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!

 

 

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!

Tacky, Old, Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters

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

Roger Dodger Aviation Headquarters

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

 

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TrackIR For a Dual Seat Flight Sim

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

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

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

South Pacific Theme

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

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