Many people have written us emails and private messages on the different forums where we post updates on our sim. And there is one question that keeps repeating very often.
"Can you give me some tips of where to begin when you want to build a flight simulator"
Well, I'd love to give you the correct answer to this, but sadly there is no correct answer.
You will soon realize that what limits you mostly are the funding's, and the motivation. If you have all the money at once, you will grow impatient, and take on too much work at once and loose your motivation to continue. Also if don't have the money, you will soon loose your motivation due to the fact that you now have to overcome the financial struggle.
The most important thing in this process, is to never loose your motivation. If you do, your work will seem worthless, and the will to carry on disappears.
So how do you keep your motivation in such a big project like building a replica of a Boeing 737?
Well there is only one thing that works when it comes to this question, but more on that in a bit. As mentioned before, taking on too much work is a number one factor that makes your motivation dissipate rather quickly. One example of why this is true, is when you look at how much work you have ended up with, you will start loosing control of the small but very important things that needs to be considered for every thing you do in your build. When you have lost control of things, you will eventually start taking shortcuts. When you grow accustom to taking shortcuts, your end result will probably disappoint you to the point where you loose all motivation and give up.
So what you need to do before you even start the project is to sit down and divide your project into several different steps. It might seem silly, but it is very important to do this. As a real life MEI I learned during my study of psychology is that the human mind needs to be positively stimulated every now and then to boost your ego, and eventually help you to carry on with whatever you are trying to achieve. This stimuli is going to be achieved by setting us smaller but many goals that builds up to our end result. The feeling of self satisfy, and eventually a feeling of self fulfillment is key here, and every time we have accomplished one of our smaller goals, you will know this feeling of self satisfaction. Now is a good time to reward yourself, and your motivation has been boosted:)
As a suggestion as to how you can do this, here's how we divided our project into "baby steps"
#1 Sit down and figure out how far you want to take this project. In our case, all the way with a complete handmade fullscale cockpit shell, with wrap-around visual system, and a complete instructor station.
Carefully set yourself a time perspective to complete each step within. Next you need to start surfing the different hardware suppliers and decide which one to go with for the different systems. Join MyCockpit.org and start throwing questions at people that have done this before. And lastly, figure out how you are going to finance the project. Once everything has been roughly figured out, you are done with step one.. That wasn't too hard was it?
#2 Here's one of the most important steps you can do.. What you do here is going to set the standard for the rest of your project. You need to make drawings and work plans that you will build by. You need to scan the internet to get all the information on measurements, angles and sizes you can get a hold on. Chances are that there probably is somebody that have done this before, and have posted just what you need somewhere.
Make sure that you are 100% satisfied with the plans, and that it looks absolutely right. If not, your going to suffer later when it's too late to fix the errors. Make a front view, top view, and side view plan of your cockpit. This took me about two weeks to complete. Do NOT rush this part of the project. Next thing is to do an estimate of how much materials you need to get started, and go ahead to your local woodwork shop and make your purchase. Ok... So now you are around three weeks into the project, and have already finished step two.. Good job.. Now is the time to find something to reward yourself with for all your hard work. Maybe a few days off for some reflection?
#3 You have made your work-plans, and gathered all the materials and hardware you need to start building..
Now is the time to start transferring all your angles and shapes from your plans over to the actual wood, and start cutting. Your main focus for the next couple of weeks or so, will be cutting all the main spars, and getting them up and standing on it's own so you have a complete frame to eventually put your wood covering on. Make sure to add stringers to the frame to add strength to the whole structure. You will need help with constructing the window frames and attaching them to the spars. Take lot's of pictures while building, and start posting your progress on your favorite forum for some extra motivation as you go:) Step three is completed when you see that your build is sitting there smiling at you, ready for your next move;) lol..
#4 Construct the base where all your yoke mechanisms will fit into, together with rudder mechanisms. This base was made from 2x8 inch boards for our sim. This step is of course optional. It's just my own opinion that making a base is essential. If you don't make one, you are going to limit your self as to what hardware you can install in the sim when it comes to the dual yokes you want installed. On an Airbus shell you probably don't need a base because the Airbus have sidesticks. Lastly, construct the eyebrow window frames and install them in the roof spars making sure all angles interact with each other.
#5 Cover your shell with what ever you planned to when you made your initial plans for the project. We chose 4mm plywood in two layers. This makes the shell really strong, and easy to get a nice end result with some sanding. You need to buy a very strong and flexible silicone based glue to use together with the plywood. Use lot's of it, and don't be shy:) As Ivar Hestnes once said; "This is not the right place to save money". You can find a nice tutorial of how to cover your frame with plywood over at www.ivarhestnes.com
Another great tip is, use lot's of screws too... The more screws you use to get the shape right, the less sanding you need to do later.
#6 Okay, so now the shell is built and covered. Now is the time to start the sanding process. You will most probably think that this is just a piece of cake, and it will not take too long.. Well tell me the same story when you are done sanding:) Hehe.. Take your time and do it thoroughly. After it has been sanded and primed, paint it with your favorite livery, and install windows, and aluminum linings around the windows to complete the look. Congratulations, you have a completed exterior.
#7 Now is when the real fun begins. Firstly, you need to construct a main instrument panel (MIP) or if you already have a pre-manufactured you need to fit it inside the shell. Once you are satisfied, start constructing the interior linings. Study pictures from the real thing, and enjoy your work. Leave the roof lining to later. Do the side walls first.
#8 Construct the dual yokes. This is where it pays of constructing that floor base as you can construct all the mechanism parts underneath the floor.
#9 Construct the dual rudder mechanism.
#10 Construct the attachment bar in the roof, and install your overhead panels front and aft in the roof section, and the rest of your simulator hardware (throttle quadrant, pedestal and so on) . Now is the time to get everything up and running.
#11 Complete the interior of your cockpit by finishing the rest of the linings. Now concentrating on the roofing section.
#12 Construct a back-wall in the sim. This wall is where our instructor station is going to be mounted to. Also it adds to the realism from the inside of the sim. See if you can get some original used circuit breaker panels from an airplane graveyard and mount them on the back-wall.
#13 Now you are nearly done, and your sim has come to life. Everything runs fine, but there is one thing missing to get the complete feeling of flying. The wrap-around visual. Your last step in the project is to construct a projection wall around your sim. There are many ways of doing this, so you need to figure out what is the best solution for you, and go ahead and make the last finish to your project. Now, enjoy yourself..
Well there you have it people.. Remember that this is just my suggestion of how you can do this, and how to set yourself goals. Each step is important. Remember that a a chain is never stronger than it's weakest link.
I'll probably update this page as our project comes along. I hope you enjoyed my little tip on how to reach your goal.