Greetings From A First-Time Builder
Hi everyone. First time poster here and first-time cockpit builder.
I've been into aviation as long as I can remember. My first time using a simulator was actually in an old WWII Link Trainer when I was in middle school. One of my first words was "plane," and I was hooked on aviation long before I went up in a Piper Cub for a day of aerobatics with a friend of my older brother when I was in my teens (which was incredible). My first PC simulator was SubLogic FS1 on the Apple II - nothing like green screen wireframe for an immersive experience! But I was hooked. I used FS on the Commodore 64, Amiga, PC, and Mac, then X-Plane on the Mac. And while I always loved it, the sim was never quite realistic enough for me to keep with it consistently.
I'm on airplanes all the time for work, and continue to love aviation to this day. A few years back our first child was born, and I considered getting my private rating then. But my father (an Air Force doc and pilot in the 50s and 60s) gave me some good advice -- "With your schedule you'll never fly enough to stay current and safe, and if you can't stay current and safe, you shouldn't fly" -- and I tabled that idea.
So it was about a month ago that I was trolling YouTube and came across a bunch of great home cockpit videos. At that point it sort of dawned on me that I could build the home sim I've always wanted, and take my passion to the next level as a full-fledged hobby. After all, simming has a lot of things I like - tech, flight, a huge geek factor. It seemed like a great hobby, especially for the winter when I can't pursue my other passion, fly fishing.
So about two months ago I got to work planning. I figured I'd build a GA cockpit, roughly modeled on a C182, but with enough flexibility that I could fly multiple aircraft. I planned the panel based on a life-sized PDF of a Cessna 172 panel but a few inches wider than in reality to accommodate what would be a 48-inch wide cabin, and used Google Sketchup to do the CAD work for a cockpit roughly of the 182 size (though a bit taller at 56 inches). I won a big bundle of Saitek equipment on Ebay and was off to the races. Five weekends ago the design was done, the equipment was in, the PC was bought, and a buddy (who flies Beech twins commercially) came into town, we went to Home Depot, and we got to work.
Five weekends later and the simulator is for the most part done and running pretty well (save the occasional and mysterious P3D crashes to desktop). I've learned a lot about sim technology (the last time I was really into this P3D wasn't even around yet), and more about GPUs and the voltage loading of USB hubs than I probably have cared to learn. But the sim is great, my buddy says it's every bit as good as what they train in for their FAA certs, and I love flying in it. More than that, I love working on it. Again, and as you all surely know, it's a great hobby for someone who's into details, loves aviation, and has a streak of a geek or engineer in them.
I'll be posting pics of my cockpit and the journey building it over in the GA forum. But in the meantime here are a few pics of the panel and the cockpit:
The cabin ...
The panel ...
The interior ...
Night lighting ...
A lot of the inspiration for the design comes from Flight Sim Liberty's 182 cockpit (https://www.facebook.com/flightsimliberty/). And I've added to the first set of Saitek stuff with a mini USB keyboard, headsets, and (and I'm proud of this) a 7-inch touchscreen that I use to run F1's GTN750 GPS. I was even able to get a Cessna serial number placard on Ebay which I've mounted on the panel, and a set of 182 procedures for the side pockets.
It's not the largest or most technically impressive pit in the world, but it serves my needs perfectly and I'm actually pretty proud of it, especially given that it's my first attempt. Now I can fly nearly every day. I'm having a great time, and I hope you like the work so far.