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Building a flight simulator cockpit

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My long and faithful obsession with all things Elle MacPherson eventually ran out of steam when she decided to marry some mangy rich French git instead of me.

As payback for her disloyalty I heaved all my collection of her calendars, fashion shoots, and dirty pictures other memorabilia into the rubbish bin, and added that hobby to my comprehensive catalogue of life’s pointless pursuits.

One distraction is inevitably replaced by another.

In March 2006 Cyclone Larry huffed and puffed for about six hours and blew everything (except the house) down on GOF’s Place.
(An event unrelated as far as I can tell to my act of sweet retaliation against Ms. bloody Perfidious MacPherson.)

It rained continuously for the following 63 days, and the 1.93 metres (77 inches) of rain made any reconstruction attempt futile, so to distract myself from all the scrap metal and splintered shed framing that lay scattered around in the garden and beyond I decided to build a flight simulator cockpit.

Flight Simulator 2004 is the most extraordinary piece of computer software I have ever known.

How is it possible for a (now) $50 program to provide a realistic simulation of the geography of our entire planet, along with 20,000 airports, navigational aids operating on real-life radio frequencies, communications with Flight Service, plus a hangar full of aircraft whose flight performance and cockpit gauges operate with amazing accuracy?

I never understood it then……nor do I comprehend it now, all these years later.

The program was advertised as being “as real as it gets“, but for me it had two major limitations;

A.  It required “unreal” operation using computer keyboard

B. “Real” flying doesn’t have a dog, cat and Mrs GOF constantly
providing peripheral distraction.

Herewith one solution;

1. Build a box cockpit with an extendable curtain in
which to hide yourself away.

2. Shove a monitor in at the back, along with an out of sight cooling
fan so the little sucker doesn’t overheat.

3. Sacrifice your beer money for a long time and buy three pieces
of USB commercial hardware;
rudder pedals,
throttle quadrant.

4. Design a fanciful cockpit console and collect an assortment of
$2 switches and LED lights, then go find a handbrake lever at the
auto wreckers.
Cut up 100 metres of plastic coated wire into the correct
lengths,and drive yourself crazy soldering them onto all the
switches, lights and handbrake.

5. Get your hands on a Keyboard Encoder, (mine came from the
USA) mount it on top of the cockpit, and join the other ends of your
bunch of spaghetti wiring into all it’s terminals.
Program the encoder, and be frustrated at what doesn’t work as
you thought it should.

Then, read the instruction manual. Follow it.  Program each
individual task (notepad document) with the correct language.
Then be amazed at how everything DOES work.

Magic.   Absolute magic.

A Flight Simulator which does not require direct use of a keyboard.


(If any Flightsim enthusiasts are reading this and would like detailed information, please feel free to contact me at the email address located via the “contact gof” tab above.)


Console wiring, fan and LED lights


Rudder pedals

Throttle quadrant and comms box


Right console, lights, radio and autopilot

Left console, engine switches

keyboard encoder wiring

Final approach Cairns at dusk

Short final YBCS runway 15 at dusk

Well I’ll be damned…….seems like I have a couple left over.

Every boy needs a toy

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As I look back over my lifetime I cannot but be impressed at some of the products of human ingenuity.

Why is it that mankind can make such huge advances in the fields of technology and science,  yet continually perpetuate the errors of past history in social and political matters?

I am totally in awe of the home computer.  Fifteen years ago when the first computer arrived at my daughters little rural primary school there was no way I could have afforded to buy one, nor indeed did I possibly forsee any use for one in my home.  Nevertheless we did eventually buy one in 1998, primarily as an aid to Globets education, although I suspect that she had considerable difficulty wresting it from me to "education" herself.

Parallel  to improvements in PC's over the years, came some extraordinary software.

May I introduce Microsofts Flight Simulator 2004.  
(although it has now been superseded by FSX it remains the product of choice for many enthusiasts)

Firstly I would like to note that a very long time ago I had a brief and undistinguished career as a real life pilot, and accordingly was very sceptical at how realistic a computer simulation could be.  
The enclosed world behind the buttons and lights on my PC case is foreign to me. I cannot even begin to understand the complexity of programming that would be involved in making a product like FS2004.
Flight Simulator 2004 is not a computer "game", and to suggest such to a fanatical flight simmer may well put your immediate health in jeopardy.  
FS2004 displays the entire surface of the planet in extraordinary reality, with cities, roads, railway lines, mountains, lakes, and in excess of 20,000 airports with all their associated navigational aids which require tuning aircraft radio receivers to their real life frequencies.
A multitude of aircraft are available to fly, from training Cessnas up to Boeing airliners.
FS2004 is an effective training program for beginners, complete with theoretical courses of learning,  practical lessons with an onboard qualified instructor, and a series of flight tests to gain licences from private pilot up to airline crew.

All aspects of the flight environment are infinitely adjustable from within the program.  Weather, cloud types, wind direction and speed, turbulence, atmospheric pressure and visibility.  There are flight/tower controllers, other traffic, and stunning night time vistas.
Aircraft models simulate real life performance and sound with extraordinary accuracy.  The only things missing are movement of your "pilots" seat, (which can be arranged for a few thousand dollars and some ingenuity) and the smell of aviation fuel.

Flight simming is a multi faceted hobby.  The learning curve can, if you choose, be similar to real life flying. Intense.  The challenges are infinite and the hobby can become as "real" as you care (or can afford) to make it.  Build your own cockpit.  Fly in formation online with friends around the world.  Learn about the computer programming involved and "tweak" files to change aircraft performance or add a new gauge to the cockpit.  "Build" your own private airport.  It is also an ongoing education in geography flying to distant places.  And a place to meet supportive friends from around the world in the flightsim forums. 

FS2004 is a truly remarkable piece of technology.  One that is increasingly used by trainee pilots and experienced airline pilots alike for practice or simply for the fun of it. 

All this for $50.  Thank you Microsoft.


                                                     Cessna 206 Stationair.

                                           Home made simulator cockpit with CH Yoke, rudder pedals

                                           and throttle quadrant in twin engine configuration.

                                           GOF design overhead panel for engine controls, lighting,
                                           radio and navigation switches, and autopilot.
                                           All switches and buttons replace keyboard commands
                                           using a Hagstrom keyboard encoder.

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