What do you do when you can no longer peruse a much-loved career and are diagnosed with a serious illness? If you happen to be an ex-commercial pilot who goes by "Ash," you build a very realistic flight simulator in your back yard.
In an interview with Kotaku Australia (conducted by former GeekTech editor Danny Allen), Ash explained how he is building a Boeing 737-800 Flight Simulator from real aircraft parts, sourced from all over the world. He started building the steel simulator, which cost around $20,000 so far to build, as a way of keeping busy and re-experience his avionic career despite suffering from an immune disorder.
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The 3-meter-long simulator is situated in a custom-built garden shed, and boasts a variety of features. The simulator runs Microsoft's Flight Simulator X 2006 (FSX) displayed on three 180-degree projectors. Ash prefers the graphics packs for it over newer programs, and likes the variety of community-created scenes available, like one of Springfield from The Simpsons or views of space. The software even gives him real-time weather updates, air traffic data and flight schedules.
Six PCs running Windows XP operate the Boeing parts in the simulator--from microphones and sound systems (which can apparently be heard from the house!) to alert systems and cockpit seats. The parts to work with the software via a relay card to control the more immersive areas in the faux plane. Hydraulics allow the plane to move around as though it's actually in the air. Originally, the cockpit was made from cardboard and switches, but a friend helped Ash engineer a realistic control panel, complete with blinking lights.
The build is not quite complete, though. Ash is still tweaking different parts of the cockpit to work more efficiently with the computers, as some parts have a habit of causing the systems to crash. He has also just finished adding more weather elements, like snow.
See the full interview and more images of the build at Kotaku Australia. This might just be the most inspiring project we've seen all year. It's amazing what you can achieve when you realize that your time is limited, or you have real passion to bring an idea into fruition.
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This story, "This 737-800 flight simulator can take you anywhere (sort of)" was originally published by PCWorld.