Putting the flight controls in a realistic and comfortable position, the display system in line and at a proper distance from your eyepoint, all the while preserving the ability to utilize your computer as a normal workstation is a challenge. There are several sets of plans available for purchase online for construction of full cockpits–everything from airliners to F-16s. However, by the time someone without access to a garage full of tools, lumber, paint, etc. is finished, they’ve spent at least $1000 building a cockpit. Plus, with the revolution of virtual reality headsets, or the combination of a large TV and head tracking, there’s no longer a need to spend tons of money on materials or months in the garage building a cockpit. The displays are able to replicate the entire virtual cockpit right in front of you. And what’s better–you can fly any type of aircraft you like! You won’t lose the feeling of immersion when you find yourself trying to pilot an F-16 sitting in an airliner cockpit, or vice versa.
So, what do we recommend? There are several items on the market today that will allow you to best utilize all of the components discussed on the previous pages to create the ultimate flight simulation experience. In presenting these to you, we considered the following factors:
- Fixed, ergonomic seating. Ergonomics are a big deal in aviation for good reason–to be safe and effective, you need to be as comfortable as possible. The seat needs to be in a fixed position (i.e. not an office chair on wheels), because a chair that rolls or rotates will only frustrate you when trying to use rudder pedals.
- Realistic Control Mounting. A few minutes of research will lead you to the same conclusion the experts in home flight simulation have known for years, and been trying to influence the market to abide by:
- Flight controls such as throttles and side-sticks are mounted at the seat-pan level.
- Rudder pedals are mounted in front of, and slightly below the pilot.
- Instruments and switches, such as those operated by the keyboard in our budget setup, are mounted in front of the pilot at a usable angle (not pure vertical or laying flat on a desk), or on side or center consoles.
- Durability. Every contributor to this site, at one time or another, has attempted to construct their own cockpit replica for flight simulation purposes. We’ve used everything from wood to plastic to steel. The simple fact is unless you have a CNC machine and the plans from an actual aircraft, the shapes and ergonomics are far too complex to replicate in such a manner that won’t eventually break or bend with you climbing in and out, or perhaps moving from one house or apartment to another. Not to mention, by the time you’re through, it’s always far more expensive than you predicted. In the “real world,” teams of engineers spend years developing the cockpit geometry alone. You have to ask yourself the question: is it worth it when excellent, ready-made alternatives exist?
- Appearance. The beauty of commercially available products, such as those listed below, is that they don’t look out of place in a man-cave or even a living room. Your other half, or future other half, won’t feel embarrassed about it being there. And should you find yourself living with someone who is extra sensitive about such things, or in need of more space for a dinner party, many of these are easily moved elsewhere since everything is attached to a common frame.
With all this in mind, we recommend the following:
- Obutto R3volution Gaming Cockpit (shown with a tri-monitor mount, but easily used for the single display configuration for any of the LDC/LED displays mentioned previously).
- Proflight Cockpit Package (neat feature: additional joystick mounts available to customize and reconfigure your setup to different aircraft types in minutes).
- Playseat® Air Force (Coupled with a normal height desk, an excellent way to accomplish flight simulation in your living room)