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Preparation | Pilot seat | Bottom modules

The construction of your own cockpit.

Preparation.

I want to tell first that I’am not an expert in the construction of cockpits; it was indeed the first time I engaged myself to such an adventure.  But I know some of you are also dreaming of undertaking this.  I therefore want to share my experience with you all in writing an article about the construction of my own cockpit on regular times.  It is obvious that this construction can’t be realized without resolving problems; it’s my wish to be helped by you if I encounter difficulties I can’t solve by my own.  Thanks a lot.

How do you start constructing a full-size cockpit?
First you've to decide what kind of plane you want to fly with.  This choice isn't easy at all, because the offer at the Flight Simulator is high.  It took a long time before I decided to construct the fabulous DAKOTA DC-3. 
Once you’re sure what your choice is, the real work can start: gathering as much as possible the needed technical information.  Information about the construction itself isn't enough.  You also have to find out how the plane is working/operating.  It’s really necessary to understand the working of the plane before knowing which button or handle serves which function.  There’s an uncountable number of functions more in a real plane than the few pairs in a Flight Simulator.  It turned out that it was for me one of the most fascinating parts in the construction of my cockpit.  You indeed learned a lot.
I’ve found the best technical information in the documentation center at the section ‘aviation’ in the Royal Museum of the Army and the History of the Military Science (cfr “A golden pearl among lost glory”)

Once you possess all this info, you’ve to work out the measuring of the inside of the cockpit.  This was rather difficult, having only at my disposal a drawing in A4-size (>> fig. 1).

Moreover the measurements being in inches I had to convert them all.  In spite of this handicap we were able to work out a number of drawings which almost approach reality.  (>> fig. 2-3).

While drawing the plans a first problem turned up.  Where most planes have an elliptic fuselage, the problem is how do you draw  for God’s sake an ellipse without an elliptic protractor.   One can’t easily find the answer.  I had a look at my old study-books about technical drawing, but the subject wasn't even mentioned.  I called my uncle, technical draughts man by profession.  Thorough search showed him a rather easy way to solve this problem.

plan

Once the inside drawing finished, I started drawing the chair.  Till that moment I hadn't found the correct chair-drawing.  I headed for the chair seen on the photograph (Fig. 1) of the cockpit and the measurements indicated in fig. 1.  A few weeks after the construction of the chair I found the technical drawing of the chair; except for one little detail, the chair was a correct reproduction; and the little detail was repaired immediately.

pilotseat1

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The construction of the pilot seat.

I started finding the necessary materials.  As I (always) want to limit the cost to a strict minimum, I mostly use recycling material.  To construct the chair I used a few old heating pipes, the thin sheet of the lid of an central heating boiler, a few flat sheets and a U-iron. 
From the U-iron I made a frame, which serves as a conductor under the chair.  I folded the pipes into the wanted size and welded them.  Next came the frame of the seat, which I used flat sheets for.  The frame was clad with a thin sheet.  Confirming to the real chair, this thin sheet was fixed to the frame with rivets.  A revolving arm was then joined to the side of the chair.  I finished the job by constructing a blocking mechanism to move the chair backwards and forwards.  After the painting the chair looked as a real one (Fig. 5)

I’ll make the cushions when everything has got its definite place
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The construction of the cockpit.

The construction of the cockpit will need different parts.  Taking in consideration that this cockpit will be installed in our loft, I’m going to construct it in different modules.  It is always possible that we’ll have to move it, so it’s wise (advisable) to construct the cockpit in different parts.  Take in consideration that each module can easily be moved through doors and can easily be carried upstairs and downstairs. 
The complete cockpit measures 180 x 140 x 180 cm (l x w x h).  The bottom sheet will have two parts, each measuring 90 x 104 x 40.  On it are put two modules, each 70 cm high.  I’m still busy constructing the bottom plates.  Left and right half are almost finished, only the central part is still under construction.  I use triplex (6 mm), beams (2 x 4 cm), and boards of different thickness.
Golden hint : glue the wood together with wood glue; everything will be as strong as iron. 

I first sawed the bottom plates and built a framework on it.  To this frame I fixed the sidewalls (fig. 6) and covered everything with triplex (fig. 7).  Parts which don’t need anymore change are nailed and glued; the other parts under which the mechanical components (the control stick with connection-rail and the pedals) have to be constructed are screwed.  Two modules have been built, one to the left, the other to the right; both are connected with bolts.  (Fig. 8)

A bottom module will be constructed in the middle, between the two chairs; it will content a handle to block the landing gear and a box which controls the fire-extinguishers of the engines.  The next steps will be explained in one of the next articles
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© Verley Jan 2007-2017 original text from 2002 translation Mario Leonora