By Al Nel

I was delighted when Joe Avanzato sent me this pic of his home built cockpit. Joe has been a virtual pilot with Platinum Airways since day one. I asked Joe to write some notes on how this came about. Joe followed up the same day, and here is his story:

It took me a few years and a few attempts to get this far. Always searching for a way to enjoy my hobby to a further degree. But, I purchased the Saitek components one at a time (birthdays and Christmas). After several tries for a cockpit panel, that was home built. It was just not the look and feel I was looking for.

I was attending the SUN ‘n FUN 2013 in Lakeland, Florida and I ran into the Saitek factory people at the show booth. I have been bugging them about their version of a mounting platform for their components, which they said was due for release in fall/winter of 2013. They sent me over to another building and they had an vendor that was selling what I was looking for. There was the missing piece that I was looking for for my virtual cockpit.

It was designed to fit all the Saitek components, using existing mounting holes and thumb screws. Since I have had this layout in my mind for quite a few years. It took me just a few hours to mount all the panels to the dashboard. The task was doing all the wiring (USB) layout and getting two additional USB hubs to drive the components. It is quite a USB hog for power. After using wire marker tags to identify each cable to the USB hub. The next thing was calibrating the components to FSX. Then off to the options page for each switch or lever, I wanted to assign a task. Not as hard as you would think. Used, You Tube from other virtual cockpit builders for set up on the components as well as Saitek tip video’s.

I have at this point not mastered the Cessna rudder pedals to FSX. I have this on a mobile flat table stand. But, will have to rearrange my man cave for a permanent place and then continue the build from there. I have two monitors and need to locate a higher stand for there placement behind the panel. I will be looking for a few more panel instruments in the future. But, I think I spent my budget for now. Always the case I am sure for any hobby. I think I have around $1500.00 in this so far. Just for the components, dash and rudders. Not including the PC, software and monitors. That is another story for this hobby and the costs.

I am very happy with it so far and it seems to be a close to a real plane in it’s systems and functions. But you know, it is still fun with the lone joystick for those quick flights, while you are suppose to be working.”

Thanks Joe for filling us in on your very interesting project. Enjoy your cockpit.