The last six weeks saw all our efforts aimed towards the Flight Sim Expo 2022 in Lelystad, Netherlands. We had to get all our products and designs ready for the event. Many long hours were put in, with me usually working until 3 am around my full-time job as an Aircraft/Avionics engineer.
The main focus was on getting v2 of the G1000 finished to show it off and then the helicopter controls. This also happens to coincide with the MSFS2020 helicopter release next weekend.
To test the new Cessna 172 sim and the Helisim, I needed a multifunctional sim base that could be fully adjustable for the event. After looking online to buy one, there was nothing, and even basic metal frames seemed expensive. With three days to go, I had to create a sim base where a 6-year-old or a 6ft man would fit. The base also needed to be quickly reconfigurable between C172 and the H145.
The base used a dual rail system, utilising cheap timber from B&Q. The whole sim base costs less than 50 euros. With every part able to move along the rail system for the perfect ergonomics of each component.
This base will also be used for all other sim creations in my small UK home, where the C172 Instrument panel is removed, The H145 panel is inserted, and finally, the 737 SS (Single Seat) panel. This allows me to have many sims but in a small space.
My first big thank you goes to my brother and wingman Marcus. He drove down from the midlands in his car, and we loaded the sim into it. We set off on our trip, driving across the UK to the ferry at Harwich. After the ferry at the Hook of Holland was a 2-hour drive to Lelystad.
We drove for 26hours in total, not realising our return journey would take much longer and be much more challenging due to travelling through the night.
Another huge thank you to Frans for inviting us and looking after us. I believe this is Frans's last year as the event organiser after doing this task for many years.
The air museum is visually stunning and a fantastic location for the expo.
We arrived midday Friday (the day before the expo) and then had time to look around the museum and see where we would be located. My mind was blown away by the KLM 747.
Unloading was a little hectic, with everyone trying to get in and set up simultaneously. Most of the equipment was phenomenal, and the motion bases were incredible!
The sim setup was completed in less than 2 hours, and we had a good old play and a quick walk around. It then became self-evident the C172 was not the aircraft to display. The instrument panel and the new g1000 looked terrific, but in all honesty, there were so many C172 displays.
Saturday arrived at 0700 hrs, and only 3 hours before the doors opened to the public, I decided to convert the sim to a Heli display instead. Looking back, this was an excellent idea. Not many heli sims there, and we could cycle people through the sim so much faster. We found that many people seemed addicted to trying to fly the heli with some moderation of control. If they crashed twice, they were out, and the next person was ready for their go. This challenge would lead them back to us over and over throughout the day.
It put a massive smile on my face when somebody achieved something they previously thought was impossible. Some people could coordinate all three controls very quickly, and others didn't get it at all.
There was a massive difference in how the cyclic was held and moved. It became very apparent who the real heli pilots were and who were the heli-sim pilots. And my question was always, Heli-pilot? Yes was usually the answer.
A quick point to heli simmers if you have pedals. Push the left pedal forward to turn the nose of the aircraft left, and vice versa for the right. Push the right pedal forward to make the nose go right. It's the opposite of the handlebars on a bike.
As my previous social media posts will have shown, a 139 pilot called Gerwin stood out from everyone else. With three fingers on the cyclic grip, he controlled the aircraft elegantly and did manoeuvres no one else had. He had also gained a massive audience behind him.
The community remarkably accepted the controls, and I have many requests to get them out for sale. So that is my next job following this post! How did the fair?
The cyclic was perfect all weekend. Force trim worked flawlessly, which many removed to make hover easier and only to put it back on to maintain forward flight. I didn't bother to explain the operation of the beep trim (top hat). People had too much on their hands trying to get in the air. Only one person had a suggestion: the 139 pilot, Gerwin. He said the 139 cyclic forces were much higher. It takes 800 grams of force at the cyclic grip to move it away from the set point with trim on (based on a 212 cyclic). So I will add stronger springs for a 139 version.
This unit was always designed as a 139 collective with the help of a pilot and friend called Rupert. He helped to perfect the feel of it. The collective worked flawlessly for 7 hours on day one. The force trim was holding firm and had a lot more force than the cyclic with trim on. Unfortunately, I had to leave Brunei before we completed the cyclic.
But after 7 hours, the PLA printed spur gear on the stepper motor melted. I had forgotten to add a cooling fan, despite knowing this was essential. Fans are already fitted on the cyclic.
Day2 saw us print a new gear before we opened the doors to the public, but this time, it only lasted four 4hours before failing. So three things are on my mind right now:
1) Print the gear in ABS
2) Add a cooling fan (essential)
3) Buy a metal gear
I am happy with the outcome; the controls were abused and tested to the extreme. So many people with tongues out! The cyclic stick looked like they were stirring porridge rather than trying to control a helicopter. I will see how the testing goes in the next week, But happy to release the cyclic right now.
As for the social side of things, it was amazing to see the guys behind some of the biggest names in the sim world. I did a lot of networking, usually after the day's event in the bar, where the pace was much more relaxed. I finally met many of my Youtube followers and FB page fans. Another big hello from me right now, and after speaking to Sebastian from Mobiflight, he suggested we have an hour each day to meet and greet away from the big crowds for a more one-on-one experience.
A final note I have taken away from this experience is that 737DIYSIM is one man and his family. We do not have CAD designers, Electronic experts, builders and admin staff behind me. It's just me and my shed. LOL!
I was truly honoured by all the comments and thanks I received over that weekend. It has made me return with the motivation to create something unique and to continue this adventure.
Kind regards, Karl