Drzewiecki Design Home Cockpit






Drzewiecki Design Home Cockpit System

Construction start: October 2005

Construction finish: January 2009


The beginning

Putting in a seat

Rudder pedals

3rd monitor

Main panel

Glass cockpit


End of construction (part 1)


Radio Stack

New PC, network config

Main Panel

Visual System

GoFlight modules

Glareshield and windshield

End of construction



Please note that many links below are broken.


I began the construction by ordering two 16mm chipboards. The walls were to be 160cm high, what gave a big surface to arrange.  On the right wall I mounted one of the keyboards (RIGHT_KEY) and one of the six USB HUB's. I needed to design and build an appropriate ventilation system because not only the cabin's small size but also the heat of the computer were causing problems with air circulations an making breathing inside the cabin very difficult. On the left wall a ventilator for 220V is visible that supplies the air inside the cabin.

The next stage entailed construction of the main panel. I was wondering  how it should be done so that it could be easily removed together with the yoke whenever I needed to use the computer for writing or other things. There were few ideas.  The first one and the simplest was to place hinges on the left side of the panel, which would allow the entire unit to be raised and fixed to the wall when the joke was unbolted from the desk. However this solution was not successful because of the tremendous technical difficulties which it would create (such as endurance).

I came up with a different idea. The whole main panel was to be installed on guides and moved up together with the joke. With adequate strengthening and a great accuracy in work, this idea seemed to be possible. However it was abandoned because of the great weight of the panel, which besides the joke was to include another monitor (displaying various gauges) and 4 GoFlight modules including the MCP Pro. The whole set was difficult to lift and the idea of placing a motor on the cockpit roof was rather unrealistic.

At this stage I realized that it was necessary to postpone the construction of the main panel, and to take care of remaining elements.

Undoubtedly, one of the most important elements was the throttle. It was built, using typical home methods. I removed a potentiometer from my old joystick (which miraculously was still in my garage) and I build the device on its basis. I used a stick from a rolling-pin, which after some bending fitted perfectly. I set the chip so that when throttle stick was back the reverse thrust during landing was automatically on. I placed a bulb in a way that it illuminated the stick from the inside. Four light switches were installed on the front wall.

In order to monitor what is going on in various parts of the cockpit I've built a diagnostic panel, consisting of three voltage meters (one made in 1946!). One of them measures the current outlet voltage (230V), another the illumination circuit (7V), and the third one the voltage on the computer circuit behind the power unit (7V). The panel is equipped with a clock and a data computer containing basic information about various airports - like frequencies, runways length, altitude etc.. It is highlighted and has a touch screen (like in palmtop), which is helpful during night flights.

After finishing, all element were painted and installed on the right wall of the cockpit. On the throttle wall there is a board painted in a different color, which in case of breakdown is easily removable. This allows fast access to the internal parts. Similar access point is installed on the diagnostic panel - it reads "High Voltage". The board was cut in such a way so that one could have access to all the cables and wires under the desk.

The carpet under the cockpit was shamelessly cut out and replaced with gray plastic foil. I bought an old Volkswagen seat through an internet auction, which after renovation was tested (turned out extremely comfortable) and then placed on a gray-painted platform. The platform was needed for two reasons: first, the seat was extremely low. Second, it had metal guides, which were to be attached to a flat surface. The whole unit was assembled in a garage and then not so easily transported and installed in the cockpit.

The construction of the platform resulted in the next consequences. There were no options to normally place the pedals.  There was a need for a strong frame containing two columns that was to be placed in the cobweb of wires and cables. I placed the pedals under a certain angle, so the structure was even more realistic and comfortable to use. Of course, they were also painted gray.

In the mid of 2006 I bought NaturalPoint TrackIR 4 PRO. This device has completely changed the visual flights. I described how it works and my opinion about the product in one of the topic of the Drzewiecki Design forum. For a proper functioning of TrackIR small metal reflecting plates were necessary. I installed them on a headphone set, using a 2mm cardboard. Up and down head movement would often produce errors due to the interference of hair. The problem was solved when with application of the coupler visible in the picture.

In the meantime I drastically modernized my computer equipment, preparing myself to the arrival of a new simulator - FSX. I bought a new Intel Pentium D 930 3GHZ (x2) processor and two synchronized graphic cards, GF XFX6800, 256MB each.

After a short break related to the lack of time I resumed my work on the project, thinking that it was about time to build the main panel. During my trip to China I made a purchase of 15" monitor, which I built into the right part of the panel. It was also necessary to build an additional small shelf for the mouse since the main shelf was already used for the screen. The monitor was set in a frame (slightly wider than its thickness) and fixed permanently with some supports to the right wall and the desk. Two main monitors were connected to a single graphic card and the third monitor to a separate one.

Now I had to think how to transform the cockpit into a comfortable office desk. I came up with an idea that only the mid section of the panel could be movable, while the yoke could be withdrawn inside with a regular keyboard replacing it. The mid section was put equipped with guides and painted. Next, I built a hood connecting the two walls. On the right side I made a hole for a planned GoFlight panel and NumPad, enabling communication with ATC. The mid section was lit, providing light for the keyboard when the yoke was hidden.

Later, I bought a used joystick and removed all the potentiometers out of it, which I used for building a new module for controlling spoilers (airbrakes), fuel mixture, and the propeller. The module has two buttons, one of which controls the TO/GA engine thrust, and another the parking brakes. The buttons were made of keys removed from a slightly damaged keyboard and were connected to an integrated circuit. A little bulb was inserted inside the module. The handles were taken from a CH yoke. The module was placed in front of a monitor by the throttle on the mouse shelf.

The next stage involved building a roof. In the roof I made three openings: a larger extension of the door opening (for easier entrance and exit), for cables and wires, and for a network card antenna. The 16mm chipboard was attached with seven screws to the walls. This produced some unique acoustic environment -the wood started to resonate and the whole cockpit would vibrate at low sound. Despite the winter, the temperature inside the cockpit significantly increased. In the cabin, an unusual acoustics was felt - the wood begun to resonate and whole cabin vibrated at low tones.

After several-week break and a failed attempt to switch to a new MSFS FSX as well as after formatting hard disk, I faced a number of days, during which I would have to install various programs and then configure them. Due to huge hardware requirements of the FSX, I concluded that buying new equipment as compared to what could be achieved by some additional software on the old simulator wasn't an investment worth of making. I decided to buy a few accessories, which drastically improved the quality of the graphics on my FS2004 - Active Sky 6, Ground Environment Pro, FS Global 2008, Ultimate Terrain USA and Ultimate Terrain Europe including Eastern Europe. Flying has become extremely realistic visually since then.


In the beginning of March 2007 I decided to finally program and finish the displays in the glass cockpit. Just now I could make use of the third monitor, which displayed PFD (FreeFD), Navigation Display with TCAS (vasFMC), weather radar (Active Sky), as well as additional speedometer and altimeter (FreeFD). The frames of the displays were made from cardboard and then painted black. The software was configured so that when computer was turned on, the whole set of displays was loaded automatically.







The next stage of the realization of the project was the enclosing of front monitors, which meant that they had to be wrapped in black cardboard, closing the gap between the monitors and the panel. Many element needed to be heavily framed because of their equalizing or supporting function.. A new ventilation duct for the pilot was added. All cables and wires were bundled in preparation for a new overhead panel. In addition, the entire cockpit was vacuumed and sterilized.

At the end of April 2007 there came the time (which I so much kept putting off) for building an overhead panel. I began with making a special platform to be located at the same level as the top borderline of the main monitor that would be a framework for other elements of the panel as well as the base for a vent of one of the ventilation ducts. I concluded that it would be technically impossible to make it in one piece, so I decided to divide the panel into four parts (plus one in the end). The first part (with two GoFlight panels) is shown on the photos.




The third and fourth segments were comparatively easy to make. The third one contained an illuminated keyboard, and the fourth one a 230V light bulb with a switch. The housing of the light was covered with aluminum foil for better luminosity (a few year ago I found out that aluminum foil is a good conductor of electricity - now I'm rather careful).

The second segment was the most difficult to make - currently equipped with a main power switch for the whole cockpit, a switch for all systems of the overhead panel (I couldn't use ventilation for some time due to its lack), 3 ventilation switches, 5 cockpit light switches, 2 starters, and a GoFlight panel. Under the roof an additional keyboard needed to be installed for controlling the starters. When the segment was ready, it was first tested and then turned around stuck to the ceiling of the cabin.

The remaining elements were also connected and after a several-week-long assembling of all the needed elements the panel could be treated as finished. Three ventilation systems were finally working (5 fans, which tremendously normalized the temperature inside the cabin. I could finally remove the awful halogen lamp, which was used for illuminating the inside - it was replaced with the top light from the overhead panel as well as a special 12V electric installation, illuminating all strategic elements of the cockpit.

Due to the tight enclosure of the monitors, I moved TrackIR 4 PRO to the first segment of the overhead (between the GoFlight panels), which significantly improved the accuracy of the device. The next stage included various tests and an initial tuning of the systems. I may add that all the switches were easily available, e.g. at Internet auctions, so was the lit keyboard (half price). The overhead was the last of the most complex elements of the cockpit.

In the mid of 2007, after a little longer break than originally expected, we finally managed to fully configure the cockpit equipment. The MCP panel had never worked properly since the time we ordered it from GoFlight. Two successive panels were sent back to the manufacturer. Only the third one, which I received 6 months after the original order, met all the requirements. Its proper installation however caused some changes to be implemented in half of the remaining equipment, which in consequence resulted in a partial disassembling of the right wall of the cockpit. After successful installation of all the elements, the cockpit became fully functional for the first time.

Since I started more online flights over the Vatsim network and these flights require a constant presence of maps, I designed a special shelf for maps, which I attached to the left wall of the cockpit. There is an open space over the shelf and the shelf itself can be used as an arm support, which improves comfort for the pilot manually handling the control wheel. The framework was made of 2-3mm cardboard.

A few months lapsed and in the mid December 2007 I could finally say that the front part of the cockpit, which starts form the entrance door, was completed. I have modified and painted the ceiling by the Overhead panel. The floor has been changed and the right wall by the throttle is finished and sealed. In addition, I have fixed the seat platform down to the floor, because it used to have a tendency to move around all over the place. It is also the time for testing the new versions of alpha VasFMC 2.0 and preparation for the World Flight 2008.

The next stage involved painting the whole interior of the cockpit as well as covering the frame so that no elements, such as supports and wiring, are no longer visible. I also took care about the wires near the pedals.

The last element of the design was a fragment of the roof near the cockpit door. The part was connected to a printer so that all printouts could go directly into the cockpit. This allows all printed materials to be received in the cockpit without opening the main door. The paper is delivered through a small slot in the Overhead panel. The roof was carefully fitted to the door and sealed. During the daytime the interior of the cockpit is pitch black
after the door is closed.



After over two years the cockpit was finally completed. On 31 December, 2007 a modest Grand Opening was held during which all the basic elements of the cockpit were demonstrated. Some of the invited pilots could test their skills. I would like to thank Andrzej Olejniczak and Edyta & Jacek Miazek without whom the completion of this project would have been impossible.


After a long time flying on the finished Version 1 of the cockpit I decided to start upgrading the whole setup. The construction process started on October 2008 and lasted four months. I upgraded a lot of things in my cockpit including visual system, main panel, network configuration and much more. See the details below.



After a really hot summer and really big problems with overheating the cabin I decided to invest into an effective air condition system. This was a great decision. I bought it in the Internet and it was quite cheap however its working parameters were good enough. Anyway, it changed the climate in my room completely. Usually there was two degrees more in the cockpit than in the rest of my room. Right now I have a stable temperature all the time: 21C and a temperature in the cockpit does not exceed 23C. This is good not only for a pilot but also for a computer. Later I will upgrade also the interior ventilation system as it got quite dirty and fans are turning slower than they should. All in all I would recommend an air condition system for every cockpit builder!


For the whole last year I was thinking about a real FMC in my cabin. Of course getting it was not a problem however configuring everything to work with the rest of the cockpit was something I haven't been dreaming about. A hardware FMC is also very expensive and requires a special software (like Project Magenta). I am still using VasFMC as my glass cockpit displays and flight management computer (I am not planning to change that) so this seemed to be quite difficult. After couple of months someone told me a great idea. Using a touch screen designed as a car entertainment system would do the job. Yes, it really did! The screen works as a standard monitor, it is just small and that's why I can still get out of the cabin. I located it next to the throttle as it is usually there in the real world. Finger press work the same as a mouse click so instead of clicking buttons on a screen I can do the same by pressing them with my fingers on the touch screen. Besides that I finally got a pilot's shirt (captain version) so now I can be dressed properly when flying as you can see below!



Although it was not easy to do, I have finally deconstructed the main panel of the cockpit. It was fixed better than I thought so I had to cut and actually destroy more than was expected. Anyway, the center module and the one with a display were mounted together outside the cockpit and obviously they required some extra work to look normally. This is how tonight's hardcore looked like:



When the total demolish was completed I decided to put the whole main panel together and sell it as a standalone hardware. I have added some extra things like a light (right upper corner) and some switches. Finally everything was painted black and grey. The panel included a monitor as well as all required software.



After couple days I have fixed the ventilation system - two new fans did the job. As I was writing in the Version 1 description, a ventilation system is a very important thing for every cockpit builder. You really need to think about it during a construction. Remember that PCs as well as LCD monitors produce a lot of heat that can kill a processor, graphic card or other PC components during long flights. Even some problems with breathing may occur. Of course I am talking about a closed cabin where there is no fresh air from outside. The fan on the picture is actually used to bring out a warm air from the cockpit. There is one more fan for the same task and four bringing in a cold fresh air. Good air circulation makes even the longest flights comfortable.


Few days lapsed and my radio stack panel has been completed. I made it traditionally with a 3mm cardboard and painted it black. Two GF-46, GF-T8 and GF-166 were mounted (still waiting for another GF-166). The panel has been fixed in its position and wired to a new 7-port USB hub (I bought three of them to upgrade these connections as well). The radio stack panel includes two switches that will be used to turn on a MCP light and a backlight. There is also a place for my notepad. I use it often to copy clearances and position reports during oceanic flights. Before there was no place to put it in.



This picture was made when I finally cleaned the whole cabin and checked all wire connections. I realized that there were many unused cables that were left since the very beginning of construction process. My project changed couple times and I guess sometimes there was no point of taking those cables out of the cabin. Anyway, I used some of them now and the rest was trashed or just put somewhere outside the cabin. As you can see, I said goodbye to my old monitors as well. One of them was put on a roof of the cockpit to control the second PC (actually the PC on which Flight Simulator has been running before), the second one was connected to my laptop and now I use it for some graphics designing.


As I mentioned above, I decided to downgrade my Flight Simulator PC to a Client PC role. Although it worked really good with a plain FS2004 it's technical specs were not enough for online flying with the whole cockpit connected. I have put my old PC behind new monitors and bought a new PC that was placed inside the cabin. Here is its basic specification:


Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo E8600, 3.33GHz, 1333FSB, 6MB Cache

Graphic card: ASUS EAH4870 DK Radeon HD4870 1GB DDR5 (256bit)

Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-EP45T-DS3R

RAM: Corsair XMS3 DHX 2x2GB 1600MHZ DDR3

Power unit: 650W


I have tested this setup in the most heavy conditions and it seemed to keep a 25 FPS limit all the time, with all my add-ons installed plus full Ultimate Traffic in Chicago KORD. Of course a problem with cooling occur but it only concerned the graphic card. It is not solved yet (standard 59C, max 68C) but I guess I will just make a hole in a wall where this PC is standing and put another fan there. As soon as I do this I may think about some overclocking work. Why not?


I probably spent the most time configuring the network. I have never done this before as my setup was always running on one PC. Now I know that advantages of putting all stand-alone applications on Client PC are really huge and very comfortable in the same time. My whole cockpit setup starts on "one click" (actually two clicks, I need to start two computers). Power switch for the Client PC is placed on the main panel so I don't need to go out of the cabin. After Windows is loaded, batch files on both computers are automatically started from Autostart folder. These files open all required applications in a specific order with programmed delays if needed. From FS computer only FS, Fuel Planner, ScreenShooter and obviously FSUIPC are launched. Client PC starts WideFS, VasFMC, FreeFD, Active Sky, GFKey, GFdisplay, pmSounds and FSInn. All applications start working automatically, I don't need to do anything more except for opening ATC, chat and WX windows in FSInn and clicking on VATSIM to connect to the network. Even Flight Simulator loads a default flight itself (I need to load a default flight first to have front views properly aligned). Afterward I just need to fill in a flightplan and I am ready to fly. This makes actually three steps to complete to be prepared for an online flight and just one step for an offline flight - both PCs starters on. Easy, yep?


Here is a short story about the main panel I constructed. Its very simple, made from 3mm cardboard. I think the photos below are clear enough - there are 2 layers, base and top for frames. Two 16" panoramic LCDs are used. I have put a glass in front of the monitors like it is in the real world. At least I think so - "glass cockpit displays" should have some glass elements, right?. I like the final effect a lot - displays seem to show more contrast and sharper shapes. Its just a test on the pictures below so don't worry about this green background. As the main displays VasFMC is used and FreeFD as the standby panel. This is actually very useful too - if one software crash there are still another instruments to read. I have put all important information from FSInn on the very right screen - it is not visible when you sit normally on a seat but clearly visible if you get closer to the main panel. This is how I wanted it to be.



A lot of my cockpit guests suggested me to enlarge my front view. I was kind of skeptic at the beginning as I actually didn't need any larger front view - I used it only for ground operations and visual approaches. Finally I decided to buy a new 26" Iyama monitor (1900x1200 resolution) and connect it with a standard 20" (?) monitor put vertically. I didn't expect anything wonderful but now I can feel a huge difference - it is more like sitting inside a moving object. Especially during turns, take-offs, landings and taxiing this feeling is very big. Large monitor helps a lot during visual approaches too. Anyway, as you can compare yourself, my current view is more then two times bigger then it was before.


Here is a picture I made after connecting and configuring all GoFlight modules I have. As you can see there is no glareshield yet however all avionics work fine. Five panels are conected to the Client PC, rest to the FS PC. Besides GFconfig I have used GFKey, GFdisplay and obviously FSUIPC and WideFS. It took me a long time to understand the rule but now I am happy because everything works as I expected and I can already make some in-flight tests. I need to say that using EFIS to control glass cockpit display is kind of swank! Especially when you imagine, how long way the electronic signal need to cross and how many times this signal is being converted to another format by various software. :) Right now I am using:





GF-166 x2 (COM 1, COM2, NAV1, NAV2)


GF-T8 x3 (lights, audio, fuel, power, de-ice)


Building my glareshield was a bit weird as it required a lot of measuring, calculating, trying and trashing bad parts. Let photos below tell the story of how it was built. I can just add that I used only 3mm cardboard for the main construction. Behind my yoke there is a keyboard and a trackball that controls the Client PC (it helps me especially while communicating on text during online flying).



I have decided to order two 5mm glass windows for my windshield because I expected some better visual effects. I have made an exact shape from a cardboard which was later used as a pattern to cut a glass precisely. Of course it wasn't perfectly aligned but I was able to fix it the way I have planned. The left photo shows the exact way of fixing my glass windows to the glareshield and the overhead (both pieces of glass were just "blocked", no glue was used). The right photo shows... well... guess whom!



After some "cosmetic" work the second version of my cabin was finally finished on 17th January 2009. This makes three and a half years from the very beginning of my cockpit construction. To look at the "finished product" pictures and movies please go to Gallery / Video section. To find some more technical specs of my cabin check the Information section. You may also visit my virtual airline's website.



This cockpit stayed intact till 2011.