5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair for Virtual Reality and More

The DIY Side Joystick Frame is one of my most popular projects, and it’s very versatile. Even though I published this project 6 years ago, the design has stood the test of time. Yet, as great as it is, I have recently made a few modifications to the design that you might find helpful for your project. Read on for 5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair for Virtual Reality and More.

A True HOTAS for your Flight Sim

The DIY Side Joystick Frame, Item #F311, makes a true HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) possible for your flight simulator because the project also includes rudder pedals. True pilots use rudder pedals, not joystick twisty grips so always remember that. I originally envisioned the F311 as useful primarily for jet fighter simulators, but now, many customers are using it for space sims like Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen.

Use the F311 in combination with a Virtual Reality headset. Remember, when you wear a VR headset, you can’t see your keyboard any more and any functions you have assigned to your keyboard keys are literally out of sight. You can also use the F311 with a traditional multi-monitor setup like the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim (Item D250). The F311 is delightfully versatile and useful. Use these 5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair to update the F311.

 

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5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair

I made five main modifications to adapt the F311 Side Joystick Frame for my current requirements. None of these modifications are difficult. If you can build the F311 in the first place, you can certainly make these modifications or include these changes during the initial build.

1. Wider Side Stand Platforms

First of all, I installed wider side stand platforms, cut from 1×8 boards. To be clear, the PVC pipe side stands did not change, just the the boards that attach to the top of the stands. I topped the side stands with 1×8 boards, 12″ long. The wider boards give you room for a trackball mouse next to the joystick and give you room next to the throttle to set down your phone or whatever. Most importantly, you can place the controls in a more ergonomic location. This means placing the joystick and throttle in line with the chair’s arm rests. This is so important! Place the joystick and throttle so that your arms sit straight on the chair’s arm rests. This will allow you to fly comfortably for hours.

In addition, I attached the joystick and throttle with wood screws instead of Velcro. I also trimmed the inside corners of the 1×8 boards by 1″ and sanded the edges so my legs wouldn’t get caught on the corners.

2. Longer floor boards

I use the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals, and I really like them, but they have to be positioned further away from the pilot. The rudder pedals attach to the Floor Boards with Velcro, but the original boards were too short. Therefore, I replaced them with two 1×6 boards, 22″ long. You might not need to make this change for your rudder pedals.

3. Raised center stabilizer

I also raised the center stabilizer bar to allow room for the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna Rudder Pedals. Specifically, the back of my ankles banged into the stabilizer bar, so I had to move it. It is now 6.5″ higher than it was before.

4. Self-drilling screws

I now use self-drilling screws in everything I build. Back in 2010 when I designed this project, I used Liquid Nails Project Glue to attach all the PVC pipes and fittings. This allowed for some cost-savings, but self-drilling screws are far superior. The screws allow for a simpler assembly with no overnight dry time. In addition, the screws create a much stronger frame. Lastly, you can remove the screws later if you decide to modify the frame. I absolutely recommend using 1/2″ self-drilling screws to build DIY Flight Sims from PVC pipe.

Video: Learn more about self-drilling screws for DIY Flight Sim projects

5. Cup holder

Don’t fly thirsty! I include a cup holder with almost every project I design. The cup holder is located next to the throttle and it’s easy to find it, even when wearing a VR headset. I use these inexpensive cup holders from Amazon.

If you’ve already built the DIY Side Joystick Frame, Item F311, or if you haven’t built one yet, these 5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair can enhance your home flight simulator experience for years to come.

 

5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair
5 Modifications for a DIY HOTAS Chair

Oculus Rift Sensor on a Tripod

It’s easy to mount the Oculus Rift sensor on a tripod.

The Oculus Rift sensor is designed to sit on a desk or table, but sometimes it is much more convenient to mount the sensor on a tripod. For example, my flight simulator does not have a table sitting in front of but this tripod works nicely. It’s easy to mount the sensor on a tripod, I’ll show you how.

This is an old, spare tripod that I wasn’t using any more. You can see where I repaired the crank many years ago. I’ll use this tripod for my Oculus Rift now.

Quick note: You’ll notice I covered the Rift sensor. I did that because the sensor is quite sensitive to bright light and I’m using some pretty bright lights to film this video. You probably won’t need to worry about covering the sensor like I did.

Instructions

If you currently use the Oculus Rift with the sensor sitting on a desk, take a moment to measure the distance from the floor to the sensor. Unclip the wire and let’s take a look at the base of the stand. The base will not unscrew here… look farther up toward the sensor. This is where it unscrews. That’s actually a lot better for us than unscrewing the base. Remove the quick release plate from the tripod. Screw the sensor onto the plate. The threads should match perfectly. Both the sensor and the plate have standard quarter-twenty threads. Return the quick release plate to the tripod. Adjust the height so the sensor is the same distance from the floor as it was before. If you need to re-calibrate the location of the sensor, you can do that in the Oculus Rift software. I recommend using some small strips of Velcro to attach the wire to the tripod.

Simply position the sensor so it points at your headset and take off ! ! !

My joystick, throttle and rudder pedals are secured in place with a framework of PVC pipes and lumber. It is item F311, the Side Joystick Frame and I can help you build one for yourself. 

Happy landings!

Oculus Rift sensor on a tripod
Oculus Rift sensor on a tripod