Aircraft Shell, Platform, Internal Linings & Pilot Seats
Construction a flight simulator is not just the main instrument panel and throttle quadrant. Considerable thought must be given to the shell, internal linings, seats and platform. The shell and internal linings, although visually important are not as critical as the platform, which must be sturdy enough to hold the weight of real aircraft parts and two adults.
Shell & Internal Linings
A shell provides excellent immersion and allows you to concentrate solely on the task at hand without visual distractions. I would like to use a shell, however, space availability is at a premium at the moment. Therefore, I will not be replicating the aircraft shell or internal linings. An aluminium/metal bracket assembly (similar to a roll cage) will most likely be manufactured to house the forward and aft overhead and two front windows. Surrounding this I will probably create some type of shield. I'm still considering various ideas.
At a later stage when more space becomes available, a shell will definitely be considered.
A basic platform was constructed late 2011 on which to mount the instrument panel, throttle quadrant, center pedestal and seats. I constructed the platform from wood and painted it Boeing grey in colour.
Images of the construction can be viewed in the image gallery.
This platform has served me well during the development of the simulator, however, it was only meant as a temporary platform. This platform will be retired when I take delivery of two genuine B737 yokes, columns and rudder pedals into the simulator.
The new platform is constructed from aluminum tubing and quarter bracing and is modular. The design will also incorporate underneath access. The replacement/new platform will be installed by mid November 2012.
Pilot Seats - Weber or Ipeco
Seating is important, although it has zero functionality other than providing a place to sit. Using a pair of pilot seats (captain and first officer) provides a level of realism and immersion that isn't possible when using a normal office chair or car seat - especially if the office chair has rollers :)
There are many types of aircraft seats, however, Boeing 737 series aircraft usually utilise either the older Weber style of seat or the newer seat manufactured by Ipeco. If you are simulating a later model 737NG series aircraft then the Ipeco seat is the more realistic seat to use; it's unusual to find a Weber seat mounted in a late model B737NG aircraft, but not impossible
This said, I actually prefer the older style Weber seats which were very popular in the B737-100 through 500 series aircraft. If you've read this blog site you know that my simulator is not a perfect incarnation of a NG series flight deck, but rather "as close as it can be".
In my opinion the Weber seats are more comfortable than the Ipeco seats and are certainly easier to fit as they do not require the use of straight or J-rails - they bolt directly to the floor.
If you are a purist you can, with a little extra fabrication, alter the Weber seats to look almost identical to Ipeco seats.
To see the two Weber seats that will be used in the simulator, navigate to the image gallery
Weber seats come standard with claw feet; therefore J-rails are not required. Webers were used on earlier airframes (100-300 series) when two-bay center pedestals were more than the norm. The narrower pedestal meant that pilots could easily squeeze between the seat and the pedestal. With the introduction of three-bay pedestals there was less room and seats had to be fitted with J-rails to allow the seats to move laterally and backward to allow pilot access to the flight deck.