• Builder of the Month - November 2010

    This Months award goes to Richard Hutchinson for his Boeing 737 Flight Simulator and how much it has recently progressed.

    We are delighted to award Richard with this months BOM award presented to the member who has made the most progress, best ideas, innovation, and overall good workmanship.

    Heres an intro from the new Builder of the Month:

    About me - Richard J Hutchinson

    Living in Stanground, Peterborough cambridgeshire with my very supportive wife Sally and Molly the cat! I work at a local college so there is plenty of help and expertise in different areas to draw on and a few people that think I am crazy.

    A year and a half of sweat, blood and tears have got it to where it is today. The one regret I have is that my father isn't here to see it as he would have loved it (never would have been allowed in the left seat though). I know I still have a way to go but now it is sort of complete I am now much happier showing it to others. The simulator has been built for sharing so if anyone wants to have a look or fly then they can email me to arrange a visit or go to the web site which is being re-done at www.boeingsimulator.co.uk in the next few weeks to reflect all the new refit and additions.

    1. How long have you been building?

    I have been working on this project for just over a year in earnest now, mostly blundering along in the dark as I didn't know the likes of MyCockpit existed then, so just did "what I though best" at the time. Following a visit to Ian Sissons set up, this changed everything as I soon realised after talking to Ian what was out there and what was possible, ie the slippery road to financial ruin.

    2. What influenced you to build a home cockpit in the spare room?! ..And why the 737?

    I started off very small, and after seeing Ian's magnificent cockpit I realised I need to scale it up as I was no longer content with the setup I had (most people I think can relate to this). The MK 1 was already in the spare room, so it seemed logical to check with "the boss" to see if I could expand. I thought about the garage but then it isn't connected to the house and although it has power, security was a distinct concern, plus when I wanted more beer I would have to go out into the rain to the house. So, why not build it in the spare room (in the warm), scale it up and see where we go. At the moment I am using Level D's 767 as this is one aircraft that the VRinsight MCP fully supports. However, the MIP, Overhead and TQ are all 737NG so the plan is to move to PMDG's NGX when it eventually gets released. I love the 737 aircraft so the sooner the change happens the better. Then all my avionics will give correct readings.


    3.Are you hoping to move on to using a projector in the future?

    I would love to, but being in a spare room that is 8' x 6' there isn't enough throw there to use them. Back projection would be a possibility but proves to be beyond my pocket and I have other more pressing items to purchase. I have three 22" wide screens for the main view which as I am more interested now in the actual take-offs, navigation and landing the bit in the middle (ie scenery etc) is less important.

    4. As well as replacing the MIP, do you have any other parts of the sim you are considering upgrading?

    I would like the rear overhead, a proper MCP and FMC (as again I have the VRinsight FMC which is a glorified keyboard emulator and NOT recommended in any shape or form - I hate it). Another purchase I made when still wet behind the ears! Also once the VRinsight MCP comes out, I will need radio's/navs and a floor console.

    5. What, in your opinion, would you feel is the most important part of your sim?

    Without doubt the throttle quad and the overhead panel. To me they are the real wow factor of the cockpit and I do consider myself very fortunate to have them both in that my wife agreed to let me have them bless her, The panels came from Simworld in Poland and the quality is sheer perfection. I cannot praise them enough. The support is great too and nothing is too much trouble for them. The TQ came from Revolution and is in my opinion the cream of all of them out there. The attention to detail is phenominal as is the quality and they are onto a winner. Go check out the 'Revolution' web site guys! Hold your lower lip up so it doesn't start dribbling or hit the floor.

    6. How many computers is it run from, and are you on FS9 or FSX?

    I have four PC's at present. Two quad core and two dual core units all with Nvidia GTS250 cards in them and 4Gb ram. The fastest quad core runs FSX in Windows 7 (32 bit) and FSUIPC with the other quad running FSXpand, Active Sky and Active X, FS Passengers and Electronic Flight Bag (which I love)!! The first dual core runs FSXpand (clients) and the other runs programs like Vroute and VNC that allows me to control all the other PC's via the Gigabit network. This way I do not need a keyboard or mouse in the cockpit. A fifth one is planned to run the side views giving me a 110 inch wide view.

    7. Give us a brief diary of how you started compared to where your sim is today. Steps of what you built first, next etc.

    OK, I started off with FSX Gold edition on a dual core with a joystick and Saitek rudder pedals. For months, I just ran it now and then. Once I decided to ramp things up, I got rid of the Saitek pedals which I hated and got CH pedals. Now I was having to think in two's as it was going to be a dual cockpit. I bought a Matrox TH2go and some 15" LCD's and started to make up my home-made MIP. This was made out of Boeing grey PVC sheet and it had a lookalike metal finish. Using Hole saws, I carefully cut out holes for the instruments and cut squares for the PFD and ND. The monitors were bolted onto a new heavy duty frame and to mount the plastic MIP I used double-sided tape (nicked from the wife's craft box) to stick it to the monitors. Not looking too closeup, it looked good (until I saw Ian Sisson's cockpit anyway, lol). The yokes I used were Saitek jobs and this is where the cockpit shaping up went wrong. Because the yokes were to be clamped onto a wooden runner under the MIp it meant that these yokes would dictate the height of everything. The view screens were too high really and the MIP was almost level with the face.

    8. Do you plan on upgrading your saitek yokes on a pole to more realistic yokes?

    I did think about that, but the depth of the box behind the Saitek yoke is way too deep. So, the short to medium term plan is to rip the Saitek yokes apart and just keep the yoke itself and junk the rest. (Not inpressed with Saitek one bit, so tearing them apart would be a pleasure). I hope to use a similar mechanism as outlined on Ian's fantastic web site. This web site of Ian's has been a real boon to me and I recommend anyone starting out to read every page several times before buying or making anything. I owe Ian a great deal not just for all the information on his site, but his friendship, picking me up when I felt like burning it all and taking up golf!

    9. What are your plans for the future of the sim?

    Well, apart from waiting for the PMDG 737NGX (aren't we all) I want to get the rear overhead in and then start in earnest once I have the right aircraft to work with, to work out the circuitry to get realism in the overheads probably using PICAXE chips. Finding the best way to light annunciators etc. My wife has offered to let me move it into the back bedroom (are you jealous now guys??) so I could rebuild it with a little more room. Being in the spare room, the cockpit takes over almost all the floor space, and I have had to build a rack for the PC's and bolt it on the outside of the pit. This allows me to bring in all the cabling neatly behind the MIP and down to the TQ and centre console.

    10. Do you have any flying qualifications in real life?

    No formal qualifications, but in my younger years flew in Chipmonks, Jet Provosts and gliders in the ATC so I got bitten then I think. I also had a friend who used to own a Piper Arrow and went flying with him a few times. However, I like the big jets. (Nothing against props guys, just my preference).

    11. Is the VrInsight MCP, a good budget substitute for boeing builders - would you recommend it?

    What I would say is that for the money, it's okay if you are staying at a low lever with it all and space is an issue. If you are planning a cockpit that's as real as you can get, then definitely not. Get the proper MCP and FMC and do your homework before splashing the cash! Look into what it needs to get it to work. Is it plug and play USB, or do you need programming knowledge to get it to go. Nothing more disappointing than when you buy something and can't get it working! Don't bank on support, some are better than others!

    12. Web sites, products and tips you can recommend.

    Well, 'My Cockpit' is of course a great place to ask questions (no matter how stupid they seem - we all started somewhere didn't we) even for new arrivals dipping their toes in this game. Ian Sissons site is an absolute must and probably the best resource of everything you need in one place without a doubt. I would recommend FSXpand and FSUPIC as basic requirements. Look deeply into the aircraft you want to emulate and find out how much information you can get from it, ie offsets, what gear will work with it etc. Ask around and see what the support of the products you are interested in is like as some are just downright dire once they have your money! Don't use FSX to set what your switches etc do, clear them all out and put everything through FSUIPC it is far more accurate (beginning to sound like Ian now ... maybe I have been secretly cloned?) Only joking Ian.

    A lot of bits can be made from the unlikeliest of places. For instance, I wanted to be able to move my seats back and forth cheaply and I used 50mm nylon castors (cheap from Screwfix) running in a track that is effectively U-shaped shelf support turned upside down and screwed to the cockpit floor with bolts either end as stops.. Works a treat. The one thing I would finish with is that you need to get your build/flying time right. Spend all day, every day building and you will get fed up with it (been there, done that). I now build 40% and fly it 60% and I love it with a passion. I learn all I can from everyone I talk to. We have a wonderful resource called the internet, so I recommend research, ask, probe (several times) then buy! I was once told by someone (whose name has barely been mention here) that a cockpit is never finished, and I guess mine will never be finished either. In the spirit of how I was taught so many things by so many people, I take pleasure in being able to help others along the rocky road now with things I am able to help with, as that is what we do and how our hobby just gets better and better!

    Thanks for reading my ramblings!


    I'd like to thanks Richard for participating in this months Builder of the Month and wish him all the success on the rest of his build. Next month we have an extra long christmas special and to mark the end of another simbuilding year. The builder of the month interview is from someone who's been lying under the radar with an excellent sim.

    Best Regards