Some Graphics and Lights!

When I was building my first Skyhawk Sim I got in contact with Richard of “Gekko Graphics” who produced an incredibly detailed set of A-4K decals. Richard sent me the graphics I would need for the exterior of my sim, which I then got computer cut.
Fast forward 10 years, and I got another set cut for the new sim.. and they look great!

I know it doesn’t make the sim work any better, but it looks great and helps create the environment and mind-set that you are actually stepping into a aeroplane rather than a metal and wood box 🙂

And now for some lights…

Last night while testing and repairing a PC, I wired up my interior lighting panel, and ran the LED light strips down the right side of the cockpit. I have a switch on the panel to select either Warm white or Red floodlighting, and a really neat little LED dimmer which John at Ruscool sourced for me. The dimmer module is cheap, and tiny. It comes in a nice box and the Potentiometer is easily re-mountable.

First test shots (the right side skin is missing in the photos)

Nice custom 737 Throttle Quadrant at work

I wish I could have one of these for my 737 project at home…
Sadly this is a special, built for a customer with *very* specific IO needs…..

This thing uses beautiful brushless DC motors with near-zero backlash gearboxes which gives a fantastic feel through the levers.

As a project this was pretty cool, a bit of a departure from the normal throttle quadrants we build 🙂

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I’m back! 3 years in the making, lots to catch up on….

Just a little flight in the sim!

This is  a video I shot a while back, with an old phone… which explains the video quality…..

Since the last update lots has happened.  My sim room has been flooded, rebuilt (better and warmer), the sim has progressed a little, and there is now another sim project in the garage….

More on all of this to follow soon, along with many more photos!

“Sim Selfie” which got me in so much trouble on Facebook!

Nice view from the office!

More paint…still no photos :)

In more paint matching madness, I found a match to the interior paint for the TA-4 and again found a commercial match to the FS#… this time a Dulux product, which is a copy-cat of a Resene colour…. which is a long explanation for the fact that I now have the correct interior colour!

Amazingly this new paint is very close to the paint I had matched by eye from my visits to the real jet! So, a quick splash of paint around the interior to see what it looks like, and I am very happy with it!

I promise I will post photos of the paint soon…

Next project on the workbench is the right hand “Wedge” panel. I have the backplate in place, with most switches in place and wired, now it is time for the machined and engraved faceplate. I have the plastic cut to shape and painted black, I am just working on the CAD drawings for the engraving. The new CNC machine at work is pretty good at engraving, and has some really nice “D Bits” with tiny cutting surfaces (one of them is around 0.25mm across the end!) which are ideal for engraving panels 🙂

Once the panel is done, next job is making some dual colour flood lights to light up the cockpit, and panel. I am not going to be adding back lighting to my panels, as all the panels I have done up till now are not able to be lit, so instead I will be adding soft flood lighting in the cockpit, switchable between red and warm white. Eventually I want to control the lighting from software, so that I can detect if it is daytime and switch on the white lighting to make the cockpit appear to be naturally lit 🙂 I have toyed with the idea of mounting red white and blue spots above the cockpit, and by varying the brightness of each, provide environmental lighting to match the time of day… but this is only a “rainy day” project at this point 🙂

Shifting, Shortening and Walls…. been a while since an update!

More than a year has passed since my last update, and lots has happened….
I have moved house, having split with my wife of 15 years, so the sim has a new home.  The down side of the move is that the new “sim room” is significantly smaller meaning that my TA-4 has had to be cut down to a single seater 🙁

I’ve completed the building work for the sim room, and just started painting it.  The timber came from an Amateur Thertical society, and is painted as shop fronts, so looks interesting to say the least.  Very soon it will all be a nice subtle military “Olive Drab”.  Meanwhile work on the sim itself has been slowly ticking along;  Radios are working and installed, although I need to have a go at fixing the code which drives them as some of the encoder inputs are not working exactly as they should…..

In other big sim news; I learned enough VB.NET to get myself into trouble (thanks Gene!) and have written a workable instructor station for my sim.  I’ll post some screenies just as soon as I get the instructor PC going again!  I have had the worst run of PC failures, which I guess is the result of using old second hand parts 🙁  Down side is that I now need to re-build the OS install on the machine, just to get it going again!

I have recently found a couple of cool links for finding paint colours: is a great site for matching Federal Std paint colours to other standards and even to “Resene” colours.  I matched FS 34098 “Mid Green” to Resene “Waiouru”. .  The TA-4 is now painted, and looks fab!

Watch this space for some updated photos, screenies and even some links… maybe 🙂 

FS9/Wings Over Europe Sim Ops

After some testing, and messing around with cool freeware addons, I can now happily say that my ‘pit can now operate using either FS9 or “Wings Over Europe”.

It all started last Sunday with a visit to the Air Force Museum at Wigram.  They have a really simple DH Mosquito sim there, which I had to try out (obviously…) and despite it being really over-simplified I discovered that I loved blowing *stuff* up.  No surprises there!
My sim has always been focussed on operating the aircraft….  but after Sundays’ visit I realised that fighting the aircraft was the missing element!
So now my next challenge is coming up with a clever way to select which sim software to load at startup..  Currently I start the sim PC and everything auto starts so that once I hit the ‘go’ button my next action is to climb in and go flying.   I want to be able to do the same thing, but select which sim to start.  So far the best idea is to have two USB keys, one for each sim.  At startup the PC looks at the USB key (which contains a bat file or similar) and runs the relevant sim.
The idea is that I can use a couple of USB Keys, dress them up as if they are something aviationy looking and make a feature of them 🙂

Thoughts Ideas suggestions?

This sim is a bit of fun…. but started the wheels turning <lol>

Well it’s been a while, but time for Part 2 of the story :)

2009 started with a new home, and at last, a permanent home for the sim. Moved house one weekend, then a week later left for Dubai for a month 🙁  Not so much pit building going on then.

Back at home, and the sim finally moved in.  Man oh man, having the sim at home made a huge difference in motivation levels!  More work has happened on the sim in the couple of months since!

So, a quick rundown on where we’re at…

– Some switches are wired up, mostly to the frankly brilliant BU0836 Board from Leo Bodnar.
– The projector is permanently mounted to the ceiling (don’t ask my wife about me drilling holes in the roof of her brand new house…).
– A hacked apart gamepad has become a stunning, and *cheap* interface for the Radar Control panel (a step by step tutorial to come)
– Eric Marciano’s F-16 HUD and Radar gauges have been intergrated into the panel, but may be replaced with some custom written gauges in the future.
– The first custom IO Board from “Russcool” is in and running.  This little beaty (an early development board at this point)  is driving a set of gear indicators “liberated” from my Queenair, and almost identical to the real Skyhawk items.  The board is also driving encoders for Heading and Course for the HSI, as well as Baro adjustment on the Altimeter.  These boards will be the subject of further posts as they develop.  There is designs on the table at the moment for a board that will drive a 737 style MCP, radios, and even a customisable output board for driving LEDs, complete with an interface to talk to FSUIPC….. exciting stuff 🙂

Gear indicator in action The underside of the "Wedge" panel

The coolest part of having the sim at home is being able to wander out to the “simcave”, hit the power button and go flying… WHENEVER I WANT!  🙂

This would also be an excellent time to say a huge HUGE thankyou to Pete Dowson.   Now we all know that FSUIPC is useful.  That’s kind of a given if you use MSFS for your sim.  But I for one didn’t realise how much can be done in FSUIPC specifically for us pit builders.  Today, armed with a simple interface, like a joystick board (did I mention Leo Bodnars’ magic little board?) you can make almost anything that you want work properly, we are now officially past the “hacked keyboard” stage for entry level sim builders!

The story so far….

I built my “first” Skyhawk simulator back around 1999.  The shell was built by the RNZAF Museum at Ohakea for use in an exhibit, but wasn’t really very accurate in terms of dimensions 🙁

As built, with it's new seat
As built, with it’s new Ejection Seat

As the project went along More and more bits were modified, or replaced until it didn’t look that much like the original.

At the 2003 Wings Over Wairarapa Airshow the cockpit made its public debut.  After *much* rushed paint and graphic application she went to the show looking a million bucks (even though I looked more like a trodden in to the carpet dog turd…. I had the flu!)

I wish I could find the bigger version.....
I wish I could find the bigger version…..

Although I was pleased with the result, I was never all that happy with the compromises required to use the existing shell, so 2003/2004 the old A-4 was broken down and the good bits were harvested for use in future projects….

Fast forward to October 2005.  New job, new city.  Started work for Pacific Simulators and was told by an un-named director of the company “You wont want to build yourself a cockpit when you work on them all day…”.

November 2005.  Work starts on my new cockpit.  After building my first A-4 I discovered that having a single seat sim was great, except when you had friends around.  You can’t take anyone for a fly, so if someone doesn’t know how to fly you end up leaning over the canopy rail trying to show them how…. not very satisfactory at all!
SO… the new sim was going to be a 2 seater (I figure I only have, at most one friend, so it should work out swimingly!) a post Kahu Upgrade TA-4K Skyhawk.  Which, for the un-informed, is a locally modified Skyhawk with F-16 Avionics and Radar, plus a wide angle HUD.  A bit like the “Fighting Hawk” mods these days.
The choice of aircraft was a no-brainer really, its glass cockpit and HUD make it easier to build than an all-steam cockpit, and of course, it’s local, the RNZAF operated them from 1970 to 2001.

The decision was made to build the main structure from steel, a material I know, plus incorporating as much of the cool technology that was available through my work as I could.  Since the move from a low-tech company, to a reasonably high tech one, I have learned lots about CAD and CNC manufacturing…

So that brings us up to the start of the current TA-4K Project.  A collection of build photos is online, click the link TA-4 Photo Albumn to have a look.