MyCockpit, is proud to announce "Kennair" Ken Brand, As our December 2008 Builder of the month.
Click on "Read More" for full interview.
1. Hi Ken, for those of us who do not know you please tell us a little bit about yourself. (Favorite color/Married/ What you do for a living / where do you live etc.)
I live in Perth, Western Australia which is said to be the most isolated capitol city in the world. While this may be true it is also one of the most beautiful and is perfect for year round flying, so much so that many international flying schools base their operations here. I have two children (well ages 20 & 18 arenít really children, but theyíre still at home), and Iím no longer married having lost my wife to cancer some 4 years ago. As for real work, I am a supervisor for our national broadcaster The Australian Broadcasting Corporation, managing radio and television services across Western Australia. And my favorite color is blue, no red!!!! (Monty Python joke there)
2. How long have you been flight simming, and what started you in this hobby?
Well my first attempt at flight simulation was at the age of 10 when I converted my wooden cubby house into a jet fighter. No such thing as personal computers at that time, so it ran on pure imagination. It wasnít until I turned 40 and started real world pilot training that I came to PC based flight simulation. I happened across a copy of FlyII by Terminal Reality and I was hooked. I used it to practice routines I was learning in the real world, but very soon realized that a single joystick and no rudder pedals felt nothing like a Cessna. Then one day during my very busy work schedule I was surfing the net and came across Matthew Sheilís 747 build based in Sydney, then followed his links all around the world. I was totally gob-smacked! My mind was reeling with the possibilities, and being a bit of a handyman, I knew I could turn my single joystick into a simulator. Thatís when the madness began!
3. What helped you to choose to build the Pilatus PC-12?
I fly out of Perthís GA airport Jandakot which is also the base for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. I have long admired their work and especially the flying skills of their pilots so when I looked at a simulator I initially chose the Kingair B200, but whenever I saw the sleek lines and immense capability of the PC12 I grew more and more to love it. Its instrumentation also leads more easily to screen based panel simulation. I also got to know the CEO of Pilatus Australia and figured that this is a nice relationship to cultivate.
4. Approximately how long have you been working on your simulator?
I started building the first sim in 2005 using bits and pieces I had lying around. There was so much to learn that I knew lots of mistakes would be made so I knew this would be a test build. Then at the end of 2007 I was contracted by the Royal Flying Doctor Service in Alice Springs to build a simulator for their public exhibition centre which is a very popular tourist attraction bringing in some 80,000 visitors each year. After that was installed I realized I could really build something much better for myself so I started the PC12NG build in March 2008.
5. Please tell us about your interface/interfaces you have selected, and what software you are running?
I trawled the net and investigated the pros and cons of most interface electronics to find the right one for me and eventually settled on Opencockpits. I also use a CH yoke card for my flight controls along with Leo Bodnerís card to run my throttles and many other switches. And of course Pete Dowsonís FSUIPC is mandatory for any serious simmer. I mainly fly FSX these days and use the wonderful FTX scenery package for Australia by Orbx along with FSGenesis mesh, ActiveSky, Radar Contact, and of course the Flight1 PC12 for FSX kindly donated by Jim Rhoads at Flight1.
#6. Why did you choose that particular interface?
I have a background in electronics, and the OC cards come in a kit form option, saving lots of dollars. I purchased the required cards and soldered them together, and much to my surprise, they worked! It is driven by a software application called SIOC which is a very powerful scripting tool allowing replication of almost any aircraft function. I find their entire interface solutions suit me down to the ground so Iím happy to stick with them.
7. Did you always have this interface? or do you have any plans to change your interface? If so why?
The choice of interface cards is central to the operations of a full blown simulator, and each variety usually has a large learning curve for installation and configuration so there would have to be a big reason to change. However that doesnít mean you canít mix and match which is where the likes of the Bodner card comes in. However there is so much to learn with the OC software that I can see myself sticking with it as there is huge potential, just take a look at Nico Kaanís (Kiek) work with SIOC and his program ďLekseeconĒ.
8. How many computers are you using in your entire setup? Please detail what each computer does.
My sim runs on just one computer. Iíve recently upgraded to a Quad core system running Vista64 and it works great running the sim with 5 screens 3 of which run off a Matrox Triple Head 2 Go. I have many other computers in the house however and they are all networked so I often run external programs such as ActiveSky and Radar Contact on the network just to take the load off the main PC. I would love to have networked gauges such as PM etc. but thereís really nothing suitable for the PC12 on the market.
#9. What is your favourite piece of hardware in your setup?
Well up until a week ago I would have said my home built throttle quad which was built with the help of Gwyn (Westozy), but an early Christmas present arrived in the mail in the form of a 737MCP from Opencockpits. I ordered this a few weeks ago and when it arrived I was a little apprehensive as to whether I could get it going. I neednít have worried however as it loaded up without a hitch using the standard config file that comes with the software. I am also happy to report that this piece of kit not only operates the standard 737-800 in FSX but also operates the autopilot functions of the PC12 using the same FS2004 config file. Itís so sweet!
10. What is your favorite piece of software in your setup?
Well besides FS itself, I would have to say that Opencockpits SIOC would be my favourite piece of software. I am only just touching the surface of this scripting language but I can already see that it has the potential to replicate almost any system in any aircraft. Itís really up to your own ability and knowledge of your specific aircraft as to whether a system can be modeled, and itís free!!!
11. Is there anything in your cockpit that you are not happy with that you are eager to fix?
Probably my overhead is bothering me the most at the moment and I can see myself changing this dramatically very soon. It is one of the many areas that I havenít really made up my mind about. This is part of the problem when building a generic pit, thereís so much room for movement whereas a replica sim has more defined parameters.
12. Where do you see your simulator in the next year?
The NG build has been going since March 2008 so Iíve achieved a lot in just 9 months. I would say that in the next year I will have completed the overhead and all my interfaces such as radios and MCP will be fully configured. In fact I would hope that it will be 80% completed in 12 months.
13. On average, how often would you say you fly your simulator?
Not often enough due to the rebuild. I barely get a couple of hours per week at the moment, but thatís a lot do with my dissatisfaction each time I fly it, knowing it could, and will, be better. As the rebuild is still very much underway I canít do as much as I would likeÖ..yet!
14. On average how many hours a week, do you spend building in your simulator?
It varies dramatically depending on enthusiasm but on average I spend about 5 Ė 10 hours per week building. However thereís probably another 20 spent on research.
15. Will you ever consider upgrading the flightsim your sim is based on? (for example move to FSX or FSXI)
Considering I already run FSX thereís really nowhere else to go at the moment however I am hoping that FSXI will address many of the hardware issues that FSX has been criticized for i.e. runs too slow on mainstream hardware. I am quite happy to advance to the next level of platform as I like to experience what is at the cutting edge.
16. What kind of a display system have you chosen, and why? (what are your future plans regarding visuals?)
Another area that I deliberated over and I finally (and just recently) chose a 3 monitor outside view setup. I researched projectors, and while they certainly offer an immersive feel, I didnít want to primarily fly in a darkened environment. Coupled with the fact that my sim room is naturally very sunlit and there isnít the room to have a 3 projector setup anyway. So I purchased 3 x 22Ē LG LCD screens which run off an analogue Triple Head 2 Go and itís awesome! In the future I would love a collimated display but Iíd also like to travel in outer space
17. If you could suggest some advice to a new builder just getting started, what advice would you give?
Look long and hard at which aircraft takes your fancy. Having starting building a generic pit, I would say that decisions would be much easier if I were building a replica of a real plane as dimensions and layout are already determined. If you pick a common platform such as the 737 then youíll get much better hardware and software support also. However if youíre up for a challenge and just want to build your dream plane then the world is your oyster, it just may take a bit longer and involve more labor. If possible I really recommend building a simple sim before starting your major project as this teaches you a lot about your capabilities and pitfalls (not to mention enthusiasm). Also set a budget because this hobby can consume a large amount of financial resources if youíre not careful. And always remember; ebay is your friend!
18. Is there anything in your simulator that you have done, that you don't show anyone because you don't think youíre happy with it?
Probably my sonís Lego pieces that Iíve used in a number of places. I always try to utilize the resources I have at hand and these have come in very handy, but when people see it they usually laugh and determine that the sim is a toy strung together haphazardly, however they donít realize there has been a considerable amount of thought given to utilizing these components, as dorky as they may look.
Finally I would just like to pass on my best wishes to all Mycockpit members and their families for the festive season and letís keep safe and simming for 2009!