Why the panel comes first
You may leave every other part out – but without a panel we can not talk about a physical simulator. It was the first thing I have built and is the element you have your eyes upon most of the time when flying. It is important for you to stop believing you are sitting in front of a computer and instead start thinking you interact with an actual aircraft. And it is a joy to build.
My first approach – generation 1 – was built rather fast out of wood and was really hand made. Actually the result was very appealing and watching the old videos on youtube makes me proud how easy a dual seater sim could reach such an immersion. But starting this journey it is difficult to stop trying to get something that looks better. And the from the next generation on I did rely on CAD design to plan the build and have it later cut and engraved automatically by a laser cutter. This route was a long one but I got fascinated how professional results suddenly were. For designing I do use Corel Draw as it is mostly directly used by laser cutters that basically use a print job for their rastering or cutting assignments.
My first panel was a Beechcraft Baron B58. I had access to great software gauges that could be run on a separate PC easily from the discontinued project „The Gauges Factory“. After acquiring the Piper shell I did rethink this approach and had something bigger like a turboprop in mind since I always liked the King Airs and especially the Collins Pro Line set-up was appealing to me. Here I still tried to go with 2 large cheap LCD panels (both 18.5 inch) and had hardly space left where to fix them and the rest of the panel. All in all a too large model to fit into my limited space.
Actually I did try almost 10 designs of aircrafts – ranging from single props to turbo props and also small jets like the Citation. But the space in a Piper Arrow is that much limited that it is really hard to fit it with avionics and instruments that are used in larger types and thus need simply a lot of space.
The G1000 glass cockpit
To be on the safe side that keeps the simulator future proof together with the perfect dimensionsing for my limited panel widths I decided to go for the Garmin G1000 as you can realistically use it from a Cessna 172, up to a twin like the Baron and finally also for a small jet like a Citation. Glass cockpits are the standard and it reduces the need of having a full set of gauges plus the radio stack including a smaller and more limited GPS. Read more about this in the Avionics section when clicking on „Essentials“.