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.
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.
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.
The Builder Academy is a comprehensive resource for learning all the basic flight sim building skills. What is it like to build a DIY Flight Sim project? The Builder Academy will show you. In addition, you can also learn about modifying the existing DIY Flight Sims projects. If you’re wondering how to build a flight simulator, this is your first, best resource. By the way, it’s free!
Builder Academy Content
What is in the Builder Academy? Some of the videos in the Builder Academy were formerly a part of the “Free Videos” folder included with some purchases. Other videos were first published on YouTube, but are now only available in the Builder Academy. Some of the content is new and available only at the Builder Academy. Finally, all of the content assists you in different ways when you’re learning how to build a flight simulator. This is an overview of the course curriculum:
Building with PVC Pipe (new)
Add a Monitor for the Flight Instruments
Display Flight Instruments with Air Manager
Install Saitek Switch Panels
Styrofoam Body Panels
Prototyping – How to Modify DIY Flight Sim Projects
Saitek Trim Wheel Adapter
X52 Saitek Throttle Fix
Saitek Yoke Modifications
CH Yoke Modifications
Paint for Home Flight Simulators
USB Cable Management
Training Available Wherever You Are
The Builder Academy is available on nearly any device. As a result, you can view the training on a tablet or phone while you’re in your workshop or view it on a laptop or desktop. Also, there are some printouts and templates for certain projects, so you might need a printer at some point. I periodically add new content, so be sure to check the Change Log if you haven’t been there in a while. The Builder Academy is my platform to show everyone how easy it can be to build a home flight simulator. Even the most complex projects are really just a series of relatively easy steps. Visit the Builder Academy today and let me know what you think of it.
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.
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.
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.
What you’re seeing here is Lockheed Martin Prepar3D with triple screens and more. The software is Prepar3D version 3.4, the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim, the DIY Side Joystick Frame, Air Manager is running the instruments on the 4th display. The installation of P3D was straightforward and you’re looking at a stock installation with no add-ons (yet).
The three main displays are inexpensive 32″ HDTVs connected to a single Nvidia GeForce mid-level graphics card. The system specs are at the end of this blog post.
P3D recognized the Saitek X52 Pro and properly assigned its functions, which was very nice. For other flight simulator programs, assigning the controls correctly is an awful awful chore, but not for P3D. This is the first flight simulator software I’ve ever seen that correctly identified rudder pedals and successfully assigned them to the correct function. Including the toe brakes. So, kudos to Lockheed Martin. They also build spaceships, by the way. Just so you know.
It’s easy to combine the DIY Side Joystick Frame, (item 311), with the Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim project. I’m using the Saitek Pro Flight Cessna rudder pedals. Great rudder pedals. I updated the drivers for my Saitek switch panels that enabled them to work with P3D. That was easy.
You’ll notice that nothing here is expensive or exotic… or even new. For example, I’m using a second-hand computer to display the flight instruments. The second computer is so old it’s running Windows Vista.
Is a Virtual Reality headset worth the money if you are a flight simulator enthusiast? It depends on the type of simulating you do. In this article I’ll tell you about my first month with the Oculus Rift headset and Virtual Reality for Flight Simulators. I’ll discuss the four different flight sim platforms I tried with VR and also the physical and financial impacts of these experiments.
The first thing you should know is this: Virtual Reality is a game changer. Accent on the word “game.” I’ll go into more detail in a moment.
The second thing you should know: Virtual Reality costs real money, plenty of it.
Upgrade the Gear
I started my maiden voyage into the world of Virtual Reality for flight simulators a few months ago when I ordered an Oculus Rift. They were on backorder at the time, but even so, I received mine a full month before I expected to. VR headsets need substantial processing power to work effectively, so I bought a new computer at Best Buy and the specs are at the end of this article. I also bought a Leap Motion sensor while it was on sale so I could experiment with FlyInside FSX. If none of that means anything to you, don’t worry, I’ll come back to that in a minute.
Upgrade the Controls
I also upgraded an F311 Side-joystick HOTASby making the control platforms wider to better align the controls with the armrests of my chair. Furthermore, I added a trackball mouse and a drink holder (don’t fly thirsty). I also raised the reinforcement bar so I could use my favorite rudder pedals and attached all fittings with self drilling screws. I used this F311 frame with great success, I can’t VR without it.
For these experiments, I said goodbye to my trusty Saitek switch panels and keyboard mods… you can’t see them while wearing a VR headset. Now, come with me as we explore Virtual Reality for flight simulators…
My first flight in VR was in space and it was breathtaking but just a bit disappointing. Everything worked correctly, but I found that my graphics card could not power the Oculus Rift at 1080p, so I’m temporarily stuck at 768 until I can afford a more powerful graphics card. Even so… I said the experience is breathtaking and it is. You have stereoscopic vision in VR, just like you have in real life. Your left eye and your right eye see slightly offset views of each object, so this is what makes close objects look close and far objects look far away. In Elite Dangerous, this means I could for the first time, sense the size of the spaceship’s flight deck. I could look down at my arms in the game and see how close they are and then look outside and comprehend the enormity of the space station.
The game isn’t on a screen any more, it’s all around you. You’re inside the game. This is most obvious in combat because you can look up and back and over your shoulder at your enemy. You also should be fully HOTAS so all aircraft functions are assigned to the buttons on your joystick and throttle because it’s too inconvenient to use the keyboard. That means you also have to memorize all your button assignments. One of the great limitations of VR is that you can no longer see real-world buttons and switches. However, you can use Voice Attack to simply speak commands to your spaceship. For example, you can verbally tell it to extend landing gear, and that is perfectly plausible in this futuristic environment.
Conclusion: from now on, I will only play Elite Dangerous in Virtual Reality. That’s how good it is.
I couldn’t wait to try DCS World with the Oculus Rift, but unfortunately it didn’t go as smoothly as Elite Dangerous. First of all, the DCS menus were very difficult to use and in some cases, they just didn’t work at all. It was a time-consuming chore just to set up my Saitek X-52 HOTAS controls and rudder pedals. I flew several tutorial missions, but many of the lesson tasks required the use of keyboard commands, so I had to put my keyboard on my lap. I could kind of see the keyboard in the gap between the bottom of the Rift headset and my cheek, but this is not a reasonable option. Perhaps I could have assigned specific functions to HOTAS buttons, but there are so many of them and, again, navigating the DCS controls menu in VR is a crapshoot at best.
Disclaimer: it’s really difficult to take screen shots in Virtual Reality for flight simulators, so for this article I borrowed representative pics from other sources. This has no impact on the validity of my findings.
I appreciate the realism of DCS World, but lifting the Rift headset repeatedly to look at a paper checklist or the keyboard is a no-go. I applaud the young man in this video for diligently looking at his checklist, but every time he lifts the headset with one hand, the Rift lenses come in contact with his forehead. Be very cautious with the Rift lenses, they are delicate! Repeated exposure to sweat or hair or grease can damage the Oculus Rift lenses.
DCS World looks astonishingly great, even if it’s not fully usable. One of the aircraft I selected was the TF-51 Mustang and I really felt how cramped the cockpit is. I also tried a few landings and found them to be a more realistic experience in VR than my previous experience. Instrumentation was a little hard to read because of the lower resolution required of my graphics card. I would love to try all of this again at 1080p.
Conclusion: I won’t play DCS World again in VR until there is some work around or fix for the menus.
The Saitek X52 throttle includes two detents in its throttle movement
There are actually many situations where you don’t want to feel detents as you’re adjusting the throttle setting.
This is an easy Saitek X52 Throttle Fix. This video shows you how to remove this tiny part, so you can get back to smooth flying.
A detent is a mechanical resistance to rotation. The two detents in this throttle are at the 25% position and the 75% position.
If you’re using this throttle with the DIY Easy Helicopter Collective, you definitely do not want detents in the throttle movement.
This is a pretty easy modification, so let’s get started. I like to begin by placing a piece of tape over the USB cable to keep the dirt out.
Reduce the setting to zero on the tension knob.
I recommend placing the throttle on something soft so it won’t get scuffed up
There are 8 screws that hold the throttle base together. Two in the middle.
Two near the tension knob
Two screws in opposite corners
And two more in the corners underneath the rubber non-skid pads
By the way, disassembly of this product will void the warranty. Just so you know.
Let’s tackle the hidden fasteners first. I’m using a small screwdriver to pry up the rubber pad to reveal the screw underneath.
Now I can remove this first screw. A magnetic screwdriver can help in this situation.
Repeat with the screw in the opposite corner.
Next remove the screws in the middle.
Note that this screw is different.
There are three different types of screws: the four corner screws, two longer screws for the middle, and two tiny screws for the tension knob. Do not get these mixed up.
Here I’m using a smaller screwdriver for these small screws under the tension knob.
Finally, we’ll remove the last two screws in the corners.
The two halves of the base are snapped together. There is plastic latch inside there holding it together.
That’s the latch
As we open it, observe how the parts fit together. See that slimy looking thing there? That’s what we will remove, like pulling a tooth.
Here as I’m moving the throttle grip, you can see two ridges on the rotating axle. Those ridges are what rub against the tooth and cause the resistance you feel when you move the throttle. Those are detents. By the way, do not get that grease on you. It’s hard to wash off.
This really is like pulling a tooth, but much easier. Use pliers, find a good grip and pull strait out. That’s what we like to see.
Reassembly of the Saitek X52 Throttle
Now let’s put it back together. The two halves of the base must be aligned perfectly.
These two white plastic tabs must fit in these two slots.
Snap it shut and start reinstalling the screws.
Again, here is a reminder of what they look like.
Start with these two corners.
Next attach the two tiny screws for the tension knob.
And then the two middle screws. So you’ll notice we’re attaching the screws in the reverse order that we removed them.
Finally install the screws in these last two corners. Try to stick the rubber pad back in place the best you can. It should stick pretty well.
And try it out. Try it with different tension settings. It’s so much smoother now. I really think you will enjoy using this throttle after this modification.
The FSX Secret Base and the surrounding islands are featured in the second half of the Tokyo Executive Transport mission. The islands only appear during that mission so if you try to fly there during free flight, you will find only empty ocean. Try flying the mission. Sure, you get to see the islands and the Secret Base in FSX, but you have to fly the assigned Lear jet.
So how do you fly to the Secret Islands in free flight? How do you fly your choice of aircraft? You noticed in the video I was flying the Robinson R22. If you want to do something similar, you should add the Secret Islands as a scenery object. Fortunately, this is very easy.
Add the Secret Base in FSX
Add the Secret Islands (including the Base) as a scenery object in FSX. Check out this link: this is a freeware FSX scenery download that installs the Secret Base as a regular scenery object. Don’t forget to read the Read Me file.
The file installs the Secret Islands, the Secret Base, death ray guns on the mountain peaks, and some sort of suspicious weather station on the top of the highest mountain. The only object that is not included is the retractable water runway that leads to the hangar. The runway is present during the Tokyo mission, but not when you fly to the Secret Islands in free flight.
I use Air Manager software from Sim Innovations in the embedded video. This is a clever piece of software that makes it easy to display instruments on a separate monitor. I’m using it for the Robinson R22, but it works for a variety of default and add-on aircraft. Use it in FSX, FSX Steam, Prepar3D and X-Plane. Air Manager features over 300 flight instruments to choose from and more on the way.