Roger Dodger Aviation’s defining project is probably the Triple Screen Flight Simulator, item #T440. This project has sold well since it was published in 2011. In addition, hundreds of people have flown the sim at the KC Maker Faire and at the National Airline History Museum. I’m proud to announce this DIY project is now available as a online e-learning course. If you already purchased the DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator project as a download, you will be upgraded to the online course for free.
What is the DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator Update?
The new version is the same content, but in an online e-learning format. This means the student sees the video clip, instructions, pictures, and diagrams for each particular step. You no longer have to look through an hour long video or 100 page manual to find something. Furthermore, you can access the course on mobile devices like smart phones and tablets as well as standard desktop and laptop computers.
How do You Get the Update?
If you’ve already purchased item T440 DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator, the new update is FREE. Just email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get the new updated version. In addition, tell me what email address you used so I can look up your order. Then, I’ll send you a coupon code that allows you access to the update for free. Also, you get free access to the Builder Academy where you can learn all the basic skills for building DIY Flight Sim projects.
What About the Keyboard Mod?
You get it too! The original DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator project always came with the DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod project, item #K140B. The reason was that it was so easy to install an overhead panel in to this type of cockpit. The keyboard mod is also in an online e-learning format.
Roger Dodger Aviation produced and uploaded over 100 flight simulator videos to YouTube. These 5 videos are the ones that are currently trending.
#1 Flight Sim Pod Final Assembly: 6 minutes
This is an actual excerpt from the DIY Flight Sim Pod instructional video. It’s one of my favorite DIY projects.
#2 A Source for PVC Fittings: DIY Flight Simulator Videos
I found a great place to order PVC Fittings in bulk, so I decided to share the info with everyone. I’m a little surprised because it’s not directly related to flight simulator videos, but it is still watched by many people.
#3 Saitek Yoke Modification: Springs and Zip Ties
This is just one way to modify the Saitek Yoke. It’s one of my favorite flight simulator videos and also one of the most useful…
#4 Saitek X52 Throttle Fix
This is an easy way to fix the annoying detent in the Saitek X52 Throttle. I’m happy to say this video has help a great many people.
#5 Saitek Yoke Disassembly
Before you can modify a Saitek yoke, you must first open the case without damaging the interior mechanisms or losing anything.
All DIY Flight Sim products are produced by me, Matt Thomas, here at Roger Dodger Aviation. These flight simulator build plans were originally sold as downloaded products. The customer would buy the instructional videos, manuals, and templates, and then download all contents in a big zip file. The customer would then open the files on a PC to view all the content.
That was a great idea in 2007, but not such a good idea 10 years later. Customers wanted better access to the content, and modern e-learning was the answer. With online tutorial courses, a student doesn’t have to sit through a giant video or sift through a 100+ pages of flight simulator build plans. I re-formatted all the content so each step in the building process has a short video clip, and the illustrated instructions for that step only. The plan drawings and printouts are presented with that step, instead of buried in an appendix.
You can now access the DIY Flight Sims courses with any device, even tablets and smart phones. This means you can bring all the instructions with you to the garage or workshop when you work on the project.
DIY Flight Sims made a huge leap forward in 2017.
How to Get the Updated Flight Simulator Build Plans
If you purchased an old Download version of a DIY Flight Sims product, you can get a free update to the new online course. The flight simulator build plans are in a better, learner-centered format, and many courses have additional material now.
Want the update? Simply email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdoger.net and tell me what product you bought and what email address you used. This will help me track down your order. Also tell me where you bought it if you purchased from a 3rd party vendor. I’ll send you a coupon code that will give you free access to the course.
New online courses are available for the following products:
You will have access to the original content for that product, but in the new format as an online e-learning course. I’ve updated and improved some of the projects, so you also get any new material that I’ve added. In addition, you also get a monthly notification of any future updates I make to the products in the Roger Dodger Insider. Finally, you also get free access to Builder Academy, which is where you learn all the basic skills for building DIY Flight Sims.
Developers struggle to create software that displays a legible flight simulator instrument panel, and also present a realistic outside world with scenery that stretches to the horizon. Today I’ll focus on viewing the flight instruments. You have a few options to choose from and each has its own benefit trade offs. It’s up to you to decide which flight simulator instrument panel works best with your particular needs.
I’ve used TrackIR from Naturalpoint for a long time. It is a view tracking device that allows you to look around the virtual cockpit by moving your head. TrackIR “sees” your head move in 6 axes, also called 6 degrees of freedom. Instead of explaining all 6, I’ll just say your real life head also moves in 6 degrees of freedom, and leave it at that. As a result, you can lean into the flight simulator instrument panel if you want to see something closer. You can also look out the windows, look over your shoulder, look around struts and other parts of the airplane. The picture above shows TrackIR with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim.
TrackIR works with a single screen, or multiple screens. It works with a very wide variety of titles: Prepar3D, X-Plane, FSX, Flight Sim World, DTG Flight School, DCS World, even Elite Dangerous, War Thunder, IL2, and many others. In conclusion, TrackIR is very useful but it’s still difficult to use with a GPS or other instruments that require fine tuning.
Moving/resizing windows (free)
You can move and resize the 2D windows in old FSX and FSX Steam. When you type Shift+1, or Shift +2, Shift+3, etc. then FSX will display different windows that you can move around your screen. You see how this appears in the picture above with the DIY Flight Sim Pod. This trick also works with multiple screens. For example, you could show the outside view on all three monitors, and then in the bottom of your middle screen, show smaller windows with the flight instruments. You can also re-size the windows. That’s all great, except FSX does not save these settings on exit, and you have to set up all your views again the next time you turn on your computer.
Air Manger works with Prepar3D, X-Plane 9, 10, and 11, FSX and FSX Steam. I’ve personally used Air Manager for displaying the flight simulator instrument panel on a separate screen. What I mean is, a totally separate monitor that is set aside for just the flight instruments. Flat panel computer monitors are so cheap that I literally have 3 in my house just waiting for a project. Air Manager can also work on an iPad or other tablet computer.
Air Manager is very versatile, see it above with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. I run the software on an old, obsolete computer (running Windows Vista) which is connected via network to my flight sim computer. A separate computer means there is zero impact on my frame rates. Download full flight simulator instrument panels, mix and match gauges (free), even create your own (also free).
Saitek Pro Flight Instruments $169.99 each
The most expensive option is the Saitek Pro Flight Instrument gauges. I listed the price, but that is only for one single, physical USB gauge. Consequently, if you want a panel consisting of 6 flight instruments and an RPM gauge, that is 6 x $169.99 = $1019.94. I haven’t personally tried these gauges because they are so incredibly expensive. In addition, you are limited primarily to round-gauge type displays.
Flight Simulator Instrument Panel
In conclusion, there are several ways to display a flight simulator instrument panel and the method you choose will depend on your needs and your budget. Have you tried anything I haven’t listed here? If so, let me know in the comments (you don’t have to log in to comment).
I get this question a lot. It is a valid question, but it’s difficult to answer. People will often ask, “How much does it cost to build a flight simulator?” Does that mean they’re talking about the DIY framework of PVC pipe, lumber, and Styrofoam? Or do they really mean they are starting at zero, where they don’t even own a PC and a monitor? Or are they actually asking about the flight controls and switch panels?
In reality, DIY Flight Sim builders have a wide variety of choices for equipping their home cockpit to match their needs. They may start with a single display now, and then add more displays later. They may start with just a yoke and rudder pedals, but add switch panels later. So when we ask how much does it cost to build a flight simulator, are we talking about how much it costs on day one, or how much it costs after slowly adding and upgrading components after a few years?
DIY Flight Sim Budget Tool
I decided the best way to answer this question is to customize the answer just as each individual builder customizes their home cockpit. I built a Budgeting Tool to help determine the total price for a home flight sim setup. The Budget Tool shows how much to budget for each component and then adds those costs for a grand total. You decide how much you need to spend on your DIY Flight Sim.
But what is an acceptable home flight sim? Some people require three screens or more to consider it a real flight simulator, some people are happy with just one. So, I also introduced three phases (levels) of progression in the Budget Tool. Phase 1 is the bare-bones minimum amount of equipment you need to have a functioning flight sim. I’m assuming a fairly decent computer and graphics card (with power supply). You also have the choice of flight controls: either a yoke + throttle quadrant or HOTAS joystick + throttle. In addition, you really need Track IR if you only run one display. And don’t forget the rudder pedals. Airplanes have rudder pedals, so you should too.
At Phase 2 and Phase 3, I added more components to the Budget Tool. Each component gives the pilot more functionality and a better flight experience, but also adds cost. This is the trade-off you see in any budget. For any given component you can either budget an amount, or zero if you don’t need it yet.
Where to Purchase Components
People tend to have their favorite sources for computer equipment and flight gear, and I’m no different. For computers, I normally go to a local place called Micro Center where I’ll typically buy a computer, but immediately upgrade the graphics card with power supply. However, the last computer I purchased was from Cybertron. The Cybertron rig was already built for gaming, so I didn’t have to upgrade anything, which was very nice. They also sent me a free t-shirt!
You have a staggering amount of choices for displays. TVs are high-definition so you can use them for your flight sim, but make sure they have a fast refresh rate. Just Google for prices on HDTVs or monitors, and get the best deal you find.
I used to always shop Amazon for flight controls and switch panels, but now they don’t always have the best price. I recommend starting at Amazon, but also check prices at other online retailers like FlightSim Pilot Shop. Some guys buy their gear from E-bay, so that’s always an option too.
Ok, so How Much Does it Cost to Build a Flight Simulator?
I recommend that you customize the Budget Tool for you. The Budget Tool is only a starting point. I posted it here as an Excel file… DIY Flight Sim Budget Tool v1.2 so you can change it, add to it, do whatever you need to make it useful for you. This is my first attempt at a Budget Tool, so please let me know your thoughts on this. It’s probably not perfect and I anticipate making improvements to it.
My finest keyboard modification project by far is the DIY Airliner keyboard Mod, item #K140B. This project replicates an overhead panel and Mode Control Panel from popular modern airliners. This product is more than simple flight sim keyboard stickers, this is a comprehensive DIY project complete with an online tutorial. If you have this product, you get the update for free.
What is the Update?
The new version is in a totally online format. This means that you see a video clip, instructions, pictures, and diagrams for each step. As a result, the new course is a much improved, learner-centered presentation. The printout flight sim keyboard stickers are also included. In addition, you can access the course on mobile devices like tablets and smart phones as well as the standard desktop and laptop computers. See the free trial version here.
How do you get the Update?
It’s easy! If you’ve already purchased item K140B DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod, the new version is FREE. Simply email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get the new updated version. In addition, tell me what email address you used so I can look up your order. Then, I’ll send you a coupon code that allows you access to the new version for free. Don’t forget, you also get free access to the Builder Academy. Learn all the basic skills for building a DIY Flight Sims project.
More about the DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod
I first created this product in 2008, and it has been a great help to many home cockpit builders. Consequently, I’ve updated the project several times. I also included it with the purchase of the DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim, item #T440. You can see a preview of the newest version here and also check out the demo video below…
If I had to choose my favorite DIY Flight Sim project, I think it would be the Pod. It’s my only enclosed flight simulator project so you actually enter it like a vehicle. When you take a flight in the Pod, it’s more like leaving on a trip. Plus… it’s big. This enclosed flight simulator is more than just a shell packed full of hardware, it also has an attractive exterior. I dreamed about having a flight sim like this for a long time before I had the opportunity to build one. Plus, I worked on the DIY videos, instructions, pictures, and drawings for over a year. Now I can present the entire project to you, step-by-step, so you can build one too.
What is the Update?
The updated version of these plans are in a new, online tutorial format. This means that for each step of the project you see a video clip and the associated instructions, pictures, or printouts. Recall the original Pod video is over 2 hours long and the manual is 130 pages. The new course is a better, learner-centered presentation. In addition, you can access the course on nearly any device like tablets and smart phones in addition to desktops and laptop computers. This means it’s easy to take the tutorials with you into your garage or workshop while you build. There are a few printout templates, and yes, you can still print them out. You can see a free trial here.
How do you get the Update?
This new online version is FREE if you’ve already bought the E430 DIY Flight Sim Pod enclosed flight simulator course. Email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get your updated version. Be sure to tell me what email address you used when you ordered so I can look you up. Then, I’ll send you a coupon code that will allow you access to the online lessons for free. Start the epic journey of building and flying the DIY Flight Sim Pod!
The F331 DIY Easy Helicopter Collective is one of my favorite projects because it fills an urgent need in the flight sim community. Try to find a helicopter collective control for a reasonable price. You will not find one, they are all hundreds of dollars. My DIY Helicopter Simulator Controls are still, after several years, the most cost-effective solution for home flight sim pilots. My tutorials show you how to build a framework from PVC pipe. You then attach standard HOTAS joystick/throttle and rudder pedals. The new, upgraded version of these tutorials are completely online and can be accessed with any device. No more cumbersome downloads!
How do you get the Upgrade?
This new online version is FREE if you’ve already bought the F331 DIY Easy Helicopter Collective. Email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get your upgraded version. Be sure to tell me what email address you used when you ordered so I can look you up. Then, I’ll send you a coupon code that will allow you access to the online lessons for free. You can then build your own DIY Helicopter Simulator Controls and get flying… and hovering.
More about the DIY Helicopter Simulator Controls
Have you ever tried to fly a helicopter with a regular flight sim throttle? It’s not enjoyable. There is a reason why helicopter controls look different than airplane controls – they ARE different. Once you try a helicopter collective, you will never want to go back to a regular throttle. When you use a collective, the movement is completely natural, you don’t have to even think about the controls any more, just make the helicopter do what you need it to do. I could never hover, or even land a helicopter before I built my collective. Now everything is easier.
Below is a demonstration of the DIY Easy Helicopter Collective, among other things…
“The Golden Age of Flight Simulators” I started using that phrase in 2016 as I noticed fresh inspiration from software developers, and a renewed optimism in the flight simulator community. See in the picture, that’s what my old website looked like in Spring of 2016. Now, over a year later, the evidence is undeniable. We are entering a new renaissance of home flight simulation. Watch the Frooglesim News each week and it’s obvious. The future we’ve waited for is here now, and it’s time to go flying!
1. Flight Sim Software
One of the most significant signals that things have changed is this: we have real choices now. Not just choices, but difficult choices. How are you going to decide between X-plane 11 and Prepar3D v4? Both are outstanding flight sim platforms and you have many things to consider when you choose. What will Dovetail’s new Flight Sim World bring to the table? Time will tell.
One subject you won’t see much of on Frooglesim News is hardware. Today’s flight sim pilot has many choices in flight controls, switch panels, displays, touch screens, graphics cards, and more. Take displays, for example. You can buy an excellent 32” HDTV for less than $200. Most quality graphics cards can now power three displays, so why not buy three 32” TVs and stretch out the view to over 6 feet wide! Add some PVC pipes, lumber, and elbow-grease and you have an impressive, affordable, home cockpit.
Let’s not forget the advances made by non-ESP based flight sim platforms like DSC World and Aerofly FS2. These are considered by some to be “FS lite” because they don’t have native global scenery and all the weather and ATC options we’re used to. Nonetheless, these sims sport smooth frame rates (much higher than even P3D and X-Plane) and excellent detail for the limited geography they offer. DCS World and Aerofly FS2 also have beautifully rendered aircraft. You’ll find the higher fidelity aircraft in DCS World as compared to FS2.
3. Virtual Reality?
What will Virtual Reality bring to the table? As of yet, no one knows. VR headsets demand performance that is difficult to achieve with flight simulator programs. For successful VR, you must have high frame rates, over 90 frames per second. Furthermore, flight sim software has exponentially more scenery rendering than any game software. Plus, once you put on a VR headset, you can no longer see your controls, checklists, switch panels, or anything that is not in the virtual world. For now, nobody knows how much VR will impact the flight sim genre.
4. Watch Frooglesim News
In conclusion, why is it the Golden Age of Flight Sims? Well, Froogle says so too! Take a look at this episode of Frooglesim News at 27:11.
In 2017, I made a major shift in the way DIY Flight Sims tutorials are delivered. Formerly, customers had to download large compressed folders filled with videos, instruction manuals, and printouts. Starting in 2017, I migrated the tutorials to an online streaming format. However, I couldn’t migrate every single DIY Flight Sims product.
Why Did You Move to Streaming?
I started the DIY Flight Sims products in 2007. Selling them as downloads was the best way I could think of to deliver the products. Keep in mind, it was a different world in 2007. For example, Netflix still mailed DVDs in 2007, barely anyone accessed the internet with a smart phone, there were no iPads or tablets, and only 47% of American adults had broadband internet at home.
What’s the Big Deal with Streaming?
An online tutorial format is much more organized and convenient. It’s a more robust and valuable product. One way it’s better is that I’m able to present each video clip with the instructions, pictures, and diagrams for each individual step. You don’t have to look through a 40 minute video or a 60 page instruction manual if you’re trying to find something.
Streaming content is great because its so much easier to view the content anywhere. All the instructions are available to you when and where you are actually building the project, like your garage or workshop. It’s easy to view the tutorials on an iPad or even your smart phone. Look at all these other reasons why streaming is awesome.
Why Didn’t you Migrate all the Products?
I had to re-edit and migrate every part of each product to the streaming website. This was a manual chore and very time-consuming. I didn’t have much time for this either because of my regular full-time job and I was going to school. I’m actually a volunteer, I don’t get paid anything to work for Roger Dodger Aviation. All the revenue goes to pay the company expenses.
Consequently, I only had the resources to move the best-selling products. This was a tough choice, because I love all my projects and worked hard to produce them. I let the market decide which products had value, and I discontinued the rest.
Can I Still Get a Replacement Download if I Lose My Files?
Yes… for a while. I keep all the product download folders on a service called PayLoadz. If you lose your product files, I can give you a PayLoadz link to get a replacement. PayLoadz charges me money to provide controlled access to the files. As a result, I don’t know how long I can afford to keep those old products on PayLoadz.
I recommend you keep a backup of your files in case your hard drive crashes.