The DIY Flight Sim Pod is a fully enclosed flight sim cockpit and your view is completely filled with the simulated environment. Therefore, you don’t see the other things in the room like furniture, book shelf, plants, etc. You fly in a totally immersive environment. In addition, when you strap into the Pod to start a flight, it really feels like you’re preparing to go somewhere. It’s relatively easy to disassemble the Flight Sim Pod because it’s a modular structure. This is how to disassemble this enclosed flight sim.
Enclosed Flight Sim Components
The entire project includes three major assemblies, three subassemblies, flight simulator hardware (including computer), and displays.
Left fuselage side
Right fuselage side
Nose cone (top and bottom)
Top Canopy with Bumper
Disassemble the Enclosed Flight Sim
Start by removing the Tail, Top Canopy with Bumper and Tail. The Bumper is simply the single padded PVC pipe that attaches the Left and Right Fuselage Sides just below the Top Canopy. Unscrew the self-drilling screws as needed to free the PVC fittings.
Next, remove the Left and Right Fuselage Sides. This leaves the Inner Frame still packed with computer hardware and displays. Again, unscrew all self-drilling screws necessary to free the applicable fittings.
Carefully remove the 40” HDTV main display, cushion it, and place in moving box. Do the same with the instrument panel display. Finally, remove and box all computer hardware and flight controls.
Disassemble the Inner Frame
The Inner Frame consists of lumber and PVC pipe and is consequently the strong center structure of the enclosed flight sim. The Nose Cone is the pipe and foam structure that attaches to the front of the Inner Frame.
The top and bottom of the Nose Cone is glued together. However, you can separate the bottom Nose Cone panel by cutting just under the point of the Nose Cone. Cut from across the top edge of the bottom Nose Cone panel and also the top corners around the fittings. This will separate the top and bottom of the Nose Cone leaving only the fittings to hold them together. Remove self-drilling screws as required.
The Pod on the Move
If you load the Pod into a moving van, note how many of the parts can lay flat. Even the Inner Frame doesn’t take up much room because it’s like a shelf – you can load boxes onto it. Your flight sim controls will all fit into boxes as shown in the picture.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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
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).
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.
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?
First of all, buy an extra length of pipe in case you need it (PVC pipe is cheap)
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%
Decrease the measurements of pipes by that same percentage. Only scale the pipes adjacent to the displays, for now.
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.
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.
Once you have pipe lengths that you are happy with, secure the PVC fittings with self-drilling screws.
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.
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.
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.
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).
This project combines two of my favorite things: a cozy fireplace and my flight simulator. Why not simulate a nice cozy fireplace inside a flight simulator?!
This DIY flight sim is ready for winter! I combined the warm atmosphere of a crackling fireplace with the fun of flying my simulator. It’s just the thing for those freezing winter months. You can do this too, it’s easy to set up.
Create a Fireplace Inside a Flight Simulator
My flight simulator has two displays connected to the graphics card. The large display is a 40″ HDTV and the smaller display is a 19″ VGA computer monitor. Typically, I display the flight simulator outside view on the large screen and the flight instruments on the smaller screen. For today’s project, I’m only running FSX on the large screen. Start FSX and start a flight. Select Windowed Mode from the View Menu and resize the window so it fits on one screen (the large screen in my example).
Next start a web browser on the second monitor and find a fireplace video on YouTube. Play the video and select full screen. This is how I my smaller display shows a cozy, crackling fireplace.
All we need now is a nice hot apple cider. I recently discovered sugar free apple cider from Alpine. It doesn’t need any sugar because of what we add next: cinnamon flavored bourbon. Apple and cinnamon… oh it’s so, so good! Leave the ice and snow outside, you’re flying in comfort. Happy Landings!
Here’s wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation. I’m lucky for my opportunities to share aviation (both real and simulated) with people.
Christmas Lights on a Flight Simulator!
Let’s deck the flight sims with boughs of holly, tinsel, and colored lights! I like to decorate my flight simulator for Christmas and it’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. I think I’m the only flight simulator entrepreneur that currently does this. All of my decorating efforts go into the simulator because more people see it than see my house. December is so busy I rarely have people over to visit, however many people see my pictures and videos online.
I like to fly some of the old winter missions in FSX like the apple delivery missions or the Alaska missions. I drink hot chocolate and fly my simulator, it’s a wonderful time. Often I’m bundled up in a hoodie and scarf since I can’t afford to run the furnace at a reasonable temperature.
Plaza Flights in Kansas City
Many of you don’t know this but I am a real pilot with 1200 hours. I used to provide scenic flight in an actual Cessna 172 over Kansas City. Each year, the Plaza decorates all of its buildings with brilliant lights throughout the entire holiday season. I provided night flights to the public from the KC Downtown Wheeler Airport over the Plaza Lights. For many people this was their first experience in a small airplane. I even awarded certificates and aviator wings after the flights since this was a special occasion. Season after season I provided these flights and it became an important part of Christmas to me and for this city. I did more Plaza Flights than anyone else in the city during the years I offered them.
Merry Christmas from Roger Dodger Aviation
I wish you the best this holiday season. Get ready because January is Build Month! Many customers build DIY Flight Sims projects during January. It’s a great time to do it.
This modification to the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke uses zip ties and springs that I bought from a home improvement store. It’s a very popular modification that I’ll call the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke Ultimate Fix. The springs will attach to the center shaft and the four screw posts.
NOTE: modifying the Saitek yoke will void the warranty. However, if you purchased the yoke over two years ago, the warranty has already expired.
Credit for this idea should go to Tom Gromko who published this method on the AVSIM forum.
Springs for the Saitek Yoke
Before we start, I’m assuming you’ve already removed the pitch spring and swing arms as shown in the disassembly video. You can leave the roll return spring in place for this mod, or if you want less resistance, you can remove it. You’ll notice that I’ve removed it for this video.
The springs we are using are from Home Depot and it costs less than $4.00 USD. This package comes with four springs, but we will only use the larger two. If you can’t find these springs exactly, find ones with a similar load limit – about 2.4 pounds.
Let’s get started. Rotate the yoke so the back of the control housing is facing you and it’s best to prop up the yoke on some boards or something. Locate these horns on the center shaft and specifically locate this small gap in the plastic structure. Use a drill and a 1/8” drill bit to make a hole right through that small gap and then repeat on the other side.
A 1/8” hole should be large enough for these mini Zip Ties to fit through them. The springs will loop over the screw posts on the left side and the right side and then attach to the center shaft. Unfortunately, the springs tend to slide off of the screw posts while we’re working with them, so use a small file to create a groove in the plastic. This file is actually three-sided, therefore it’s really handy for this job. This groove we’re making faces the back of the yoke. For this screw post, file a groove on the front side, towards the yoke handle. The spring stretches easily between the posts and it fits nicely in the groove.
When you work on this post, be very careful not to damage the circuit board or any wiring here so it’s ok to take your time with this step.
Install Replacement Springs
Now we want to attach the horn on the center shaft to the exact center of the springs. I used calipers to determine the middle point of the spring. You don’t have to use calipers, you can measure carefully or you can even count the strands on the spring to determine the middle. Mark the middle three strands with a sharpie and then remove the spring. The spring can be a little hard to hold on to, consequently, use a zip tie to hold the ends while you fold it over like this.
Look for the mark you made and use a small screwdriver to loop under those three strands on the spring. Then, loop a zip tie under those same three strands and remove the screwdriver. This green zip tie was just temporary and we’re going to cut it off now.
Stretch the spring between the two screw posts again and loop the zip tie through the hole you drilled in the horn and then attach the zip tie like this. Repeat this process on the other side. Now tighten both zip ties all the way and clip off the excess from the zip ties.
Finishing Steps for the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke Ultimate Fix
Finally, replace the lid and try it out.
Hold down the yoke housing with one hand. Note how easy it is to make small pitch changes when you don’t have to struggle against that center detent. You may notice some noise coming from the springs if you are making large control inputs. But if you’re otherwise happy with the results, reattach the control housing. There are 14 screws.