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I’m considering purchasing a 737 cockpit as a commercial flighsim project. The question I ask is Should I use a prepackaged simulator for the avionics etc or go with the original complete interior and convert it to a simulator. Is the conversion a 10 year project or fairly straight forward for someone in the know. 



Edited by Oakwell

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There are many in this forum who have had the same type of question.  I have never attempted it but many members here have and have set up very nice home cockpits.  It is not cheap.  Here is a 747 home cockpit for sale - https://www.ebay.com/i/292885681069?chn=ps.  Here's another one for the 737 - https://www.ebay.com/itm/737-flight-simulator-for-sale-737-cockpit-for-home-or-business-/182738185419.  I suppose you could offset the costs by setting up a commercial endeavor to have customers pay to fly.

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It depends on what your motivation is and what your level of experience and interest is.

If you want to get a business up and running then to be honest you will be better off purchasing something 'off the shelf'.

If you are doing it as a hobby and what interests you is actually building the thing, then by all means go for real aircraft parts. However, you will have to work out where you are going to get them from, how you will interface them with sim software, which software you are going to use etc etc.

Certainly if you plan to use real parts then you will not only need to be a 'simmer', you will also need to be an avionics engineer, computer programmer, electronics expert, electrician, construction worker and much more. I am involved in a 747 sim built almost entirely out of real parts and to give you a sense of the scale of what is involved, interfacing the every single part has involved:

  • Working out the logic on pinned ARINC connectors etc (think: sitting with an oscilloscope and/or multimeter and checking each pin to try and work out what does what). In some cases ripping out the guts of the component altogether and replacing with something easier to interface to the sim, in other cases using the existing 'brains'.
  • Referring to the AMM and Boeing wiring diagrams
  • Sorting out power (most real parts require some combination of 5VDC, 28VDC or 115V 400Hz AC -- the latter of which in particular is quite difficult to come by domestically and is one of the reasons that we haven't yet managed to get the real CDUs working yet). The power in itself requires software logic in most cases (as, for instance, you want the lights which should be powered when you turn on the battery switch to be powered when you turn on the battery switch in the sim and vice versa).
  • Designing and building custom circuit boards to convert an ARINC output in to an ethernet or USB input
  • Writing software drivers to interface each particular component with the sim (bearing in mind that there is quite a lot of two-way data: it's not just as simple as wiring up a switch, invariably there is systems logic which has to come back from the simulator to the real components in order to display system status (e.g. FAULT lights in fuel pump switches etc) correctly

The 747 project has taken 4 years and counting and there's still plenty to do -- it's the sort of thing that will never truly be 'finished'. And that is with a team of people with lots of prior experience of building sims and writing software, people with experience working on the real aircraft as engineers etc and quite substantial amounts of money thrown at it -- I'd say it came together exceptionally quickly.

What I'm trying to say is: building something with real parts is very rewarding and gives utterly amazing results but you have to be doing it because you enjoy building things and figuring out how to mak them work. If you want something that you can whip together quickly and fly then trying to build something with real parts is probably not for you.

Other things to think about:

  • What software will you use for the aircraft simulation itself? How will that run in terms of computer hardware and how easy is it to interface hardware with it? Can you get the inputs and output information you need? What sort of systems are modelled and how do you need to be able to control them - do you need a separate instructor station for instance? Do you need to be able to simulate failures and non-normal situations accurately?
  • What are you going to use it for? You talk about "a commercial flight sim setup" -- who exactly are going to be your customers? What are their requirements? That will affect your choice of software and the type of sim you construct.
  • Where will you source the parts (and where are you going to locate your sim?).
  • What sort of displays will you use? Projection? Large TVs/monitors? How will you sync up the visuals and what software are you going to use for the visuals?

Good luck!

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Better off going to the horse track or opening an ice cream store. Believe me. I know. Been doing this since 1990. 😉


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