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Cabin construction

How I build my own cockpit ?

It has been a while since we last wrote another article on the progress of my DC3 cockpit being built. I’m for over 2 years now into making this project happen, and the end of the first phase appears to be in sight. For the newbies amongst you that did not receive my previous articles and would be interested, you can find these previous ones on the club website under the ‘cockpit’ chapter. There you can find all articles, illustrations included.
All moving parts are close to be finished, the electricity and electronics challenges are now getting around the corner. But in this article I would like to focus first and foremost on building the cabin.


The cabin:

To get the experience an ‘as real DC 3 experience as it gets’ I opted to build the DC3 cabin out of metal with provisions for the necessary windows. The initial choice was wood, but this would definitely not create the same acoustics and look and feel as metal would do. So it became metal. The right choice I would later discover after installing the sound speakers, as the sound resonance on the metal only increases the feelings of realism. I can assure you, once the DC3 engines run at their full potential at take-off, the noise vibrations are overwhelming. Almost like the real one. Just almost. One still has to bear in mind the neighbours, isn’t it ?
The documentation together with the measurements that I took myself inside a real DC 3 have enabled me to create moulds in actual size and a construction drawing for the roof trusses. These have been created by folding thin metal sheet in a special way that enables robustness of these trusses. A truss has been created for the back side of the cockpit, two smaller ones to support the side windows and one bow truss for the front part of the cockpit to support part of the front windows and to hook up the instrument panel later on.
For the upper roof and the windows we went as follows : first we have created actual size moulds for all the windows. The two front windows of the DC3 are mounted in a slightly diagonal standing triangle with an angle of a little more than 90°, so this means that the bottom size of the window exceeds the top size. I have first cut the moulds out of cardboard to test these for their right proportions. It was then that I realized how little these windows actually are. Ther’re only 26cm high and 60 cm long. After having copied the cardboard moulds onto the thin metal sheet and meticulously having cut them out of the metal sheet, they where further treated with a rust remover and they received their painting and preparation for final assembly.

First I folded a little tube to which I have mounted the bottom part of the windows. The upper part has been attached to a triangular plate. In the middle between the two windows a bow has been mounted that should later hold the roof and closes the gap between the two front windows. The roof consists of 2 folded triangles. Also for these roof parts I have made several moulds in cardboard before I finally cut the out of metal sheet. It was not an easy job as this metal has to be folded in all different directions without being allowed to dent it. But in the end, after a lot of measurement and trial and carefully folding, we were succesful at it.
After finishing the superstructure remains only the side window creation and assembly that had to be mounted on several bows. But before I started this job I first started to build the back walls of the cockpit, as this would increase the solidness and stability of the construction that supports the metal superstructure. These back walls consist out of 4 parts that fit the existing foundation modules and that are attached on top of each other. Bear in mind to foresee these walls with enough space for the future assembly of the hydraulic parts such as flap and gearlevers. These walls have been created from multiplex and wooden beams that have been mounted and fixed after painting. I also attached the back truss to this back wall to get a solid foundation on which I could start mounting the superstructure.

First we have created some temporary scaffolding to support the superstructure. Next, the superstructure together with the side windows has been attached to the different bows. This required several little connection elements at the top of the roof at the place where the emergency exit is planned, and between the side windows. After having everything thoroughly screwed down and fixed I could remove the scaffolding and admire the self-supporting cabin structure. Later on, when all overhead and instrument panels will be fully operational and there won’t be any more work to do, the cabin will be completely covered with metal sheets so that only the front windows will still offer an outside view, completing the illusion of movement when making a turn because of the complete absence of an outside reference. But that’s for the future. For now, look at the attached pictures to get yourself a clear idea how the final structure will look like.

cab1 cab2 cab3
cab4   cab5

After this we can start thinking about constructing the overhead and instrument panels. To be continued in one of the next chapters !


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© Verley Jan 2007-2017 original text from 2002 translation Christophe Van den Bogaerd