• Builder of Month - June 2009

    Another month and a new builder of the month Chris Danker. This month we bring together another experienced builder who interestingly also has real world experience in the aviation industry. Sit back and enjoy this edition of Builder of the month.

    Click on "Read More" for full interview.

    Hi Chris, I'd like to thank you for taking time out to conduct the interview for June. You have an interesting project in the works.

    Would you say a few words about yourself and any family you'd like to mention?

    I am 48 years old and married to Eizie and I have 2 children, Brighton (4yrs) and Chelsea (2yrs). All of them are tolerant with my hobby and because of the fact that I have young children, my time at the sim has been reduced as you can appreciate the fact. My simulator room has also been converted to a playroom for them but in the next 2 years, I will be expanding on my house and a room will once more be available for the sim.
    I currently work for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in Kuala Lumpur as the Maintenance Manager / Aircraft Engineer. Aviation runs in my blood. I think if I have a cut, I bleed Engine Oil or Hydraulics. Had initially wanted to be a pilot but fate got the better of me and I became an engineer for aircraft instead. I work on B737’s, A300’s, A320’s, B747-400’s, MD11’s and B777’s.
    I still have a passion for aircraft and my work. We live in a small town called Seremban near Kuala Lumpur, MALAYSIA and near KL International Airport (WMKK).

    During my A320 Training at KLM – AMS

    Enough strength to lift A330’s

    When did you get involved in Flight Simulator?

    I first got started into flight simming in 1996 when I got my first computer. Back then it was FS5.1 and when I first loaded the disk and ran the program, I was blown away as I thought that it was “FANTASTIC” as all I had seen till then was the Sublogic’s Flight Simulator on an old DOS computer which were all just lines making the simulation. I progressed there on with the progression of all the MS Flight Simulation series till FS2004 now. Used FSX for a while but need to upgrade to a high end PC for that so decided to stick on to FS9.

    My Very First Desktop Sim

    What was your reason for building a full-size simulator?

    I had been flying with desktops for the sims but when the opportunity rose with the Engravity Products, I decided to make the move from desktop pilot to simulator cockpit pilot. Before Engravity, I had a proto-type cockpit built of an airbus with the PM Airbus software. Unfortunately the cockpit looked a little rough and I wanted more realism. Hence the Engravity MIP’s.

    My 1st Attempt at A320 Cockpit build

    My B737 Engravity Build

    Why did you chose to build the Boeing 737?

    At the time I decided to go with the full-sized sim, it was the only type other than the Aerosims B747-400 MCP and EFIS Panels ready built. Honestly, had there been the A320 FCU and EFIS like they have now, I would have gone the Airbus way. The reason being that the Airbus has a lot of “eye candy” as I call it, on the ECAM in the way that the Systems Display pages change automatically depending on the phase of the flight. Coupled with the fact that I just did an Airbus A320 engineering course in 2003, I thought it would have been nice.

    What do you find the most interesting about the 737?

    Not sure….In terms of building… the ease of getting hardware for most of the sim. There are loads of parts to get from the vendors.
    In terms of the aircraft itself…it’s an almost hands on aircraft whereby you have to do most of the switching in the cockpit as compared to the automated systems of the airbus’s

    Where are you in the building process?

    Currently completing the Overhead using a blown up high resolution picture of the overhead and getting a shop that makes signs and advertising posters to make the poster in full size in a poster self-adhesive print whereby I stick it onto an 8mm clear Perspex backing ( for future backlighting possibilities) and then putting all the necessary switches in. I have just completed all the hardware and now in the process of putting the wiring in for connection to my MCPEX1 board from CP Flight and Leo Bodnar’s BU0836X joystick controller card to link to my PM Systems for complete overhead control of the sim. This was a cheap method of an overhead without having to pay for the high end products from Engravity , Symultory or FDS.

    My Current Overhead Panel with hardware installed ready for wiring to Leo’s card

    You have many different ideas and ways of accomplishing them for your build. Would you tell us a bit about one of your current projects within the build?

    Well, as mentioned earlier, I used a picture of the overhead and got that blown up to full size, then adding all the hardware to link to the joystick controller cards to the sim. Another one was where I used a 17” LCD Touchscreen monitor for the lower EICAS and as well as the FMC. This I found to work well as the response from the touch screen was good enough to do the necessary Flight planning and other CDU functions. Also the reason I first used the Touchscreen principle was that I had purchased both Airbus and Boeing Suites from Project Magenta and this allowed me to also fly the Airbus from time to time using the B737 sim. Strangely enough, the MCP of CP Flight was also able to control to a certain extent the Autopilot functions of the Airbus as well.

    Since then though, I have purchased the Engravity CDU Hardware and will modify my lower EICAS to move the touchscreen to the right to accommodate the CDU and still be able to use the Touchscreen for the Co-Pilot’s CDU

    NEXT on the project list ----- building the TQ with possible interface using the BU0836 card or link 02 of my SAITEK throttles underneath the assembly connected to the throttle handles and spoiler and flap handles. This way it will use the SAITEK’s connection to FS9 and controlled via FSUIPC. This idea came from seeing Steve Becker’s B777 throttle assembly connected underneath to CH Products Throttle Quad…Thanks Steve for the idea…

    My B737 Sim with TouchScreen FMC and Lower EICAS

    What sort of computer system specs are you running for the sim? More than one system?

    I have 05 computers for the sims.
    PC -1 : for the Visuals for MS FS2004. Using a little other add-ons in
    order to give the PC FULL processor power to run the visuals.
    Nothing more frustrating that stuttering visuals.
    PC – 2 : for the Capt’s PFD & ND and using a video splitter I also have
    the PFD & ND on the Co-Pilot’s side although the orientation of
    the PFD & ND are on the wrong side. This way I didn’t have to
    buy another licence for the Co-pilot’s side from Project Magenta,
    as I had already been set back quite a few $$$ for the Airbus
    and Boeing Suites.
    PC – 3 : for the Upper EICAS
    PC – 4 : for the CDU , Active Sky and other software
    PC – 5 : for the MCP of PM
    Dell Laptop - :that runs Project Magenta Instructor Station and PM’s

    How will you displaying the outside view?

    Currently I’m using a 3 monitor setup using Matrox Parhelia’s 128Mb Triple output but will eventually switch to LCD Projector for a bigger outside view. When funds again available, will look at the digital TripleHead to go and 3 projector setup……… ( Ah …the dream… )

    Will you eventually be building a shell for your simulator?

    All depending if the space and TIME is available…however I don’t foresee it to be too soon.

    Any plans to upgrade your control yoke(s)?

    Very interested to do so and will definitely be using Ian Sission’s Tutorials to do it and I am base-ing most of my sim building projects on Ian’s Tutorials……he’s my Sim Building “GURU” at the moment. Thanks Ian. Hope to visit your sim again one of these days……..it was a pleasure last year to fly it.

    What sort of interface solutions are you using for inputs and outputs?

    I actually started with the CP Flight MCPEx1 board for simplified controls …like the landing gear levers and corresponding lights, autobrakes, parking brakes etc..etc… and also was going to use it for the throttles and flaps until I heard about Leo Bodnar’s BU0836X card. That’s when I got interested in the idea of building my cheaper solution of the overhead panel using the BU0836X card. I have one of Leo’s cards now but may have to get more soon.

    What else have you scratch built for your simulator?

    Pedestal.....but it is a simple version of the actual pedestal of the B737NG. Reason being was that I had a mixture of USB Pedestal panels like the NAV, Transponder and COMM panels from CP flight and also some from Go-Flight. I also used and wired some sections of my old SAFELINE Throttle system that I acquired way back in 2000. It has since been dismantled and various parts of the assembly of the SAFELINE switches and rotary encoders were used in the pedestal. These don’t have the same widths and therefore the improvisation of the pedestal to accommodate all of these panels.
    I have however decided to get it to look more realistic and will be building a pedestal that resembles the B737NG pedestal and try to outfit it with as many panels that I can afford to buy. Otherwise I will fit dummy panels on the co-pilots side for now.

    Do you have a shop or other building area for your projects?

    Sadly no…would love to have one where I can work and build at my own pace. Most of my work is done outside at the back of the house and the more refined work of wiring inside my house whenever possible when the children are asleep.

    What are some destinations within FS that you most enjoy flying to?

    Mostly I fly destinations near my local airport of Kuala Lumpur ( WMKK ) I like the short hops as it gives me things to do during a flight. Long flights are boring once we get to cruise level. Once I actually flew a B747-400 on my desktop version of my simulator and input the actual flight plan that our KLM aircraft flies back to AMS from KUL. What I did was to do the flight in the night and fly the aircraft up to cruise level, set it to autopilot on the FMC and went to sleep. The next morning, woke up and joined the flight just before descent and took the aircraft into EHAM for the landing and parking. Somewhat like what the real pilots do heh? On the long haul flights of 12 hrs….

    Also like to fly EHAM – EGLL or EGKK with the B737 since I am familiar with Amsterdam Schiphol since I do most of my engineering courses with KLM in AMS.

    Any words of advise for someone just starting the building process?

    To quote my Flight Simmer “GURU” ( Ian Sissons ) with his infamous words of wisdom,

    “Budget + Skill Level + Time\Expectations + Space Available’ = Your Cockpit”

    That’s basically what it boils down to. Take the time to research the cockpit of your desire and look it up for availability of information and advice from fellow builders. I just wish that I had this website forum when I first started building my cockpit and I would have done it a little differently with all the information available. When designing your cockpit, leave room for future expansion of your ideas as undoubtedly you WILL be “Upgrading” your cockpit.

    Thanks for taking the time for the interview Chris. You have a great project and we'd like to thank you for sharing it with the membership.

    Michael E. Carter