Simulation is at its best when you find that point where illusion and immersion peak.
It doesn't matter whether you're sitting in a cardboard box making engine noises or you're converting a 737 fuselage in your garage, when you build a simulator you must first create an illusion and then you have to immerse yourself in it.
When you or anyone else uses your sim it must, even if only to a limited extent, give the illusion of operating an aircraft. However the greatest illusion you can develop will fall short if you can not immerse yourself in it. Imagine being completely caught up in flying a very difficult approach to minimums in turbulent weather. Just as you reach the decision point you get a pop up message saying your Anti Virus software is out of date and needs to be updated. All the advanced simulation hardware and software in the world can't create a good enough illusion to get you past that jarring loss of immersion.
I chose to take it up a notch by building my sim using an actual fuselage and then set out on a multi-year eBay hunt for as many original Cessna parts as I could find and afford so that everything you touch in the sim that should be Cessna, is Cessna, AND, works as it does in the actual aircraft.
I also looked for the subtle nuances that might cause a person to loose immersion while using the Sim. For example, proper directional sources for various sounds, force feedback in the controls. airflow in the vents appropriate for the operating conditions of the aircraft.
Eventually as time and money permits I will be adding a 210 degree wrap around projection system. I have also setup a dedicated space for the sim that has blacked out surfaces and other treatments to reduce distraction and help maintain immersion in the illusion.
No matter how basic or advanced your sim setup is if you keep both illusion and immersion in mind you'll create a far better experience.
Illusion and Immersion are the key!
While my simulator is built from a Cessna 172 fuselage and my primary aircraft is just that, a 172, I will be adding a 182 and a few other GA aircraft to the system eventually. I may even throw in a twin engine GA...
In the interim I have, where possible, added the additional controls needed for more advanced aircraft such as a prop control and landing gear switch, cowl flap control and aileron trim and so on.
My core software is Prepar3d by Lockheed Martin and A2A Simulations 172 Trainer. In addition to those I have a number of add on software packages to enhance the experience and add functionality. More about that on the software page.
The system presently runs on three PCs. The first is my workhorse PC it's a liquid cooled Core i7 running Windows 7 64 Bit. It's fit out with 8 Gig of RAM, dual Solid State drives, one running the OS, the other running P3D and a Hard Disk drive for storage. I'm Running an NVidea GForce 780. With plans to upgrade the video in the near future and add liquid cooling to it as well.
The second PC is a much more basic Core i5 that runs my Instrument Panel gauges and soon my Force Feedback System. My Gauges are a mix of mechanical gauges and software based gauges so that I can more easily change aircraft types.
The third PC is a Core i7 and acts as an Instructor Station. It also handles real time weather generation via Active Sky and access to live online VATSIM Air Traffic Control via vPilot.
My avionics and much of the advanced interface required to integrate the cockpit with the PCs is done using Arduino cards and custom code that I and others have developed. At last count there were 9 Arduinos in the build with more on the way.
More details on the sim in the pages that follow.
About My Sim
My fascination with Flight Simulation started shortly after I graduated High School. My first Flight Simulator was Flight Sim
version 2 by Sub Logic.
Which was later purchased by
Microsoft. I was running
it on a Commodore 64 with a
single joystick and an 11" RGB
Monitor. I still have that setup and take it out from time to time to show people where it all began.
Since then I have owned each version of MS Flight Sim that came out. My hardware has also progressed over time from that Commodore 64 through several PC clones up to today's Liquid Cooled Core i7.
Shortly after I entered military service I started working on my Pilots License completing Ground School and logging about 10 hours of dual. Unfortunately with changes in duty assignments and relocating I stopped pursuing it temporarily and before I got back to it college, career, marriage and, children changed my focus. However, no matter what else my priorities were I kept my connection to aviation through Flight Simulation.
I still manage to log the occasional hour of flight and get my hands on the controls every now and then. And, I may yet return to regular flying and get my ticket.
Of course being an Electrical Engineer I decided to dabble in building some switch panels to make it an easier and more realistic experience. One panel led to another and another and before I knew it I had taken over the family PC and most of the desk.
One evening sitting at the dinner table I told my family about these crazy people who build complete replica cockpits or convert actual aircraft fuselages into simulators. I told them that one of these days I was going to try that. Just for kicks I did a quick eBay search for "Cessna 172" and what popped up at the top of the search was an intact 172 fuselage that was taken out of commission after a crash.
I bid, I won, the adventure began...
Welcome to My Cessna Sim Project
What started out as a crazy idea one evening back in 2011 with a chance find on eBay has turned into one of the most involved and enjoyable projects I have ever undertaken.
I hope you enjoy looking through these pages. And, if you'd like to find out more and follow my progress please Like and Follow my project FaceBook page here: