DIY Cockpit Project

Articles related to my DIY Cockpit project.

Some time ago I found a really slick feedback system for DIY cockpit builders – a “shaker” system that pulled data out of the simulator in order to run a motor that would be capable of shaking your entire cockpit.

It’s called the BFF Shaker and can be found here:

I started my setup with the SHKR-1 board and the 36v15 motor driver from Pololu:


1 – an FTDI USB/Serial cable from SparkFun.  Note that in order to use this cable with the SHKR-1, you’ll need to invert the TX, RX, CTS and RTS pins.  The documentation for the SHKR-1 talks about the software you’ll need to do this.  This serial cable is how the host software controls the SHKR-1.

2 – The SHKR-1 board itself.  This controller board can drive two of the Pololu motor driver simultaneously.  It also has an output that you can use to drive a “buttkicker” speaker.  (You can use the “buttkicker” alone if you don’t want to build the motor drive system that I show here.)

3 – A Pololu 36v15 motor driver – this takes 24VDC in and allows the SHKR-1 to control a DC motor.

I followed the example of another BFF Shaker builder (Roland) and built a motor platform that rides on four springs.


This is a used 24VDC, 250 watt motor.  I bought it off eBay for about $20.  The green blocks next to the motor are a pair of lead C/G weights that I removed years ago from the nose of my F-15C.  There’s about 23lbs of lead there. :)

The motor is connected to an offset shaft that is fixed in place to the base platform.  When the motor moves up and down, it’ll transmit that vibration to the rest of the cockpit.  Unlike Roland’s setup, I didn’t insulate the shaker from the rest of the cockpit.  When this sucker is going, EVERYTHING shakes. :)

The springs are held in place using 3M VHB (Very High Bond) double-sided tape.  This stuff is VERY strong.  Each spring is rated for about 15lbs of compression force.



Here’s another shot showing the rig:


Here’s a video showing how the whole thing operates:

I went ahead and got it installed in the #0 Series One cockpit, right behind the seat:


I also spent some time cleaning up the wiring in the front end and got the Plasma-MM2 interface controller properly mounted.

gear-up-frontelectronics close up

The black box on the left is the 5VDC power supply I use for the panel lighting.  The silver box next to that is the 24VDC power supply that the shaker system uses.

Current cockpit configuration:


The shaker system adds a LOT to the whole experience.  It’s a blast to be able to flip on the battery switches, turn on the mags and then mash the starter button and actually FEEL the engine start.  The shaker in the back end really makes that little cockpit rock and roll.  It’s just awesome.  I hope to be able to get some more than once-around-the-field time in it soon.  I need to toss together a screen while I’m waiting for my castAR to show up. :)



Some time ago, a buddy sent me an STL file of a Spitfire MkV grip to try to machine on the ShopBot.  I tried it and the most usable result (still wrong) took five hours to machine out of a “billet’ of plywood I made.

I recently finished calibrating my Rostock MAX 3D printer, and decided to give that Spitfire grip another go.

It took 11 hours, 17 minutes and 7 seconds to print.  It consumed 35.6 meters of 1.75 silver ABS plastic filament.  There’s a few areas where the overhang is too great and it messed up a tiny bit, but overall I’m very happy with the result!

Back of the grip

Back of the grip

Front of the Spitfire grip

Front of the Spitfire grip


Front side, cleaned up

Front side, cleaned up

Back side, cleaned up

Back side, cleaned up

The grip is amazingly strong and doesn’t warp at all when you twist on it.  The grip was printed using KisSlicer as the slicing software and uses a 25% infill. (that means that 75% of the interior space in the model is just air).

First, the video!

A regular Arduino really drive things that have high power requirements or need a voltage higher than 5vdc. In order to run the real displays in the F-15 that use incandescent bulbs, I developed a special board that would allow me to drive up to 16 channels per board, up to 60vdc at round 8A per board.

The Centipede Shield by Macetech provides 64 I/O channels – each of the 64 channels can be configured for input or output. In this context however, I’m using the board as strictly an output device.

Here’s the code that the Arduino runs: centipede_firmware

For those that want to build the driver board, I’ve zipped up the Eagle PCB files for the board – the zip file INSIDE the zip file is “gerber” data that you need to supply to the board house if they don’t natively process Eagle PCB files.


For a while now I’ve wanted to replace the crappy, noisy pots that I’d used in my Jentron MK2 gimbal that was in the 109F/X #0 cockpit.  They were so bad that it was impossible to use the gimbal for flight at all.

The best way to replace a mechanical potentiometer is to use a hall effect device.  This is essentially a sensor that will output a 0 to 5v signal based on the position of a magnet.  I’m using the Allegro 1302 for this project.  It works very, very well and can be a direct replacement for any three wire pot installation.

My design uses a 7/8″ (22mm actually) bearing with an 8mm center bore.  The center bore allows you to use a “traditional” Bic pen body as an input shaft.  You can press the body segment into the bearing and it won’t be coming out any time soon!  You can purchase the bearings here:

I installed the pen body into the bearing and then glued a pair of 1/4″ square neodymium magnets (oriented NS-pen-NS) to either side of the pen body with some thick Cyanoacrylate glue.  Works great!

In order to be a direct replacement for the pots, I needed to add similar control arms to them.  I did this by laser cutting a press-fit back plate that I threaded for #4-40 screws.

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Just before heading off for what I suspect will be a “nom-fest”, I wanted to post a picture of my new 16 channel driver board:

It doesn’t look like much, but this is what I’ll use in the F-15 to drive all the indicator lamps.  The board is designed to be directly connected to the Centipede Shield by MaceTech.

There is an error on the board – though.  Can you spot it? :D

Happy Thanksgiving!

The world’s first amateur built cross-cockpit collimated video display system:

This is a 60 degree wide by 40 degree high spherical section collimating mirror.

More information can be found here:

Until yesterday (11/20/2010) this kind of thing was the sole domain of multi-million dollar commercial flight simulators.  Not. Any. More. :D

Thanks all!


..are now DonationWare!

You can download the 386MB ISO from here.

There’s no difference in the content between the commercial edition that I was selling and this one, with the exception of the cost.  It’s purely donation-ware at this point.  Pay what you feel it’s worth to you!  From nothing to One Beeeeeelyun Dollllaarrrs! *laughs*

This edition contains three supplementary drawing sheets that were not included in the original release, including parts for a sub-deck in the front of the cockpit and new parts for flatter fuselage sides that are easier to skin.

Thanks All!

(Read the prior blog entry to this for details on the projector stands)

After completing the projector stands it was time to finally use the damn things! :)

Because of the flexibility of modern games and the popularity of “triple head gaming”, new games like Need for Speed: Shift support the resolutions that can be found using a TripleHead2Go.  In my case that’s 3072×768 because I’m using three 1024×768 projectors.

My friend Dave is a nut for this game and I finally understand why. It’s insanely fun to play on a 180 degree wraparound display. :D

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As of yesterday, (14Aug10) the new projector stands are finished and they turned out great!

I got this idea after the last setup I’d done last month – it turns out it works just as well as I’d hoped.

The projector stands were built from 3/4″ plywood and 2×4’s for the legs.  The support box is designed to hold a 3.5″ PVC pipe that acts as the actual support for the projector.  This allows the projector to rotate left and right very easily.  The height of the projector can be adjusted using a “step” pin that the PVC can rest on.  The series of holes you’ll see in the sides of the support box are for those pins.

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