Journal Archive (Newest First)

AIRCRAFT SHELL, INTERNAL LININGS, PLATFORM & SEATS

A flight simulator is more than the main instrument panel, center pedestal 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.  The platform 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. 

At the time of writing there are three options available: 

(i)   A nose cone from Flight Deck Solutions (FDS).  This is probably the easiest option as the nose has been prefabricated. Reproduction linings are also available (buy & forget);

(ii)   A custom-made 'roll cage' style assembly of some description which mimics the basics of a shell.  This can be manufactured from aluminium, steel or wood.  To this front windows can be added. The roll cage could aptly be termed a 'skeleton'; or,

(iii)   A nose cone from a real aircraft retrofitted.

I would like to use a shell, however, space availability is at a premium.  Therefore, I will not be replicating the aircraft shell or all of the internal linings (at the moment).  In all likelihood, option 2 will be selected and a custom-made shell that blends with the theme of a simulator will be used.   'School is not out' and I'm still considering various ideas from custom-made aluminum frames to commercial made frames such as those sold by SimWorld.

Certainly, if and when space becomes available, a true shell with linings will be used.

I have often thought of retrofitting a genuine aircraft nose cone.  This certainly would be the best option for realism.  But, space limitations preclude this option.

My Musings - Real or Reproduction

A simulator falls within three spheres:  To the left there is a full simulation which for all intense purposes is difficult to separate from the real aircraft (other than it is inside your house!).  Opposing this is the desktop simulator.  Riding between the two is a set-up, which most people end up achieving to some lesser or greater degree.

Not wanting to derate those riding the left wave, a simulation is not a real aircraft, but a simulation.

It's more productive to develop what appears to be a quality simulator (that looks like a simulator) rather than replicate a half-made nose cone which doesn't stand up to scrutiny.  The emphasis is on building a simulator that uses fully functioning real aircraft parts.

Platform (interim & final)

An interim platform was constructed in late 2011 to mount the MIP, throttle quadrant, center pedestal and seats.  I constructed the platform from wood and painted it Boeing grey in colour.

Photographs of the platform can be seen 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 has since been retired after I took delivery of OEM 737 yokes, columns and rudder pedals.

The replacement platform is made from welded aluminium quarter bracing and has a floor made from painted ABS plastic.  The floor has a number of points where it can be lifted off the platform enabling under floor access.  The design concept is modular meaning that the complete platform comprises 6 sub sections that are bolted together.  If I wish to extend either the front or rear of the platform this can easily be done by adding another aluminum module.

Seats - Ipeco or Weber

Using OEM seats adds considerable immersion to any home simulator. 

The type of seat used in the 737 depends upon whether the aircraft is a classic series (300 through 500) or the Next Generation (600 through 900).  Classics use Weber seats which have claw feet and do not use a sliding J-Rail.  The NG uses Ipeco seats which has a sliding J-Rail system.  

LEFT:  Sheepskin cover on Weber Captain-side seat.

Claw feet are very easy to install to a platform as they bolt directly to the floor.  Any seat movement is achieved by moving the seat either up, down, forward or aft.

One of the main reasons Boeing changed the seat type was because of the evolution of avionics.  The classic series airframes used two-bay center pedestals, and the narrower pedestal meant that pilots could easily squeeze between the seat and the pedestal.   However, with additional avionics the two-bay pedestal was replaced by a three-bay pedestal.  This meant there was less room to squeeze beside the pedestal, and a subsequent rail system introduced.

Ipeco seats were designed at the onset to accommodate the rail system.  J-Rails are not easy to install to a platform.  This is because the rails must be mounted very precisely so they can mate with the Ipeco seat.

At the beginning of the project I was offered two Weber seats, and at the time I didn't realize that the NG only used seats made by Ipeco.   If you're a purist, you can with a little extra fabrication, alter the Weber seats to look almost identical to Ipeco seats. 

The following articals discuss aspects of the Weber seats:

Weber Captain and First Officer Seats

Video Weber Seat Adjustments

Weber Seat Mechanics - Built To Last

Installing Weber Seats To Interim Platform

Weber Seat Sheepskin Cover

Photographs of the Weber seats can be seen in the image gallery.