How many times have you gotten to the checkout at the flight simulator store only to remember you don’t actually have $US12 ($18) million in your pocket? Lacking a military-sized budget, André Pointner built his own three-axis flight simulator at home that can spin and rotate in 360 degrees, plus a few other clever tricks.
Before you ask why Pointner chose such a small monitor for his simulator (or why he’s not actually running his flight simulator software in full screen) look closer at his helmet. That’s not Air Force standard issue equipment, it’s instead a basic helmet like a skateboarder would wear that’s paired with an HTC Vive strapped to Pointner’s face. Outside of multiple projectors and a domed screen completely surrounding this rig, virtual reality provides a similarly immersive experience while requiring less space and less of a hit on the budget.
The simulator’s ability to completely flip Pointner upside down helps the experience of performing barrel rolls or vertical loops feel almost exactly like it would in a real aircraft, but what’s missing are the G-forces the human body is subjected to when performing manoeuvres at the speed of sound, and faster. To recreate those feelings, Pointner designed and built a system that uses cable tensioners to automatically tighten the simulator’s five-point seatbelt harness when excessive G-forces would be affecting a pilot. It’s not as intense as what an actual fighter pilot would experience, but it’s enough to make the simulator pilot understand the limitations of what is and isn’t possible in a dogfight.
Pointner has shared some behind the scenes details of his build in a series of posts on the X-Sim forums (a piece of software that powers simulators and syncs movements to flight sim games) and while they’re not in-depth enough for someone to use as a guideline for building their own simulator, he has shared some terrifying tips if you’re planning to start a project like this:
Don’t use more then max. 3kW actuator. Or at least make very sure that the motor don’t get more power then 3000W peak. Why? 2000W brake your bones, but you will survive likely. But at 5000W everthing is just ripped apart instantly.
Good advice for any aspiring pilots who don’t want their limbs torn off during a simulated skirmish.