The Waiting is the Hardest Part…
After finalizing the overall design and ordering all the equipment in February, the last three months have mostly been a waiting game.
I purchased the cockpit parts and seats from companies in Europe. Based on their size and weight, I decided to have the crates shipped by ocean freight. This typically takes six to eight weeks but is quite cheaper.
The seats, which I ordered from Opencokpits, were able to ship within a few days. The rest of the cockpit elements are supplied by Vier Im Pott and required several weeks for manufacturing. The picture shows the two crates ready to ship at the beginning of May.
I purchased the TVs for the visual system in early February, taking advantage of a good price on the prior year’s model and some promotions around the Super Bowl. I decided to go with three 75″ Samsung Q70R. This model offers 4K resolution and very reasonable “gaming” performance (read low lag and a 120 Hz refresh rate). The TVs were supposed to be delivered pretty quickly but got delayed due to the monster freeze we had in Texas around that time. Ultimately, this wasn’t more than a week delay so they have spent the last few months sitting in their boxes in the room next to the cockpit…
That gave me plenty of time to design custom supports for the TVs so I can adjust the overall height, move them next to each other as closely as possible, and securely attach them to the floor once I’m happy with the overall configuration. Based on my excellent experience in the past with the extruded aluminum profiles available from 80/20, I decided to construct some basic structure with “legs” on each side and two cross beams allowing me to attach a standard TV wall mount.
I suspect I over-engineered the whole thing, but at least I know those TVs are not coming down crashing on the ground! I have assembled all three supports and have tested one with the TV. Everything looks good, but right now I don’t have enough space in the cockpit room to test the complete setup.
Another piece of the puzzle arrived a couple weeks ago. I had debated for a while what to use for the cockpit seats. Initially, I was looking at using truck seats as I am confident they would be comfortable and they offer all sorts of convenient position adjustments. Also, they’re certainly much cheaper than the various options I found for A320 seat replicas.
Still, as I learned more about the actual A320 seats, I discovered that they are very narrow and designed to fit perfectly between the sidestick and the central pedestal, making access quite difficult as there is no room to spare. On some aircrafts this is solved by using “J-rails”, allowing the seat to mechanically move back and then away towards the outside of the plane (left for the captain and right for the copilot), opening just enough space for the pilot to slide in.
However, on the A320, the seats are completely electric and mounted on a fixed base. The electrical motors are responsible for the movement backward and then away from the central pedestal, in addition to the adjustment in height. Another key aspect is directly imposed by the use of sidesticks. You need to be able to comfortably rest your arm and use only your wrist to provide control inputs. This is why the armrest on the sidestick side is particularly wide and equipped with two rollers controlling adjustment of the armrest in both height and pitch. Finally, you will notice that the other armrest not only lifts up but can also be fully retracted behind the seat in order to facilitate entry by the pilot.
At the end, all these details convinced me to invest in actual replicas of the A320 seats with electrical motors. A cheaper mechanical version mounted on rails was available, but at that point I had already broken the bank, so… Anyway, now that I have received the seats, I know I made the right decision.