderstorms. My favourite route is from Hong Kong International Airport to the territory's former Kai Tak Airport. When landing, I can actually feel the resistance on my yoke."

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