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  1. #1
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    Smile New Member. Big ideas!

    Hello Everyone!

    I'm a fresh college graduate, and a flight instructor currently. I'm currently pursuing the flying dream. Someday hoping to fly larger aircraft.

    I've been an Avid flight simmer since the early 2000s. I started off with FS2000, FS2002 Pro, FS2004. FS2004 currently is my bread and butter due to PC limitations and I prefer it over FSX. I've started to play a lot with X-plane 9 on my macbook pro, and I have had the chance to try the X-plane 10 demo and pump up the graphics on my relative's iMac. X-Plane 10 has captured my attention as the best flight simulator platform to date.

    Being a real pilot, and working around airplanes all day as you can imagine flight sim with a keyboard and a joystick on a 20" LCD just doesn't cut it for me anymore.

    I'm wanting to start to pick up some hobbies. Flight simming is something I love to do. I've spent a LOT of time on VATSIM and I have been involved with virtual airlines over the years. I found this forum, and I see lots of great stuff to help me learn how to build my own home cockpit. So I decided to join. Money is tight, but time is a little more. I might lurk more than post, but I hope over the years I will get to a point where I can participate and build a nice home cockpit after getting ideas from what I read around here.

    Here are my current goals:

    - Buy or build a powerful PC to run X-Plane 10 (does anyone have a suggestion of Mac vs. PC?)
    - Obtain a multi monitor display to give a real cockpit feel.
    - Obtain a nice yoke.
    - Build up a center console with a radio stack, auto pilot, FMC, Throttle quadrant (including flaps, spoilers, fuel cutoff switches).
    - Create an overhead systems panel.

    This is something I think I can eventually obtain with my financial situation and can be versatile to more than one type of aircraft.

    I appreciate any suggestions, tips, questions, or ideas anyone has to offer. I hope this forum is as valuable as I think it is at first glance.


  2. #2
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    Re: New Member. Big ideas!

    I've started my build with a jetmax throttle, ACE yoke and cp flight EFIS pro, MCP el and a nav com.

    Still a long way to go in the hobby, but think of it as a long term project. I am aiming for 5 years, with a budget of 1000-2000 each year.

    Next up will probably be a projector.

    My opinion is, if you're going to build a cockpit, make it as realistic as possible.

  3. #3
    75+ Posting Member Infinity's Avatar
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    Re: New Member. Big ideas!

    Here's your best bang for your buck.

    1. Use saitek hardware. They have it all. Check amazon and ebay
    2. Get fspanel software so you can custom build your instrument panel.
    3. Cover your display and cut out the instruments.
    4. Get at least an i5 pc with 2 or more modern graghic cards so you can have multiple display options.
    5. Use a projector for outside view.
    6. Though not ideal, use fsx vs. X plane as multiple displays gets expensiv e quick

    Good luck.

    Oh, and the simplest approach to an overhead is using a keyboard and relabeling the keys, grouping them into systems.

  4. #4
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    Re: New Member. Big ideas!


    I am sure you, like many of us, have your sights set much further ahead than your finances currently allow. That's not a criticism, in fact I think it's important to do that. I have built a few cockpits over the past 8 years and I have found that my enthusiasm has sometimes stifled my progress. Where I have been successful is where I have set myself more realistic initial targets, so that I can get up and flying earlier on without investing a fortune. It does depend on whether you like flying or building better but from what you've said already I think you're more a flyer. So if you get dogged down in building for months or years without having anything you can fly you could risk losing your enthusiasm and that's really dangerous in my opinion.

    What I can say is there is nothing quite like going from desktop pc flying to an immersive cockpit environment. You're suddenly in a real structure and you start to believe you're in a plane. I cannot describe the feeling I first test flew my wide-bodied jet project, with sound roaring through the floor in my basement and all lights off, and a huge projected world. This felt amazing.

    I am currently working on my fifth simulator project and it's a potentially massive task. I have a temporary set up which may look ridiculous but it actually works. I am about to shift up a gear and design and build a basic enclosed structure, but I'm concentrating on the minimum at this stage so that I don't have much down-time from flying. I am going to not only plan it out but I am going to set shorter term goals so that I can enjoy it much earlier on. Also I believe sim building is organic. By that I mean you have to build a bit and try then tweak and buy a bit more. Test it. Try it. Build a bit more and so on.

    In terms of equipment there is a growing choice. It depends on the fidelity that you're after. At the top end are companies such as Flight Deck Solutions, a Canadian company. They could sell you a replica of a real plane if you want 100% realism. I am not obsessed with replicating a particular flight deck and I believe this gives great freedom to shop around and design something that works for you.

    I suppose one key question is what your goals are in the build. From what you say I presume you are hoping to use the sim to stay current and practice as you progress towards a first officer position. If that is the case and you knew the type of aircraft you're aiming at then you could do worse than to replicate that aircraft. For example if you went for a 737 which is by far the most supported aircraft in the sim world, you could spend a small fortune and end up with your own fixed based replica. Sounds like your budget won't stretch to that at this point so I would do the following

    If you want immersion then plan to build a simple structure you can sit in. I am currently using an A320 as a basis for the frame. I have a few panels I bought some time ago which are in a custom pedestal I built along with some GoFlight units. A real mixed bag of stuff. I don't want to replicate the A320 as I haven't seen software at a price I am happy with that replicates the functionality to a sufficient degree. But it's a nice cockpit layout and most of the panels I happen to have are A320 panels.

    Then you'll need a decent yoke, a throttle unit, rudder pedals, at least one nav-com radio panel. For visuals I would recommend as a minimum a 2 screen set up; one for outside visuals placed a distance from the cockpit, and another for instruments. This gives a minimum but convincing sense of depth and being in a real environment. I am also basing my build on an airbus as I find side sticks are more plentiful and affordable than traditional (between the legs) yokes.

    Here are my recommendations:

    Joystick and throttle: Thrustmaster Warthog A10
    This is an absolute brilliant set for someone serious about simming. It's not an airline style set but I recommend it because of the incredible detail and robustness. It is mostly metal and has an incredible feel of realism compared with any other control I've used. It will cost a bit under $500 on and has many buttons to configure, dual throttle, even backlighting. I have bought two sets of these because a client was so impressed he insisted I sold him my first.

    Rudder pedal: Try the Saitek Pro pedal
    I confess I have never tried this but the Saitek is popular. I use a GoFlight rudder pedal which they stopped making years ago. I bought their remaining stock. I would recommend something like this as they are sturdy and built out of steel. Have a great feel if configured correctly.

    Radio / Nav unit: consider GoFlight's GF-166
    I have 3 of these but you only need one to provide Nav 1/2 and Com 1/2. GoFlight have started to produce some interesting gear sitting in a slightly unique position in the market. Their stuff is extremely well built (in US) but has its own style. Almost nothing is backlit as it's all metal panels, but I have used them for many years and have found their gear to be amazing quality and customer service unbelievably good. On the downside their style is more GA than airline. However they are expanding their portfolio with some airline style units, such as $750 yoke and a throttle quadrant unit.

    Keyboard: Logitech G11 or similar
    For cheap backlit inputs consider the Logitech gaming keyboards. I have a few G11s. They are amazing in low light and also offer macro buttons in addition to the main keyboard. I also own a couple of Logitech's game pads which offer further backlit keys and a display (which doesn't seem to be compatible with flight sim).

    Software: FSX / FSUIPC
    The FSX/X-Plane battle is a long one. In theory X-Plane should be your choice if building a cockpit because it is designed to be interfaced to and you get excellent support from the person who wrote it. FSX has been allowed to die a death and is no longer supported. However there is a big exception to this. FSX has an immense plethora of add-ons and this is growing despite the Aces team being disbanded. The downside is that FSX has left a bit of a legacy of limitations which the add-on developers work with but cannot always find satisfactory ways around. I would wholeheartedly recommend FSX over X-Plane though simply because I believe it has a larger community and plenty of add-ons. X-plane still seems to be playing catch-up and until everyone starts developing for x-plane I wouldn't invest in it.

    FSUIPC is really a must-have tool for a cockpit builder. In fact it's even more important if you plan to use your cockpit for different aircraft. I can configure my HOTAS unit as a single engine plane (throttle 1 = throttle, throttle 2 = mixture), a twin engine jet, or even a helicopter (throttle 1 = throttle, throttle 2 = collective). FSUIPC will allow custom configurations to be set for each aircraft (even each variant of the same aircraft). It does a million other things than what I could mention here including allowing more detailed calibration of inputs. For example I use it to desensitise the brake pedals so that aircraft take a realistically longer time to slow down. The FSX default is like each airport has an arrester gear.

    Well that's my thoughts. You'll get an immense amount of support on here from people. And of course we'd love to see your progress.

    Take care

    Jet fighter / single pilot sim, plus thinking of a 777 as a secondary sim.