How to Build Your Own Helicopter Simulator

How to Build Your Own Helicopter Simulator Controls

When you try to fly helicopters with regular HOTAS flight sim controls one thing is perfectly clear: a throttle is definitely not a collective. A legitimate helicopter collective control is essential if you fly (or are learning to fly) helicopters. Unfortunately, retail collective controls are surprisingly expensive. Consequently, I created an online course that shows you how to build your own helicopter simulator controls.

 

The DIY Easy Helicopter Collective

This project does two major things. Firstly, it allows you to use a standard HOTAS throttle as a collective. The PVC pipe framework suspends the throttle vertically and connects it to a collective lever via a linkage. Most noteworthy: you don’t have to modify the throttle because the linkage straps onto the throttle handle without harming it. You can adjust the sensitivity of the collective by moving the linkage. Also, you can adjust the collective resistance with a friction knob.

The second thing this project does is make it easy to switch back to airplane configuration. Maybe you still want to fly an airplane once in a while. You can add the optional throttle stand and easily move the throttle for a HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) control configuration. Best of all, you don’t have to change the control assignments in the flight sim software. It’s so easy! It’s also easy to build your own helicopter simulator collective. That’s why I named this project the DIY Easy Helicopter Collective.

 

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Online course

I produced an affordable, online course that shows you how to build your own helicopter simulator collective. I show you how to build this project with inexpensive materials from your local home improvement store. We’ll be working with PVC pipe, lumber, paint, and other materials.

This comprehensive course includes:

  • Video clips
  • Full text instructions
  • Diagrams and pictures
  • Pipe frame maps in US and Metric measurements
  • Printouts

You can view the course on nearly any device even smart phones and tablets. See the full curriculum and a free trial at this link. Most noteworthy, the DIY Easy Helicopter Collective course is available now at a new lower price!

Bravo Throttle Quadrant from Honeycomb Aeronautical

The New Bravo Throttle Quadrant from Honeycomb Aeronautical

Here’s something we rarely get to say: NEW FLIGHT CONTROLS! The new Bravo Throttle Quadrant from Honeycomb Aeronautical packs a ton of features and options into one affordable unit. It’s a sorely needed solution for the flight sim community.

Throttle Quadrant

First of all, the Bravo Throttle Quadrant recognizes something that the community has known for a long time: dudes dig jets. Therefore, the six main levers include interchangeable handles that include options for turbine airliners. That’s right – you can set up a Boeing 737 throttle quadrant right out of the box, including spoiler and flap lever. Furthermore, you can set it up as a four engine airliner, and I assume a three engine airliner for you B-727 or L-1011 enthusiasts out there.

General aviation pilots can set up the Bravo Throttle Quadrant as a light twin with prop and mixture controls or a single engine airplane. Most noteworthy, you can remove the unused levers so they’re not in the way, which is very nice.

 

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Trim Wheel

The Bravo Throttle Quadrant includes a trim wheel, hallelujah!!! Pilots from the real world know how important elevator trim is. On the other hand, if you were raised on home flight sims, you possibly underestimate its importance. If you know me, you know how much I liked the Saitek trim wheel. Tragically, it appears that Saitek stopped producing the trim wheel when the company was acquired by Logitech. Now Honeycomb Aeronautical has come to our rescue.

 

Other Features

If the Bravo Throttle Quadrant only had the interchangeable levers and the trim wheel it would be a solid product, but it also includes several other features. It has a landing gear handle with position lights, flap lever and annunciator panel. In addition, it has autopilot controls, and seven programmable rocker switches. Is that too much for a small unit? Is the annunciator panel hard to see? Does it seem like the rocker switches hard to reach? I will suspend judgement until I actually try one in real life.

 

Bravo Throttle Quadrant – Ok, How Much?

Honeycomb Aeronautical’s website lists a suggested retail price of $199.99 for the Bravo Throttle Quadrant. That’s a damn good price for so many features. It should be available “shortly after” the release of the Alpha Flight Controls in the 4th quarter of 2017. In addition, the Bravo Throttle Quadrant looks like it would be a delightful addition to the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim or the DIY Flight Sim Pod.

 

take my money credit card

DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program

DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program

Join Us

Do you have a website or blog? If so, you could be a Roger Dodger sales affiliate and earn money through the sale of DIY Flight Sims tutorials. Introducing the DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program. I’m looking for new allies and it could be you, especially if your website is about flight simulation, aviation, DIY, or gaming.

If you are a member of a nonprofit group, this could be a great way to raise funds. For example, EAA chapters could benefit from this, or CAP squadrons, JROTC detachments, flying clubs, etc. In addition, online squadrons can use the DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program to help pay their hosting expenses.

What are the DIY Flight Sims online courses? Check out all of the online courses here. These are comprehensive tutorials that teach the student how to build a quality flight simulator framework or enclosure with inexpensive building materials. Each course includes video clips, illustrated instructions, diagrams, and printouts. Want to see what my customers are building? Check out the Customer Gallery.

 

DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program

It’s easy to join the DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program. First of all, simply email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net and tell me the url of your website or blog. If we are a good match with synergy, then I’ll send you the instructions and html code to get set up. The link on your website will look similar to the picture. If a user clicks the link and then, at some point, enrolls in the course your website will earn a commission.

 

DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program
DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program

You can earn money with the DIY Flight Simulator Affiliate Program. We can split the revenues 60/40. That is 60% for me and 40% for your website. That is actually very generous because I fronted all the time, money, and effort to create these online courses. I pay affiliates in the month following the sale. It’s easy to start earning revenue with your website.

Send me an email and we can get started today… DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net

3 Suggestions for your mobile flight simulator

Three Suggestions for Your Mobile Flight Simulator

I was contacted by a representative from a giant, international, airline manufacturer who wanted to build a mobile flight simulator to take to events and schools. You may recall I transported the DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim and the DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim to several events. His team had an empty shell from an actual airplane cockpit, with the real controls, but no instruments or much of anything else. Their task was to make the cockpit shell into a mobile flight simulator. Maybe you have had this idea too.

The first major hurdle was to make the real controls work with the flight simulator software on a PC. And that’s when they contacted me for advice. This is what I told them…

Three Suggestions for Your Mobile Flight Simulator

I have a few suggestions for your team regarding this mobile flight simulator. To start off, I believe many of us in the industry tend to regard a mobile flight simulator on an informal spectrum with “more realistic” on one end and “less realistic” on the other. As I understand your need, you will be transporting this simulator to events, setting it up for use by attendees, and then moving the simulator again. For a mobile flight simulator such as this, I have discovered realism is less important than reliability. It either works on the day of the event or it doesn’t. Therefore, expo simulators fall into a binary, more than a spectrum from an operational standpoint.

So with that in mind, I have three suggestions.

Suggestion #1: Hack Retail Products

The first suggestion is to purchase a retail flight sim control yoke, and hack it. By “hack” I mean you remove the interior components and incorporate them into the airplane cockpit that you showed me in the picture. Everything you need for your mobile flight simulator is inside a retail flight sim yoke. The yoke contains potentiometers that measure pitch and roll deflection, so you can integrate those components into the actual controls on your airplane. The potentiometers are already wired into a circuit board and so is a USB cable. When you plug in the USB cable to a PC, it will simply recognize the controller and install the drivers. You can then use any flight simulator software you want.

You could do the same thing with retail rudder pedals and a throttle quadrant.

Suggestion #2: Use Retail Products

In my experience, it’s a logistical challenge to safely transport and set up a mobile flight simulator. It is possible some part of your simulator may not work correctly even though you were very careful and were prepared for the event. If you can’t get it to work, the whole day is wasted.

My other suggestion is to simply install retail off-the-shelf flight sim controls in your airplane cockpit. This looks decidedly less realistic, but you gain an extra layer of reliability because you can have spare parts in reserve. For example, if the yoke isn’t working on a particular day, you can simply switch it out with a new yoke. The same is true with the rudder pedals and throttle quadrant.

Suggestion #3: Get Running Now, Progress Later

Finally, third option would be to use both strategies. Perhaps you start with Suggestion #2, which is quick and simple, and then maybe a year later move up to Suggestion #1, which is more complex but looks more professional. This approach gets you up and running for early success and also provides a path to improvements. Later, you and your team will have more experience with the flight simulator hardware and software. Therefore, it will be easier for you to re-install the real controls and get them running with the PC. Your team and stakeholders will feel good about the progression of the project.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. I’m interested in knowing how your flight simulator turns out so please let me know what you ultimately decide to do.

DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator update

Free Update: DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator

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.

 

Build with materials from a hardware store
Build with materials from a hardware store
DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator online course
DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator online course

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator free update
DIY Triple Screen Flight Simulator free update

 

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.

 

 

Top 5 Flight Simulator Videos

Top 5 Flight Simulator Videos You May Have Missed

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.

 

If you bought DIY flight simulator build plans from a 3rd party vendor

If you bought DIY Flight Sims products from a 3rd party vendor

What Happened to the DIY Flight Sim downloads?

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:

 

What Happens When You Enroll

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.

Happy building! Happy flying!

4 Ways to Display Flight Simulator Instrument Panel

4 Ways to Display Flight Instruments | Flight Simulator Instrument Panel

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.

 

TrackIR with DTG Flight School
TrackIR with DTG Flight School and the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim

 

TrackIR $140.00

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.

 

Native FSX instruments in the DIY Flight Sim Pod
Native FSX instruments in the DIY Flight Sim Pod

 

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.

However, there is a way to make FSX save the flight simulator instrument panel settings by using a handy freeware utility. More about that here.

 

Air Manager with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim
Air Manager with the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim

 

Air Manager $36.00 + separate monitor or 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 gauge
Saitek Pro-Flight gauge

 

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).

How much does it cost?

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Flight Simulator?

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.

 

How much does it cost to build a flight simulator?
How much does it cost to build a flight simulator?

 

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.

Free Update

DIY Flight Sim Keyboard Mod Update

DIY Flight Sim Keyboard Stickers and More

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.

 

DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod, build it your way
DIY Airliner Keyboard Mod, build it your way

 

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.

 

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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…