A 20-year-old business student from Swansea University has followed his passion for aviation to develop an airport and flight simulation software business.

Joe Charman launched Pilot Plus at the age of 16 and now manages a team of three employees, boasting over 3,000 customers worldwide.

The software replicates real world airports in a digital 3D format, using imagery they capture of airport scenes.

The replicas of airport environments, including Gatwick, Bristol and Geneva, give users the experience of navigating a plane through that airport in real life.

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

There are currently seven products in the Pilot Plus repertoire and the team are currently working on their next product for London City Airport.  

“When I was growing up I wanted to be an airline pilot and was desperate to explore the industry,” said Charman.

“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.”

Charman manages his business alongside his studies at Swansea University, where he is going into his third year of Business Management.

He has also been working with Big Ideas Wales, part of the Business Wales service to encourage youth entrepreneurship in Wales.

The initiative is funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund aimed at anyone between the age of 5 and 25 who wants to develop a business idea.

Seeing an opportunity to expand his connections further, Charman set up Swansea University’s first Entrepreneurs Network with a fellow student, a group which encourages students to follow their business ambitions.

“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,” said Charman.

“In my final year, I plan to take on more people to help expand our product range and and continue to push to be the main market leader, competing with others that have launched in the last few years.

“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.”