#1 – I want to build a home cockpit …where do I begin?

Most customers start off by purchasing the UGTAFS tech manual as it will quickly get you up to speed on everything you need to know about creating your own advanced flight sim cockpit.  Most importantly it starts out by teaching you how to how to build and optimize your computer for flight simulation.  If you are buying a DIY blueprint pack to build a cockpit shell it will come with a Builder Manual, Builder Photos (if available for that model) and a free 33 page Guide to Cockpit Carpentry which you can grab HERE.

To complement all the sim cockpit designs are two other unique items.  To begin, we offer a variety of two dimensional (2D) life size scaled virtual instrument panels for a multitude of aircraft.  These panel sets will allow your sim experience go way beyond the default panel sets found with any basic simulator installation.   Secondly, our 300+ paged UGTAFS technical manual gives you every step and detail of how to make your own favorite aircraft instrument panels as well teaches you how to add, manipulate and modify any aircraft in your hangar. It will also teach you how to slowly grow your sim cockpit at your own pace and it only offers the most cost-effective solutions which yield the most professional results.  A lot of people over-rush this entire process but with using the UGTAFS you’ll learn how to be much more wiser about what you want to build and purchase.  Our goal is to help you make well informed decisions so that you build a flight simulator that is specific to your needs and goals.

#2 – How many computers do I need to run all this stuff?

You can actually run all of the SimSamurai cockpits from just one high spec PC if you wish to use FS 2004.  Unfortunately FSX, while great looking visually, has a lot of issues when it comes to multi-monitor management and being able to deliver high frame rates.  Therefore, if for whatever reason you wish to use FSX, you should plan on building at least two PC’s in order to achieve acceptable frame rates with any multi-monitor system.  Using FSX also limits most people to using Direct X 9 even though it was made for Direct X 10 so in most cases it is not necessary to have a Direct X 10 capable video card.

You can of course use FSX with one high-end PC.  You can have one video card feed a single flight instrument monitor (or possibly two), and have a second video card (which is an ATI Eyefinity card,  or a high-end NVidia Multi-Display card or any other older card which is connected to a Matrox Triple Head to Go unit), and thus this second video card would feed 3 or possibly 4 “exterior view” displays (but is actually run by just one video card).  Therefore with this type of advanced set-up you could use FSX on a single PC with two video cards and possibly have acceptable frame rates.

Regardless, if you desire a much larger multi-monitor system (more than 4 displays) and wish to maintain high frame rates you will always be much better off with FS9.  Please note however that Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D is also a new professional option for schools, universities, professional pilots and commercial level flight simulators but you will have to have the most modern computer hardware and video cards which are Direct X 11 capable as that is what Prepar3D uses exclusively.  Once again, the UGTAFS goes into much greater detail on all these subjects. 

#3 – I want to build a new PC specifically for Flight Simulator…what should I buy?

This is a very broad and general question simply because everyone’s needs and budget are different. If you just want to use FSX or Prepar3D then you should spend more and get a very high end quad core computer with new video cards.  If you are ok with using FS9 then you could spend less or get a lower end quad core computer or could make use of many older used computers which used to be “high end”.  Secondly this once again depends on how many monitors you want to run now or down the road in a year or two.  In general, we typically recommend motherboards with at least 4 PCI-e slots for future proofing your system.  As mentioned before, the first two chapters of the UGTAFS deeply explores FS computer building and hardware optimizations in vast detail.  Its all in there!

#4 – How much will all this cost?

We don’t know!  You really need to look at what equipment you already have  right now and then form your own plan and budget. Typically, people do not set up a home cockpit in just one week or even a month.  It usually takes time and careful planning to get the end results that you want, especially if its going to be something that is on a more professional level than average “home PC pilots” or “desktop jockeys” who only fly with a single monitor two.  

Even once our original XS-1 cockpit shell was built we spent several months selecting and buying equipment for it and also spent spare time building items such as the dual yokes and trim wheel, speed brake lever, and flaps switch.  You can save a lot of money by following in those footsteps and watching the videos on how those things were built as you can often save money building your own controls some of which can’t be bought in stores.

Depending on what cockpit model you want to build you could spend a total as little as $1,500 in building the cockpit shell and buying or building a PC. This would be for the DK-1 or DK-2 for example, or you could spend up to $7,000 or even $9,000 or more if you wanted to build a model like the largest LX-1 Orion and outfit it with touchscreens for the instrument panel.  Regardless, all of the DIY shell kits we offer can actually be built for $150 up to $750 in basic materials (DK-1 ro LX-1) However, if you have us build one for you we obviously have to charge considerably more for our time, labor and production costs. 

The main costs you must consider in putting together a simulator, aside from the cockpit itself, are the computer(s), monitors for the instrument panel, and then monitors or projector(s) for the exterior views and then all the flight control hardware you will need (control yoke, rudder pedals, throttle, trim wheel, USB hubs, etc. Again, the UGTAFS discusses all of these subjects in vast detail in the first few chapters so that you make good decisions without spending needless money. Most importantly it also details how to set everything up properly and details many important hardware configuration details that you are probably not even aware of.

#5 – What cockpit blueprint set or kit should I buy?

The CS-1 Stallion is actually our most popular model.  Second to that are the AX-1, XS-1 and DK-2.  Your choice should first depend on where you want (or can) put your cockpit and how much space you have available. Secondly, you should get together a grand total of how much you are willing to spend on the project.   Many people would love to have a large two seat jet simulator but they take a lot of money to outfit with equipment and they take a lot of time to configure simply because they have more video cards and more displays.  Because of this you will be wise to estimate and stretch out this total expense over a year if not two or even three years. 

Please know that all home built flight simulators are an evolutionary process. We recommend that you build the cockpit shell first and then as more money is available over time add the equipment you desire.  Once you have the cockpit built it will give you a goal to work towards and it will help you to figure out what hardware you want to place in it.  This is why some future planning at the very beginning is so important. 

The second thing to consider when deciding which DIY plan set to purchase is how often would you fly the cockpit with another person or copilot?  If this would actually be very rarely then maybe choosing a simpler single seat model like the DK-1 or DK-2 would be best option as this would allow you to completely outfit the cockpit for much cheaper than the much larger units such as the AX-1 or LX-1.  If however you are a real world training pilot then something like the CS-1 is a great option because you can fly from the right seat once you make that transition as an instructor.

#6 – If I buy a BareBones Kit or RTA Kit how long will it take to get it?

We typically make kits in groups of two or four so depending on the last ordering group we may have one currently available for shipment. Otherwise the turn around time is typically 30 to 60 days from payment. Each large kit sale also has a contract for you to sign which protects both you and us and guarantees delivery.

If for any reason we cannot deliver the kit within 45 days we will notify you and would also refund all of your money by the 60th day. Once the kit was fully complete you could then pay for it again and it would then be immediately shipped.  Please understand that we are a very small business and this is a very small niche market. There is not enough demand to be able to mass produce these so that we could have one ready to ship in just a week. Perfection and quality also takes time!

#7 – Why is your stuff so expensive?

Actually all of our items are affordable given what they are.  If you take a look at other flight simulator manufacturers, some of which are listed on the Hot-Links page, you will quickly find that professional FAA certified flight simulators cost nearly 10 to 100 times what ours cost.   Once we get to the stage of actually building fully FAA certified sims we will still do our best to offer the most reasonable prices on the market for a low level certified trainers but at that point our FAA certified “turn-key” sim cockpit prices will likely be 5 times our current prices for non certified “turn-key” systems.  Regardless, even if we ever get to that stage we will always continue to offer affordable options for the home consumer as that was always our primary market.

As you may know, the two main costs involved with producing any item is materials and labor.  Take the AX-1 for example;  At a base cost of ~$1900 there is over $700 put into materials and fabrication costs and then the remaining $1200 is paid out to labor for the cutting, sanding, pre-drilling, and painting of the cockpit which takes two men a week or one man two weeks. There are also many other details involved and this doesn’t even factor in general business overhead costs such as rent, insurance, equipment, tool depreciation, etc.  The reality is that profit margins on any kit cockpit are actually very small.  

A customer once told us that he had purchased an AX-1 DIY plan set and once received he had then farmed out the entire fabrication to a local carpenter.  He said that once it was finished he had paid out close to $3,000 and in hindsight had wished he had just bought it from us instead.  So, if you are thinking of doing the same, you may want to carefully consider having us build it for you instead.  We are able to charge a little less for our competed RTA kit cockpits simply because we are already set up to manufacture them whereas your local carpenter is not nor are they familiar with the design.

#8 – Are your full “turn key” systems FAA certified?

In short, no, not yet, and this is exactly why our stuff is more affordable right now.  Please re-read #7 above.  For now, we specifically cater to the home market which is filled with flight simulator hobbyists, or real pilots who just want to set up a very realistic procedural trainer for as cheaply as possible.  You do not have to fly an FAA certified sim to get a very realistic and worthy training experience.  You only have to use one to be able to log real certified hours.   Secondly, most all FAA certified flight training devices (FTDs) are specifically made for IFR training which requires very little visual displays.  Our sim cockpits are instead geared for both VFR and IFR flying so that you can still enjoy the great scenery and highly detailed terrain that is now available with Microsoft Flight Simulator, Prepar3D or X-Plane.  Even while flying on an IFR flight plan you actually do spend a considerable amount of time in VFR conditions complete with 3D clouds so it is much more realistic to have a sim platform which offers great visuals.

While FAA certified simulators and flight training devices have a required place in a training center, flight academy or classroom, they are typically not found in people’s homes or home office.  Secondly, in order to even log any real flight time, meaning “real hours” that you can write into your real pilot logbook, you must additionally be instructed by an FAA certified flight instructor while flying the FAA certified flight simulator.  In short, this scenario adds a lot of additional costs in equipment, certification, and supervision that any home user not need bother with.  

However, because our sim cockpit shells are generically designed to house a variety of both certified and non certified equipment, you can certainly install any FAA licensed equipment into them at which point the whole complete system is “FAA Certified”.  What this means is that any cockpit shell will always be secondary to the equipment that is installed into the shell.   To read more information on FAA certification please see The SIM FLIGHT SYSTEMS page.

#9 – Can I use your sim for real world training even if it’s not FAA approved?

Yes, most definitely.  Many people have learned how to fly with Microsoft Flight Simulator on old Pentium 3 PCs with just one CRT monitor long before becoming real world pilots.  With proper use it can allow you to land a real plane in your first few flight lessons rather than say the 10th or 15th lesson.  In short, if you take your home training seriously and don’t just use it for game like joy riding you can actually learn a lot and can become very proficient in real world technique.  As said before, this is commonly called procedural training and many of these types of home training set ups are not FAA certified but they do provide a very worthwhile training experience when used properly.  

If you are not a pilot yet, be it in the sim world or real world, we highly recommend you purchase the SimSamurai UGTAFS and in addition to the UGTAFS, there are other books which will teach you how to actually fly using MSFS or X-Plane.  Lastly, our In-Flight Bible series is designed to give you all the core procedural knowledge every pilot must know.

The best advice we can give you today is to first buy the UGTAFS so that you can initially set up your own simulator properly.  In our opinion, the biggest key step in home sim training is to first learn how to set up an immersive environment that provides life sized instrumentation.  Unfortunately, all of the default instrument panels that come with any flight simulator are very, very generic and simplified.  Most simulator instrument panels these days are the “3D virtual style” which can be annoying for pilots seeking real world licensure.  Many of these are mere “gaming” styled panels that in most cases do not accurately reproduce all of an aircraft’s real details and nuances that are very very important for real world training.  While single monitor styled 3D Virtual Cockpits (such are found in many FSX aircraft) can, in some cases, provide very accurate realism, they are often very hard to use as they squeeze an entire aircraft cockpit into a single monitor.  While this can still “look” very realistic, the fact remains that it is actually NOT realistic at all nor could you ever get any 3D virtual cockpit approved for real training purposes even if you were using a large 40″ monitor so that you could see the gauges much better.

The final step for creating a realistic training environment is to use other high quality books which are different yet complimentary to the UGTAFS.  Books like “Flight Simulator X for Real Word Pilots” will teach you how to properly fly and navigate just like you would do in the real world.  The SimSamurai UGTAFS should be viewed as an essential first step or precursor to other simulation “flight training” books as it teaches you how to fully master your computer and flight simulator software which is an essential step before actual training can successfully begin.  Once those initial hurdles are out of the way it will completely set you free so that you can then advance to actually using your sim for realistic flight training.  Hopefully this makes for common sense as once you properly learn how to master the computer side of simulation it will make it much more easy to use the sim for advanced training.  This is obviously because you won’t be fighting with your PC or sim software each time you fire up your simulator.  This is the actual primary reason why the UGTAFS was originally written! It’s essentially a pilot’s operating handbook for flight simulation computers and software.

#10 – What type of tools do I need to build a SimSamurai cockpit?

Please take a look at the “SAMURAI MANTRA” page and the BUILDER TIPS Videos page.  These two pages will provide you with the basic details of how our cockpits are made and will get you up to speed on what tools you would need to use if you want to build your own SimSamurai DIY cockpit.  In addition to the step by step DIY Builder that comes with every plan set purchase, you can also download our free 33 page Guide to Cockpit Carpentry HERE as this gets you up to speed on what tools you need and teaches you how to use them like a professional carpenter.

Every SimSamurai cockpit shell design can be built using basic home carpentry tools such as a skill saw, cutting guides, a drill, screws, bolts, and of course paint.  The included quick start carpentry guide which comes with each cockpit blueprint set teaches you a wide variety of professional carpentry techniques on the upfront before you begin.  Extra care has been taken to provide detailed builder manuals that are both precise, easy to understand, and they teach you proper building techniques for every step so as to achieve a very high quality finished product. In the process you will actually become a good carpenter as well as a pilot!

#11 – What type of building materials are used in a SimSamurai cockpit?

We primarily use and specify dimensional lumber and high grade plywood for all cockpit designs simply because wood is a renewable resource which is very strong and easy to work with.  Using materials such as sheet or tube plastic as a main structure for a cockpit can be very expensive and petroleum based products will never decompose.  Therefore, in ongoing efforts of being a “green friendly”  business we do not like to use non renewable resources if we do not have to.  In short, oil and all plastics made from oil are not great for the environment.  Unfortunately, in some instances they are of course necessary for project completion.  So while building with plastics is an option in some cases, it is not one we commonly use unless we have to, especially for kits cockpits aimed at the home DIY market.  In other cases, such as the dual yokes, rudder pedals, or instrument panel overlay, aluminum and steel are used which are both recyclable metal resources.  At some point SimSamurai may offer kit cockpits to the commercial world in various sheet plastics, (in the form of recycled materials) as we are constantly performing new research and development. 

#12 – Are you going to release more plan sets and products in the future?

Yes, we hope that SimSamurai will continue to grow in the years to come and a lot of this depends on people like yourself to help spread the word. We cannot grow unless we always have new customers and we don’t get new customers unless people are talking about us!  

We want to release more plan sets and there are always a few in the works but unfortunately with a small grass roots business like this it takes a lot of time and effort to release new plans. Not only do we design and build everything in house, we must also spend time each week answering emails, processing orders, and doing things like updating or refining the website.  All of it takes time.

It would be great to have a clean schedule to dedicate to research and development alone but with such a small business we have to divide and conquer accordingly which often means that some things  must take center stage over others.  That’s life!

#13 – Can I get a DIY blueprint set in a PDF format?

For the time being, NO.  This is for two reasons;  If you plan to build a cockpit then having full size drawings available is obviously the best to work with and so all DIY blueprint sets are printed on 18″ x 24″ drafting paper which are then mailed to you.  You can get these laminated if you’d like once you receive them. Copying the plans however is expressly not permitted. Your license purchase only allows you to build a single cockpit and the plans are not to be reused, sold, or given to anyone else.  The license you are assigned is yours and yours alone for life!

Secondly, we do not sell any of the DIY blueprint sets as PDF’s simply because of security concerns.  Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in this world who like to give away other people’s hard work for free which in turn can quickly put small people like us out of business.  We have witnessed this first hand with a few add-on aircraft developers who spent years making great aircraft only to have someone hack their products and post them for free on the internet.  In short…that is stealing and it is very, very wrong of people to do.  Things like this greatly effects peoples lives as well as their families.  Most add-on developers of the Microsoft flight simulator community are usually only a team of 1 to 5 people like we are and because we each make so little we desperately need every penny we make.  This is especially so for all small business owners like us who greatly depend on every single sale. 

While we would love to be able to offer plan sets as PDF’s (as it would also save us on production costs) the fact remains that we don’t want to make it easy to loose our business.  If we did, this website would have no need to be here. While we don’t want to assume that every customer is a cheat or a thief, the cold reality is that as the saying goes…”it only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch” and so we have to do our best to protect ourselves from the bad apples in whatever way we can.

#14 – Where are my items? I paid yesterday and its now 24 hours later!

If you want to be a SimSamurai your first lesson to learn is patience! As an old instructor one said ..”there are no emergencies for procedures…only procedures for emergencies”.

Please read all the shipment and delivery details on the Purchasing / Order page.  We typically email out all email-able items within 24 hours of payment receipt but depending on how busy we are or how well you followed directions it may take a day longer.  Other things like the GT-1000 are typically sent out each Monday. Rest assured you are in good hands and you will definitely get what you paid for and then some!  So if you’ve paid, please wait 48 hours before sending any follow up emails.  And if you didn’t already send us your mailing address or if you think your one in Paypal could be old.. TELL US NOW!  In most cases you will definitely receive your items within a day. If you don’t understand why we are a little slow sometimes… please see #12.  Thank you for your patience!

For more details and answers not found here please check out all the product pages, the SAMURAI MANTRA page and the SIM FLIGHT SYSTEMS page.