• Builder Of The Month August 2008

    MyCockpit Presents the August Featured Builder of the Month

    Check out the August Featured Builder of the Month, Remember these builders are selected by the Member Base, and brought to you by MyCockpit staff.

    I would like to thank Ian for taking the time to answer all our questions. When your finished reading this Interview, please visit the other previous builders of the month in the Forum under (Builder of the Month Interviews).

    #1. Hi Ian, for those of us who do not know you please tell us a
    little bit about yourself. (Favorite color/Married/ What you do for a living / where do you live etc.)

    Greetings captains, Favorite Colour RAL7011 Boeing Grey of course. I’m 56 years of age and retired. Married to Pauline, who if not a ‘Sim’ fan, is most tolerant of the bit’s of wood & wires and countless visitors than I could reasonably expect. I stay out of her garden (except to drink beer) and she stays out of my sim – think I struck a great deal. We live near Oswestry, Shropshire in the UK on the Welsh Borders where I ran my own business for 25 years.

    #2. How long have you been flight simming?

    Phew! The words ATARI and Sinclair ZX Spectrum 48 spring to mind. I’m sure a few of you will remember wire frame Cessna ‘lookalikes’ with a top speed of 90mph and a fuel endurance of 40mins. So I guess the answer to that one is about 25 years.

    #3. What type of aircraft are you building and what helped you decide
    what to build?

    I have a Boeing 737NG. Being a Private Pilot , taking your licence always used to get you in the cockpit in days gone by, which sadly is not now the case. I have spent many happy hours up front and with a few ‘jump seat landings’ under my belt in this beauty. So I have a soft spot for this cramped, noisy, intimate environment.
    Secondly, in the early stages, I was able to find more information for the Boeing and of course more hardware is available for this type. So I started playing around with the PMDG and ARIANE models before finally settling on the PMDG737 6/7/8/900 series as the base model of choice, primarily for the interaction, performance and the level of support for the Navigational Database.

    #4. Approximately how long have you been working on your simulator?

    I retired in May 2005. Prior to that I decided that I wanted a small ‘airliner’ setup to play around with. My original intention was to just have a simple ‘no mouse or keyboard’ setup in my den. That is all I really intended to do. Nothing else was planned. But the constant ‘adding this switch and got to get that working’ challenge meant before I knew it, I was relocating the ‘pit’ to my workshop. So over the past three years, we have gone from unpacking the first parcel to what I have today. Bit like a damp patch on the wall, every time you look at it, it just got bigger.

    #5. Please tell us about your interface/interfaces you have selected,
    and what software you are running?

    First, my sim is built around FS2004 & the PMDG 737NG (Flight Model, Main Instruments & Outside view). FSXpand for the Upper/Lower EICAS (but I haven’t fitted the Lower Screen yet) and Standby’s/Flaps. FSUIPC/WideFS and Active Sky v6.5. Engravity CDU, CPFlight MCP and their MCPEX1 and MIP737 expansion boards. CPFlight and Flight Illusion Radios. Homebuild logic system communicating with the aircraft via BU0836X x 2 and MCPEX1 talking to FSUIPC. Additional inputs via Opencockpits USBKeys Card.

    #6. Why did you choose that particular interface?

    Ok, I throw my hands up here. I think choose isn’t quite the right word in my case, ‘they evolved’ is more correct I think. In the early days, I was looking for a simple, no nonsense approach to getting something flying. As it all started to grow, I looked at exactly what I wanted to do using simple inputs (BU0836 and USBKeys card). Then as the project became more ‘intense’, the budget/performance and ‘where in the world is it’ variables came into play. Hence the CPFlight expansions.

    #7. Did you always have this interface?, or do you have any plans to
    change your interface? If so why?

    Yes, I started small and gradually expanded as the project grew. Right now, everything is working 100%. So if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I will probably stick with this set up until the next version of FS comes along when it will be off to the ‘lab’ to experiment. But until then….

    #8. How many computers are you using in your entire setup? Please
    detail what each computer does.

    Actual cockpit runs on two, with an additional three machines for the ‘add ons’ and side views:
    ONE: Main FS (with Wide Server & FSUIPC) machine running PMDG, CPFlightTools, FSXpand, & FI GS Software for the Flight Model, Main Outside View and PFD/ND Instruments. All inputs are to this machine.
    TWO: FSClient machine for EICAS, Standby Instruments and Flaps Gauge.
    THREE: Wideview Front Left and Front Right Views
    FOUR: Wideview Left and Right Views
    FIVE: Wideclient, Active Sky, Squawkbox, Servinfo etc.

    #9. What is your favorite piece of hardware in your setup?

    Tough Call, actually I have three. The TQ, the CPFlight MCP and the Engravity CDU. I wouldn’t be without any of these items. Makes it so much more realistic. I could ‘workaround’ everything else, but these………..

    #10. What is your favorite piece of software in your setup?

    Again, a difficult question. Obviously the PMDG737NG because it gives me everything I want to do with a BOEING 737, FSUIPC without which none of us would be able to do anything and finally FSXpand that has allowed me to fill the centre of the MIP without resorting to expensive software/hardware (budget is a very important factor).

    #11. Is there anything in your cockpit that you are not happy with that you are eager to fix?

    Yes, two things, the MIP backlighting was great when I first did it, but as your standards get better, you start to look at things you did two years ago (did I really do that?). I’m going thru a major upgrade at the moment (which should be finished by the time you read this), but for next years upgrade, the MIP backlighting is one of the things to sort. The second thing I need to look at is the Rudder Pedals. Up to now, they weren’t an issue, but next year I’m going to look at a more realistic experience.

    12. Where do you see your simulator in the next year?

    Exactly where it is now! I don’t think Madame is going to let me move it
    Seriously, generally I am 95% happy with the appearance and performance. What I will do is ‘refine’ things and probably develop better ways to do things over the next year.

    13. On average, how often would you say you fly your simulator?

    Usually four or five times a week. With something like this at your place, there’s always somebody who want’s to see it. I openly encourage visitors, because seeing something like this gives prospective builders the momentum and enthusiasm to ‘go for it’. I get visitors from all over the UK and even Europe. In fact the First ‘MyCockpit.org’ UK Builders Cockpit Visit trip was to mine. Hi Guys…… And the bride doesn’t mind me having other little boys here as long as we play together nicely.

    14. On average how many hours a week, do you spend building in your simulator?

    If I had my way, 40. But the ‘chores’ get in the way. So I guess a realistic figure is about 10 to 12 on a good week and as low as 2 –3 on a bad one.

    #15. Will you ever consider upgrading the flightsim your sim is based
    on? (for example move to FSX or FSXI)

    Absolutely, evolution and development is the way forward. I decided against looking at FSX, because of the limitations at the time (scenery, utilities etc). When you’re on your own, upgrading to a new platform would be a mammoth task, everything has to change. So I’m going to wait for FSXI and form an opinion then. I have to be able to recreate what I have now inside the new environment, otherwise there’s no point in doing it.

    #16. What kind of a display system have you chosen, and why?

    Ok, forward view is delivered from 2 x InFocus X3 projectors. The forward left/right and the left/right views are thru WidevieW and displayed on 4 x 20” widescreen TFT monitors. It’s a constraint based on the equation in question 17. The space I have is a tad over 3 metres wide, so I’m governed by that parameter. I would love to follow Nic’s example with a ‘wraparound’ visual display, but that’s something for the future. However, for the time being, it’s a good compromise because visitors just love looking out of the windows.

    17. If you could suggest some advice to a new builder just getting started, what advice would you give?

    I always work by the formula: Budget + Skill Level + Time\Expectations + Space Available’ = Your Cockpit. No two cockpits are the same because the variables in each case are different. Be realistic, start from the Ground and work up (it can be a real pain in the *** to have to pull everything out just because you got the wiring to a switch wrong). Get to one level and get it working, then look to the next step. Ask yourself are you here for the duration or are you here just for ‘the **** of it’. You really do need a certain amount of dedication. Oh! & Never throw anything away, you can re-use it, maybe not tomorrow, but believe me you’re going to be looking for it in 6 months. Building a cockpit can be like having a hole in your garden that you throw money in. Be careful, spend your money wisely. Don’t just buy something, make sure it can do exactly what you want it to do before you part with the ‘bucks’.

    18. Is there anything in your simulator that you have done, that you don't show anyone because you don't think you’re happy with it?

    Absolutely not, visitors are more than welcome to look at the bits you don’t normally see. I like to show visitors everything ‘Warts and All’ (a fresh view just might teach me something. And on one occasion, it did). So, what you see is what you get ‘ere

    19. Where is the most exotic place you have ever flown to in your simulator?

    The definition of exotic = ‘[FONT="]of foreign origin or character’, [/FONT][FONT="]so, [/FONT]First Prize: Innsbruck LOWI, Second Prize: Tivat LYTV, Third Prize: Kai Tak VHHH. Not only ‘exotic’ but a real challenge thrown in as well

    #20. What would you say was your biggest OOPS! while you were building your pit?

    Doing by myself. So much work and so little time. I live in a ‘not so densely populated’ area and that means I had to do everything myself. Nobody is good at everything and I would have loved to have had a couple of friends who were electronic experts or carpenters. But, we have to learn new skills or the job doesn’t get done right. So if ever I do it again, I wouldn’t do it on my own.

    #21. There are many simulator builders who I would consider pioneered this hobby, out of all the builders that were around when you started Who would you say you kept an eye on the most for your ideas? or who did you look up to most when you ran into troubles?

    I really was inspired by two people. First on a visit to Budapest, I got to meet Andras Kozma the Scenery Designer and invited to his fully functioning 737 cockpit. Leaving his home (dribbling and trembling), I just knew I had to go that far. Secondly, I admired what Matt Ford did with the front end of a 737. I would love to do that, but refer to the equation in question 17.

    #22. If you could meet one person in real life that you met from this
    hobby, who would it be and why?

    No contest, Peter Dowson. Without Peter, we wouldn’t be where we are today. There are virtually no standards at all in this hobby. But, just about anything that communicates with FS and our Add On Aircraft/Utility/Weather Interface/Cockpit System Software is all down to Peter and FSUIPC. I actually do have an invitation to visit him and his sim, but personal circumstances and time has delayed my contacting him. Hopefully, in August.

    #23. Please name one person that you think you owe the most thanks too, in this wonderful hobby and Why?

    The Bride (Pauline). My Mrs’ is a diamond. Never complains about the sawdust, bits of wire or aircraft parts that appear in the house (don’t quite know what she’s going to say when the APU arrives. It’s a big undertaking building a cockpit that can consume time and energy quite quickly. So I’m very thankful that she looks on my activities and smiles. Don’t know what she’s thinking when she does that, but I think she’s obviously impressed

    #24. If you could have one thing to add to your simulator, anything at all for free, what would it be and why?

    Without a doubt, motion. But I can’t afford it and I just don’t have the space. It’s as simple as that. I have experienced motion and believe me it does add that ‘something special’.

    #25. What is your favorite website resource on the internet with regard to your project?

    B737.org.uk for everything about the aircraft. Chuck Harman’s Interactive site for everything about the overhead panel, Smart Cockpit for System and Operational Information and if I get stuck, I can always ask a friend at mycockpit.org That actually has got me out of a couple of fixes!

    If I could just add a few last words here, I would like to thank everybody who shares their ideas or contributes to the greater good of us all. It’s something I am a great believer in and here’s an open invitation to all members who want to fly the sim or want to see how it’s done, just mail or message me. Coffee and the 737NG waiting. Have a great day everybody.

    Thanks again for doing this, I am sure I am just as eager as all the others members to hear how you have pioneered this hobby, as you are a really fantastic Bloke.