100% online: How to build a home flight simulator

Online Training: Learn How to Build a Home Flight Simulator

I can now teach you how to build a home flight simulator in a online streaming format instead of selling downloads! This is a huge step forward for my little company. Look at the picture above… you can actually view an entire DIY Flight Sims project on a phone or tablet!

9 Reasons Why this is Awesome:

  1. The video and text content is now integrated. For each step, there is a video clip and the corresponding text it there with it. So in one example, I chopped up a 40 minute video into smaller segments. Each video clip appears with the corresponding step in the text.
  2. Accessible on any device: phones and tablets as well as laptops and desktops. There were no smart phones when I started making these DIY projects 10 years ago. But now, you can take the lesson to the workshop with you.
  3. A real affiliate program! My fans can also be my partners. If you have a blog or website, you can sell DIY Flight Sims products and earn a commission!
  4. No more cumbersome downloads. 95% of the emails I get from customers are people that lost their downloaded material and I have to manually send them a new download link. So then they have to wait on me to get their message and get to my computer. Well they don’t have to wait any more.
  5. Standard password recovery. Lose your password? No problem. Just re-set it like on any other website.
  6. Free updates for existing customers. I can give free access to customers that purchased the download version of these products. I can simply issue a 100% off coupon and that gives them access.
  7. Freebies! I used to include many basic training videos in a “Free Video” folder with each purchase. I’ve moved all of this content, and added new content to the Builder Academy.
  8. We still have printouts! People are already asking me, how do they print out the templates or button sheets? The online format still allows you to print Adobe pdf files. It’s just as easy as ever.
  9. It’s a secure website with SSL protection. Browse safely, and then build safely.

I built a new website and the online training system is ready! You can check it out right now. Please let me know what you think of this new direction for my little company.

Wine Flights in the Simulator

Wine Flights

Wine Flights is the nick name we gave to a couple of flight simulator parties we had a while back. The events were a way to launch the new DIY Flight Sim Pod. But do you really need a reason to drink wine and fly a big airplane simulator? The concept was simple: everybody bring some wine, and then fly the sim over Italian wine country. Brilliant!

 

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Pod Mods

If you have a sharp eye you noticed that I built the Pod with a removable window. This makes it far easier to take pictures over the pilot’s shoulder. In addition it allows more people to watch and provide helpful commentary. I originally designed the Pod with a closed top canopy. In these pictures, the top is open. The top canopy frame is still there, but I just didn’t install a foam body panel. This allows much more light in the cockpit for videos and pictures.

The most noteworthy change was the addition of a second monitor for the flight instruments. This is obvious in the pictures from the second Wine Flights party. The additional monitor freed up the entire 40 inch HDTV to display the outside view and it was glorious.

 

Flight Sim Add-Ons

We flew over simulated wine country in Italy. I used upgraded scenery packages from Orbx. Namely FTX Global and FTX Vector. I also installed FSPS Xtreme FSX PC which is a utility that helps FSX fly smoothly with higher frame rates. We used the default FSX Beechcraft Baron. That was pretty much all we needed for a great event. Well, all that plus wine, I mean.

The DIY Flight Sim Pod is one of my more popular DIY projects, but I don’t get a lot of finished pictures from customers. I understand, it’s a big project and it takes a while to build. If you’re building a Pod and would like to send me some pics of your project so far, I would be happy to see them… DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net

How to Build a Flight Simulator

Introducing the Builder Academy

The Builder Academy is a comprehensive resource for learning all the basic flight sim building skills. What is it like to build a DIY Flight Sim project? The Builder Academy will show you. In addition, you can also learn about modifying the existing DIY Flight Sims projects. If you’re wondering how to build a flight simulator, this is your first, best resource. By the way, it’s free!

 

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Builder Academy Content

What is in the Builder Academy? Some of the videos in the Builder Academy were formerly a part of the “Free Videos” folder included with some purchases. Other videos were first published on YouTube, but are now only available in the Builder Academy. Some of the content is new and available only at the Builder Academy. Finally, all of the content assists you in different ways when you’re learning how to build a flight simulator.
This is an overview of the course curriculum:

  • Recommended Tools
  • Building with PVC Pipe (new)
  • Self-Drilling Screws
  • Add a Monitor for the Flight Instruments
  • Display Flight Instruments with Air Manager
  • Install Saitek Switch Panels
  • Styrofoam Body Panels
  • Prototyping – How to Modify DIY Flight Sim Projects
  • Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter
  • X52 Saitek Throttle Fix
  • Saitek Yoke Modifications
  • CH Yoke Modifications
  • Paint for Home Flight Simulators
  • USB Cable Management
  • Change Log

 

Training Available Wherever You Are

The Builder Academy is available on nearly any device. As a result, you can view the training on a tablet or phone while you’re in your workshop or view it on a laptop or desktop. Also, there are some printouts and templates for certain projects, so you might need a printer at some point. I periodically add new content, so be sure to check the Change Log if you haven’t been there in a while. The Builder Academy is my platform to show everyone how easy it can be to build a home flight simulator. Even the most complex projects are really just a series of relatively easy steps. Visit the Builder Academy today and let me know what you think of it.

 

View the Builder Academy on your phone or tablet or anything
View the Builder Academy on your phone or tablet or anything
Bel Geode wags the finger at Dovetail Games

Three Grumpy Simmers discuss Flight Sim World

Three well-known flight simulator enthusiasts teamed up to discuss Dovetail Game’s Flight Sim World. Bel Geode, Sérgio, and Novawing24 called themselves the “Three Grumpy Simmers” in this inaugural video.

 

What is Flight Sim World?

Flight Sim World (FSW) is a new comprehensive flight simulator from Dovetail Games (DTG). It builds upon old software technology from Microsoft’s Flight Simulator X (FSX). However, DTG’s new update brings the software into the modern world by incorporating 64-bit technology, DirectX 11, as well as other new features. FSW is currently in the early access phase. Consequently, avid flight simmers have the opportunity to participate in the software development by providing feedback to the developers. I’m looking forward to trying FSW with a multi-monitor setup in the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim.

 

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What Do People Say About Flight Sim World?

Keep in mind, the flight sim community has a tendency to “eat their young.” That means many potential customers want a new advanced flight simulator platform to replace FSX, but they also tend to ridicule any development team that attempts to do that. The Three Grumpy Simmers take on that issue as FSW is a long way from final release. They make the point it’s unfair to compare FSW in its current state to established platforms like Lockheed Prepar3D. At one point Bel Geode “wags the finger” at DTG about the lack of information about FSW for several months. I encourage you to watch the entire discussion (see Novawing24’s video below).

 

Who are the Three Grumpy Simmers?

  • Bel Geode (Drew Bolton) has been a flight simulation enthusiast since 1986, and has been an active member of the community since 2005. A former virtual airline CEO, Bel has embraced many aspects of flight simulation, and understands how to connect with the community at large through his Twitter Profile, YouTube channel, and public appearances at events like Flight Sim Con.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/BelGeode2015
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/BelGeode
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/BelGeode
  • Novawing24 (Tristan Ayton) hosts a weekly news program with a focus on the Simulation genre. See it on YouTube. Believeing that giving back to the community is important, he provides open and honest commentary and feedback on developments in the simulation genre. He has also tried his hand at texture design, with content available at his website and at the AVSIM Library, as well as writing for numerous websites.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/novawing24
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/novawing24
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/
    Web – http://www.novawing24.com/
  • Sérgio Costa is a flight simulation enthusiast with over 20 years experience. His passion with helicopters developed during MSFS 2000 when he discovered the complexity of these aircraft and the challenge it was to control them. Since then he has been primarily a helicopter flight simmer, trying his best not to crash and kill all his virtual passengers. Sérgio is HeliSimmer.com’s editor and writer.
    Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/Helisimmer
    Twitter – http://twitter.com/Helisimmer
    YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/Helisimmer
    Web – https://www.helisimmer.com/

 

See the Discussion Here…

 

EAA Ford Tri-motor, real and simulated

Vintage Aircraft Flight Simulator

I produced the world’s first YouTube video that showed a pilot flying a simulator combined with corresponding in-sim video. AND combined with real video from the real airplane he is simulating. Let me break that down for you. This was…

  • Video I took of the EAA Ford Tri-Motor when I flew in it
  • In-simulator video of the EAA Ford Tri-Motor that I created in Flight Simulator 2004
  • Video of me flying the EAA Ford Tri-Motor in the Roger Dodger Aviation Training Simulator

Roger Dodger’s First Flight Sim

First of all, I completed my first large-scale flight simulator in 2005 and I used it as a part of my aviation ground school. I produced this video to showcase the capabilities of the simulator. I called it the Roger Dodger Aviation Training Simulator (RDATS). It featured dual airplane controls and two comfortable seats from a Dodge Caravan. Notice in the video, I never show the computer monitor. That’s because it was so difficult to get good video of it.

 

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Vintage Aircraft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 included the Ford Tri-Motor as a default aircraft. Consequently, I spent a lot of time flying that vintage airliner. FS2004 made it possible to re-create the entire transcontinental route across the USA. As a result, I got the idea for the NY2LA fund raiser that we hosted the same year. The Tri-Motor was missing from FSX and I miss that old vintage aircraft flight simulator.

EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor

Most noteworthy, the EAA flew its Ford Tri-Motor into Kansas City in 2005. Not only that, they also sold rides because this was a part of their national tour. I happily bought a flight and took a lot of video. Looking at it now, the video is old and grainy, but it was great back then.

 

 

The Vara-Tones

A member of the Vara-Tones gave me verbal permission to use their music. I actually called them on the phone and talked to one of them. It turns out these guys are all retired from the aviation industry in California. Very cool!

 

 

Flight Sim World from DTG

Best Flight Simulator – Which One to Choose? Part 2

Flight Sim World (FSW) by Dovetail Games

Dove Tail Games (DTG) announced the release of Flight Sim World days before I wrote this article. Therefore, I haven’t tried it yet, and actually nobody has. FSW will be released for early access in May 2017. DTG really wants FSW to be the replacement for FSX that we’ve all been waiting for.

And yet, FSW is built upon the foundations of FSX. DTG purchased the rights from Microsoft to extend FSX and is building upon that. I think DTG is trying to develop what FSX could have become if Microsoft hadn’t killed the Flight Simulator franchise in 2007. They have an uphill battle today because DTG’s Flight School was not well received in 2016. However, DTG offering a huge olive branch to purchasers of Flight School… they get FSW for free! Consequently, FSW the best cheap flight simulator.

FSW features utilization of DirectX 11 and its a 64 bit application. Of course, the release video looks beautiful.

 

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Flight Simulator X Steam Edition by Dovetail Games

Well, there’s always FSX. It was the all-around best flight simulator for years, but it is slowly fading. DTG successfully dusted-off and re-released Flight Simulator X on the Steam platform in 2014. Microsoft fired the entire FSX development staff in 2009, but dozens of 3rd party developers continued to produce hundreds of add-ons, utilities, and enhancements to FSX. I installed FSX on the DIY Flight Sim Pod and the DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim.

Sometimes there is a sale on Steam and you can buy FSX for about $15. You have little to lose by trying FSX. Therefore, FSX is probably your best cheap flight simulator option. Download some free scenery add-ons or airplanes. Fly some of the old missions. If you have problems, there is lots of information available just a Google away.

 

Prepar3D is the Best Flight Simulator

P3D is my pick right now, but that could change in the future. The flight sim community is in a time of flux right now. On the other hand, you may have noticed something about these choices. Out of the four titles I listed, three are based on the old FSX foundation. So after two decades, it’s still really just Flight Simulator vs. X-Plane.

 

Did you miss Part 1? Read it here.

Is X-plane 11 the best flight simulator?

Best Flight Simulator – Which One to Choose? Part 1

The flight simulator community is experiencing something it hasn’t seen in a long time: real choices. After a decade of Flight Simulator X (FSX) dominance, there are now serious software alternatives. So how you do you choose the best flight simulator application? I’ll take a look at four options: Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, X-Plane 11, Dovetail Games’ Flight Sim World, and Flight Simulator X Steam Edition. Also keep in mind, I’m the DIY Flight Sim guy. I do my best work with a drill and a miter saw and I spend more time editing video than I do flying a simulator. But still, people ask my opinion, so here it is…

 

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Lockheed Martin Prepar3D (P3D)

Lockheed Martin is a $46 Billion dollar defense contractor. They build ballistic missiles, armored fighting vehicles, combat ships, rockets, satellites, robots, and a lot more… and real airplanes too. LM purchased certain licensing rights from Microsoft to further develop its ESP simulation platform, which is now Lockheed’s Prepar3D. The P3D development team is a tiny segment of this giant mega-corporation. P3D markets its capabilities as training simulation for commercial, academic, professional, or military interests. They do not make products for armchair flightsimmers like you and me. This is why P3D issues the odd warning against using its product for entertainment.

P3D works so well. I remember when I first installed it on the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. The software automatically detected and properly assigned my flight controls. First time in my life I’ve ever experienced that. P3D is an improvement over FSX and retains familiarity in the menus and options. The frame rates are better, the scenery is better, and many FSX add-ons also work in P3D. Multiple monitors and Saitek switch panels work well in P3D. So P3D is my choice for the best flight simulator software right now, but that comes with a caveat (read on).

Lockheed builds a great product and if you happen like it, that’s fine, but if you don’t then remember that Lockheed is not very concerned about us or the flight sim consumer market. Out of Lockheed’s 126,000 employees, only a few of them work on the Prepar3D program, and P3D is a tiny part of Lockheed’s revenue stream. I’m saying that Lockheed’s priorities could change in the future and we may not have access to P3D any more. And yet, Lockheed offers a great product for retail customers right now and it is my choice for the best flight simulator.

 

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X-Plane 11 by Laminar Research

The X-plane franchise has been the #2 choice for flight sim pilots for years. Will it become the #1 best flight simulator now with X-plane 11? I installed the X-Plane 11 demo on the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to really experience X-plane 11 on my rig yet, but you guys want my opinion, so here it is. I think X-plane could become the new standard for home flight simulators in the next 10 years. Austin Meyer is the lead developer for X-plane, and this is his baby. X-plane is an essential part of Austin’s identity, so I think the X-plane team has a passion that is perhaps not present at Prepar3D. Plus, X-plane is here for us… the flight sim community.

As of right now, the X-plane community is smaller than the FSX community so there is less choice in 3rd party add-ons. X-plane is 64 bit and that doesn’t necessarily mean your frame rates will be higher than P3D, but X-plane is able to fully utilize the RAM you already have in your computer. This could help in the future. Multiple monitors and Saitek switch panels work well in X-plane 11, but some of the menu options are difficult to read. Austin is seems really interested in bringing built-in VR capability to X-plane, so if that’s your thing, you might want to sign up for Austin’s blog. VR brings several new challenges to flight sims like frame rates, eyeglasses, ergonomics, etc.

 

What about Flight Simulator X and the new Flight Sim World from Dovetail? Read Part 2 here.

 

Maker Faire Kansas City

Flight Simulator at Maker Faire: Video

A Maker Faire is a festival of invention and creativity. In the words of Make Magazine it is, “an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, engineers, science clubs…” You would totally expect to find a DIY Flight Simulator at Maker Faire. We didn’t just bring one, we’ve brought four flight sims to Maker Faire so far. I say “we” because several friends helped me. There’s no way I could have done this alone.

 

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DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim at Maker Faire

I funded the development of the T440 Triple Screen Flight Sim with a successful Kickstarter Campaign and I barely finished it in time for Maker Faire. Transporting a flight sim of this size was a terrible logistical challenge, but we did it. The T440 worked perfectly and it was a huge thrill for me to see a crowd of people around the simulator all weekend. So many people, young and old got to try it out.

Immediately after Maker Faire, we loaded the T440 into a Uhaul truck and took it to the National Airline History Museum, where it still operates today as a hands-on attraction for the museum guests. I created a complete instruction manual and video for this project so you can build one for yourself. This is one of my most popular products.

My goal was to deploy a flight simulator at Maker Faire and I did it, but it was way too difficult to transport for just a weekend event. This experience at  inspired me to develop a much more mobile flight simulator.

DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim: Three Versions!

Problem: it was too difficult to transport a flight simulator at Maker Faire. Solution: I developed a much more mobile flight simulator that could be moved as a single unit… on wheels! A Roll-Away Flight Simulator! The first version of the E420 Roll-Away was basically a HOTAS set up to fly a jet fighter. The kids at Maker Faire loved it and is was super easy to transport. I was so pleased with this that I brought two Roll-Away Flight Sims to the next Maker Faire. The second version had a yoke and throttle quadrant and later became the E430C. You can build either of these two types of Roll-Away Flight Sims with the instruction manuals and videos I created for you.

The third version of the Roll-Away Flight Sim was a specialized type I created for kids at a science camp. I later brought it to Maker Faire. This version had no flight controls, only buttons to control a simulated spaceship. We used Martin Schweiger’s Orbiter as the demonstration software. The simulator is very realistic and teaches you a lot about Newtonian physics when controlling a spaceship in zero gravity.

 

 

Big Help from Friends

Notice there are several people in these pictures that are not me. I could not have done this alone. We helped hundreds of people try out these flight simulators, and had a lot of fun while we were at it. Many thanks to Aaron, Nick, Jim, Lindsy, Julie, Joe, Jason, Shannon, Michael, and Jennifer!

How to Build a Prototype DIY Simpit

How to Build a Prototype DIY Simpit

One of the common questions I get is about altering the DIY Flight Sim designs. Most builders modify the designs in some way to match their specific needs or equipment. For examples, take a look at Customer Gallery 1 and Customer Gallery 2 and notice how no two Simpits are alike. Once a builder deviates from the plans, the project becomes a prototype DIY simpit. There is no way I can predict how people will modify my DIY Flight Sim projects, so that is why I use building materials that are inexpensive and easy to use. Don’t be scared! Prototyping is a wonderfully creative process that can give you real satisfaction with your project.

What Does “Prototype” Mean?

You don’t really know if a flight sim design is going to work until you build it in real life. Really! If some anonymous person on a forum says an idea will work or not work, they don’t really know, because anyone can type words on a screen. You only gain true knowledge by building a DIY simpit in real life. That is prototyping.

So when someone asks me if a design modification will work, I’m very cautious about my answer for several reasons…

  • I don’t know if my understanding of their message matches what they’re imagining.
  • I don’t know if a proposed modification will require an additional structural reinforcement.
  • I don’t know someone’s skill level. Have they built things before, or is this the first time?
  • I don’t know if they have adequate tools. Are they building in a workshop or a dorm room, etc?

Prototyping means you try your idea, then adjust it and try it again, then adjust it and try it again, and keep at it until you are happy with your work. Fortunately, PVC pipe is a wonderful material for prototyping a DIY simpit (more about that below).

 

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Scale models

When I am designing large DIY simpit projects I make a scale model of my idea. As a result, this helps me find any major flaws and get a feeling for what it will look like before I build it full size. I use 1/2″ PVC pipe when I build a scale model. The smaller pipe saves me money because I use less 1″ pipe when I later build the full size prototype.

I also make scaled down controls, displays, and switch panels. This isn’t Computer Aided Design, but I still call it CAD: Cardboard Aided Design.

 

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7 Steps for Prototyping a DIY Simpit

So how do you modify a DIY Flight Sim project if you need to scale it up or scale it down? Here’s an example. Let’s say you want to build the D250 Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. However, the project is built around 32″ HDTVs but you want to use 27″ monitors. How do you scale this down?

  1. First of all, buy an extra length of pipe in case you need it (PVC pipe is cheap)
  2. Scale with a percentage.  27″ is about 16% smaller than 32″ Here’s the math: 32 – 27 = 5 and then 5 / 32 = .156, which is about 16%
  3. Decrease the measurements of pipes by that same percentage. Only scale the pipes adjacent to the displays, for now.
  4. Cut the pipes and assemble them with the PVC fittings. Start with just the pipes adjacent to the displays. Observe if the frame fits well compared to the displays or if you need to make changes.
  5. If some pipes are a little too long, remove them and cut them shorter. If some pipes are too short, that’s why you bought extra pipe. It’s easy to assemble/disassemble the PVC pipe frame to test different frame dimensions.
  6. Once you have pipe lengths that you are happy with, secure the PVC fittings with self-drilling screws.
  7. Scale the rest of the pipes to fit with the part of the frame you changed. This is much easier now that you have a starting point.
Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter Template

Build a Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter

You can install the Saitek Trim Wheel underneath dual Saitek Throttle Quadrants… but only if you use an adapter plate. I made instructions, a DIY video, and a template to help you build a Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter  just like the one you see in the pictures.

I’m very happy with the Saitek Trim Wheel mainly because proper elevator trim is such a vital and basic skill in real flying. We are lucky that an inexpensive and robust trim wheel is readily available for our home flight simulators. Unfortunately, there is no way to clamp the stock Saitek Trim Wheel to a reasonable location. Believe me, I tried. A pilot should be able to adjust the elevator trim without looking for it the trim wheel. As a result, most trim wheels in real airplanes are located under the throttle or next to the pilot seat. Therefore, I made this Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter plate so you can install your trim wheel in a very natural location for your home flight simulator.

 

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You Can Build a Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter

Take a look at these two examples of Saitek Trim Wheel Adapters built by Flight Sim enthusiasts just like You! Most noteworthy, you will see their Adapters look exactly like the one I built. They used the exact same build template that I offer free on my website. Many thanks to builders Dennis and Ben for sending me their pictures. I would love to see your finished Adapter too. If you build one, please send me pictures of your project to diyflightsims@rogerdodger.net.

 

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Download the Free Template

Build your own Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter. Start by downloading and printing out the template. Get the template free by signing up for my monthly newsletter, the Roger Dodger Insider. You will be the first to know about product updates, sales, building tips, and more. It’s a monthly email so you won’t be bombarded with a bunch of stuff in your inbox and you can unsubscribe at any time. Become a Roger Dodger Insider here.