DIY flight simulator cockpit plans

DIY Flight Simulator Cockpit Plans | How to Order

I can show you how to build your own home flight simulator. You can build an impressive home cockpit with materials from a home improvement store, flight controls from Amazon, and standard computer equipment. Best of all, my website has more than just DIY flight simulator cockpit plans, each project includes detailed videos and instruction manuals.

DIY Flight Simulator Cockpit Plans

The slides below show you step by step how to order a DIY Flight Sims digital project. Every project is an instant digital download and as a result you don’t have to wait for shipping. I do not sell the building materials, therefore you just buy them from your local hardware store.

 

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Step-by-step Order Instructions

  1. Find the DIY Flight Simulator cockpit plans project you want and click “Add to Cart”
  2. Review your choice at the Shopping Cart screen and click “Next”
  3. Choose your payment method: Credit Card or PayPal
  4. Again choose your payment method. The Credit Card option is at the bottom
  5. Enter your payment information
  6. You will receive an email from Roger Dodger Aviation with the download link at the bottom of the email
  7. Click the download link to go to your private download page
  8. Click the link to save the zip file to your computer. There may be more than one zip file, so be sure to save them all. Pay attention to where you save the zip file, it might be in your Downloads folder or desktop
  9. Right click the zip file and extract the contents. Windows will create a new folder with the extracted contents
  10. Open the new folder.
  11. Click on the pdf files to read the DIY Flight Simulator cockpit plans and manuals or print the labels. Click the video files to view the instructional videos

 

The instruction manuals and labels are in Adobe pdf format. You can download the free Adobe reader here.

The videos are in Windows Media Video (wmv) format. Your computer should be able to play them.

If you are using an Apple Mac or other Apple product, you will probably need a couple of free apps to view the files. You can download the Adobe reader for Mac here and you can download the free Windows Media Video viewer here.

You print out a paper order form and mail in your order. Get the order form here.

 

4 New Changes to Home Built Flight Simulators: Watch Video

I made four simple, yet significant changes to the D250 Deluxe Desktop home built flight simulators. Consequently, these changes bring me back into the beloved world of general aviation. See me in the video flying a Beechcraft Baron once agian.

 

 

1. Added a Yoke and Throttle Quadrant

I removed the side-mounted HOTAS joystick and throttle and added a Saitek flight yoke and throttle quadrant. I attached the trim wheel underneath the throttle quadrants, and that is the perfect location. Once again, I can fly multi-engine airplanes like the Beech Baron, or light general aviation airplanes like the Cessna 172.

Home built flight simulators with new mods
Home built flight simulators with new mods

2. Raised the Instrument Panel Display

I use an inexpensive 19″ monitor to display the flight instruments on the D250. The yoke housing did not fit under the 19″ monitor, so I raised the monitor mount a few inches. I simply replaced the board for the Center Instrument Panel and attached an adapter board for the monitor mount.

Raised monitor mount for instrument display
Raised monitor mount for instrument display

3. Moved all Saitek Switch Panels

When you fly an airplane with a yoke, your left hand is typically on the yoke and your right hand is free to adjust the radio frequencies, dial in nav headings, and more. The D250 wasn’t set up like this because I used it to fly helicopters. As a result, the radios were on the left side of the cockpit, because a helicopter pilot typically keeps his right hand on the cyclic (joystick) and the left hand is free. I cut new 1×8 boards for the Left and Right Side Instrument Panels and re-arranged, and re-mounted the Saitek switch panels.

Yoke and throttle quadrant mod for the DIY flight sim
Yoke and throttle quadrant mod for the DIY flight sim

4. I Moved the Drink Holder

Don’t fly thirsty! I moved the drink holder to the right side of the cockpit so I could easily reach it with my right hand. The drink holder is the right size for a travel mug or a bottle with a drink coozie.

Important drink holder in the home flight sim
Important drink holder in the home flight sim

Plans for Home Built Flight Simulators

Do you want to build this same flight simulator for your home? If I get enough interest from my DIY community then I will create an additional Instruction Manual and include it with the original plans. In addition, customers who have already purchased this project will get the new plans for free.

System Specs and Peripherals

Notice these computers are not especially strong or new. You don’t have to spend $2000 on a computer to have great home built flight simulators.

DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim, item #D250
Primary computer: Powerspec B634 with Intel i5-3450
Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 SSC
Windows 7, 64 bit
Flight yoke: Saitek Pro Flight
Saitek throttle quadrant
Saitek Pro Flight trim wheel
Pro Flight Cessna rudder pedals from Saitek
Switch panels: Saitek PZ55, PZ69, PZ70

Secondary computer: Dell Inspiron 530s with Pentum E2200
Windows Vista
Sim Innovations Air Manager

4 screen DIY flight sim with yoke and throttle quadrant
4 screen DIY flight sim with yoke and throttle quadrant

Interview with Onet – Building Flight Simulator Cockpit

Marcin Strzyzewski invited me to do an interview for Onet online in Poland. Onet posts articles on a wide range of topics so I was happy to provide info about building flight simulator cockpit. Below are Marcin’s questions and my answers. Please let me know what you think of my responses.

1. What is the biggest fun in flight simulation?

Flight simulators can do many different things so that depends on what interests you. Think of the flight sim pilot population as three parts:
Part 1 are the people that enjoy flying airliners with their flight simulator. Many of these users join Virtual Airlines and fly the same routes in the simulator as they would in real life. They fly online with other users that serve as air traffic control.
Part 2 are all the pilots that used to fly in real life, or plan to fly later in real life, or they are active pilots now. You see these people using their simulator for civil airplanes and helicopters like the ones you would find at a flight school. Active pilots can fly a lesson in real life, then practice the same lesson at home with their simulator.
Part 3 are the gamers and casual users. They fly space simulators or air combat simulators or maybe they just play around and fly for fun. This also a large and important population.

For me personally, I enjoy all the above. But most of all, I enjoy designing and building cockpit enclosures for home flight sims. I call these Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Flight Sims.

2. If some of our readers want to start making their own simulator, what is your advice?

First of all, know what type of aircraft you simulate the most. For example, a helicopter simulator project will look a lot different than an airliner simulator project.

Second, know your budget. If you live in a country where PVC pipe or lumber is really expensive, you should know that before you start. If you will buy new displays or new controls, start looking for sales. Retailers usually run a sale every month or two.

Third, and perhaps most important: negotiate with your spouse. A flight simulator will take up space in your home that can’t be used for other things. I designed both large and small DIY Flight Sims, but they all take up some measure of space. I recommend you talk this over with your spouse prior to construction.
Note: if you can make the case that your children or grandchildren will somehow benefit from your flight simulator, this can help.

 

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3. What is a most common mistake of the beginners?

The most common mistake is never starting the project. Actually, just getting started can be the most difficult part. No matter how large or small the project, you finish them all the same way: one step at a time, over and over, until you are done.
I think my DIY videos help because you can see the building process before you personally start construction on your project.
Just. Get. Started.

4. Building flight simulator cockpit sounds pricey is it in fact?

The most expensive components are the ones that keep going down in price: computers, graphics cards, touch-screens, and large HD displays. Therefore, these items get better and cheaper every year for building flight simulator cockpit. Other components are the flight controls and switch panels which can be good retail models, or more expensive premium models to fit your budget.
My videos show how to build cockpit enclosures with materials from a home improvement store. Those materials are inexpensive in the USA, UK and Canada, but maybe not in other countries. For example, PVC pipe is expensive in New Zealand. I produce videos because they are the best way to teach building flight simulator cockpit.

5. What software is the best for simulators?

The flight simulator community (including third party developers) is unique because it mainly built up around Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) for over a decade. Dovetail Games gave FSX new life by developing a version for Steam, however it’s still old software. As a result, we have wondered for years what will replace FSX, and today we have some newer options.
Prepar3D
Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D (P3D) was developed by fixing and modernizing the old FSX code. P3D is an excellent flight sim platform, but some activities are prohibited because of Lockheed’s odd licensing agreement with Microsoft.
X-Plane
Laminar Research’s X-Plane 10 is also a solid flight sim platform with all the options of FSX, but with a smaller user base and somewhat fewer options from third party developers. X-Plane 11 was just released this month so it will be interesting to see how it performs in the market. Will X-Plane 11 be the ultimate replacement for FSX? We shall see.

 

Building flight simulator cockpit
Building flight simulator cockpit

6. Since now the best option was multiple monitors setting. Is this better now to use VR headset?

That is an excellent question, and the answer really depends on what type of flying you want to do.
If you want to fly combat missions or spaceships, VR is a great option if you can afford it and if you don’t wear glasses. For example, Elite Dangerous and War Thunder are awesome in VR. The depth of field and the immersion are astonishing.
Keep in mind, when you wear a VR headset, you can no longer see your actual controls, or a keyboard, or mouse. So your best option is HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) flying. Basically, if you can do everything you need to do in the sim without removing your hands from the joystick and throttle, and if you can memorize all the button assignments, then that sim could be a good option for VR.

If you fly airliners, civil training airplanes, or helicopters you will be performing a lot of tasks where you need to reach out with your hand and touch the control panel. You will tune radios, adjust the GPS, set the navigation headings, set the autopilot, and more. As of right now, it’s really difficult to do these tasks in VR so traditional flight simulators are best for this type of flying. In traditional flight simulators we use actual retail switch panels, modified keyboards, a touch screen, a real checklist, a real aviation map, or all of these things. I think it will stay that way for a long time and more people will be building flight simulator cockpit.

7. How looks your simulator, can you share some pictures with us?

Sure, here are pictures from four very different DIY flight simulators (see the slideshow gallery on this page).

Innovative DIY Cockpit and Flight Simulators in the Customer Gallery

I’m always impressed by the many ways my customers modify the DIY Flight Sim projects to meet their needs. It’s one of the best things about this gig. Customers change the home cockpit plans a little or a lot depending on their needs and resources. Check out these innovative DIY cockpit solutions from the Customer Gallery.

Rich’s Quad Screen Flight Sim

My customer Rich built a T440 DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim and installed an additional screen for the flight instruments. This creates a stunning degree of realism because your instruments are positioned close and you focus your vision outside to see the surrounding environment. Similarly, I demonstrated a quad display setup with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim and Air Manager powering the instruments.

You can see Rich added four Saitek switch panels and the K140 DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod. Do you think that is a Go Flight TQ6-ADV throttle quadrant? It’s not. It might be two Saitek throttle quadrants with after-market replacement handles attached. You can find such handles from FlightSimPM and others for your own innovative DIY cockpit.

Quad screen flight sim with switch panels, throttle quad by Rich
Quad screen flight sim with switch panels, throttle quad by Rich

Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS for Flight Sims

You can also see more usage of the Thrustmaster Warthog joystick and throttle with these projects. Here George modified the F331 DIY Easy Helicopter Collective to also include the Thrustmaster throttle. He can use it to simulate airplanes or spaceships in its shown configuration. He can also relocate the throttle to a platform below the collective handle and effectively simulate helicopters. Here is another example of flight sim builders buying quality hardware to equip their creations. Most of all, he built the whole simulator in a closet and included triple screens and Thrustmaster Cougar Multi-Function Panels (MFPs) for this innovative DIY cockpit.

Home flight sim helicopter collective, triple screens by George
Home flight sim helicopter collective, triple screens by George

A Very Special Triple Screen Flight Sim

Customer Ron built his T440 Triple Screen Flight Sim so it would fit on his desk. Keep in mind, the original plans are for a self-standing frame. Ron was able to modify the frame extensively so it fit neatly on his corner desk. He also added the Saitek yoke and throttle quadrant that we see so often in home flight simulators. Finally, the virtual cockpit you see there is from a Lockheed Constellation which is exactly what we use in the flight sim I built for the National Airline History Museum.

Desktop triple screen flight sim by Ron
Desktop triple screen flight sim by Ron

More Innovative DIY Cockpit Solutions

Enjoy these other customer projects that I recently added to the Customer Galleries. More multi-screen projects and more modified frames for HOTAS and helicopter collectives. In addition, I have many more pictures to add to the gallery and I hope to do that in the coming weeks. Happy Landings! 

If you like this post, please leave a comment. That will enable the mystical internet algorithms to spread it to more people.

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More DIY Flight Sim Completions in the Expanded Customer Gallery

I added more pictures of DIY Flight Sim completions to the new expanded Customer Gallery. Note there are now three distinct examples of customers adding the popular Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS joystick to the #F321 DIY Center Joystick Frame.

 

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Thrustmaster Warthog and other Additions

Several customers modified the #F321 Center Joystick project slightly to accommodate the Thrustmaster Warthog joystick. They did this by shortening the center joystick stand by several inches and then bolting on the joystick. The Thrustmaster Warthog originally comes with a flat, square base which can be easily removed. Notice that the DIY Center Joystick Frame works well with Saitek rudder pedals because of their wide stance. You can comfortably straddle the center joystick to reach the pedals. Note the Saitek Combat Rudder Pedals installed on the #F321, but you can also use the Saitek Cessna Rudder Pedals. I originally designed the #F321 project around the early model Saitek Pro Flight Rudder Pedals, witch still work well. You can use the CH Rudder Pedals but they are difficult to use because they are narrow and makes it harder to straddle the center joystick stand.

Center Joystick or Side Joystick?

Check out Craig’s pictures in the new Customer Gallery 2. Craig created one of the most attractive DIY Flight Sim completions. He built the #F321 with a removable center stand and with side stands on both sides. He can now switch between a traditional center joystick and a HOTAS side joystick. Notice the D-ring fasteners he uses to attach the center stand.

DIY Flight Sim Completions: Modified DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim

Rob modified the #E420 DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim to match his needs and style of flying. He added an expanded mid-shelf for the Saitek yoke and throttle quadrant and a swing-out platform for the compact mini-keyboard. Also note the additional platform for the mouse and mouse pad. The Roll-Away Flight Sim frame is wonderfully mobile because Rob installed four castering wheels to it. Two of the castering wheels can be locked in place so he can comfortably use the rudder pedals without worrying about the frame rolling away. You should always use rudder pedals, they are an important part of DIY Flight Sim completions.

 

Beautiful painted PVC frame for HOTAS flight controls by Craig

Warm Fireplace Inside a Flight Simulator

This project combines two of my favorite things: a cozy fireplace and my flight simulator. Why not simulate a nice cozy fireplace inside a flight simulator?!

This DIY flight sim is ready for winter! I combined the warm atmosphere of a crackling fireplace with the fun of flying my simulator. It’s just the thing for those freezing winter months. You can do this too, it’s easy to set up.

Create a Fireplace Inside a Flight Simulator

My flight simulator has two displays connected to the graphics card. The large display is a 40″ HDTV and the smaller display is a 19″ VGA computer monitor. Typically, I display the flight simulator outside view on the large screen and the flight instruments on the smaller screen. For today’s project, I’m only running FSX on the large screen. Start FSX and start a flight. Select Windowed Mode from the View Menu and resize the window so it fits on one screen (the large screen in my example).

Next start a web browser on the second monitor and find a fireplace video on YouTube. Play the video and select full screen. This is how I my smaller display shows a cozy, crackling fireplace.

The flight simulator you see in the pictures and video is the DIY Flight Sim Pod. You can build this same thing in your own home. These instructional videos and manuals show you how to build a big, beautiful, flight simulator. The yoke, throttle quadrant, switch panels, etc. all came from Amazon.

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Don’t Fly Thirsty

All we need now is a nice hot apple cider. I recently discovered sugar free apple cider from Alpine. It doesn’t need any sugar because of what we add next: cinnamon flavored bourbon. Apple and cinnamon… oh it’s so, so good!
Leave the ice and snow outside, you’re flying in comfort.
Happy Landings!

Warm fireplace in your Flight Sim!
Warm fireplace in your Flight Sim!

This Winter, People Around the World are Building Home Flight Simulators

People around the world are building home flight simulators this winter. These guys find inexpensive materials at home improvement stores and build their own airplane cockpit at home.

January is BUILD MONTH

Why is January a great time to build a DIY (Do It Yourself) flight sim project? First of all, many people get new flight simulator software and computer equipment for Christmas and are ready to upgrade their home cockpit. Also, the holidays are over and now people are returning to their hobbies. Flight simulation is a great way to learn about aviation during the cold winter months. Consequently, I typically see an increase in DIY Flight Sim business and website traffic starting in January.

You don’t necessarily need a workshop for building home flight simulators, so many people build their project in an apartment or even a dorm room. You don’t need outside ventilation because no harsh chemicals, paints, or adhesives are used with these projects so you can build indoors. Let it snow!

 

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Inexpensive Components and Materials

Is your home flight simulator nothing more than a desk with a few monitors and a joystick? You can make a more realistic airplane cockpit with inexpensive materials from a home improvement store. These guys build home flight sims with PVC pipes, lumber, and Styrofoam insulation panels. Notice they also painted their projects because painting is also inexpensive, easy, and gives the project a truly finished appearance.

We are fortunate to live in a time when we have so many affordable choices for computer equipment and flight controls. For example, it is now possible to use multiple high-definition HDTVs as displays for a flight simulator. In addition, computers and graphics cards are more powerful than ever. We have more choices than ever for flight sim control yokes, rudder pedals, throttle quadrants, switch panels, and more. Finally, the flight sim software of today is better than ever. Lockheed Prepar3D, X-Plane 11, FSX Steam, and Aerofly FS2 all boast improved performance and functionality.

Combine inexpensive building materials with affordable computer equipment and you can have a powerful and realistic flight simulator for your home.

Customizing and Building Home Flight Simulators

Builders modify their projects to match their needs and resources. For example, they can scale a frame to fit around 24″ monitors, or 27″, or 32″ or whatever. Also, they can use one large display, or multiple displays. Some builders add modified keyboards, additional lights, or even drink holders. Are you building in a spare room or just a spare closet? These guys can fit a fully functional flight sim just about anywhere. If you typically fly airplanes with a yoke and throttle quadrant, then that is what you will want to build. On the other hand, if you use a HOTAS joystick and throttle, then you will want a DIY frame that supports those flight controls. If you fly helicopters, there’s a helicopter collective project for you too. See all these examples of customized flight sim projects in the Customer Gallery.

Get Started!

The most difficult part of any building project is just getting started, so get going now. You may make some mistakes along the way, but they will be inconsequential because you’re using inexpensive materials. Get building and get done, so you can get flying!

 

Six Screen Home Flight Simulator
Six Screen Home Flight Simulator

 

Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum

I built a flight simulator and donated it to a local aviation museum. The museum guests enjoy a hands-on experience because they get to fly the simulator. Some people say the Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum is their favorite part of the museum.

National Airline History Museum

The NAHM is the only airline-specific museum in the United States. The museum has several airliners but the Lockheed Constellation is the crown jewel of the collection. The Triple Screen Flight Sim allows visitors to fly a simulated Constellation just like the one in the museum.

The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum is also used as a introduction to general aviation. Visitors receive a flight “lesson” as they fly a simulated Cessna 172. A museum volunteer personally teaches some basic flight maneuvers while the guest tries them in the sim. The simulator is such an excellent teaching tool because you can pause the flight to answer questions or explain something in more detail.

 

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Triple Screen Flight Sim

The pictures here show a stock version of the DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum. My DIY video and instruction manual show you how to build this same project from PVC pipes, lumber, and foam insulation. I installed a Saitek Pro Flight yoke, throttle and rudder pedals in this particular project. The painted keyboards are stock versions of the DIY Keyboard Mod: Airliner project.

The DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim is the perfect addition to the Sky Lounge at the NAHM, and it would be a perfect addition to your home.

Kickstarter Fund-Raiser

This project was the first successful flight simulator project ever funded through Kickstarter. It is truly historical. The fund raising campaign paid for the supplies and materials I needed to build the project from scratch. After I built it, I brought it to the Kansas City Maker Faire and then to the NAHM.

 

The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum
The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum

Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation

Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation. I’m lucky for my opportunities to share aviation (both real and simulated) with people.

Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation
Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation

Christmas Lights on a Flight Simulator!

Let’s deck the flight sims with boughs of holly, tinsel, and colored lights! I like to decorate my flight simulator for Christmas and it’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. I think I’m the only flight simulator entrepreneur that currently does this. All of my decorating efforts go into the simulator because more people see it than see my house. December is so busy I rarely have people over to visit, however many people see my pictures and videos online. 

I like to fly some of the old winter missions in FSX like the apple delivery missions or the Alaska missions. I drink hot chocolate and fly my simulator, it’s a wonderful time. Often I’m bundled up in a hoodie and scarf since I can’t afford to run the furnace at a reasonable temperature.

 

Matt Thomas, Plaza Flight pilot in Kansas City
Matt Thomas, Plaza Flight pilot in Kansas City

Plaza Flights in Kansas City

Many of you don’t know this but I am a real pilot with 1200 hours. I used to provide scenic flight in an actual Cessna 172 over Kansas City. Each year, the Plaza decorates all of its buildings with brilliant lights throughout the entire holiday season. I provided night flights to the public from the KC Downtown Wheeler Airport over the Plaza Lights. For many people this was their first experience in a small airplane. I even awarded certificates and aviator wings after the flights since this was a special occasion. Season after season I provided these flights and it became an important part of Christmas to me and for this city. I did more Plaza Flights than anyone else in the city during the years I offered them. 

Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation

I wish you the best this holiday season. Get ready because January is Build Month! Many customers build DIY Flight Sims projects during January. It’s a great time to do it.

 

 

Tacky, Old, Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters

Long before I started making the DIY Flight Sims videos, I provided aviation training and simulator rental out of my home. This wasn’t as odd as it may seem at first. I remember as a kid, my mom would go to a stylist that had a salon built into her house. A lot of people run small businesses from their home and so I started an aviation training center in my living room. We did a lot of good training at the Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters from 2005 to 2009.

Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters

I had one flight simulator, the Roger Dodger Aviation Training System (RDATS). I used this simulator to teach people about flying that was very similar to the approach I used when I instructed in actual airplanes. We started each lesson by briefing at the table, and then moved to the simulator to perform an abbreviated preflight. Next, we flew the lesson and performed the maneuvers from the FAA Practical Test Standards booklet. I demonstrated each maneuver while describing it, and then the student attempted the same maneuver while I verbally coached them. The Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters had actual training videos for students to view. I always had a selection of free sodas available for students.

 

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TrackIR For a Dual Seat Flight Sim

The TrackIR view tracking system was a revolutionary technology at the time. Furthermore, I wouldn’t have had any interest in flight simulators without it. TrackIR allows you to look around the virtual cockpit by simply moving your head. It is an infrared camera that sees reflectors on your cap. TrackIR was vitally important to my lessons because the students needed the ability to look around their virtual environment. In real airplanes, we are always looking around, scanning for traffic, and maintaining situational awareness so this had to be included in the simulation too.

TrackIR was designed to detect one pilot only, so how did I adapt it for two? I attached the TrackIR camera on a sliding pedestal. We would simply move the pedestal in front of whichever pilot was flying at that moment. As a result, this was just a part of the positive exchange of controls that is an important part of instruction. In other words, we always verbally designate which pilot is flying.

I built a base to include two seats from a Dodge Caravan. These seats were wonderfully comfortable, fully adjustable, and very sturdy. You can see more about those seats in this video.

South Pacific Theme

I decorated the Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters in tacky island-theme party decorations. I wanted it to feel like you had traveled to someplace different than Kansas. Look at the walls, they are covered with a thatch-weave paper, as well as fish nets, plastic sea creatures, airplane pictures, and more. The island theme also worked well with the addition of the Air Combat Training Simulators (ACTS) that I was also developing. We later flew the ACTS sims in a lot of South Pacific WW2 missions.

I’m a real Certified Flight Instructor but we didn’t log this as credit towards any actual license. I found that people were naturally curious about aviation and simply wanted to learn more about it. The FAA does not allow anyone to log simulator time in a home-built flight simulator.