Builder of The Month April 2006
MyCockpit Featured Builder
Kevin Saker Boeing 767
IFSBI: Would you care to first give us a brief introduction about Kevin Saker?
Kevin: I first became interested in flight simulators way back when the very first computers started to appear.
I decided at that time to build an F4 cockpit using a simple home made interface which used 50 small solenoids to press keys on the Commodore 64 I was using at that time. it was crude, but it worked very well in that you had to power up the sim before the solenoids would work.
In those days I would spend many hours working on the cockpit indoors, often when the sun was shining outside, and my wife would say how strange she thought this hobby was, in that I was probably the only person that would want to build such a thing.
Never in my wildest dreams ( or hers ho ho! ) did I imagine just how big this hobby would become.
Since those early days, so much has happened, I guess the biggest single thing is the Internet, It was the start of our great hobby in that the internet enabled us to communicate, and share ideas. I have been involved in building many simulators since those early days.
IFSBI: Where is your sim located, town, country, wife's spare bedroom?
Kevin: My simulator is located in our spare box room, it started life as a 757 simulator, just the Captains seat, with the centre pedestal against the bedroom wall, but what made it work was a large mirror mounted on the wall which made it look like it had a first officers side, this sounds crazy, but it was a great idea, and when you looked into the flightdeck you saw both sides.
Anybody who is short on space should consider this, it works, the only sometimes annoying thing was your co-pilot always did exactly what you did!
IFSBI: What made you choose this airframe?
Kevin: Glass cockpit based flightdecks are by far the easiest sims to build, the more modern jet you choose, the less you have to build.
Over the years as things like EPIC became available my sim has grown into a full flight deck, it now occupies the whole room, and the bedroom door opens right onto the flightdeck.
IFSBI: When did you first start your project?
Kevin: My sim is now a Boeing 767-400 all glass flightdeck, and has been up and running for over 5 years. in fact I flyit 5 days a week on line with Vatsim logging over 1500 hours to date.
My callsign is FCA231 which stands for "First Choice Airlines" and is spoken as "Jetset 231" If you fly on line do say hello.
IFSBI: What parts are you using for your panels? Are they purchased, made yourself, or real aircraft parts?
Kevin: In the UK, it is fair to say there are very few places were you can obtain real parts, as a result all of this sim is built from scratch using thin sheet aluminium on a wood frame, the panels are not back lit, which isn't really a problem.
There are some great panel products available now which are back lit, and if you can afford them then that would be the way to go, however do not be put off making them yourself, they are not difficult.
IFSBI: Where there any special problems that you came across while building the cockpit?
Kevin: Wife springs to mind!! no not really. Building the sim is a fun task, seeing it come together is pure pleasure, and I would really recommend it to anybody who might be thinking about it.
One area which I feel has been slow to improve is the external displays, I prefer a video projector, but we still have room for improvement in that area.
IFSBI: Does your family support you in this project?
Kevin: Yes my family are very supportive, I get to spend a lot of time building and flying my sims,
I did once ask my wife to serve dinner on the flightdeck... she said she would, but the dinner would be more airborne than the sim ever would be ! so I declined her generous offer!
IFSBI: Do you have a web site where you post your project?
Kevin: No I don't have a site, no particular reason, just never got around to it, there just aren't enough hours in the day.
IFSBI: Are there any other Hobbies or interest that you are also involved in?
Kevin: I have a Private pilots licence, and am enjoying flying the C42 Ikarus at the moment, I fly of grass from a small farm strip not far from home, I feel really privileged to be able to fly, but to be honest, if I had to choose between my sim and real flying I would pick my simulator every time.
The sim enables me to be involved in something I love which I couldn't normally do.
As I said before I spend a lot of time flying my sim, but I still feel I need to pinch myself sometimes as I marvel at how good this hobby is, climbing out of Manchester on a rainy day with on line ATC and "real weather" in my own 767 is something I will never get tired of.
IFSBI: Is there anything, during the build, you can recommend to prepare our readers for when building a project?
Kevin: There is one thing, RESEARCH!
Most of you will know about www.airliners.net this site is a fantastic place to start, but you do need to obtain accurate measurements if possible.
IFSBI: Kevin, do you have any projects planned for the future?
Kevin: Over the years, I have come to appreciate the quality of real aircraft parts, recently I came across an advert on eBay for a Trident procedural trainer which I placed a bid on and won.
A lot of folks will not know the Trident, it was a T tailed trijet built by Hawker Siddley in the 1960's and formed the backbone of the British Airways fleet until the late 80's.
As a kid I loved this aircraft, and it had many features that were world firsts at that time. For example, it was the first passenger aircraft to fly full "CatIII" Autolands, it paved the way for all the modern autoland equipment in use today.
I am currently building and restoring this to be a full flightdeck simulator and have recently finished the front panels. I will post more on this project as I make progress.
Also I have a business partner Kevin Bradshaw, who over the last 12 months or so we have been building a British Aerospace Hawk fast jet simulator which will be installed in a simulator centre somewhere in the North west of England this year.
I still believe that this hobby has not reached anything like it's full potential.
Folks ask me why it keeps my interest, basically if you compare this hobby with say building a large model railway. you might spend years building it and be very happy with the end result, but you will end up driving your trains around the same scenery, and in time probably get a bit fed up!
You will get tremendous satisfaction from actually building your simulator, but it is only them that you get the big pay off, in that you then have the whole world to explore using it, every flight is different, weather or destination, you will never be short of something new to try.
After a couple of years there will be new software coming along to make it even better!
I cannot understand why everybody hasn't got a simulator!!