View Full Version : February 2009 Builder of the Month

Michael Carter
02-04-2009, 10:56 PM
MyCockpit Febuary Builder of the Month


Thanks for the honor guys. Sorry it's late. I had an unexpected computer problem that has really slowed things down trying to recover all of my software.

I was interviewed by Eric Tomlin, last months Builder of the Month:

How did you get involved with flight simulation and for how long were you a desktop pilot before building your sim?

While I was in the Air Force, one of the Seargents I worked with had a 286, or maybe even older computer that had the first edition of FS loaded on it. I remember him using these 5" floppies to load through an external drive. It was horrible. The sky was blue, the grass was green, and the runway was gray. No detail at all. I think I landed it a total of one time without crashing it.

I never touched FS again until long after I had my pilot certificates. I never owed a computer until around 1997. I think that computer was running Win95 and I still did not have FS until I bought a computer with Win98 loaded. When I stopped flying regularly in around 2002 I started simming more on the desktop.

After piloting real aircraft around the sky a desktop was not cutting it. I didn't give it any serious thought until around 2004 when I thought I'd add a few things to make the desktop a little more interesting. It just snowballed from there.

Ca. 2006


What caused you to make the decision to build your own full size flight deck?

Well, as I said, I grew bored rather quickly flying a desktop bound simulator and it was difficult to feel any sort of immersion after the experience of the real thing. I didn't really make the decision, it just turned out that way.

You've made it clear that the 727 is the only aircraft you'd consider building as a flight sim project. What is it about the 727 that you are so passionate about?

The 727 along with the 707 and DC-8, was one of the first jet aircraft I ever saw as a small boy. It was really what caused me to start with lessons and work through the commercial and instrument portions of the training. I have flown on the 727 a number of times. More than any other aircraft during the height of it's popularity throughout the '70's and '80's.

This design appeals a lot to my sense of style and what an airplane should look like. After so many years of reading about this aircraft and really liking it, I knew that if I were to build anything it was the 727 or nothing. There's just something about three aft-mounted engines and a T-tail that looks good to me.


Being an 'unsupported' aircraft type for our hobby, what has been the biggest hurdle to overcome with this airframe?

Everything about this build has been a hurdle. Some just seem a little taller than others. I guess building the throttle quadrant was a real test of my abilities. I thought that if I could actually build this and have it look real and functioning, I could probably build nearly anything I needed that I couldn't buy for the sim. Which has been everything if it didn't come from Boeing.




So far what was seemingly the hardest hurdle that turned out to be much easier than anticipated?

All of the hurdles seemed insurmountable at the time, but after the project is over I always say to myself, "well, that wasn't so hard was it?" I guess in answer to your question, fitting the main instrument panel monitor behind a real 727 MIP. I was very worried that it wasn't going to fit. I didn't have exact dimensions down to the last millimeter of what brand would fit and what one wouldn't. I took a chance on a Hann's 17" WS and it popped right in...without one millimeter to spare.

It fact the fit is so tight, the Korry indicator lamp housings are actually holding it in an upright position at the top.



What kind of hardware is used to drive the simulation at this point in the build? (Computers, Interface, custom built components, etc.)

It's currently running on one computer system. This is an Acer system purchased from NewEgg in late '07. It uses the Intell Core 2 Duo E4400 2.0 Ghz processor with 2GB of L2 cache, 2GB of 800Mhz memory, and a standard 720 drive. Nothing fancy here at all by todays standards but more than enough power to run FS9 at nearly maxed settings with very graphic intensive scenery and the DF727.

The video is handled by an ATI based Sapphire x1950 Pro 256 and a separate internal power supply to run it.

The interface cards are from a variety of sources. The Hagstrom LP24 was recently retired in favor of Leo Bodnar's new input card to run the overhead functions. It works much better and is easier to wire and program than the Hagstrom. The Hagstrom was the first card I bought back in '05.


The throttle quadrant axis and switches are handled by the Beta Inovations Plasma MMII. That has also served well although I hear he's out of business now. This card may eventually be replaced with another of Leo's.

The yoke X-Y axis and all yoke controls are from my CH desktop yoke. I just rewired the switch inputs replacing the CH controls with the Boeing yoke controls and reprogramming some them. That also leaves me with a few unused inputs that I can use in the future.


I had many home-built panels in the sim that have slowly been replaced with Boeing equipment from the 727. All of this has more or less interfaced succesfully to whichever input card I have it wired to. The Sperry SP-50 is running from the BI card, and most of the rest of the Boeing equipment is interface to Leo's card in the overhead. I treat each piece of Boeing equipment as a simple switch/lamp/output signal to the card. It's really not all that sophisticated. Boeing used a lot of electrical logic as opposed to computer logic for many of the functions aboard the aircraft. This isn't hard to get around and it's fairly realistic, though some indicators are mechanically lit rather than controlled by electrical logic.



Several folks have moved forward to using FSX, but you like many others still use FS9 faithfully. What kind of mods and tweaks have you done for your 727 sim software-wise?

About the only thing that I do to each computer that runs FS are the operating system tweaks that were published here from another FS web site. Shutting down all non-essential processes, emptying the pre-fetch file, increasing the page file, ect, ect.

I've never really fooled with FS except to increase the spool time on the engines from a previous freeware version of the 727 I used to fly several years ago. The spool time for the JT-8D's was agonizingly and unrealistically slow.

I've not moved forward with FSX for two reasons. The first is that the DF727 is not yet available for FSX. Paul Golding is not settling for porting an XP 727 model over to FSX. He is re-designing the entire aircraft for FSX. It may not be available for some time yet.

The second reason is that I'm tired of playing catch-up with Microsoft. Every edition they release requires another computer system to run it. Well, I may not have to worry about that aspect anymore, but regardless, I have a system that I'm satisfied with, performs like I want it to with FS9, and doesn't give me any static. And another plus is that it's dirt cheap to buy or
build a system that can more than handle FS and any add-on's you care to throw at it.

As a die-hard Boeing 727 man, what would be some of your favorite projects that are non 727 that you've seen so far?

The member here that is building a COnnie has my attention. I like that aircraft alot, though I'd never build a prop sim. The F-84 is another I'm watching. Interesting build. A relative newcomer to the site is building a Tu-154. That one really has my attention. Talk about an unsupported build!

At this point, you only have the left side of the flightdeck represented because of space where it's built. Why not simply make room in another part of your home to build the copilot's side as well?

Because I have all of the room! There is no other room in the house to house this sim, much less to build the other side.

Speaking of space, what is the likelyhood of you increasing your visual system to a larger screen, and if so, what equipment do

you see yourself investing in?

Well because of where the sim is built, a projector system is out of the question. That leaves a very large LCD TV screen, about a 47" for the front, or the Tripple Head 2 Go, or WidevieW. I haven't really made any sort of a commitment for any of these methods or systems yet, but I'm leaning towards the 47" LCD. It would require extensive modification of the room ahead of the simulator nose, but it could be done. Good thing I built the room.


What has been your favorite part of the build process so far?

Why the flying of course! There is no other feeling in the world like sitting down in the crew seat of your very own Boeing 727 and actually feeling like you really are sitting in a Boeing 727...as long as you don't stare to the right too much. I guess the real answer is, all of it because I get a nice feeling of accomplishment after every project knowing that I didn't buy it off the shelf and just plug it into the computer.


All of the photos and commentary that you've shared over the years reveal that you are very knowledgable about electronics, wood & metal working, as well as you know a thing or two about finishing components to make them look very 'manufactured'. Do you have any tips or secrets to your methods that you'd like to share with fellow builders?

While in high school and college I took a lot of art courses. It trained my eye to see the detail of objects and composition, texture, etc. I guess that came naturally when building components for the sim.

Use the real manufacturers material when possible for the best look. If you don't have a lot of machine tools like me, then you have to substitute and make it look like the manufacturers material choice. If working with wood it has to be filled, sanded, and primed to within an inch of its life and then re-primed and resanded again and again.



I think many may not have the patients for this and stop when it's "good enough" and slap a coat of paint on the object. Well for me that ain't. It
absolutely must look the part to me or I haven't done my job correctly. That's why my overhead eyebrow window trim gives me such a fit. Mostly, because I haven't yet figured out a way to make it right. If I knew how to make it absolutely right, it would have been fixed months ago. That is the most glaring error in the entire simulator. It sticks it's finger out and pokes me right in the eye whenever I look at it.

Plastic has to be treated in much the same way. You can't just cut out a piece of plastic, drill a hole in it and call it an instrument bezel. It still has to be filed and shaped or sanded and primed just like the wood. Maybe not to the extent of wood as it's porus, but it still must be finished properly for it to look like aluminum.



As for the electronics, I'm not an engineer. Just a technician who has already forgotten half of what I used to know when I used to do it for a living.



I can reverse-engineer most older equipment given enough time, but I can't design electronic circuits or build things like that without a schematic. If I have that in front of me I could probably build anything.


Lastly, If you ever decided that the 727 had ran its course and you wanted to build another aircraft, what would it be?

Hmmmm. Probably the Lockheed L-1011 as flown by TWA. I'm pretty fond of that aircraft too. Sort of a bridge between the old and the new. I don't really think I'd ever build another. More likely, I'd re-build or re-do sections of the 727. Why are all of the good looking aircraft unsupported? :p

Thanks for choosing me for the interview. It was and is a real honor. I owe a lot to the folks here who have sent photos, given advice, and answered questions. I couldn't have done it without your support and encouragement.

Thanks guys! http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h146/boeing722/009.gif



02-05-2009, 12:26 AM
oh my god, i'm stunned !
what an excellent interview. i really enjoyed that and well worth the wait.
it's great to see how other people do it and to such a high standard as well.
what an enterprising, talented and dedicated bunch we are. well done micheal
and congratulations on the award - well deserved..... ian

02-05-2009, 03:28 AM
Congratulation on the award !!

I had the privilege to fly as a passenger in a Boeing 727 from South Africa to Namibia about 2 years ago. What a descent aeroplane.

Matt Olieman
02-05-2009, 06:47 AM
Excellent interview Eric. Mike, what a wonderful experience to share with all of us, thank you. You're an inspiration. The B727 is dear to my heart, I've spent many hours as a passenger in that plane. My brother was B727 pilot for Eastern.

Great job and thanks to both Eric and Mike for a job well done.

Matt Olieman

Trevor Hale
02-05-2009, 09:17 AM

Fantastic Interview. I Loved it.

Joe Cygan
02-05-2009, 09:30 AM
Great work Mike as always!

02-05-2009, 11:32 AM
Excellent Mike. You are a credit to the hobby and I take my hat off to you for your attention to detail. Top interview and welcome to the club.

And I'd still love to see a video of one of your flight adventures ;)


Michael Carter
02-05-2009, 11:53 AM
Thanks for the kudos guys.

Video is coming soon. I'm about to purchase the Canon SX10 IS. The video capability of this still camera is amazing. It rivals a dedicated cam-corder.

The photos are near-DSLR quality too.

Can't wait!

02-05-2009, 11:57 AM
Congratulations on this selection Michael! Great pics and insight.

Efe Cem Elci
02-05-2009, 12:14 PM
Wow! Congratulations and what a great interview... :O

Geremy Britton
02-05-2009, 12:32 PM
Thanks Eric for the interview there ... a realy good read.

And of course Mike excellent progress, i remember from my early days here when you'd not even got a shell in, nevermind the throttle quad, pedestal, and panels.

Keep up the excellent work; you deserved the award. Even though as you say the greatest reward is flying something you know you've built yourself and can appreciate every tiny thing in there as just about every part you have made, modified, made to work yourself.

P.S Hows the engine panels going with the screen behind as you mentioned in a previous post mike?

Michael Carter
02-05-2009, 01:13 PM
It's not going good at all. I don't think I'll be able to use this monitor. It will not support the portrait resolution of 600x800 I need to get it behind the panel.

There's one trick I haven't tried yet, but I don't think it will make any difference because of the monitor resolution.

Maybe I'll stick it outside the sim over one of the eyebrow windows.:roll:

Thanks for the kind words. :D

02-06-2009, 05:06 AM
Great work, great project, thanks for the insight - congratulations Michael, it's well deserved.