I was so excited to receive my new X52 Pro HOTAS joystick and throttle, but then I discovered they just don’t make them like they used to. So I bought the Logitech Saitek X52 Joystick Spring Modification kit from Ebay.
I bought a brand new X52 Pro joystick and discovered it is way too loose in the center of the joystick travel where the spring tension is the weakest. The weak spring tension causes the pilot to overshoot control inputs right where they need to make precise adjustments. Fortunately, TerraVestra’s Spring Plate kit was the remedy I needed. The kit is inexpensive, 3D printed, easy to install, and made in the USA.
The kit includes four spacers of different widths that correspond to four different spring tensions. I used the 5mm wide spacer, which is the widest. If you need more spring tension than that, you can also stack the spacers on top of each other. The spacers fit on both the Logitech X52 and the X52 Pro. The manufacturer includes a handy installation tool. Bonus: this does not void the warranty and you don’t have to disassemble anything.
Here is the installation video, which is also available on their Ebay listing.
The increased spring tension helps a lot! The spacer pushes down on the spring which increases tension between the spring plate and the joystick housing. But the increased tension also brings increased friction. I easily remedied this by applying a thin coat of bearing grease to the bottom of the spring plate (see picture). If you don’t have bearing grease, try lithium grease. Lithium grease is probably better for plastic anyway.
I’m truly excited about how affordable it is to build a home flight simulator. If you are in the market for flight sim hardware like a joystick, yoke, rudder pedals, throttle quadrant, etc. now could be your time to buy. For example, the Logitech G X52 Pro HOTAS joystick and throttle is just $199 now on Amazon. Don’t forget to modify your X52 throttle to get rid of that pesky detent with this handy DIY Flight Sims tutorial (free) https://youtu.be/3TrDCO-FMBI
Not to mention the many choices we have today for flight simulator controls. I remember trying to hack and modify the old CH Products rudder pedals simply because they were the only ones on the market. I eventually ended up buying better rudder pedals from an obscure German manufacturer.
Your display is an important part of your flight sim hardware. The options we have for displays today are a thousand times better than what was available when I built my first home flight simulator in 2004. Back then, to get any sort of immersion your only choice was to use a big projected screen. A LCD projector cost about $1000 in 2004, and that’s the equivalent of $1600 today. However, the projectors of the time were only 640×480 resolution! Today, you can get a 75″ 4K TV for $550 at Best Buy.
In addition, all graphics cards now support multiple displays, but that was unheard of back in 2004. Back then, you had to have a special external video card and adapters to run a triple display.
And what about computers? The long-awaited crypto crash finally came last year, and soon after the prices for graphics cards finally came down to reasonable levels. I was so happy about the price of my new computer I added something extra… an extended warranty from Microcenter.
Microsoft is back… again. Really? Flight sim community influencers certainly think so. Microsoft invited several of them to their headquarters to experience the pre-Alpha version of Flight Simulator 2020 in September. Will this new effort by Microsoft soar or flop?
First of all, let’s look at the features of Flight Simulator 2020. It has astonishing worldwide scenery that makes true VFR pilotage a joy. Microsoft included every known airport in the world, that’s over 40,000 airports. Flight Simulator 2020 also includes better simulation of rain, humidity, turbulence, fog, aerodynamic performance, friction modeling, sloping runways, icing, wind layers, visibility, sun/moon/star positions, etc. which are improvements you would expect. The developers created true volumetric clouds that cast shadows and are lit from above by the sun and even from below by city lights at night. Finally, complete SIDs and STARs are included and perhaps Sectional charts too.
Will you be able to find your house in Flight Simulator 2020? Maybe.
Why would Flight Simulator 2020 be the “next generation” of flight sims? This development team seems to understand that a comprehensive new sim must embrace the community, not operate in spite of it (like Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D). The target market is “hard core simmers”, not gamers like the bungled MS Flight release in 2012. For example, Microsoft didn’t just invite community influencers to their offices, they PAID for their flights and hotel accommodations. Some invited guests came from Australia and Europe, so those tickets were not cheap. In addition, Microsoft treated the influencers to flights in a REAL Cessna 172 around Seattle so they could compare the real world scenery to the scenery in Flight Simulator 2020. That’s unprecedented. Even the Three Grumpy Simmers seemed delighted.
Microsoft brought in 3rd party developers early to gain their input for Flight Simulator 2020. Although, they are not saying yet who those 3rd party developers are. Furthermore, Microsoft revealed they have been working on this new flight sim for 5 years in secret! They certainly seem to be re-dedicated to the flight sim genre.
When will Flight Simulator 2020 be released? How much will it cost? Will it crash your PC?
The sim will be released in 2020 sometime but there is no word on what it will cost. The development team has already assured us that it will not be a subscription-based pricing model. If you have a strong PC that is currently running VR apps smoothly, you should be able to run Flight Simulator 2020. This won’t be a repeat of the FSX performance debacle of 2006.
Hear Froogle’s take on Flight Simulator 2020 in this 30 minute video…
I designed the DIY Kinetic Motion Flight Sim as a direct-control moving platform. As a result, it works with all flight simulation software. It is the only inexpensive motion flight simulator for Aerofly FS2.
My dream is to create a DIY tutorial that shows how to build a motion flight sim. The most inexpensive way to build a one is to use materials from a home improvement store. As a result, you can build a motion flight sim for just a few hundred dollars instead of a few thousand.
Would the flight sim community embrace such an idea? I posted several demonstration videos to gauge people’s reaction. Unfortunately, when I posted a video to the Aerofly FS2 fan group, I only received negative comments. This makes no sense when you consider how a motion flight simulator for Aerofly FS2 improves the flying experience exponentially.
Aerofly FS2 is one of the lesser-known flight sim titles, but it has two things that are essential for virtual reality. Namely, high frame rates with dense, quality scenery. Take a look at the embedded video. I’m flying over New York City over hundreds of buildings, yet the frame rates remain smooth.
Next, imagine what it feels like to add a motion flight simulator for Aerofly FS2. The experience is totally immersive. I thought the Aerofly FS2 user base would recognize how this inexpensive DIY project could enhance their flight experience. I guess I was wrong.
Obviously I won’t be posting any more demonstration videos for Aerofly FS2. However, I’ll gladly continue to use Aerofly FS2 with my motion flight simulator because it’s so enjoyable.
I give extra time and effort to set up the lights, camera, OBS software, etc. when I make a video, and I only want to spend the effort for people that will appreciate my work. It didn’t work out for Aerofly FS2, consequently I will focus on other sim titles like X-Plane 11, DCS World, and IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad.
The Elite Dangerous fans are greatly supportive, so I will post more videos for them also.
I built my DIY Elite Dangerous Motion Flight Simulator with supplies from a home improvement store. It works with a variety of flight simulator titles, not just Elite:D. I call this motion rig the “Kinetic Flight Sim.”
I designed the movement system by examining the control linkages of actual Sport Aviation aircraft. Nearly all small airplanes have control systems consisting of cables, pulleys, bell cranks, and levers. The Kinetic Flight Sim uses similar technology.
The motion system is not software-specific. Not only is this an Elite Dangerous Motion Flight Simulator, it will work with any flight simulator software. I’ve already tested it with AeroflyFS2 (see video), War Thunder, and DCS World. I plan to test it with X-plane 11 and IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad once I upgrade the computer’s video card.
The Kinetic’s controls are HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick). The joystick is a CH Products Combatstick. I used this type of joystick because I have experience modifying this type and simply because I had one available for use. The throttle is the Saitek/Logitech X52, and the pedals are Saitek Pro Flight rudder pedals. I plan to upgrade to Thrustmaster Warthog controls if I receive adequate funding.
The HOTAS controls are especially important because of virtual reality. When the pilot wears the Oculus Rift VR Headset, he can only see the virtual cockpit. The controls are not visible (and neither is my drink holder).
Check out these demonstration videos. I’m using the Kinetic flight sim with Elite Dangerous and flying the new Krait MkII. Elite:D works particularly well with my gaming computer and VR headset. It’s an absolute joy to fly in space with a motion flight sim. I could produce longer videos but I’m not sure if people really want to see that.
Should I livestream longer flights? I hope to try that soon.
The following video is an exclusive! It’s only available to the readers of this blog article. I call it “Dodging Icebergs” Enjoy ! ! !
The DIY Deluxe Desktop home flight simulator plans are designed around three 32” HDTVs used as the main displays. But what if you want to use displays that are larger (or smaller)? Many DIY Flight Sim builders modify the plans to match their unique requirements. Furthermore, PVC pipe is a great material for experimental trial-and-error. It’s no wonder so many builders modify their projects.
Gary is a DIY Flight Sim builder. He developed a useful spreadsheet to use when using larger (or smaller) displays with the DIY Deluxe Desktop home flight simulator plans. He was kind enough to share it with me, so I’m providing it to you in the course content. First of all, Gary’s spreadsheet is really clever. You simply enter in the dimension of the displays you want to use and then spreadsheet calculates how much to change the affected PVC pipes. Also the relevant pipes are identified in a new Pipe Frame Map.
You still may require a little trial-and-error because different PVC manufacturers make the fittings differently. Fortunately, PVC pipe is inexpensive and easy to work with.
If you are enrolled in the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim course, you can download Gary’s spreadsheet here.
If you want to read more about modifying the DIY Flight Sim projects, see the section on Prototyping in the Builder Academy.
First of all, as I introduce the subject of motion flight sim theory, it helps to start with a foundational understanding of how our bodies sense movement and orientation. Movement is our sense of acceleration/deceleration and the notion that we are traveling through a space. Orientation is our attitude in space, our sense of pitch, roll, and yaw. The quality of a motion flight sim is in its ability to fool the human sensation of movement and orientation. For many normal flight attitudes in an airplane, there is a corresponding flight sim action that can emulate how it should look and feel from the cockpit. Consequently, this is the basis of motion flight sim theory.
The human body has three systems that inform the brain about movement and orientation:
Valid motion flight sim theory states that a moving rig, like the Kinetic motion flight sim, does specific things to fool each of these systems.
A pilot recognizes his position in space by seeing the simulated environment produced by the flight sim software. It is vital that the pilot only sees the simulated environment, and nothing else. For example, imagine you’re looking at the flight sim displays, but you can also see the walls of the room in your peripheral vision. As a result, your brain will not be fooled.
One way to create an immersive visual experience is to seat the pilot in an enclosed cabin like the expensive flight sims used by airlines. Even when a pilot uses an inexpensive DIY rig like the DIY Flight Sim Pod he can feel immersion because all he sees is the simulated flight environment. The other option is to use a high-quality virtual reality headset. In either case, the pilot must not see the room beyond the flight sim.
Even with a static flight sim, an effective visual system can give you a feeling of movement… or even motion sickness if you are prone to it.
In our airplane, we control movement around the pitch axis, the roll axis, and the yaw axis. Coincidentally, the inner ear contains three semicircular canals that are aligned roughly the same way – pitch, roll, and yaw. How do we fool the inner ear? You already know at least one way to do it. We discover as little kids that if we spin around and around, we get dizzy and lose our balance. The effect is so profound that even when we stop spinning, we still stagger around for a bit before fully regaining our balance.
The semicircular canals contain tiny hairs and a special fluid. When the fluid is displaced by movement, the hairs are pushed around by the moving fluid. The brain interprets this signal as motion.
In a motion flight sim that moves in pitch, roll, and yaw, the inner ear will also detect that same movement. In real airplanes, there are certain scenarios that can confuse a pilot’s inner ear and cause spatial disorientation. Furthermore, some of these scenarios can be emulated in a simulator.
Imagine accelerating down a runway. You can feel yourself being pressed back into your seat. Now imagine you’re in a regular chair and you simply lean back in it. You can feel yourself being pressed into the back of that seat too. Your somatosensory system will give you a similar feeling for the two situations, to a certain extent. A motion flight sim can fool your somatosensory system for mild maneuvers and mile acceleration/deceleration.
When you’re in a real airplane, and you’re making a steep bank, your somatosensory system will tell you when you’re starting to pull G forces. In a 60 degree bank, you will feel two G’s as you are pressed down in your seat. If you fly inverted, you will feel one negative G as you hang upside-down from your seatbelt. Unfortunately, we can’t simulate G forces like that in a simulator. But certain motion flight sims can simulate heave, like turbulence, or like a hard landing.
For example, imagine a pilot is in the Kinetic motion flight sim and he starts a climbing turn. He can see the simulated horizon and as he banks the wings, he can see the corresponding bank angle. Also, shadows inside the cockpit move as the airplane turns. This is a climbing turn, so the pilot also pulls back on the joystick. His inner ear detects that he is pitching nose up. The pilot also feels that he is being pressed back in his seat slightly, that’s his somatosensory system.
The pilot should feel like he’s flying. If the pilot is in a quality motion flight sim, then the machine is able to fool the pilot’s sense of motion and orientation.
Frequently Asked Question: “What is the best and cheapest way to build a home flight simulator? BTW, don’t have much money.”
Answer: Fortunately, you can build an exceptional DIY Flight Sim with a little work and some planning. It might cost a lot less than you think.
The home flight simulator of your dreams may seem a daunting and far-away goal. However, following this tried-and-true method, you can divide a huge job into small, workable, steps. Plan the work and work the plan: this is the best and cheapest way to build a home flight simulator.
How much is this all going to cost? Before you pick up your credit card, pick up a pencil and figure this out. I made this really easy for you with the DIY Flight Sim Budget Tool. It is a flexible method for determining cost and takes into account components you may already have. Once your budget is in place, it’s easy to identify where you can save money.
In addition, an organized plan can help you get support from your spouse.
Want to know the best and cheapest way to build a home flight simulator? You may be able to re-purpose, repair or modify some components you already have. For example, you might re-purpose an old desk for use with your home flight sim by painting it. You will be delighted at what an inexpensive can paint can do.
Pro tip: online flight sim retailers run a sale every month or two. You can get discounts on software and also flight sim controls and peripherals. In addition, check individual manufacturer and developer websites for sales. And don’t forget Steam.com!
Finally, shop Amazon. When you place an item on your Wish List, it will alert you if the price falls.
You can build impressive, functional flight sim frames and enclosures with materials from your local home improvement store. All you need are common hand tools that you probably already have. It’s easy to build with PVC pipes, Styrofoam insulation, and wood boards. This is, by far, the best and cheapest way to build a home flight simulator.
Check out the Builder Academy for a wealth of information on using inexpensive materials for home flight sims. You can enroll for free!
Don’t forget to keep your receipt from the home improvement store. You can easily return any materials you don’t use.
Know what to expect before you even start the project. These online courses show you every step of the building process with video clips, diagrams, pictures, printouts, and complete instructions. The tutorials are the least expensive part of your project, but most of all, they save you money and frustration with your project.
My customers finish their projects and get back to flying!
Proper flight sim painting will make your home flight simulator look finished and professional. The paint has an almost magical transformative effect. Most importantly, it turns a framework of pipes, wood, and foam into a complete, comprehensive aviation solution. Check out these # tips for flight sim painting.
It’s actually inexpensive to paint a DIY Flight Sim project, so it’s well worth doing it. Here’s what you’ll need for flight sim painting:
Yes, you can tint latex primer. The store clerk might tell you that the color may not turn out exactly the same as the paint chip because it’s primer. That’s ok, just tell them you are a pro at flight sim painting and you know what you’re doing.
Here are the colors I use:
You don’t have to use these exact colors for your flight sim painting project. One builder reported a problem using Olympic paint + primer combo on PVC pipes. He said it did not to adhere adequately to the PVC. On the other hand, I haven’t heard of any other builders that encountered that problem. It might be best to just stick with regular latex primer.
I usually end up putting three coats on a flight sim painting project. Especially when it is a simple PVC frame like Item #F311 DIY Side Joystick Frame. First of all, start painting the frame right side up and allow it to dry. Next, turn the framework upside down and you’ll see all the places you missed. Apply another coat and allow it to dry. Finally, flip the framework right side up again and apply the final coat.
Usually, I remove the wood boards from the frame, label them, and then paint them separately. That’s actually much easier than keeping them in place.
You can use your brush and roller multiple times without worrying about them drying out. Simply put the brush in a quart size ziplock bag and keep it in your refrigerator between coats. Push out as much air as you reasonably can from the bag. The same works for the paint roller, but use a gallon sized ziplock bag. Therefore, you can use the brush and roller as many times as you need during your flight sim painting project. Finally, then throw away the brush and roller when you’re finished.
Why don’t I recommend spray paint for flight sim painting? Using spray paint on a PVC pipe frame is actually pretty difficult. It’s hard to paint pipes, because you always miss a spot and you end up applying 5 or 6 or more coats. Plus, you need adequate ventilation for spray paint.
Latex primer, on the other hand, is safe to use indoors. This is especially important because many DIY builders work on their projects during the winter months.
Finally, make sure you have good lighting so you can catch the drips or any areas you may have missed. This is common sense, but many people ignore it. I recommend you set up additional lights around your flight sim painting project.
You can learn more about this topic and many others in the Builder Academy. You’ll also receive updates about new, free DIY Flight Sim content.