• Builder of Month - January 2010

    Happy New Year Friends. It is a new year and we have a new Builder of the Month. This month we have a unique builder of month The Learsim-Team, someone who has chosen somthing besides Airbus and Boeing. Interesting!

    Click on "Read More" for full interview.

    This month's builder of the month decided to construct a LearJet. I am sure you would have seen their project pictures and videos on our website. Any guesses?

    We are proud to present "Learsim Team" as Builder of Month for January 2010 for their outstanding work and dedication to the simbuild.

    I had the pleasure of meeting Per David and Lars of the Learsim Team and learn more about their amazing project. Find appended below my interview with them.

    Can you please introduce yourself? Age, location, family status? Hobby, Passion, etc, whith photographs

    The persons involved in the Learsim project are me, Lars and Pelle.

    We all have families and children. We live in a town about 100 km from Stockholm, the capital of Sweden. I’m 39 years old and Lars and Pelle are 44 years old. I’m a physician, specialist in Neurology. Lars works for a large technical company here in Sweden, ABB and Pelle works with computers. Pelle has a private pilot license and he flies smaller Cessna and Piper aircraft. I have flying around in the virtual skies for the last 12-13 years and I have “logged” thousands of hours in different aircrafts. I have flown just about everything from freeware aircrafts to pay ware aircrafts from PMDG, PSS, Dreamfleet 2000, Captain Sim and so on. Lars has also spent some time in the virtual skies. Me and Lars also play golf. Pelle has a passion for old cars and he buys old damaged cars which he restores.

    How did you all meet together?

    It started in 2005 on my kids birthday party at my house. Lars son was invited and Lars, curious as he is, looked around in our house and in one room he discovered a throttle that I used when flying FS9 and Falcon 4. We started talking about it and it turned out that both of us had a genuine airplane and flight simulator interest. After a while we talked about making our own radio stack, and finally I brought up the idea of building our own simulator. This happened 3-4 years ago. We were also inspired by our friends at the aviation museum. They work on three simulators at the moment, a Metropolitan Convair, a DC-10 and a SAAB J35-Draken (http://www.flygmuseum.com/). Lars and I live nearby the museum.

    Lars knew Pelle since many years back and knew that he was very good at building things like houses and airplanes etc. so we talked to Pelle and asked if he was interested, and sure he was. This sounded weird enough! Pelle also is a licensed pilot flying small Cessna and Piper aircrafts.

    When most of the sim builders are building B737, what prompted you to start with LearJet?

    At first we planned to make a 737 or a MD-80. We thought of buying a cockpit and restore it. Pelle who built a couple of small aircrafts and also restored several cars suggested that we should build a mock up instead. That would solve several problems in the wiring phase of the project and also give us the opportunity to build just about any cockpit. He also reminded us how much effort such a project takes and that we should aim for something smaller. After some discussions we switched over from the larger Boeing/MD pits to the smaller sized Learjet 45. I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve done most of the work and put most effort into the Learsim project. I started planning the project.

    I searched the internet for photos and information on dimensions and so on. MyCockpit.org was one important source of information. Cockpit building includes many different fields like wood work, electronics, software solutions, interfacing and so on. And all these aspects need consideration.
    Soon the outlines of the project were clear to me. I started to make mock-ups in paper, first a small model and then a full sized MIP which I presented to Lars and Pelle.

    I knew the possibilities and limitations of Microsoft Flight Simulator. We decided to use the PMRJ software from Project Magenta. One problem was and still is the lack of good Learjet models. However the default Learjet 45 (FS 2004) is suitable for the PM software. I managed to enhance the rather poor flight dynamics of the default Learjet making it flyable. Lars has done the programming part of Sim Boards, this was mainly on the MCP which is a rather complex little unit when you think of it. Our MCP is a simple one but yet several of the buttons are “coupled to each other”. This is mainly for the different functions of lateral navigation. As the project evolved we left the ambition of making an exact replica of a Learjet 45. Actually we saw many advantages in making a more custom pit. For example we have incorporated several general FS functions in the cockpit systems to be able to remove the computer keyboards. When FS is up and running and the flight is loaded there’s no need for any computer keyboard. One example is our ATC unit with a small screen for ATC text and buttons for ATC input. No keyboard needed. Our cockpit suits several aircrafts in the bizjet and corporate aircraft segment. After some flights with a retired Learjet 35 captain he found the aircrafts from Dreamwings and Project Opensky much more realistic in handling compared to the default Learjet 45 in FS2004. We now use CRJs and Embraers from Project Opensky, Dreamwing’s Embraer 170 and of course the Learjet 45. The pit would also suit aircrafts like Gulfstreams, and Falcons.

    We aimed for a Lear but ended up with a small fleet.

    After finishing the central parts of the pit, with all the gauges and screens we wrapped it all up in a nice shell. Pelle’s constructional skill has been very useful in this part of the project!

    So how far has your project reached

    The cockpit is actually finished. We need to move the simulator to a new home with more space for a good solution on the outside visuals. In the future we aim for a solution with three projectors and a curved screen. But we need more space!

    The systems simulated and working in the cockpit are:
    Electric panel with battery and avionic buttons, alternators, an engine/fuel panel with fuel switches, engine startup (APU is not simulated), external and internal lighting. EFIS panels which have partly separated functions (Capt/FO). A TCAS-system with different modes. Announciator panel which combined with the EICAS of PMRJ shows the status of the most important functions. We have systems for controlling barometric pressure. Spoiler and spoiler ARM, FLAPS obviously. We have a fully functioning MCP and radio equipment including COM, NAV 1, NAV 2, ADF and transponder and a fully a working trim panel (pitch, aileron and rudder trim), clocks with alarms and timers. We have working anti ice systems. We have an integrated ATC unit with a small screen for ATC text (Radar Contact) and push buttons for communication. In the periphery of the cockpit we also included instruments for more general FS functions like top down view, push back, reset flight and so on. Soon I will install Radar Contact on one of the client machines to separate ATC from engine and wind sounds. We have an audio selector panel where we can switch the ATC sound between a speaker and two headsets.
    The overhead panel holds our Electronic Flight Bag. Numerous airports and enroute charts are installed and also manuals, checklists and routes. We also have a MP3 player and a video player for in flight entertainment

    What are your future plans for the project?

    Our main concern right now is to find a home for our simulator. It is currently located in my garage. Another remaining thing is to get a good solution on the visuals, i.e. the outside environment.
    Since we fly a bunch of aircrafts we also have to do some editing on our web site: www.learsim.com

    We might not remove the Learsim logo but we will include the new logo “Regional Jet Simulation” in some way. We’ll hopefully update the web site soon after the holidays. Lars is our webmaster.

    How did you go about designing the instrument panels, etc?

    At first we planned to buy instruments from CPFlight, Flight Deck Solutions or Fly Engravity but we soon learned their products were in Boeing and Airbus style. Early in the project Lars and I discussed on how to incorporate more general FS functions in the cockpit (our ATC Unit is one example) removing the computer keyboard out of the flight deck. This led to thoughts that we should make our own panels. In this way we could make whatever instrument we needed and also all the instruments would be made in the same style. In this way the price for all the instruments were greatly reduced. I learned about Schaeffer, a German company making all sorts of engraved panels using CNC-technique.

    I downloaded the free panel design program “Front Panel Designer” and started to design the panels.

    All panels follow a certain theme and this was also a good way to make plastic films for pushbuttons and the announciator.

    How did you approach with electronic, backlighting, etc? I assume you built all of these on your own?

    Yes, we made them on our own. We were lucky to have a friend nearby with a CNC-machine.

    The panels are made of 3 mm ionized aluminum. We chose this to make them as robust and durable as possible. This makes backlighting impossible. We solved this problem with small spotlights throwing lights onto the panels making the engraved text light up. We use a combination of UV-light, blue, red and white. The electronic part is very simple with cables between the buttons/switches/rotary encoders and the interface card. We use Sim Boards from Flight Deck Technology for interfacing and also some slaughtered computer keyboards.

    What is your favourite part of the Sim and why?

    I think the overall result is very good. This is a complete cockpit, if we talk about the primary systems involved with the actual flying. That’s the strength of this project and our cockpit.
    The only thing I can think of as missing is the CDU. One of my best friends is captain on the 737-800 and he states that the main reason for CDUs and FMCs is economy. Of course it would be nice to be able to insert SIDs and STARs into the flight plan. Now we fly them by hand and since we fly IFR we are vectored “all the way home”

    Okay, we do not have any systems for a pressurised cabin and so on but we can live with that. For now we’ll also settle with FS2004. We have numerous add-ons installed making it a far more realistic and visually appealing simulator compared to the default installation.

    How much time do you spend on the sim?

    I have spent far too much time building it. We couldn’t actually fly it until a few months ago. Maybe that’s what kept me striving so hard to finish it. I will probably fly at least 1-2 times a week if time permits. I think Lars will also spend some time in it, but Pelle will probably be far too occupied with his cars. Well he will certainly make a visit from time to time.

    Many thanks guys for this fascinating interview. Also you catch their videos on Youtube.