MyCockpit Presents July's Featured Builder of the Month
MyCockpit.org would like to present NicD with this Builder of the Month Award for July 2008. Congratulations Nic, and thanks for being this months Builder of the month.
Remember with the return of the Builder of the Month you will see a couple new features: #1. The featured builders will be selected by the member base, each featured builder will choose the next month's featured builder but it will be kept anonymous until the interview comes out. #2 Each featured builder will receive their very own Mycockpit, Award that they can display as their Avatar, or in their signature.
Just another of the many ways we can get you guys involved.
Now, without further Ado, I would like to introduce the Builder for July 2008,
#1. Hi Nic, for those of us who do not know you please tell us a
little bit about yourself. (Married/ What you do for a living / where do
you live etc.)
I'm 43 (but believe I'm 21) and live in Tasmania which is an island
state in Australia. I'm married and have 2 daughters aged 7 and 5. I'm
an education consultant and designer - specialising in elearning, mainly
in the university sector.
#2. How long have you been flight simming?
I built my first home cockpit for a school project when I was 11. Balsa
wood panels, wooden controls, a vacuum cleaner for a sound system... but
. I first used MS Flight Simulator on the Apple II back in
the early 80s, and then owned FSII on a very early PC. I've had every
version since then.
#3. Approximately how long have you been working on your simulator?
I started our current sim in late 2006, so about 18 months. I was
joined on the project by Neil Brown about 3 months in and we've shared
the whole thing since then.
#4. What type of aircraft are you building and what helped you decide
what to build?
I went for the 737NG because it's a popular and versatile jet airliner
that can do most missions. I didn't want to be restricted to GA (much as
I love that) or just long-haul, so the Baby Boeing is a good compromise.
My research at the time showed that the 737 was the best supported sim
by the vendors around, and I did not want to be building many components
#5. Please tell us about your interface/interfaces you have selected,
and what software you are running?
FS9 for the sim, Project Magenta for avionics, and OpenCockpits SIOC for
logics. Using OpenCockpits I/O cards, FlyEngravity CDUs and I chose
CPFlight for all the radios, EFIS, MCP and Transponder.
#6. Why did you choose that particular interface?
CPFlight and FlyEngravity because of their excellent quality and
service. OpenCockpits cards because they are good value for money and
offer good flexibility.
#7. Did you always have this interface?, or do you have any plans to
change your interface? If so why?
I've had these from the beginning and I'm happy with these interfaces
for now, so no changes expected.
#8. How many computers are you using in your entire setup? Please
detail what each computer does.
We're running 6 PCs:
01 - main flightsim PC - visuals and sounds
02 - captains side PFD/ND/Upper-EICAS, MCP
03 - FO side PFD/ND, EFB, RCDU, PM sounds for avionics
04 - PMsystems, SIOC, real-time, cockpit & enviro sounds, VNC
remote-control client to all other PCs
05 - Lower-EICAS, captains EFB, SquawkBox, ATC sounds
06 - Captain-CDU, WX-radar, streaming video server
#9. Where did you obtain most of your panels, and are you happy with
Most of the panels are from Symulatory and Hispa. Generally happy with
these - they are not the best build quality around but still represent
fair value for money. That being said, I would be looking seriously at
some of the newer offerings around if I was purchasing them now.
#10. What do you plan to do next with your cockpit setup?
Well it's almost finished, so just need to finish off that last 5% of
the to-do list. There's some more switches to be hooked up, real rudder
pedals to be built, trim wheel servos to be hooked up, and some overhead
digital displays to get running.
We have plans to use the sim in a commercial business and we're working
hard on that right now. The sim was designed for this purpose from the
beginning, but has been, and will continue to be, a great hobby and
passion for us.
#11. Is there anything in your cockpit that you are not happy with that
you are eager to fix?
There are a few things scheduled for improvement but in the space we
currently have there's nothing more we can do on those items. Have to
wait till we move the sim into larger premises - hopefully not too far
There are a few things not going... a few gauges on the overhead not
working, 1 blown throttle servo, and the pitch axis feel is still not
quite how we'd like it.
#12. If you were to give some advice to a new builder, what would that
I'd advise them to think in the very long term, and the very short term,
but not too much in between at first. What I mean by that is... in the
long term you need to think about how you will use your sim. Will it be
for personal enjoyment, sharing with others, commercial use? Is having a
dual setup so you can fly it with friends important? Do you want to fly
it online? It's vital to imagine the sim fully finished and then think
how often you will use it and in what ways you will use it and what you
enjoy about simming. Don't assume that just because it's there that it
will be a never ending source of enjoyment... it could end up being a
waste of money if you get bored with using it. And that CAN happen if
you are not clear and purposeful about how you will use it once it's
In the very short term... do something! Research and planning is
important.. yes.. but so is action. Decide on what you can do first and
do it. Waiting until you have your design 100% done and your shopping
list complete is not a good way to go. Part of staying sane in this
hobby is to be constantly working toward smaller goals
#13. Do you have one particular experience that you had in building your
cockpit, that was memorable? What happened?
For a few weeks we spent many, many hours with projectors, mirrors and
screens trying to figure out ways of getting a full-wrap around visual
system going in a small space. At one point we had 3 projectors and 3
mirrors sitting close together on the floor, not arranged in any
particular way, just sitting there after we'd got tired of it all and
stopped. I dropped something so got down on the floor to find it. I was
roughly in the middle of the mirror positions and when I looked up I saw
a wrap-around view in the mirrors in almost perfect perspective. That
discovery became the foundation of our visual system which now works a
treat. It was a real "ah-hah!" moment - and all by accident at first.
#14. Will your simulator ever be 100% complete in your mind?
Yes, it will. Tweaking and upgrades will happen over time, but I know
what the end-game is and I'll be satisfied when it's done. At that point
I will probably be aware of more I could do, but it's a matter of saying
no... I'm happy to call it finished right there.
#15. Will you ever consider upgrading the flightsim your sim is based
on? (for example move to FSX or FSXI)
Yes, we are testing FSX right now. But won't be doing a wholesale change
#16. How many projectors are in your setup, and are you using a Matrox
Tripple Head to Go?
3 projectors and a TripleHead2GO.
#17. Why did you decide to go this route?
Immersion is a really important design factor in this project. That's
why we have spent a lot of time on getting the visual and sound systems
to where they are now. These factors are more important than motion (we
think), and more affordable. So having wrap-around visuals in proper
perspective is essential to us.
#19. What is your screen made of?
Front screen is high quality sheet material (backlit) and the side
screens are a flexible white plastic (front-lit). Eventually everything
will be front-lit and we will use a reflective paint mix onto flat walls
for the screens.
#20. What would you say was your biggest OOPS! while you were building
Underestimating the cost and hassle of using real parts. Getting the
real yokes and columns here, paying excessive import fees, and then
building and interfacing them into the sim was a massive undertaking and
nearly drove me nuts. Not something I would do again if I could avoid
#21. There are many simulator builders who I would consider pioneered
this hobby, out of all the builders that were around when you started
Who would you say you kept an eye on the most for your ideas? or who did
you look up to most when you ran into troubles?
That's a hard call! Matt Sheil is a friend I've made through the VATSIM
/ World Flight group, and his full motion 747 sim is out of this world.
His early pioneering and drive for excellence is an inspiration and I've
had the pleasure of flying that sim on a few occasions. From a project /
building point-of view Ian Cameron (who lives nearby) is a pioneering
and well-respected 767 builder. Ian has helped us many times with ideas
and fixes, and his craftsmanship and ingenuity are an inspiration.
#22. If you could meet one person in real life that you met from this
hobby, who would it be and why?
Hmm.. another hard call because I've made many good friends online. I
think that would have to be our beloved 'warvet' (Tim Henry ... aka
'fishboy', 'the Rev'). Tim's been a long time builder and supporter of
this hobby and is one fascinating and fun guy. It's been great flying
with him in World Flight and enjoying his humor and passion on various
forums over the past few years.
#23. Please name one person that you think you owe the most thanks to
in this hobby, and Why?
I have to name two here. Karen has been a great support in the project
and has encouraged me to go for it 100%. And Neil has been a dedicated
and passionate co-builder... his talents, skills and drive for
excellence have been invaluable.
#24. If you could have one thing to add to your simulator, anything at
all for free, what would it be and why?
That's easy... a fuselage and a pair of wings! But seriously, I think
it would be a bigger space for us to further develop the visual system.
We've had to make so many compromises to fit the space we have, so it
would be great to be free of all that and "spread our wings".
#25. Last but not least.. Please name your favorite Cockpit builder
resource on the internet and why!... AND Please Don't Say "AVSIM" Just
kidding, be honest!
Had to think hard on this one! And to be honest there is no single site
that is my single favourite. I have used literally hundreds of vendor
and builder sites over the past few years for research and inspiration.
Forums like MyCockpit and Flight Deck Solutions have been prominent, but
really it's the sum of all that is available that has been important.
Thanks for taking the time to do this, you really are a trooper, and if
it were not for helpful builders like yourself, we would all be decades
behind the 8-ball.
Best regards, and happy landings,