Interview :  Desk Top Sims is back !  by  Justin Messenger
November 2nd, 2001
SimPits: Hi Paul, welcome to SimPits! When you founded Desk Top Sims  seven years ago, you were really breaking new ground in the market weren't you?

Paul: Absolutely. There were various vendors selling joysticks and such, but there were really no companies building low cost complete packages with the exception of Thrust Master's F-16 cockpit. For DTS to suggest that complete low-cost simulator systems would one day be training Naval pilots, was seen as a "pipe-dream.”

SimPits: When you started your company you seemed to have a vision of building cockpits that the average person could buy. You also used to sell real aircraft parts on your web site. I know that for a while you began marketing more toward the military than to the average person on the street, with prices of simulators going up too as high as $19.995.00, much more expensive than the average home builder can afford. Will we be seeing lower cost fighter cockpits on your website and will we be seeing real aircraft parts for sale like we used to?

Paul: Interesting of you to ask that question! I will take this time to make the first public announcement of our new product line. DTS did become very focused on the larger yet still low cost systems for military use. We got off track for a while leaving the home builder no cost effective options for the highly precise and real parts we became famous for. Currently our plans for 2002 are to return to our grass roots origin and offer an entire new line of affordable units for the home builder. The first of these products is the much anticipated F-16 line. With a plywood and ABS plastic version retailing for only $995.00!!!!! That's right. The complete airframe structure in a ready to install interior parts version for less than $1,000.00! The web will reflect the new pricing on the units in December. Here is a photo of the unit for your readers:


This is the first of many products developed for the home builder we will be introducing in the very near future.

SimPits: I suppose your work with the military has helped you to make even more accurate cockpit reproductions for the home user?

Paul: You are correct. All data that is non-classified is introduced into our products for home use. This insures that the buyer has the most accurate, and up to date products. It really gives us an edge on our competitors, and the home builder reaps the rewards from our very active military side of the house.

SimPits: Will you also be selling individual panels separately from the cockpit shells? Let's say somebody already has built an F-16 cockpit shell but wants to buy the ECM and landing gear panels, will a line of products like that be available from you in the future?

Paul: Yes we have the complete F-18 interiors available right now and will be adding the full line of replica products for the F-16 and other aircraft very soon. Typically the cockpit parts are broken down to individual pieces as found in the real aircraft or "Cookie-cutter" pieces. For example the entire left and right side consoles are milled out of a single piece of acrylic. Then bored and drilled, then etched or silk-screened. The result looks like dozens of individual pieces assemble in a Zeus rail, but are really one piece that typically sells for less than $300 each.

SimPits: Some of the F-16 instrument panels you showed us were parts that you fabricated from aluminum rather than from plastic and I must say they were very high quality. Will this be common of the parts the home user can buy from you?

Paul: It will. The cost is dependent on how many pieces we have to manufacture for other projects that pay for the development of the part. All aluminum casting are quite expensive to produce. But if we are under contract to make that part, then the NRE (Non Recurring Engineering) has already been paid for. Thus, the resale cost is quite low. If we have to develop the casting using our own funds, the cost for each individual part is quite high. This explains why we have some all aluminum parts on certain product lines.

SimPits: It is true that many of the people who visit the SimPits website and who are members of the SimPits group chat list are building or want to build fighter cockpits, but about half of them are not. Do you have any plans to offer airliner cockpit products?

Paul: Yes we do plan to carry a commercial airliner line very soon. In fact some of the first parts made were 747 panels. I worked for Boeing electronics in the commercial avionics department for several years. I was laid off from Boeing, and the desire to build the cockpit parts for home use is what originally started DTS. Back in the early 90's there was not a great deal of "Big airplane" Sims of quality to justify high detail cockpit parts, hence the focus on the small fighter product development. A lot has changed since then, and I plan to reintroduce the commercial line very soon. The focus will be on the Boeing product family. Primarily the 737, 747, 757, 767, and 777 lines.

SimPits: How about parts for general aviation airplanes like Cessna?

Paul: We have been very successful with the small civilian aircraft. There is a wonderful line of peripherals from Go Flight, Precision Flight Controls, Control Vision, and CH that are currently available. We currently resale all of these products, and plan to release fiberglass cockpits to install these products into. To date we have concentrated on complete airframe restorations, but have a few ideas for a smaller unit geared for home use. Here is a photo of a Cessna simulator we completed a few years back.

SimPits: I could hardly talk to you about simulators without bringing up your line of racing products. When we visited in October you were kind enough to let us try out three of your cars that were networked and I must say that we had a great time! I could have easily stayed there late into the night, something I am sure you have never done (G). Tell us about your race car Sims.
Paul: We carry a complete line of racing simulators. The home use Hyper Simulator is the definitive choice for the home racer. With kits starting a $795.00 we have the best product available at a price most people can afford. These units are the best in the industry in function, quality, and finish. Our racing simulators have been very successful over the past five years. In fact the success of the Hyper in particular has given us the cash flow to develop the current aircraft line of simulators. The discussion of the racing products is probably not what your readers are interested in, but it is important to point out, that without the income of the racing sales, there would be no aircraft line of products.
SimPits: I was also very impressed with your new facilities that you are still in the process of organizing. It looked to me that you had a lot more room and you are better organized than you were at your old location. What impact do you think this will have on your company?

Paul: The primary impact is efficiency. With over 20,000 sq. feet, we have plenty of room for disorganization. So it is very important that we focus on the most efficient assembly methods. We now have an entire "Clean-room" for our electronics assembly. An entire room is now dedicated for final assemble. The products and sub assemblies, move through the plant now with a more structured method, allowing other improvements such as more Q.C. (Quality control) checks along the way. The larger facility also allows us to make larger parts! Hence the re-introduction of the commercial parts line, and now real aircraft cockpit restorations. 

SimPits: While it is true that relatively speaking the cockpit builder community has literally exploded in size the last two years, it does seem to me the diameter of say, an F-18 shell, could potentially keep many prospective buyers from purchasing a cockpit. Do you foresee an expanding market for cockpit products?

Paul: Most certainly. But our entire product lines on all products have always taken in mind that not all home builders have entire rooms to dedicate to a cockpit. Thus the modular design of our cockpits allows the home builder to purchase only what they can afford, and have room for. For example: The F-18E cockpit can be purchased in its entirety, or just the parts desired. A lot of people only want the main instrument panel, and the side consoles due to space limitations. Others want the shell to install there own real parts they have gathered over the years. This flexibility allows all interested to get exactly what they have room for at a price that is affordable.

SimPits: Ok Paul, for our closing question I must ask you one that is personal, what is your favorite fighter and why?

The F-16. I am nuts about that plane!!! The F-16 in my option, is the sexiest, sleekest, fighter there is. It is the Ferrari of the sky. The F-15 I love based on performance and capabilities and its muscle. The F-16 is just more pleasing to look at. It is a big engine, blending wing and a pilot on top of it. The lines of the canopy are sleek, and offer a view that no other has matched. The complex curves of the wing strakes and blending fuselage are like the curves of a beautiful woman. The air inlet stats "Here's the Beef". The beginning of the business end of the jet. The complete form and shape of this plane, really make it special to me. Then add the performance and multi-role capabilities. They are the icing on the cake.Small light weight, and designed with simplicity in mind. Oh yea, the fact that my house and facility are both in the flight line and approach to were they were made does have something to do with it! Back in the 80s I remember going out to the end of the runway at Carswell/General Dynamics and watching hundreds of first flights as the production birds rolled off the assembly line. The first flight consisted of a vertical accent off the end of the runway then a FOD check roll over. I never got tired of watching them. I also really love the SR-71. I also love.......well... lets just say I like all airplanes, but the F-16 is at the top of the list!

SimPits: Thank you Paul for your time. I am sure many of us at SimPits will keep a close watch on your line of cockpit products.

Paul Miller is the President and founder of  Desk Top Sims. 

Interview by: Justin Messenger