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Flight stick | Controle wheel | Flight column

How I build my own cockpit ?

The flight stick :

Operating both elevators and ailerons of an airplane obviously needs a flight stick.
What's a DC3 flight stick made of ? 


You first need a set of tubes (column) that can bend backwards and forwards and that is connected with the elevator.
This column does not stand from the middle of the pilot seat downwards (like most airplanes) but is curved along the fuselage downwards.
A control wheel (yoke) is connected to it. This is pretty similar to the one of a car, excepted the upper side is missing. Left and right yokes are connected together with a cabling system. These cables runs from pilot's column to copilot's one and is connected with the ailerons.


The control wheel :
The control wheel is the easiest part of the building job.  You need a small tube matching the flight column axe. A slightly larger tube will allow you to weld the three parts of the yoke altogether. Two rings made of a 3mm metal plate and a 16 mm piece of concrete iron will form the three arms and the curved piece  of the yoke (see fig 2.3). You also need polyester coating and some black satin paint.

st1 st2





Just begin with a real-size sketch of the yoke on a metal plate. You need to do it directly on the metal plate because the 16 mm bar can only be plied under fire. Check the good bending by regularly comparing with the sketch. After that, we saw the three pieces linking the central and outside part of the yoke. At that time, get all the pieces together and weld them.
Now we have the base of the yoke. You will use the polyester coating to make the handles. We mix the appropriate proportion of polyester coating with the hardener and finally we lay it on the metal with a spatula. You are advised to work with small quantities of coating since hardening time is very rapid. Use a wet finger to smooth the polyester layers (water will prevent polyester to stick on your finger). Wait until the coating has hardened enough and cleans the remainder away. Rub this with a very soft sandpaper until the surface is glossy. All of this can last of couple of days. Paint it with the black satin paint in order to make it look as a real yoke.


First of all we looked at the available material to make the flight columnand from.  We needed thin 6,5 cm to 7 cm tubes, preferably made of aluminium to save some weight and also various metal plates from 1,5 mm up to 3 mm. I found the aluminium tubes in a recycling premises while the rest was already at our disposal.
Golden tip:  Never dispose any piece of metal if you plan to build a cockpit  since you never know whether it could be of some use. Keep an eye out anywhere and at any moment.   Gathering recovery material will make you save a huge amount of money.
We began to determine where  the tubes should hug along the cockpit wall. We first of all made a sketch on the ground. Then sawed the under tube and built a connecting piece of metal to bring upper and under tubes altogether. This piece should also play the role of a hinge and should be large enough to fix two pulleys to it that would connect both yokes together. This connection point is also provided with a protection plate just above the pulleys. Hold the connection point to the under tube with three screw bolts. The upper tube is held with six screw bolts.

stick1 stick2

The fixing of the yoke to the flight column is made of an oval piece that would also provide connection support to the flight column. A front opened bedding equipped with an axe and a pinion and laterally with a protection plate to set the yoke chain down and grease it. This is made of a 3mm metal plate (see fig 7,8). Since we didn't have the right pinion, we built it ourselves.

stick3 stick4
stick5 stick6

You finally should connect the tube and the bedding together. This was the most difficult part of the job because it starts with a rounded tube and ends with an oval via a crank. Most of it was made with a 1,5mm steel plate since it makes plying easier while it is very hard to weld unless you make use of your best welding talents. The final work is beautiful anyway. Even technicians of the Dutch Dakota Association were amazed when I showed it to them during my visit.
It was now time for assembling all of this. Every piece was held with six screw bolts and the 8 pulleys assembled. Finally we fixed the two yokes. Cabling was the final task to connect both yokes together. Two bicycles chains of race bicycle were needed as well as a 3mm cable and two cables riggers.

ketting1 ketting2

All of this was put over the pinion and the pulleys. To set both yokes at an identical position we used two cable riggers underneath.
It was now time to look at electronics. You need two potentiometers 100KOhms to connect it to a computer . One for the elevators, the other one for the ailerons. The potentiometer for the ailerons was held with an artful clutch to the axe of the yoke. I want to be grateful to my dad for this invention which is a demonstration of technical precision.


The flight stick is now finished. What now remains to be done is a fixing system in the cockpit as well as something to operate the elevator, this is for later (see next article)

As a matter of conclusion, I'd like to thank anyone who helped me so far. I won't name them all to avoid forgetting any of them. I would anyway like to thank Jozef Andries, manager of Boons Bouwstaal NV. He donated the cabling , the concrete iron and the requested plates for the outside part of the cockpit. As from now, I will name this company of the official sponsor of the Virtual DC3 flight simulator.


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© Verley Jan 2007-2017 original text from 2002 translation Joan Pacquets