So, you’ve decided to step into the world of flight simulation. Before your legs get weak and your head gets dizzy let’s clear up some things:
- Flight Simulation is a Flexible Hobby
- You can make a flight simulator however you would like to, with whatever you have
- The best place to start is where you are now
- A lot of people will say “I don’t have the tools yet, I will never be able to build something like that!” This is a very toxic mindset. Start with what you have, and go from there.
- Get enough skills to be able to work safely (watch some safety videos on YouTube about power tools/electronics safety) then go after it!
- The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time
- Honestly, however, I would argue the best way to eat an elephant is to not. Elephants are an endangered species.
- Skills build off of each other, and from experiences. You won’t really be able to “learn everything on the ground” watching 16 hours of YouTube, experience is a great teacher.
- You are insignificant
- I actually just put this one in here to catch you off guard. You are awesome. Don’t change a thing.
Now that that’s out of the way, and I sound like your dad, let’s move on.
If you learn to fail you fail to learn. wait what?
Everyone tells you “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Let’s put the PLAN in airPLANe, and get started.
- Are you a Student Pilot using this as a Training Rig?
- Are you a pilot using a simulator for further training or instrument currency?
- Are you just freaking interested in flying airplanes?
- Are you just freaking interested in the mechanics behind flight simulators?
- Are you building this for someone else? That’s very noble of you. Kudos!
- Are you building this simulator to keep up with your neighbor who hypothetically started a YouTube channel building a small aircraft simulator and creating configuration videos? You know- the one with the loud saws and the quiet eyebrows.
How are you going to build it:
- OEM (original equipment manufacturer)
- Off-the-shelf hardware
- Light GA airplanes: student pilots, great first sim because of simplicity- but honestly build the sim you love most 🙂
- Larger GA airplanes (Twin engine, etc.) fun and challenging-especially less documented ones. Some planes have lots of documentation, some have very little.
- Combat Jet (huge flex 🙂)
- Combat Prop/Historic
- Airliner Lots of parts, many take long time, years to decades, good for aviation enthusiasts, more dreamy.
- Novelty (Star wars, Balloon, Etc) Low documentation
Understand how much time you want to spend
- Time dictates realism
- Time dictates completion time
Do you prefer building or flying?
- Build = More realistic simulator, more time, more system knowledge
- Fly = Optimized for flying, good controls but not as much detail to cockpit
- Happy middle = Both, have a very simple setup for flying while you build.
Your display situation: Monitors, TVs, Projectors. How many? Curved projectors?
Are you willing to learn? If yes you can take time to dig deep. If not it’s possible it’s better to buy things premade.
- Money is not the most important thing in sim building.
- Tons of insanely smart simulators made from cardboard, foam, and scrap wood
- There’s a point where simualtors are starved by money- and one where money starves your simulator.
- It’s only as cheap as you make it
“Flying is expensive, flight simulation shouldn’t be”-FlightSimMaker
- Enough space?
- Try your garage, basement, room
- If no space, make a smaller sim
- May have to be creative in having it modular/fold up/small
- Single pilot
- If you have 6’ by 6’ or 2m by 2m you can make an excellent sim.
Make sure you are safe:
Want to learn about woodworking?
Fusion 360 (used by Karl and Martin, leaders of two of my favorite projects! :))
737DIYSIM Cockpit Build Starter Guide resource
“Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve.”– Napoleon Hill.
“Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you decide to enjoy your life.”– Joyce Meyer
“Hello and Welcome to Mickey’s Flightdeck”-Michael Schulz
- Air Manager
- SimVim (Whatever it’s called now. It starts with an “H”)
- Project Magenta (Instrument displays only)
- FSUIPC: Control simulator events with assigned keystrokes. More powerful than keyboard configurator.
- 737: ZIBO
Check out all of the resources I recommend under in my Partners and Resources Page!
Top Five Barriers:
Your “Local Government” (Whether that be parents or spouse😂)
Advice From Others:
(Thank you so much for your submissions!)
“Simulate an airplane that want are willing to learn to fly. Create a realistic budget that is comfortable and sustainable. Involve your spouse or partner to avoid conflicts and unpleasant surprises. Negotiate where the sim will be set up and listen to feedback. I have seen a lot of nice simulators that an airline pilot would envy but unfortunately, some have taken a toll on relationships. Pause the project rather than go over budget. The simulator is not going anywhere. Get built to a point where you can use it and add on it as you go. I started with a keyboard and mouse for controllers and later a joystick, then rudders were added later. Then I replaced the joystick with a Yoke with throttle, mixture, and prop control. These upgrades were spread out over years and each one enhanced my sim experience without breaking the bank. The biggest and most expensive upgrade was when I custom built a PC as a dedicated flight simulator. I purchases higher-end components where needed such as the video card, CPU, and motherboard. To adhere to my budget and quality requirements I spread the purchases out over several months. You will never get to a point where you can say that you now have the perfect simulator because as soon as you do Captain Bob is going to teach you something new and you are going to modify your simulator to try to add it. I have the hacksaw marks on my instrument panel as proof. View it as an ongoing project improvement which is why it is important to start using it as soon as possible within budget.” – Chris O
“My biggest advice would be to take it slow and steady. take it from me, I’m a 14-year-old building some DIY flight simulators but somehow I made it work with the walnut-sized brain I have and the heavily restrictive parents. to get past these I just put it in my closet so my parents wouldn’t see an ugly frame anywhere and just built it out of PVC to make it cheap. so I guess just don’t give up and remember… anything you see online including the most expensive gear can always be DIY’ed.” Alex – Texas