Welcome to Builder of the month award which we are delighted to present to Clive. His dedication to simbuilding and his desire to succeed has been encouragement for many including myself. Clive has built an excellent B737 flight simulator in just a few months but the results and detail he has put in to such a project has been huge. We would like to take this opportunity to speak to Clive to see hows he's done it..
First Day on the Sim...
First a short introduction.
I am 54 years old and my first introduction to flying was watching the Sunderland International Air-show in 1980. It was held at Sunderland Flying Club now the home of Nissan. I started flying lessons at Sunderland that year and got through to solo cross country stage when my funds ran low so I had to stop training. I did not stop studying though and in particular had a strong interest in instrument flying.
I trained as a glider pilot in the early nineties and practiced my passion for instrument flight on my PC. My ambition was to learn to fly a heavy jet like the seven series Boeing's.
So why did you choose the Boeing 737?
My favorite Boeing is the 757...... I prefer the extra analogue instruments but my mission was to build a nice cockpit but as cheaply as possible and with that criteria the Boeing 737 was the obvious choice.
Also a big factor was I am pretty hopeless with computers and having discovered Ian Sissons and his brilliant web site I felt there was help out there when things went wrong and I was right Ian has been a great help from the beginning! In fact my sim started out as a desktop MIP which a friend called David Brewis built for me out of MDF (the only MDF in the sim) he is a talented furniture maker and only charged for the materials. With three 19" monitors costing £90.00 off E Bay, a yoke and rudder pedals this was all I dreamed for! A Boeing 737 in my study! I should say our study as I shared it with my wife Sylvia! This was in 2008 and took a month to set up using Just Feel There 737 300.
There was never an intention to take the cockpit further forward than this until late 2009 when I saw a set of cheap CP Flight radios on the GLB web site. I bought the radios one weekend and by the next weekend I had built and kited out the avionics console. The key factor was managing to buy components so cheaply from the GLB web site and the avionics console added so much more to the sim, but gave me other problems as it completely blocked the access into the small study.
This was late November 2009 and the dream began to take shape I negotiated the return of the study to my wife Sylvia for the use of the garage for the sim!
I knew I would not be able to build the cockpit by myself so I asked Chris Bradley my best friend if he was up for the challenge. Chris is also a flying enthusiast and likes to fly the Avro Vulcan in FSX. I can confidently say the cockpit would be no where near as well built if I did not have Chris on board he kept me in check and paid a lot of attention to detail and the quality of construction.
Do you find the UK resourceful for parts for your simbuild?
My mission was always to keep costs to the bare minimum without spoiling the look of the cockpit. The UK was where I sourced components like secondhand computers, monitors and authentic aircraft components ,the secondhand CP Flight radios etc. Most of the major components had to be sourced abroad however. I do find it amazing that there are so many companies out there building 737 components.
What software are you using behind the scenes to power such a great sim?
I chose Project Magenta for the glass cockpit, MCP and CDU. Expensive, but kept the set up simple which is important for me as I am not good with PC's. I always used Mac's before the cockpit. I use Sismo Solutions Pascal and L4SC software for the overhead which is the very reasonably priced Silver Line version.
The overhead is the biggest surprise of the build as I originally ordered a full overhead kit from GLB Products with the intention of building my own gradually over time but my wife had other ideas and bought me the Sismo fully wired plug and play version as a birthday treat which I have to say after seeing the wiring that goes into an overhead like that saved me years of work! Its finished off with the GLB Aft Overhead kit.
I was using FS 2004 but I have just changed over to FSX quite smoothly to accommodate the L4SC software. Recently I have been looking at the Orion software which is very reasonably priced and seems to offer a high degree of functionality.
Do you prefer the smooth colour matched finish of the replica overhead or the mismatch of real aircraft panels making your pedestal, just like the real aircraft would be?
I think a bit of both works well though I found the real panels great for filling in those gaps and adding that extra realism and when they average under £30.00 each a bargain!
We know your progress has been extremely fast, could you talk us through a brief time line in the huge amount you have achieved in such a short space of time?
Work started the beginning of December 2009 one Saturday morning, the plan was to spend each Saturday on the construction and possibly the odd evening. The first weekend we made the base 8' square 1" marine ply floor onto 6" joists. We decided to use heavy duty out door plywood as the garage suffered from damp in the winter. Next we started the window frames probably the most complex construction job of the whole cockpit (refer to Ian Sissons account of that part of his build!). We finished the window frames on the second weekend then began to adapt my MIP for the cockpit. We made steady progress by putting in a six hour session almost every saturday. Work stopped at Christmas as I had a fortnight in Spain but by the end of January things were quite advanced, most of the construction work was finished and ready for painting! In fact the photos show that by the beginning of March the sim was painted and flying. The overhead was ordered and we were waiting for that to arrive before we could move much further forward. We took April off as I had a business trip in the UAE and we were waiting for the overhead anyway.
We fitted the glass at the start of May and by the 22nd of May the overhead was in and working! The next major task was fitting the roof around the overhead, we had pinned our hopes on using FoamX, a kind of plastic sheeting used in the printing business for printing large images onto which can be used indoors or outdoors. It worked perfect you can get it to curve in several directions at once and it surprised us that we managed to get away with one pice each side of the overhead that went from the front to the rear bulkhead. The finishing touches applied the week ending 19th of June when the Jump Seat Pads were Velcroed into position and the cockpit door fitted!!
Time to open a bottle of Champagne The sim is fantastic and built for well under £10,000.
Would you consider adding motion to the flight sim?
I would love motion but that is something to dream about. I do have the next best thing! I fitted a Butkicker to the captains seat! You feel all the vibrations of the engines and when you leave the runway everything goes smooth for a while until you retract the flaps and lift the undercarriage! Its great to feel the thump of the wheels retracting through the seat! A must have for any static sim!! and a bargain at £150.00. Probably one of the best things I added!
Has there been any problems along the way, and therefore any warnings for builders following your footsteps.[/B]
We had no serious problems Chris was great in fact, for foreseeing problems before they arose. The most complex part of the build was the window frames, my tip would be to make thin plywood templates of the glass and tack these to the frames as you build.
We had a problem when we came to fit the glass as in a couple of instances the glass did not lie flush with the frame all the way round. It was a shame to have to do remedial work so late in the build!
What makes you want to build so fast, is it the flying you enjoy more than the building of it? I know many people think the reverse or of equal importance.
When we started out I wanted the job done without delay, I did not look forward to the build at all. As the project progressed however, I became more involved and started paying more attention to detail and now the cockpit is almost finished I am thinking of more and more improvements! I don't think you ever finish a project like this I think I have actually enjoyed the build process and learned a lot from it.
What do you plan on making next, and what do you hope to acheive in the next 3 months?
I plan to get an internet connection into the garage ASAP as I am lost without Vatsim. I am looking forward to flying and having friends round to enjoy the experience with me. I also would like to finish the MIP with more annunciators working.
In your opinion what is the most crucial part of the boeing 737 sim that new builders should embark on first? Many lack the knowledge of what to be created first.
Well I think the Main Instrument Panel is the first step as you can build one cheaply with secondhand monitors and a sheet of MDF, just make sure you get the dimensions correct as if you do decide to build a cockpit later then you don't want to have to start from scratch again. The MCP is the expensive part! Add a yoke, rudder pedals and a cheap throttle quadrant and your flying!
Next build an avionics console and kit it out with secondhand radios and cheap old aircraft bits! After this its not such a big step to build a cockpit to fit it all in!
If I can do it anyone can!!
We would like to thank you for not only providing us all with excellent information but giving us that courage to carry on - especially in these tough economic times. We think the dedication you have put into your sim has allowed it to be what it is today. Perhaps sometime we can see a video in flight - but that's something to look forward to in the future perhaps!
Interview by: Geremy