Flight Simulator for Private Pilot License

How to Use a Flight Simulator for Private Pilot License

How to Use a Flight Simulator for Private Pilot License

Can you learn to fly a real airplane with a home flight simulator? Two aviation schools say yes, and they provide training to help armchair pilots become real pilots. Interestingly, both schools use X-plane as their chosen flight simulator for private pilot license. I’ll discuss both schools below.

First, an initial caveat: don’t record home flight sim training in your FAA logbook. The FAA will not recognize it. On the other hand, you can certainly learn material at home that will make your training time in the real airplane more efficient.

 

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PilotWorkshops.com

Getting Started with Flight Simulation $99 (regularly $129).

PilotWorkshops is a distance learning company that provides ongoing proficiency training with videos and manuals. Some online courses are one time fees, others like the IFR Mastery Course, is a subscription. They use X-plane 11 as the flight simulator for Private Pilot license training. The material provides impressive details about installing and setting up the X-plane software, controls, views, monitors, weather, replays, debrief tools. PilotWorkshops also introduces online, live human ATC with PilotEdge.

Interestingly, they try to do all this with a simple Phase 1 home flight sim setup (what is a Phase 1 flight sim? Read more). They use a single monitor, a joystick (not a yoke), and a TrackIR for the most part. You could have a much better training experience with a setup like the DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim which features, multiple monitors, yoke, rudder pedals, throttle quadrant and more.

 

DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim flight simulator for private pilot license
Best option for training: DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim

 

Gliem

X-Plane Flight Training Course $149.95 or $99.95 if you already own X-plane 10.

Gliem is a decades old legacy company that sells study guides, text books, videos and other materials for pilot ground schools. Anyone who has trained in North America has seen a Gliem book at one time or another.

The videos and content uses a traditional Private Pilot syllabus with a flight sim focus. However, note that Gliem is still using X-plane 10 (not 11) as their flight simulator for private pilot license training. The promo video shows a real Direct Fly Alto light sport airplane, instead of the Cessna 172 used in X-plane, which is a bit odd.

Gliem also sells a triple-screen cockpit frame for $549.95. That’s the price for the frame only! You will spend a lot less and get much more when you build your own DIY Deluxe Desktop Flight Sim.

 

Flight Simulator for Private Pilot License

In conclusion, home flight simulator software keeps getting better and is an excellent addition to your Private Pilot training if used correctly.

3 Suggestions for your mobile flight simulator

Three Suggestions for Your Mobile Flight Simulator

I was contacted by a representative from a giant, international, airline manufacturer who wanted to build a mobile flight simulator to take to events and schools. You may recall I transported the DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim and the DIY Roll-Away Flight Sim to several events. His team had an empty shell from an actual airplane cockpit, with the real controls, but no instruments or much of anything else. Their task was to make the cockpit shell into a mobile flight simulator. Maybe you have had this idea too.

The first major hurdle was to make the real controls work with the flight simulator software on a PC. And that’s when they contacted me for advice. This is what I told them…

Three Suggestions for Your Mobile Flight Simulator

I have a few suggestions for your team regarding this mobile flight simulator. To start off, I believe many of us in the industry tend to regard a mobile flight simulator on an informal spectrum with “more realistic” on one end and “less realistic” on the other. As I understand your need, you will be transporting this simulator to events, setting it up for use by attendees, and then moving the simulator again. For a mobile flight simulator such as this, I have discovered realism is less important than reliability. It either works on the day of the event or it doesn’t. Therefore, expo simulators fall into a binary, more than a spectrum from an operational standpoint.

So with that in mind, I have three suggestions.

Suggestion #1: Hack Retail Products

The first suggestion is to purchase a retail flight sim control yoke, and hack it. By “hack” I mean you remove the interior components and incorporate them into the airplane cockpit that you showed me in the picture. Everything you need for your mobile flight simulator is inside a retail flight sim yoke. The yoke contains potentiometers that measure pitch and roll deflection, so you can integrate those components into the actual controls on your airplane. The potentiometers are already wired into a circuit board and so is a USB cable. When you plug in the USB cable to a PC, it will simply recognize the controller and install the drivers. You can then use any flight simulator software you want.

You could do the same thing with retail rudder pedals and a throttle quadrant.

Suggestion #2: Use Retail Products

In my experience, it’s a logistical challenge to safely transport and set up a mobile flight simulator. It is possible some part of your simulator may not work correctly even though you were very careful and were prepared for the event. If you can’t get it to work, the whole day is wasted.

My other suggestion is to simply install retail off-the-shelf flight sim controls in your airplane cockpit. This looks decidedly less realistic, but you gain an extra layer of reliability because you can have spare parts in reserve. For example, if the yoke isn’t working on a particular day, you can simply switch it out with a new yoke. The same is true with the rudder pedals and throttle quadrant.

Suggestion #3: Get Running Now, Progress Later

Finally, third option would be to use both strategies. Perhaps you start with Suggestion #2, which is quick and simple, and then maybe a year later move up to Suggestion #1, which is more complex but looks more professional. This approach gets you up and running for early success and also provides a path to improvements. Later, you and your team will have more experience with the flight simulator hardware and software. Therefore, it will be easier for you to re-install the real controls and get them running with the PC. Your team and stakeholders will feel good about the progression of the project.

I hope these suggestions are helpful. I’m interested in knowing how your flight simulator turns out so please let me know what you ultimately decide to do.

Top 5 Flight Simulator Videos

Top 5 Flight Simulator Videos You May Have Missed

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.

 

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.

 

How to Build a Flight Simulator

Introducing the Builder Academy

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!

 

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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:

  • Recommended Tools
  • Building with PVC Pipe (new)
  • Self-Drilling Screws
  • 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
  • Change Log

 

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.

 

View the Builder Academy on your phone or tablet or anything
View the Builder Academy on your phone or tablet or anything
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!

 

 

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

Warm Fireplace Inside a Flight Simulator

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.

The flight simulator you see in the pictures and video is the DIY Flight Sim Pod. You can build this same thing in your own home. These instructional videos and manuals show you how to build a big, beautiful, flight simulator. The yoke, throttle quadrant, switch panels, etc. all came from Amazon.

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Don’t Fly Thirsty

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!

Warm fireplace in your Flight Sim!
Warm fireplace in your Flight Sim!

This Winter, People Around the World are Building Home Flight Simulators

People around the world are building home flight simulators this winter. These guys find inexpensive materials at home improvement stores and build their own airplane cockpit at home.

January is BUILD MONTH

Why is January a great time to build a DIY (Do It Yourself) flight sim project? First of all, many people get new flight simulator software and computer equipment for Christmas and are ready to upgrade their home cockpit. Also, the holidays are over and now people are returning to their hobbies. Flight simulation is a great way to learn about aviation during the cold winter months. Consequently, I typically see an increase in DIY Flight Sim business and website traffic starting in January.

You don’t necessarily need a workshop for building home flight simulators, so many people build their project in an apartment or even a dorm room. You don’t need outside ventilation because no harsh chemicals, paints, or adhesives are used with these projects so you can build indoors. Let it snow!

 

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Inexpensive Components and Materials

Is your home flight simulator nothing more than a desk with a few monitors and a joystick? You can make a more realistic airplane cockpit with inexpensive materials from a home improvement store. These guys build home flight sims with PVC pipes, lumber, and Styrofoam insulation panels. Notice they also painted their projects because painting is also inexpensive, easy, and gives the project a truly finished appearance.

We are fortunate to live in a time when we have so many affordable choices for computer equipment and flight controls. For example, it is now possible to use multiple high-definition HDTVs as displays for a flight simulator. In addition, computers and graphics cards are more powerful than ever. We have more choices than ever for flight sim control yokes, rudder pedals, throttle quadrants, switch panels, and more. Finally, the flight sim software of today is better than ever. Lockheed Prepar3D, X-Plane 11, FSX Steam, and Aerofly FS2 all boast improved performance and functionality.

Combine inexpensive building materials with affordable computer equipment and you can have a powerful and realistic flight simulator for your home.

Customizing and Building Home Flight Simulators

Builders modify their projects to match their needs and resources. For example, they can scale a frame to fit around 24″ monitors, or 27″, or 32″ or whatever. Also, they can use one large display, or multiple displays. Some builders add modified keyboards, additional lights, or even drink holders. Are you building in a spare room or just a spare closet? These guys can fit a fully functional flight sim just about anywhere. If you typically fly airplanes with a yoke and throttle quadrant, then that is what you will want to build. On the other hand, if you use a HOTAS joystick and throttle, then you will want a DIY frame that supports those flight controls. If you fly helicopters, there’s a helicopter collective project for you too. See all these examples of customized flight sim projects in the Customer Gallery.

Get Started!

The most difficult part of any building project is just getting started, so get going now. You may make some mistakes along the way, but they will be inconsequential because you’re using inexpensive materials. Get building and get done, so you can get flying!

 

Six Screen Home Flight Simulator
Six Screen Home Flight Simulator

 

Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum

I built a flight simulator and donated it to a local aviation museum. The museum guests enjoy a hands-on experience because they get to fly the simulator. Some people say the Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum is their favorite part of the museum.

National Airline History Museum

The NAHM is the only airline-specific museum in the United States. The museum has several airliners but the Lockheed Constellation is the crown jewel of the collection. The Triple Screen Flight Sim allows visitors to fly a simulated Constellation just like the one in the museum.

The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum is also used as a introduction to general aviation. Visitors receive a flight “lesson” as they fly a simulated Cessna 172. A museum volunteer personally teaches some basic flight maneuvers while the guest tries them in the sim. The simulator is such an excellent teaching tool because you can pause the flight to answer questions or explain something in more detail.

 

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Triple Screen Flight Sim

The pictures here show a stock version of the DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum. My DIY video and instruction manual show you how to build this same project from PVC pipes, lumber, and foam insulation. I installed a Saitek Pro Flight yoke, throttle and rudder pedals in this particular project. The painted keyboards are stock versions of the DIY Keyboard Mod: Airliner project.

The DIY Triple Screen Flight Sim is the perfect addition to the Sky Lounge at the NAHM, and it would be a perfect addition to your home.

Kickstarter Fund-Raiser

This project was the first successful flight simulator project ever funded through Kickstarter. It is truly historical. The fund raising campaign paid for the supplies and materials I needed to build the project from scratch. After I built it, I brought it to the Kansas City Maker Faire and then to the NAHM.

 

The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum
The Triple Screen Flight Sim at the National Airline History Museum