Microsoft Flight Simulator X (hereinafter referred to on this blog as FSX – my fingers are tired already) was released in 2006. That’s an age in software terms. If you follow these things, you’ll be aware that there won’t be another version of FS any time soon, since Microsoft let most of the developers go and closed Aces Studio, the division that housed them. Notwithstanding the general tendency to deprecate all that is more than six months old in the software business, FSX is certainly no longer state-of-the-art. Read More
So, once you have a table full of power tools and the right materials to hand, what else do you need to make a home cockpit project go?
Well, obviously you’ll need at least one PC on which to run the Flight Simulator software, and chances are you’ll need three or four, depending on how many screens and instrument panels you’ll have. Speccing PCs, setting up FSX and interfacing controls etc is a subject I’ll come on to another day. For now, let’s look at the electronic side of things. Read More
So, when last I left you, I was threatening to talk about materials and tools. And so I shall.
If you’re truly going to make your cockpit project realistic and professional, you’re going to need to use sheet metal and a variety of cast metal parts. If you have a lathe, forge, milling machine and properly-equipped workshop, then go to it. If you’re like most of us, and have access to some power tools and an overly optimistic assessment of your DIY prowess, your main material is going to be wood. Or more specifically, MDF. Read More
UPDATE 30/08/10: Things have moved on a bit since this post was written. When you’ve read it, you might want to head here to start catching up.
It’s pointless starting a project without knowing what you want to achieve. A project manager taught me that once. Still, I tend to have a more, um, organic view of things. During the few months I’ve been building already, I have done and re-done several fairly fundamental aspects of the work until I’m happy with it. So clearly I’m not the blueprint-making kind. That said, I’m not slipshod either. Much.
When I set out on the road to cockpit nirvana, the very first question I had to ask myself was – how far was I going to go? Up to that point I had played every version of Flight Simulator, and many of its competitors, obsessively; but solely with a joystick and keyboard combo. Last year I had the bright idea of tarting up my experience by buying a few bits of useful hardware: a CH Products yoke, throttle quadrant and rudder pedals combo; and a Pilot Chair which promised to make the whole thing that much more real. What I can say, after having tried all of them, is that they don’t make it all that real. They do make it easier to fly without having to learn x million keyboard shortcuts, and the throttle quadrant in particular jazzes up that part of the experience, but you’re still sitting in a chair with a yoke and throttles arranged on various metal arms, in front of some kind of screen. It’s just not, well, convincing.
So my starting point was that I wanted the experience to be more convincing, not just better. Read More
(Originally published 28/04/09 on the now-defunct Sky High Dotnet blog)
If you peruse a few of the more complete cockpit projects out there – you know, the ones that look like they took waaaay too much of the builder’s time – one thing you’ll notice is that they feature a plethora of dials, switches, knobs, controls, gauges, screens and gewgaws of all sorts.
While some of this stuff can be bought off the shelf, and companies like SimKits (right) specialise in providing accurate-looking and fully-functional instruments like altimeters and turn indicators for a range of aircraft types, much of it is fabricated by hand by the poor builder out of wood, metal or other materials. Some hardcore builders cast their own plastic parts. The quest for realism (see FAQ #1) drives some to extreme lengths of ingenuity. It’s like DIY, but the end product is something you can have fun with.
Clearly all of this has to interface with a PC somehow, and further, control Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS, which 99% of home cockpits projects use as their core software – there are a couple of ‘pits out there based on Austin Meyer’s excellent X-Plane but it’s only really just starting to become accessible to the hobbyist). Read More
(Originally posted 25/04/09 on the now-defunct Sky High Dotnet blog)
What motivates otherwise sane people to attempt to create a home cockpit? The answers are many and varied, I suspect. You’ve got to be fairly keen on flight simulation, for one. Which means you’re likely to be pretty keen on flying, and possibly even do the real thing as a hobby or a profession. At heart, it’s all about realism. You can ‘fly’ a PC-based simulator using a keyboard and mouse, though most people choose to add a joystick at least. But that gets you nowhere near the sensation and experience of flying, which is what simulation is really all about. Professionals need to simulate flight so they can learn and practice; hobbyists want to simulate flight so they can enjoy the experience, or maybe so they can begin to study towards eventually getting a license themselves. The more real your experience, the better any of these aims can be achieved. Read More
Yes, that means you, anonymous visitor.
This blog is about my ongoing efforts to build a nerd-tastic home cockpit. My project has been underway for a few months now, but is not particularly far advanced. These things take time, you see.
Join me for the journey, if you like. I can’t promise it’ll be more fun than The X-Factor, but if you’re planning to do this yourself you might be able to learn a little from my mistakes.