7 Tips for Building Your Own Home Flight Simulator Cockpit

Aug 1, 2015 4 Comments in Uncategorized by
7 Tips for Building Your Own Home Flight Simulator Cockpit

Building your own home flight simulator cockpit is a lot of fun. And not that far-fetched, really. Create a functional flight simulator setup that is just right for your specific flight simming needs. You won’t regret it.

Rethink and design a PC desk entirely from scratch in spirit of supporting your flight simming adventures. Mount your Saitek modules on similar positions as the real aircraft you are flying, secure all the flight controls’ wiring to make things look neat and tidy, paint the desk in the right cockpit colors, etcetera.

Honestly, building your own home “cockpit” is really cool, not that difficult, and not that expensive either.

A few months ago, the idea struck me that I could actually design and build my own home flight simulator cockpit myself. Obviously, not a real full-motion fancy Cessna ‘cockpit’ … but something like a ‘functional home flight simulator desk’, dedicated to my flight sim training.

Last week, I finished the project. I’m very pleased with the result:

home-flight-simulator

In this blog post I share some of the guidelines and tips that helped me design my home flight simulator.

sketch

As always, I also offer my early design sketches as a free download for you to make use of :-) PS. These are EARLY sketches and do not exactly represent the actual design you see in the picture above.

1. Decide on a primary or secondary cockpit.

When I browsed the internet in search of examples of home flight simulator cockpits, I discovered that two kinds of cockpits seem to exist: (1) cockpits that are secondary to the virtual cockpit, and (2) cockpits that are primary to the virtual cockpit.

Some cockpit builders, especially the airliner pilots, build cockpits of the second kind; replicating a 737/747 cockpit and using their computers only as full screen ‘windows’ into the virtual world of flight simulator.

While primary cockpits are also built by GA flight simulator enthusiasts, most GA home flight simulator cockpits that I have come across are of the secondary kind; functional flight sim desks that aim to ‘blend into’ the virtual cockpit on the computer screen.

cessna-cockpit

I’m a virtual cockpit aviator and have always felt that ‘primary cockpits’ somehow degrade the ‘flight simulator immersion’ experience, at least in my personal experience (my dad has built a 737 cockpit). Of course, the really really neat ones seem awesome … but require a lot of money and expertise to build (+10K dollars).

I chose to go with the secondary cockpit kind. This means that my home cockpit is still replicating structural elements of the Cessna Skylane cockpit (for example, the position of the throttle panel in relation to the yoke, the trim wheel in relation to the throttle panel, etc.), but is there only in support of my virtual cockpit ‘presence’.

This way, I did not design a black glareshield on top of my cockpit frame but intentionally left the top of my flight simulator desk gray to ‘merge’ into the gray of the Cessna’s virtual cockpit in P3D. I also chose not to go with Saitek’s multipanels, since these would be part of the virtual cockpit too.

It’s a subtle design decision, but a relevant one to consider, I believe.

2. Look up the measures of the real cockpit.

Needless to say, I think it is cool to build a home cockpit that closely represents the actual measures of your aircraft. If you’re a Cessna Skyhawk or Skylane aviator, be sure to check my early design sheets to get those measures.

measures3. Measure your flight control units.

If you’re a Saitek customer, again, check my early design sheets to get those measures.

4. Add ambient details.

Early on, I considered adding some extra details to my cockpit – such as the carpet underneath the rudder pedals – to really transform my ‘functional flight sim desk’ into something more cockpit-like. Soon, I will also add a small digital clock to the left of the yoke, and my PH-TIM registration plate to the right of it :-) Small additions that have great emotional effect.

5. Secure all wiring.

I really like my home cockpit to be tidy.

office-chair-mat6. Prevent your office chair from moving.

Don’t forget to think about securing your office chair, so it doesn’t move when you use your rudder pedals. A simple rubber door mat fixed the issue in my case (see picture on the right).

7. Visit your local home depot.

Be sure to visit your local home depot store to check what building materials, screws, and tools are available prior to designing your cockpit. This might inspire you to pursue more effective/creative ideas, but also prevent you from designing stuff that is hard or even impossible to build. Additionally, don’t hesitate to ask them for advice.

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