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!

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.

 

 

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…

 

DIY enclosed flight simulator update

DIY Flight Sim Pod enclosed flight simulator | Free Update

The DIY Flight Sim Pod Enclosed Flight Simulator

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.

DIY enclosed flight simulator cockpit
DIY enclosed flight simulator cockpit

 

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.

Krystal flying the enclosed flight simulator Pod
Krystal flying the enclosed flight simulator Pod

 

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!

DIY Helicopter Simulator Controls, free upgrade to online tutorials

DIY Helicopter Simulator Controls | Free Upgrade to Online Tutorials

What is the Upgrade?

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!

 

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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…

 

DIY HOTAS mount, upgrade to the new version

DIY Side Joystick Frame Upgrade | DIY HOTAS mount

What is the Upgrade?

The F311 DIY Side Joystick Frame project demonstrates how to build a simple and useful DIY HOTAS mount for your flight simulator controls. You can attach the joystick, throttle, and rudder pedals to this sturdy framework. Furthermore, you don’t have to modify your office chair or desk! The new upgrade provides more room on the side stands which is especially helpful when you wear a Virtual Reality headset.

 

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How Do You Get the Upgrade?

The project upgrade is FREE if you already purchased the F311 DIY Side Joystick Frame. Just email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get your upgraded version. Be sure to tell me what email address you used so I can verify your order. Then, I’ll send you a coupon code that will allow you free access to the project.

You can get the updated F311 project here and then access the plans on any device. The F311 instructions are completely online, so you don’t have to download anything. The instructions, streaming videos, pictures, and printouts are all included with this online training course.

 

More about the DIY HOTAS Mount

I realized that I needed to make a few changes to the F311 frame when I tried the Oculus Rift VR headset. Remember, you can only see things inside the headset when you use VR, so it’s difficult to tap a keyboard key or find your mouse. As a result, my solution was to attach a trackball mouse beside the joystick. It’s always in the same place, so I don’t have to look for it. I tested (e.g. played with) this solution for many hours on Elite Dangerous.

Even in its original configuration, the F311 Side Joystick Frame works well with many types of flight sim setups. It’s easy to slide the frame under a desk or table, and then roll up to the frame with your office chair. Hold your chair in place with the Velco straps. Remember, you don’t have to modify your chair or desk to use this DIY HOTAS mount. This is a great addition to your home flight sim and works well with Lockheed Prepar3D, X-plane, Flight Sim World, FSX Steam, and others.

Upgrade DIY flight sim with yoke + throttle quad for your FSX Multiple Monitors setup

DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim Upgrade | FSX Multiple Monitors

Upgrade Available

The D250 DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim project shows you how to build a multiple monitor flight simulator for your home. Until now the project was only used with a joystick and side throttle. However, this update makes it possible to use the D250 frame with an airplane yoke and throttle quadrant. The instructions show you how to raise the center instrument panel to make room for the yoke. Also, the Saitek switch panels are mounted in a different configuration which are detailed in the new plan drawings. The new switch panel placement is better for a pilot that is flying with a yoke. Use the D250 home cockpit with your FSX multiple monitors setup… or P3D, or X-plane, or Flight Sim World. The project is platform independent so you can use it with any flight sim program.

 

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How To Get Your Upgrade

This is a FREE upgrade if you already purchased the D250 Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim. Email me at DIYflightsims@rogerdodger.net to get your update. Tell me what email address you used when you ordered the project so I can verify your order. I’ll send you a coupon that will allow you free access to the project.

You can get the updated D250 project here and then access the plans on any device. The D250 instructions are now 100% online, so there are no downloads to worry about. The instructions, videos, pictures, and printouts are all categorized for easy access. You will receive ALL of the instructions, so scroll down to “Instrument Panels: Yoke and Throttle Quadrant” to see the updated material.

 

FSX Multiple Monitors

The new upgrade means that the DIY Deluxe Desktop can be combined with the F311 Side Joystick HOTAS Frame, the F321 Center Joystick Frame, or utilize the yoke + throttle quadrant option. It’s a multiple monitors flight simulator project that works with three screens. In addition, you can add a fourth smaller screen for the flight instruments. This project is one of the most versatile DIY Flight Sim projects I’ve ever created. I’m very excited to present it to you in this new mobile format.

 

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.

4 New Changes to Home Built Flight Simulators: Watch Video

I made four simple, yet significant changes to the D250 Deluxe Desktop home built flight simulators. Consequently, these changes bring me back into the beloved world of general aviation. See me in the video flying a Beechcraft Baron once agian.

 

 

1. Added a Yoke and Throttle Quadrant

I removed the side-mounted HOTAS joystick and throttle and added a Saitek flight yoke and throttle quadrant. I attached the trim wheel underneath the throttle quadrants, and that is the perfect location. Once again, I can fly multi-engine airplanes like the Beech Baron, or light general aviation airplanes like the Cessna 172.

Home built flight simulators with new mods
Home built flight simulators with new mods

2. Raised the Instrument Panel Display

I use an inexpensive 19″ monitor to display the flight instruments on the D250. The yoke housing did not fit under the 19″ monitor, so I raised the monitor mount a few inches. I simply replaced the board for the Center Instrument Panel and attached an adapter board for the monitor mount.

Raised monitor mount for instrument display
Raised monitor mount for instrument display

3. Moved all Saitek Switch Panels

When you fly an airplane with a yoke, your left hand is typically on the yoke and your right hand is free to adjust the radio frequencies, dial in nav headings, and more. The D250 wasn’t set up like this because I used it to fly helicopters. As a result, the radios were on the left side of the cockpit, because a helicopter pilot typically keeps his right hand on the cyclic (joystick) and the left hand is free. I cut new 1×8 boards for the Left and Right Side Instrument Panels and re-arranged, and re-mounted the Saitek switch panels.

Yoke and throttle quadrant mod for the DIY flight sim
Yoke and throttle quadrant mod for the DIY flight sim

4. I Moved the Drink Holder

Don’t fly thirsty! I moved the drink holder to the right side of the cockpit so I could easily reach it with my right hand. The drink holder is the right size for a travel mug or a bottle with a drink coozie.

Important drink holder in the home flight sim
Important drink holder in the home flight sim

Plans for Home Built Flight Simulators

Do you want to build this same flight simulator for your home? If I get enough interest from my DIY community then I will create an additional Instruction Manual and include it with the original plans. In addition, customers who have already purchased this project will get the new plans for free.

System Specs and Peripherals

Notice these computers are not especially strong or new. You don’t have to spend $2000 on a computer to have great home built flight simulators.

DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim, item #D250
Primary computer: Powerspec B634 with Intel i5-3450
Nvidia GeForce GTX 950 SSC
Windows 7, 64 bit
Flight yoke: Saitek Pro Flight
Saitek throttle quadrant
Saitek Pro Flight trim wheel
Pro Flight Cessna rudder pedals from Saitek
Switch panels: Saitek PZ55, PZ69, PZ70

Secondary computer: Dell Inspiron 530s with Pentum E2200
Windows Vista
Sim Innovations Air Manager

4 screen DIY flight sim with yoke and throttle quadrant
4 screen DIY flight sim with yoke and throttle quadrant

Interview with Onet – Building Flight Simulator Cockpit

Marcin Strzyzewski invited me to do an interview for Onet online in Poland. Onet posts articles on a wide range of topics so I was happy to provide info about building flight simulator cockpit. Below are Marcin’s questions and my answers. Please let me know what you think of my responses.

1. What is the biggest fun in flight simulation?

Flight simulators can do many different things so that depends on what interests you. Think of the flight sim pilot population as three parts:
Part 1 are the people that enjoy flying airliners with their flight simulator. Many of these users join Virtual Airlines and fly the same routes in the simulator as they would in real life. They fly online with other users that serve as air traffic control.
Part 2 are all the pilots that used to fly in real life, or plan to fly later in real life, or they are active pilots now. You see these people using their simulator for civil airplanes and helicopters like the ones you would find at a flight school. Active pilots can fly a lesson in real life, then practice the same lesson at home with their simulator.
Part 3 are the gamers and casual users. They fly space simulators or air combat simulators or maybe they just play around and fly for fun. This also a large and important population.

For me personally, I enjoy all the above. But most of all, I enjoy designing and building cockpit enclosures for home flight sims. I call these Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Flight Sims.

2. If some of our readers want to start making their own simulator, what is your advice?

First of all, know what type of aircraft you simulate the most. For example, a helicopter simulator project will look a lot different than an airliner simulator project.

Second, know your budget. If you live in a country where PVC pipe or lumber is really expensive, you should know that before you start. If you will buy new displays or new controls, start looking for sales. Retailers usually run a sale every month or two.

Third, and perhaps most important: negotiate with your spouse. A flight simulator will take up space in your home that can’t be used for other things. I designed both large and small DIY Flight Sims, but they all take up some measure of space. I recommend you talk this over with your spouse prior to construction.
Note: if you can make the case that your children or grandchildren will somehow benefit from your flight simulator, this can help.

 

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3. What is a most common mistake of the beginners?

The most common mistake is never starting the project. Actually, just getting started can be the most difficult part. No matter how large or small the project, you finish them all the same way: one step at a time, over and over, until you are done.
I think my DIY videos help because you can see the building process before you personally start construction on your project.
Just. Get. Started.

4. Building flight simulator cockpit sounds pricey is it in fact?

The most expensive components are the ones that keep going down in price: computers, graphics cards, touch-screens, and large HD displays. Therefore, these items get better and cheaper every year for building flight simulator cockpit. Other components are the flight controls and switch panels which can be good retail models, or more expensive premium models to fit your budget.
My videos show how to build cockpit enclosures with materials from a home improvement store. Those materials are inexpensive in the USA, UK and Canada, but maybe not in other countries. For example, PVC pipe is expensive in New Zealand. I produce videos because they are the best way to teach building flight simulator cockpit.

5. What software is the best for simulators?

The flight simulator community (including third party developers) is unique because it mainly built up around Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) for over a decade. Dovetail Games gave FSX new life by developing a version for Steam, however it’s still old software. As a result, we have wondered for years what will replace FSX, and today we have some newer options.
Prepar3D
Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D (P3D) was developed by fixing and modernizing the old FSX code. P3D is an excellent flight sim platform, but some activities are prohibited because of Lockheed’s odd licensing agreement with Microsoft.
X-Plane
Laminar Research’s X-Plane 10 is also a solid flight sim platform with all the options of FSX, but with a smaller user base and somewhat fewer options from third party developers. X-Plane 11 was just released this month so it will be interesting to see how it performs in the market. Will X-Plane 11 be the ultimate replacement for FSX? We shall see.

 

Building flight simulator cockpit
Building flight simulator cockpit

6. Since now the best option was multiple monitors setting. Is this better now to use VR headset?

That is an excellent question, and the answer really depends on what type of flying you want to do.
If you want to fly combat missions or spaceships, VR is a great option if you can afford it and if you don’t wear glasses. For example, Elite Dangerous and War Thunder are awesome in VR. The depth of field and the immersion are astonishing.
Keep in mind, when you wear a VR headset, you can no longer see your actual controls, or a keyboard, or mouse. So your best option is HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) flying. Basically, if you can do everything you need to do in the sim without removing your hands from the joystick and throttle, and if you can memorize all the button assignments, then that sim could be a good option for VR.

If you fly airliners, civil training airplanes, or helicopters you will be performing a lot of tasks where you need to reach out with your hand and touch the control panel. You will tune radios, adjust the GPS, set the navigation headings, set the autopilot, and more. As of right now, it’s really difficult to do these tasks in VR so traditional flight simulators are best for this type of flying. In traditional flight simulators we use actual retail switch panels, modified keyboards, a touch screen, a real checklist, a real aviation map, or all of these things. I think it will stay that way for a long time and more people will be building flight simulator cockpit.

7. How looks your simulator, can you share some pictures with us?

Sure, here are pictures from four very different DIY flight simulators (see the slideshow gallery on this page).