• Builder of Month - December 2009

    This months Builder of The Month we are proud to present to Gwyn Perrett (Westozy) for his work and dedication to the simbuild. Gwyn has now won this award for the second time. The last time he was awarded BOM was in Jan 2007. Over the last 3 years, there has been further improvements to his 737 Project.

    Click on "Read More" for full interview.

    We've asked Gwyn Perrett (Westozy) many questions to which i'd like to thank him for such fantastic detailed answers.

    When were you first hooked on to FS?

    My dearly departed Father was the first in our family to discover Microsoft Flight Simulator back in the mid nineties when he bought a personal computer, a 486 if I remember correctly! I remember it was such a novelty to fly the C172 around Meigs Field and I made a bee line to the PC with every visit to my parent’s home. I had quite a few years of aero modelling behind me ranging from assembling plastic kits for display, balsa gliders, control line nitro planes and then to RC nitro planes. I can’t say I was that ‘crash hot’ at flying RCs, I think I was more ‘crash allot’! Despite the expensive foray into RC planes, my introduction to FS was a turning point I think. To have the perspective of being within the cockpit and flying the Cessna around Chicago was great fun, I didn’t even explore the program’s capabilities, I was just so happy to do circuits and deadstick landings etc, always creating my own little challenges. I bought my own PC with the release of FS98 and started teaching myself the ropes. Discovering how VOR navigation worked and ILS approaches kept me at the PC even longer, I was well and truly hooked by 1998. In 1999 I started real flying lessons and with the FS knowledge I had learned, I was turned loose to solo with only 7.8 hours in the log book. I flew the Cessna 150 Aerobat, Cessna 172 and the Eagle XTS150 for about four summers before the novelty of spending AUD$180 an hour wore off! I returned to the flight simulator and commenced my cockpit build.

    When do you start the Home Cockpit Project and how long did you spend planning?

    I started to build a throttle quad with the aim of just having it by my side for my desktop set up and that would have been the first piece back in October 2004. At this stage I had no idea that I would be building a full cockpit simulator. The planning came after discovering that it would be viable for me to build a cockpit reasonably cheaply. My actual trade qualification is “Fitter and 1st Class Machinist” so I certainly know my way around a lathe and a milling machine. I have also completed courses in advanced welding and qualified to the level of 16mm structural, (beams and trusses etc). I have always planned each piece that I make and I draw it in great detail before reaching for the tools. This was a philosophy learned in my trade training and I carried it through to my hobbies. If I draw something correctly, I know it will work before I make it. The only time I vary from my drawings is if a better idea comes along during the construction. My TQ for instance was only loosely based on B737 and not an exact replica but I still drew it using the components I had available at the time, it is still serving well but I do want a more realistic looking B737 TQ in my simulator, in fact I have just ordered one from my friend Robert Soriano at Throttletek. Some might be thinking why did a throttle supplier buy a throttle elsewhere? I think Roberto’s “G737” unit looks good and the price is great, I simply don’t have the time to make things for myself really. It might be a while before the Throttletek unit appears in my simulator. Aerosim Solutions has become quite busy lately and I have had to register the company as an official business. The workshop is always expanding to keep up with demand and I’m ‘at the bench’ most evenings. The current project is an A340 throttle quad for one of our members.

    Any Particular Reason for selecting Boeing 737?

    I chose the B737 long before I discovered that it was a popular choice amongst other builders. I guess it was because of my familiarity with the default Boeing airliner supplied in the program by Mr Bill Gates. It’s a shame that he has deserted FS with his company, it will be his loss when someone else takes up the challenge. I have my fingers crossed that the “Cascade” Game company will fill the gap and pick up the pieces. Cascade was created by former Microsoft Aces staff.

    Which parts of your cockpit are you’re really proud about and why?

    I think I am most proud of the fact that everything I look at apart from the CP Flight MCP and EFIS units was created in my shed with my own hands. I have made every part of which there must be thousands of hours. My sim is not strictly scale B737 as I built it with practicality at the forefront. For instance, the Main Instrument Panel was scaled to suit the placement of the three original 17 inch CRT monitors originally and the effect is still quite realistic. The whole cockpit is 85% full size in line with the scale of the fabulous CP Flight equipment, I can’t recommend their gear highly enough, and it looks and works really well! I have had many, many visitors to the sim including 5 commercial airline pilots and the look on their faces when they first see it is such a thrill for me. 99% of visitors would not know what a real B737 cockpit looks like and nobody has ever said this isn’t right or that is too wide etc. When providing parts for other builders I guess I go the extra distance to make their parts “as real as I can make them!”

    In your view which was the most challenging aspect in your cockpit building?

    I guess like many builders here, funding the project was always the hardest part. I built my first TQ for someone else just to be able to fund a new PC. Aerosim Solutions grew from that little venture

    You computer configuration is unique, can you talk a bit more about that and how you managed to achieve results with this configuration

    I owe a lot to my friend Dean Ashworth who also lives here in Perth, Dean used to have a B777 cockpit which utilized three PCs with a printer port interface. It was a fantastic sim constructed from plywood and cleverly reproduced basic parts. The displays were stunning using the great Project Magenta software. Dean’s sim used LPT interface programs through the printer ports which worked but the sim was never entirely free of glitches and PC crashes. Dean eventually dismantled his sim and I was really upset about his decision. I had offered to make parts for him to improve it but he chose a path back to a desktop sim. This was when I decided to build my own cockpit. About the same time, Dean told me about the PMDG program and how it would run on one PC. I bought PMDG 737 and a Matrox Parhelia 128mg triple head video card. With resolution set to 3072 x 768, it was easy to ‘pop out’ the Open GL instruments supplied in the PMDG737 2D cockpit, place them anywhere on the desktop and resize them to suit the apertures in my Main Instrument Panel. Monitor 1 is the front view fed to the projector and this is also sent via a splitter to a small monitor in my forward console, I use this monitor for navigating the PC task bars etc. Monitor two is the Captain’s Nav/Attitude displays and this feed also goes to the F/Os display via a simple video splitter. Monitor 3 is only for the centre EICAS display. I was happy with this configuration for a while until the Digital Matrox Triplehead2go appeared on the scene, I just had to have one of these and I upgraded to a new 2.4 GHz quadcore with a GTS8800 NVidea card fitted. This system whizzes along easily achieving 35/40FPS in FS9 with all the sliders maxed out. Without switching to Project Magenta I am stuck with FS9 as PMDG continue to disappoint with the non appearance of the promised 737NGX, I still haven’t seen much of FSX to be honest. In my opinion it is a shame that PMDG never acknowledged the potential market they had amongst cockpit builders. Many times I sent them emails which went unanswered and they guard the secrets of their coding without giving reason. It is a challenge in itself to interface PMDG!

    I took the stereo sound feed from the PC and split it twice. One feed goes to a normal stereo system for the overall flat EQ sound and the other feed goes to a stereo amplifier with the bass boosted to feed two 12 inch subwoofers which are bolted under my seats. These make the sim shake on take-off rolls and landings. I had to edit the PMDG sound files quite a lot as the volume levels were all over the place, hitting the speedbrake in flight used to make the house rumble but now it is fixed correctly. I guess the switch to Project Magenta is inevitable but for now I will persevere!

    Your visual system stunning, can you talk us through this?

    I have probably described most of the display system other than the projector which happens to be an Epson EMPTW600 High Definition unit. PC displays don’t really require HD projectors but I bought it with the intention of dual use home theatre which never really happened, I have logged about 900 hours in my sim according to the projector globe use display. My screen is 2 metres wide (6’6”) and it really gives a good emersion factor with black curtains on the sides blocking out the real world. Quite a few visitors have bailed out of the sim feeling unwell, I have always taken this as a compliment and a sign of success of the illusion.

    What would be your tip to someone just commencing his cockpit construction?

    I think the best advice I can give is to be prepared for a long build time. No matter what planning goes into building a cockpit, it is a time consuming hobby that can become quite expensive. There is a saying amongst seasoned builders that goes – “You can build 80% of your sim in 20% of the time it will take you”, this is probably true! I firmly believe that cockpit building is the main hobby and flying it is a nice little by-product. I would advise new builders to get the main pieces in place and make it flyable as soon as possible. If you can fly it while you build it there will be constant reward throughout the process and the motivation to continue will most likely remain. Don’t get frustrated when you are stuck, seek help at MyCocpit.org, that’s what we are here for!

    Are there any other builders who inspired you?

    To name just a few would probably offend a great many because inspiration has come from many great builders. However, I will take a risk and name a few anyway! Dean Ashworth who got me started on my project, our leader Matt Olieman whose website has been invaluable, Brian Williamson whose exquisite craftsmanship made me lift my own standards! Peter Dowson for his awesome work, CP Flight in Italy, Flightdeck Technology from Britain and most of all the king of all builders.......Mr Ian Sissons in Wales UK! Ian, in my opinion you are the champion!!!

    How has MyCockpit.org helped you in your entire project?

    I joined MyCockpit.org as member number 54 to find out a bit more on the electronic side of things, I knew very little of electronics being a Mechanical engineer and the replies and assistance was overwhelming. I thought the least I could do was to give something back in the form of mechanical solutions to our members experiencing difficulties. Aerosim Solutions was born and most of my customers are members here. I decided that I wouldn’t just produce a line of products, I chose to make parts for people that are not available elsewhere and ‘custom order’ remains the theme for Aerosim.

    I have written many tutorials and quite a few articles for Computer Pilot magazine, the feedback alone is reward enough for my continuing participation and I plan to be here for quite a while!

    Thanks Gwyn for useful information. We also bring you some pictures of Gwyn Project, hope this inspire many more builders

    Thanks again Gwyn for the useful chat and congrats.