Skyhawk Renovations

After much soul searching, wringing of hands and generally procrastinating I have finally become comfortable with my plan to integrate my Thrustmaster Cougar HOTAS (yes, the one I recently broke) into the Skyhawk. It makes plenty of sense from an operations perspective, but the dilemma I had was that it is now drifting away from the original concept of being a fairly faithful representation of the Kahu update TA-4k.
So… my solution was to write my own version of history, which goes a bit like this…..

Imagine for a moment, that in 1999 the F-16 ‘deal of the century’ didn’t get canned…..
F-16’s entered frontline service with 75 Sqn, while 2 Sqn took over the entire fleet of Skyhawks.
They looked after strike training and conversion, as well as maintaining the base at Nowra supporting the RAN. They also took on an aggressor role for both the RNZAF based at Ohakea and the RAAF out of Nowra.
To ease the conversion from the A-4 to the F-16 some cockpit modifications were introduced to maintain procedural commonality across the Skyhawk/F-16 fleets. This included updates to the radar and HUD plus the HOTAS from the F-16

Therefore, as a reflection of the completely fictional Kahu-2 program I can justify my TM Cougar in my Skyhawk….
Seems legit to me 🙂

Source: The Authors own wildly vivid imagination

So.. with that sorted, it was time to perform some surgery on the cockpit to bring it up to the now totally legitimate “Kahu-2” Standard…..

First up I stripped out miscellaneous unused and random cables, then removed the current throttle… when this came out, I found extra cables, and **another** throttle quadrant, which had been kicking around under the ejection seat for who knows how long.

Unidentified, unused cables.. plus a really useful controller destined for the 737 (more on that later)
The pile of cables, adapters, power supplies and ‘junk’ was truly staggering… even by my own low standards!
One perfectly serviceable Thrustmaster WCS II, which was lurking under the seat. Clearly I was in a rush to swap this out for the new throttle. Even had a USB/Gameport adapter connected (which was probably also connected to the PC!)

Next up, the Cougar Throttle was test fitted in the console, and ‘ergonomically’ tested. It feels really good in the pit, and apart from having to incline it slightly toward the seat for clearance on the outer wall it fits in really well.

An interesting perspective, only accessible with the outer skin off the cockpit. The throttle looks really good and believable.

Next up is was time to remove the current Saitek ST90 stick which has done many many years of sterling service, and then remove the steel mount..

Stick removed, now time for a ‘test look’
WIth the Cougar stick held in place, awkwardly, it looks like it will fit the bill nicely. While it was held in place I took some rough measurements for the stick extension I will need to make to place it perfectly. I plan on lowering it slightly, and bringing slightly further aft than the old one for better ergonomics. Now.. onto the final step: removing the mount…

And that is where it all came undone. The cockpit frame was made many, many years ago (scroll back through this blog if you don’t believe me) and my welding was pretty awful at best. I expected to be able to bend the mount back and forth a bit, and the weld would just give way. It was not to be. I sat in the cockpit yanking and stomping on the damn thing and it didn’t even so much as creak or crack! So.. into it with my blunt (as it turns out) hacksaw. Sweat, bourbon and skinned knuckles, and the stick mount is still standing proudly. Tomorrow I am borrowing an angle grinder from work… Then we’ll see who’s boss!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *