This months Builder of The Month i'm proud to present to Christoph Hoffmann for his work and dedication to the simbuild. I have asked Christoph many questions to which i'd like to thank him for such fantastic detailed answers. Click to read the full interview here.
Question 1: You were hooked on a real simulator flight ... how long did it take you to collect all the info on the build before you embarked on such a project?
In 2004, when my wife gave me a one-hour-full-flight-simulator B767 birthday gift here at Lufthansa training in Frankfurt, the spark was lit in me.
I first flew many long-haul flights on my Level-D 767 laptop computer, but it was only in 2005, when I came upon various cockpit builders´ websites, I started to collect information on my 737 project. It had to be the 737 due to the restricted space at my home and the availability of commercial products for the 737 – or rather: the lack thereof for other aircraft models. Until today, I do not regret this decision, because I am a fan of the Boeing philosophy. In retrospect, I believe, many decisions were made parallel to each other and the whole project emerged very slowly at the beginning, because I had to make strict plans to finance the project. From 2005 to 2006 I spent a full year just looking on measurement plans and imagining how everything would fit into the reserved room. I designed floor plans of my room with the sim build in. After one futile trial to build a wooden MIP stand, my wife just put it into the garbish saying, that wouldn´t be sturdy at all, so what! So I better relied on commercially available parts. Since Cockpitsonic is only a 20 minutes drive from my home, I elected them as “my” supplier. I thought, if there were probs, I could easily get their support and the manufacturer close at hand would save me costly shipping of large and delicate electronic parts all over the world. In 2007, I bought the MIP and that was the end of the theoretical part. I do not like the commercially available shells, because they do not look so real and to buy a real one is definitely out of my reaches. I admire Ivar´s work, so I planned to build my own. It is not merely finished yet (will it ever be?). I tried some smaller building projects and started off with the seats. So I bought an armada of tools, which is kind of funny, because I had been a person having every little repair done in the house by someone else. For that, my wife is happy, too, as I can do many small installations at home by myself, now (ROFL). Coming back to your question, I believe, the planning phase never ends. But I must admit, if I had come by mycockpit.org earlier, would have saved quite a bit of time!
Question 2: Love the idea of the circuit breaker panel of bottle tops! Very innovative, can you explain your idea and provide a picture of it.
I printed the circuit breaker panels from the available PDF file. It was a hard time first, to get them in the right size. As I did not find cheap mockups of the actual breakers, and original ones were too expensive, I looked for something similar and found the bottle tops, painted them black and red and glued them to the wooden boards. That´s it! – Another cheap mockup are my air fan nozzles for the MIP and ceiling cover, it´s another type of bottle tops painted silver!
Question 3: What is the spec of your computer system and do you fly online for that realism factor or do you have a happy alternative?
I use 3 PCs: Main PC running FS9, PM, add-on software, the cockpitsonic driver, teamspeak: it´s a Intel duo core E6850 at 3GHz with 4 MB cache, ASUS EN8800 GTX graphics card with 768MB. Second is a Toshiba M70 Satellite laptop computer running PM systems, PM sounds, PM glas cockpit. I use that computer for flightplanning as well with FScommander and Flight operations center, from which I can print my f-plans.
The third PC is an off-the-shelf PC: Athlon dual core 4000+ at 2.11 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce 8600 GTS. All PCs running on XP SP3.
For those who think you cannot run the various monitors with only 3 PCs: The main PC has a TH2G for the outside visuals on one graphics output port, a flatscreen for the pilots PFD/ND monitor on the other output. The laptop has the upper EICAS screen on its output. The third PC has the lower EICAS and the F/O PFD/ND on its outputs. The FMC from cockpitsonic is attached to the main PC via the network hub, it needs no graphics output. The various electronic components need 3 USB hubs, they´re all connected to the main PC. I started flying online only recently, because I had no internet connection available in my sim room before. I am thrilled with this feeling of reality, and I remember my first flight online was stressful because of the multitasking abilities you must have, when operating the flight controls and talking to ATC at the same time. I recently made acquaintance with a Lufthansa student pilot, who can help me out a lot with that.
Question 4: If given the chance, Would you spend money on saving for a part for the sim or reliving that thrill of being in a real motion simulator. That is a balance everyone finds difficult. Pay for the best of the best or forget it and put the money towards a part for your own sim to make your own the best of the best in a few years down the line.
True true! For now, I would rather spend my money for the sim to see it develop further. However, I have catched myself several times thinking seriously about booking another ride in a Level-D sim. For obvious reasons, I would be interested in a 737NG sim, but the nearest I know of is in Berlin, and I did not want to spend the money for the 600 km trip.
Question 5: What is the theory behind your desire to practice emergency procedure. To act in real life or the thrill of the flight?
At some time, I was being bored of flying just from A to B and it came to my mind, that THE big advantage of the sim is the possibility to train something you wouldn´t dare to do in real life. I started to read official accident reports. While it was thrilling to learn how much criminalistic and in-depth aviational knowledge is needed to surface with the facts that led to some disastrous events, it was also emotionally shocking to read quotes of the voice recorders in full length (only private comments are usually omitted in the accounts). So I went back to my flight crew operations manual and read the abnormal procedures in more detail. You can learn much about your airplane systems when you go to the extreme situations when and why they fail. As doctor, I was also interested in the extraordinary physiologic conditions that occur during emergencies, like stress and hypoxia. Still, it is very comforting to know that real world pilots have to go through insisting exercise during their regular simulator checks. So, it´s less the thrill of the flight and more the training of the abnormals to get them into routine work, that drives me.
Question 6: How many years have you been building for and could you give us a summary of the best and worst times.
I have not built continuously on my sim, my job is counteracting, unfortunately (LOL). I started working on the seats in my summer holidays in 2007, went on with the circuit breaker boards and rear cockpit walls. Only after refurbishing my sim room in early 2009 and saving the necessary money I was able to start with the sim as I wanted it to be: with a pedestal, on which it is build, aluminium floor covering, back walls, electronic parts (MIP, pedestal, throttle, yokes), window work and overhead suspension). Most enjoyable was the time of expectation of the arriving cockpitsonic parts. Less enjoyable were and are my wife´s reminders to the work I should do in the house and garden. I also sometimes feel guilty to pay too little attention to my kids (beware of that, fellows!).
Question 8: Are there any tips from you for new builders that visit us each day for their own upcoming sim?
1. Be absolutely clear of what you want to have in the end.
2. Check truthfully your long-term financing feasibilities.
3. Cross-check 1 against 2.
4. Proceed with your intentions if both show 3 greens, otherwise abort the take-off run.
5. In your mind, be always several miles ahead of what you actually want.
6. For inspiration, look at all available builder´s web pages. These are my favourites, because they teach you so much. Alls these links are found in the builders library on the top nav bar.
Question 9: Many new builders look at a project like this and thing where to start. Could you give our readers your thoughts on what you should buy or build first.
As some experienced fellow builder said here before: Do not make the mistake to BUILD, BUILD, BUILD or FLY, FLY, FLY, rather do: BUILD, FLY, BUILD, FLY. To be able to fly from the beginning, it is best to build or buy flight controls (yoke – resp. side stick – rudder pedals), or the MIP and add all other avionic parts later on. The further you´ve gone with your project, the more it depends on your personal interests, e.g. if you prefer to optimize your outside visuals or complete the avionics first. The MIP is essential, because all other parts rely on that in terms of cockpit size and measurements.
Question 10: Many people have not embarked on the rear part of their sim. As this is something that would need to be made by hand. Can you give us information about how you planned and went about doing this. Did you have dimensions?
Yeah, I took the dimensions from various sites. Bought 1 cm thick plywood and scantling, sawed it to the measurements. Screwing and gluing parts together, paint them black and Boeing gray. Fix 2 mm plywood sheets painted black to the rear walls as circuit breaker panels and glue the printed PDF files. Stick the bottle tops on. You´re done! For a final touch, add real aircraft parts, like the Grimes utility light, or look-alike dome lights like the ones you offer, Geremy.
One for dimensions: Many builders starting their project ask for the "real" dimensions: It´s not so important to be one Millimeter correct, even one or two centimeters work fine, as long as the result resembles optically the model. Don´t loose sleep over the dimensions.
Question 11: You say the sim is never finished ... quite true by many accounts. Does this mean you'll be slipping over to Lelystad this year?
Definitely yes. I am looking forward to meet you fellows, make new acquaintances, and find one or the other interesting parts which are still missing. Even if you buy some commercial gear like I did from cockpitsonic, there is always something which can be replaced by an even more realistic part. Lelystad to me has some resemblance to a major medical congress, where you can be close and look up to the leaders of flight simulation (LOL).
And the dinner, and beer, and well…..
Question 12: Are you going to go all the way with motion to the sim to give it the final feel.
If my wife allows me to build a hangar 20 feet high in our lovely suburban garden… (LOL). My sim room is only 7.5 feet (2,3m).
Question 13: After recently working on the eye brow window trim, whats next on the agenda for simbuilding.
Finish the inner ceiling structure, completing the aluminium shell skin.
Question 14: How are your visuals set up is it wideview/matrox linked screens or projector ?
I use an Epson TW-520 projector and only recently bought the triple head to go. At the moment, the beamer makes the center view and two monitors show the side views. My future plans are to buy two more beamers and build a curved screen.
Question 15: Can you give us a before and now picture and explanation of how things have come along since the early days?
Here is a small series of pics illustrating the development of my sim:
That's it folks! I hope you enjoyed this months interview. I'd like to extend my thanks once again to Chris for such informative answers and detailed pictures. I hope many of you have found this inspiring to build for another month
I'd also like to take this opportunity to tell you there will be a December Christmas BOM special with a different type of builder in a different format. So please do look out for that soon.
Interview Conducted by: