Builder of Month - December 2005
MyCockpit Feature Builder
Ray Sotkiewicz Boeing 777
IFSBI: Where is your sim located, town, country, wife's spare bedroom?
Ray: Right now she resides in Seattle, WA, down in the basement in the "Sim Room". This is the one room in the house where I can completely be myself, be as messy as I need to be and just have fun. From the beginning I intended the sim to be somewhat portable. This portability concept presented some unique building challenges. Considering that I never had any formal mechanical engineering training, this aspect proved to be even more difficult than I had planned. Over the years there have been several different version of my 777 pit. Thankfully, the notion of keeping it portable proved to be a blessing due to the numerous times I have moved in the past 10 years.
IFSBI: What made you choose this airframe?
Ray: I've always liked Boeing jets and I've always liked them BIG, mixed in with modern-day electronic aviation systems. I wanted to stay away from any steam-gauge pits (See my comment above about lack of formal mechanical engineering training Besides, back when I first started, there was no such thing as SimKits or some of the other incredible companies out there today. I fell in love with the 777's simplicity. It's massive size and complexity was expertly hidden beneath a layer of simplicity never before seen in commercial airliners.
IFSBI: When did you start the project?
Ray: November 11, 1997. I recall that day vividly. It was the last day I got a full-night's sleep, the last full meal, and perhaps the last time I had a steady girlfriend. But yes... That was the day my EPIC system arrived and after plunking it all in front of me on the kitchen table, I spent the next 2 months getting a single toggle switch programmed and working. Then I ate something and went to bed... for 8 days...
IFSBI: What parts are you using for panels, homemade, real aircraft parts?
Ray: The majority of parts are from FlightDeckSolutions. Some parts, like the 777 MCP faceplate are real aircraft parts given to me by a sim friend down near Los Angeles. Other suppliers include PFC, A-G-T Cockpit panels, Radio Shack, and the local hardware store, of which I now own stock in.
IFSBI: Any special problems that you might have had?
Ray: Funny you should ask. Pretty much ALL the problems I've ever had were special, but let's talk strictly about my sim problems for now... Back in 1997 there was no one to turn to for help. I couldn't just call up my father and ask: "Hey Dad?... the 777 reverse throttle linkage is binding
with the spoiler lockout mechanism.." You get the idea. Sim building was a desolate and lonely world back then. If I had to look back though and identify one glaring problem over the years, it would have to be when I moved the sim to it's current location after marrying my beautiful and very understanding wife. Seems I kept tripping the house breaker whenever I turned the sim on for a flight. Imagine explaining that to the electrician... "Well, see.. I have this thing in this room..."
IFSBI: Does your family support you in this project?
Ray: At first they were apprehensive. Now they understand my passion for flight and support me whole-heartedly, as long as there are no surprises in the checkbook. I will admit to a few late-night sim purchasing marathons. But.. you know.. it's difficult... When FDS releases a new part that you've been craving for, or a scenery company releases some awesome scenery. This hobby has been my greatest weakness, and my greatest strength. I am truly blessed to have a loving wife who understands and supports me throughout.
IFSBI: Do you have a web site?
Ray: Over the years I have started many web sites but I found that keeping a web site alive was keeping me away from the hobby. I found myself plunging headfirst into various web projects only to discover that I was consumed by them. Web sites tend to take on a life of their own so unless you are fully committed to that aspect, you will probably lose interest. However, I do have a few sites now: http://www.simengineers.com/ which is slowly fading as we speak, and http://www.elliesystems.com/which is a commercial endeavor that I am pursuing with a close friend of mine. EllieSystems is a combination of several of my interests so watching it take shape has been somewhat surreal.. like... "I did that?" Of course, having a brilliant business partner helps a lot at 3am when you've tried everything and it still won't work.
IFSBI: Do you have any other Hobbies or interest?
Ray: My interests tend to ebb and flow with the tide. When I tire of one I will take up another for awhile. The permanent hobbies in my life now are: 1. Flying (Obtained my PPL SEL back in June of '92. Sim building, (Also working on a Cirrus SR22 pit) 3. Golf, 4. R/C flying ( I love electric Park Fliers!) and finally 5. Programming. Been doing it for years... Maybe someday I'll be good at it.
Thanks for this opportunity to showcase my work and tell you a little bit about myself. You guys have done a wonderful job here at IFSBI and I hope it turns out to be a success for everyone involved!