Hans Krohn Boeing 737
IFSBI: What parts are you using for your panels? Are they purchased, made yourself, or real aircraft parts?
Hans: Everything in my cockpit (with the exception of the MDF frame and fiberglass shell) is made by me. In the beginning, I used some real aircraft instruments, but only for decoration. But since they took up valuable space and added no functionality, I soon removed them.
My panels are made from 3mm transparent acrylic glass. I make my designs with Corel Draw and have the acrylic cut with a laser cutter at a local workshop. This gives me complete freedom to design how and what I want or need. The panel surface is printed with a laser printer on self adhesive, translucent polycarbonat film. Simple to make, durable, and the end result is quite nice to look at. Some of my panels have been in use for 7 or 8 years and they still look fine.
Over the last couple of years I have seen the emergence of companies that offer highly realistic ready-to-use panels. It's a good thing they exist, because not everyone is able or willing to build everything from scratch. But in my case, this is what attracts me most about cockpit building: the creative process of designing and making my own parts...
IFSBI: Where there any special problems that you came across while building the cockpit?
Hans: Yes. More or less one million... Seriously now - a number of problems I encountered come to my mind:
I found it very difficult to learn the programming language required for my input/output solution (EPIC). I had no programming knowledge whatsoever, so the beginning was very hard.
Another problem, or maybe more of a general observation about cockpit building: Every item I build for this cockpit - no matter if it's a small switch or a servo driven auto throttle - is a prototype, built for the first time. That means there is usually no previous experience to rely on. So things can go wrong, and often they do. Remaining patient at these moments is essential for the long term success of a cockpit project. To find that patience is sometimes not easy.
IFSBI: Would you care to first give us a brief introduction about Hans Krohn?
Hans: I am 47 years old, married, no kids. I was born and raised in Germany, where I lived until I was 25. After that my job took me around the world, to Latin America, Central Asia and Eastern Europe. For the last 2 years I live in Belgrade, Serbia. By profession, I'm a banker.
IFSBI: Where is your sim located, town, country, wife's spare bedroom?
Hans: I live in a house in a residential area in Belgrade.The sim is crammed into my work room (usually referred to as the simulator room). That room is 3 by 4 meters - not as big as I would like, but that's the space I've got. In my experience, a separate room is a must for cockpit builders. Our hobby means months or years of building panels and components; the permanent chaos this process creates can easily become a source for conflicts with the rest of the family...
IFSBI: What made you choose this airframe?
Hans: At that time, Thrustmaster was selling an MDF kit of a F-16 cockpit. I bought that as a starting point for my project - for three reasons: 1. A fighter cockpit looks cool, 2. It was available and 3. At that time, I did not want to recreate any type specific plane's cockpit. I just wanted something that looked and felt like a plane. The first panels I built into that cockpit did not reassemble anything in the real world of aviation. But I did have my switches for gears and flaps, and knobs to turn on my radio heads - a giant leap beyond the monitor/keyboard setup I had started with.
IFSBI: When did you first start your project?
Hans: I became interested in cockpit building in the mid nineties. At that time I had just moved to Kazakhstan. Strict regulations there, and the language barrier brought my piloting career (gliders, ultra lights and single engine planes) to an abrupt end; as a compensation, I started to use MSFS - at that time version 4 or 5 - more regularly. But soon I found that the constant use of the keyboard did not help to "suspend the disbelief" that good flight simulation is all about. So I started to think about a panel with some switches for gear, flaps etc., mounted on my desk right below the monitor. That idea slowly evolved into a plan to build a full sized cockpit.
IFSBI: Does your family support you in this project?
Hans: Yes and No. Yes, because my wife understands that cockpit building is my hobby, and she accepts that I spend large amounts of time building all these obscure things. Her attitude towards my hobby is certainly helped by the fact that she is a doctor and thus spends herself large amounts of time over patients files and medical literature. So, let's call this a friendly co existence...
No, because like all serious cockpit builders, I love to talk about my work - repetitively and in intricate detail. I must admit that I observed on too many occasions how my wife's eyes (or the eyes of other family members, for that matter) glaze over when I start to describe the thrilling details my latest building endeavors. I have, of course learnt my lesson over the years. Nowadays, there is little talk at home about my cockpit - but thanks to Skype I am now in touch with other builders everywhere in the world, and these new friends are never bored of my stories...
IFSBI: Do you have a web site where you post your project?
Hans: Yes. It is online for 3 years now. As my cockpit changes, so does the web site. It has plenty of photos and a section with building tips. I have always liked to share my experience with fellow builders. I admit there also is some vanity involved: It was a nice feeling to see average daily page hits on my site reaching the 1,000 mark! The link is: http://www.hanskrohn.com
IFSBI: Are there any other Hobbies or interest that you are also involved in?
Hans: Yes. I play Tennis, as often as possible. I also like to ride motorbikes
IFSBI: Is there anything, during the build, you can recommend to prepare our readers for when building a project?
Hans: First of all, to realize the magnitude of such a project. It can not and will not be finished in a couple of months. Usually, the building of a full cockpit takes years. The enthusiasm of the first moment will not be enough to see the project through. The keys to success are patience, dedication are the ability to accept very, very slow progress.
It is also a good idea to think and plan first and build later. The decision to switch from a Cessna to an Airbus cockpit will most likely cost months or years, and a lot of money. Talking of money: Even with everything hand built and home made, a home cockpit project will still be a considerable financial strain.
But after saying all that, let me stress one point: Cockpit building is not necessarily about the end result. During all the years I have spent with my project, the very process of designing and creating my "dream machine" has never stopped to be a source of joy and satisfaction.
IFSBI: Hans, using the F-16 Thrustmaster shell for a Boeing 737 cockpit looks like it can create some unique problems. Can you elaborate?
Hans: As the project slowly evolved from a generic multi-purpose setup into something quite closely resembling the B737 cockpit, I ran into serious space problems. To put it simply: an F16 cockpit can simply not accommodate all panels of a full B737 cockpit - no matter how hard I tried. So I had to make compromises. I grouped panels differently, made them smaller, decided not to include some altogether - all that without scarifying usability or disturbing the workflow of the single pilot expected to use the simulator!
IFSBI: Hans Thank You for taking the time to talk about your project. I am sure you may find many builders interested in this concept. The F-16 cockpit would be a dream to many of our fighter supporters.