SIM PIT SPECIFICATIONS

I recently upgraded the computer in the SimPit (June 2008).
I left the specifications on the "old" PC below this table,
for those interested in knowing what a somewhat smaller PC can do as well.

 EQUIPMENT  SPECIFICATIONS  LINKS  (places to buy)
     
 COMPUTER:    
 Model  Dell XPS 630  (ATX motherboard)
 dell.com         

      xps1
          xps2
 
 Power supply  750 W
 Always check your available power supply in your computer,
 before adding new cards etc.
 Some graphics cards for example are very power hungry, and
 may cause crashes if your PC's supply is insufficient.
 Processor  Intel Core 2 Duo E8500,  3.13 GHz / 6MB Cache / 1333 FSB
 Memory  4 GB dual DDR2 800MHz
 Hard Drive  500 GB ATA 3Gb/s (7200rpm)
 (can't imagine ever running out of room on this one)
 Primary graphics card  512 MB nVidia Geforce 8800GT (2dvi)
 (for 3 upper monitors)
 Secondary graphics card  512 MB nVidia Geforce 8800GT (2dvi)
 (for 2 lower monitors)
 Optical Drive  16X Cd/DVD R/W
 Really not important, all you ever have to do is install software,
 and leave your FS-disk in it.
 USB   2 front / 4 back
  Remember to connect your main controls (mouse and keyboard)
 directly to the PC here, not via a hub, or you'd loose them during
 a power failure.
 Sound Card  Integrated 7.1 Intel High Def. Audio
 So far I've found no reason to spend money on a sound card,
 this works just fine. You're not listening to music here, just the
 rumble from the plane and radio conversation.
 Everything comes through loud and clear.
 Operating System  Windows XP Pro
 Comments  This PC is for simulation only, it is NOT connected to the internet.
 It has been stripped of all unnecessary software, running only
 Windows and whatever programs needed for flight simulation.
 I've had several Dell's over the years, for work and flight sim, as well
 as train sim, and they have always worked well for me.
 We still have FS2004 on it, but never use it. Since starting on FSX,
 that is the only way to fly, the graphics are just stunning. On regular
 settings we get good fps. Flying FSX is much more like real flying,
 even in the way the plane handles.

     
 MONITORS:    
 Left view monitor  19" Widescreen flatpanel, DELL 1908WFP digital (1440x900)  dell.com
 
                 mon
 Center view monitor  19" Widescreen flatpanel, DELL 1908WFP digital (1440x900)
 Right view monitor  19" Widescreen flatpanel, DELL 1908WFP digital (1440x900)
  These 3 view-monitors are connected via Matrox TripleHead2Go
 for a wide outside view - seen by the PC as one huge screen with a  total resolution of 3840 x 800 (3 x 1280x800).
 This one is digital, but analog works just as well.
 Instrument panel monitor  19" Widescreen flatpanel, DELL 1908WFP digital (1440x900)
 
These particular monitors from Dell are hight ajustable, which make
 them easier to work with in the SimPit, when they're on the stand.
 But as with most monitors, you can also take the stand off and use
 a wall mount directly onto the simpit build.
 PGS monitor  14" Widescreen flatpanel, Hyvision MV142 (1280x768)
 
This monitor is not available anymore. It is actually hard to find the
 small monitors (15" or less) anymore, making it hard to squeeze
 more monitors into a SimPit. But some people use smaller TVs,
 which also works depending on your VGAcard output.
 tigerdirect.com
 Comments  I've had a couple of 17" monitors of the same type from Dell for a
 few years now, and they have worked well, still do. These sim
 monitors are all brand new, but they all work well and look great.
 The lower monitors for panel/GPS could be other sizes, but unless
 they are flat panel, you'd be hard pressed to make room for them.
 The upper 3 monitors could be different sizes as well, but the
 19" wide offer a great view at a reasonable prize. It's important
 though, that these 3 monitors be identical.
 
     
 OTHER PC EQUIPMENT:    
 Keyboard  Deck backlit 82key
 This keyboard is great. It saves a lot of space not having the
 numeric keys (that you don't need). I love the backlit feature, it's
 easy to see and find whatever key you might need during flight.
 I chose it in red (that's the color you'd see in an airplane), but
 they have other colors available. It's not cheap though.
 deckkeyboards.com

                    keyb
 Mouse  Dell optical  dell.com
 Speakers  Maxell 2.1 w. subwoofer and remote control
 It is not easy to find speakers that will render themselves to being
 built in, and at the same time offer access to volume control, but
 I was lucky to find these.
 They aren't big, but they work great. You're not listening to music
 here, just rumble from the plane and radio conversation.
 Everything comes through loud and clear.
 amazon.com

            speak
 USB hubs (2)  D-LinkŪ 7-Port Hi-Speed USB 2.0 Hub
 Always use powered USB Hubs!
 amazon.com

            hub
 Power Supply / Battery  CyberPower 550VA  8-outlet (4 battery / 4 non)
 I suppose you could make do without a battery backup.
 But I wouldn't advice it. I keep only the PC and the center view
 monitor on this backup, giving me plenty of time to save my
 flight and make a proper shutdown if we have a power failure,
 which in this area is pretty darn often.
 At the very least you need a heavy duty surge protector.
 amazon.com

                       bat
 External graphics card  Matrox T2G-D3D-IF Triplehead2Go Dual-Link Digital
 This card extends your regular DVI or VGA output from your
 primary graphics card to 3 monitors for a wide view.
 This is awesome, easy to set up (and should you have a problem,
 their support over the phone is free, friendly and excellent).
 
 The max resolution you can get on a TH2G at the moment is
 3840 x 800, which is less than the monitors' native res. But
 it looks well enough, and hopefully there are upgrades on this
 from Matrox in the future.
 
 Check out this card at 
matrox.com
 amazon.com

     mat1
                                mat2
 Headset and microphone  n/a
 I am not using either at the moment. I like getting the sound through
 the speakers, and the sim pit is in a remote area of the house where
 it doesn't bother anybody. Later I plan to add Voice Buddy to the
 system, and then I'll need a mike.
 
     
 FLIGHT CONTROLS:    
 Yoke  CH Flight Sim Yoke USb
 I chose this yoke because it was the only one available (at the time
 at least) with a 8-way hat switch (needed for view changes).
 It's been working great for a couple of years now.
 We used a Saitek X45 Stick and Throttle before, but I find it a lot
 easier to control the plane with a yoke, and a much more
 comfortable setup.
 It's also more realistic, at least for me (I fly the Cessna mostly).

 I should say though, that since having the videview of 3 monitors,
 I rarely if ever use the hat switch, so this may not be a consideration
 should I ever need to get another Yoke.
 Available in many places
 Prices vary greatly, so shop around.

          yoke
 Rudder Pedals  Saitek Pro flight Rudder Pedals
 A must obviously, you cannot fly without rudder pedals.
 (well, I guess you can fly with "auto rudder", but that should
 be a temperary situation.)
 And these are really sturdy and nice. Been working great for a
 couple of years now, and I love them.
 amazon.com

              pedals
 Throttle  GoFlight Throttle Quadrant GF-TQ6 (4-engine)
 The GoFlight modules are really awesome. As close as you can
 get to the real thing, in a plug-and-play USB device.
 They look cool and work well. They are not cheap though.
 For this particular module you will need their "NOTVAM"
 (Notice to Virtual Airmen) if you are installing for FS9, or you
 will have all  manner of problems with your throttle. Get it
here.
 It is very easy  to follow instruction on how to install your throttle
 correctly. Why this important information is not shipped with the
 product is beyond me?
 The software that you need is not shipped along either, but can be
 downloaded from their website 
here. It is the same software for
 all their modules, so you only need to install it once. It will
 automatically detect other new GF-modules you might install.
 I ran into some problems when installing for FSX, but they do
 have excellent phone support, so I got that taken care of quickly.

 
See a nice review of the throttle here.
 goflightinc.com

            throttle

             GFconfig
             GFconfig (click for larger image)
 Trim and Landing Gear  GoFlight Landing Gear and Trim module GF-LGT
 Another great module from GoFlight, and this is a must have.
 I used to have a heck of a time trimming my plane with either
 the mouse or keyboard, but with this trim module, it's easy as pie.
 Having the knob and lights for the landing gear is real cool.
 It also has the flaps control, but with the flaps handle on the throttle
 quadrant, we don't need it anymore. And this one installs effortlessly
 without problems.
 goflightinc.com

              trim
 Autopilot  coming up......
 A "GoFlight Advanced Autopilot module GF-MCP" is on the top
 of my wish list for this sim pit. That will really add to the experience.
              auto
 Coming up....  There are a number of other modules from Goflight on my wish list.  I've made room for 4 radio modules and 3 pushbutton or toggle  switch modules in the sim pit. That will enable us to operate the
 radio, control engines and so on, without using the mouse on the
 instrument panel.
               radio

               push

                toggle
        
 OTHER EQUIPMENT:    
 Pilot seat  Several years ago I saw for the first time a mention on the internet
 about:
 Intellivibe force-feedback seat
 In plain english: a seat cushion, that vibrates according to the
 movements of your airplane, thus giving you the sense of sitting in
 a real moving plane. I knew I had to have one of those eventually,
 and the time came when I started this project.
 Read a review on this seat here.
 Let me tell you: this is the coolest thing since sliced bread!
 Here too you have to find and download the software from the
 website yourself. I had a snafu with my internet in the middle of
 installation, so that might have been part of it, but this thing is not the
 easiest thing in the world to install (the software that is). The fact that
 my sim PC isn't on the internet complicates matters further.
 But wait, here comes the good news: The support you get here is
 out of this world! There is a forum there, where you can get answers
 to all sorts of question, but that's not all. Craig, the guy who invented
 the blessed thing and sells it, will stand on his head to help you out.
 He actually answers your emails (try that most other places) and then
 calls you (on his dime) and spends hours on the phone with you to
 help you get set up. And if you don't like it, you can return it at any
 time and in any condition for a full refund. Actually, I think that's a
 pretty easy guarantee for him to make. Once you have that seat in
 your hot little hands, you're not gonna let it go again for anything!

 Now, the seat itself. When you spend hours and hours flying, you
 need something comfortable to sit on. You also need a seat that
 enables you to work your rudders effortlessly, which means it has
 to be bolted to the floor (or base in this case), but at the same time
 it has to move back to get into it, or for people with longer legs.
 Like many before me, I considered getting a car seat from a junk
 yard, slides and all. But then there's the problem with using the ivibe
 cushion, I didn't fancy ripping the motors out (like some do) and try
 to incorporate them into the car seat. Also, you'd be hard pressed to
 find a car seat with armrests, and I really wanted that too.
 So, only solution really was to build a seat myself. It may seem like
 a daunting task at first, but once you set your mind to it, it's not that
 bad. For this I needed sliders, and found these:
 Summit universal sliding seat brackets G1152
 They are cheap, easy to build in, and they work like a charm.

 ivibe.com

           seat

           TRF









           summit

 summitracing.com

 Intercom  Radioshack 3-way wireless intercom
 That's a real cool thing to have, saves you a lot of running back and
 forth, and leaving your airplane in mid flight.
 Radioshack's 3-way set is nice, works well, although we have a little
 "ghost" problem with it: Everytime someone uses the intercom, the
 "touch"lamps (you know, the lamps that you just touch to turn on) we
 have in other rooms of the house turn on by themselves. That's really
 weird, but not a major problem.
 Radioshack

             int
 Telephone  Wall Phone with caller ID
 That's a real cool thing to have, saves you a lot of running back and
 forth, and leaving your airplane in mid flight.
 Found this one in WalMart for $9.95, you can't beat that!
               phone
 Cabin lights  With regular daytime-flying (in the sim that is), there's enough light
 shining from the monitors to see your other controls in the cockpit,
 even if the room is dark. But with night flights, it get's pretty dark in
 there, just as it would in an airplane. You could of course turn on a
 lamp or two, but that just doesn't "feel right". So to be able to see my
 instruments at night, and achieve the reddish glow you'd find in a real
 airplane, I just made some cabin lights. A few little boxes, positioned
 to let light on the important instruments, with a little bit of orange
 plastic from a hobby store glued in the opening and a regular
 "nite lite" inside, and voila: you have instrument lighting with the right
 ambience. Those "nite lites" come with a 7Watt bulb, which is just
 perfect for this purpose.
 (Note: to make these nite-lites always work, you just have to put
 a little electric tape over the light sensor on them.)
 
 I do have a couple of regular little lamps, in case I need a little more
 light to read maps etc. They are little "Accent spot lights" from
 Lowe's and use only 10Watt bulbs, which is plenty.
 
 
       
 SOFTWARE:    
 Flight Simulator  We are using Microsoft Flight Simulator 9 (2004), as well as FSX.
 But this kind of sim pit would work just as well for other sims.
 (when installing FSX, do not forget to install SP1 & 2 as well). 
 
 Matrox Software CD comes with the hardware.
 GoFlight Software  Downloaded from their website, needed for the modules.
 
 Ivibe Software  Downloaded from the website, needed for the seat.
 
 Ultimate Defrag A great tool to keep your PC defragged, uncluttered and up to
 speed. Easy to use as well. A must have.
  disktrix.com
 MISCELLANEOUS:    
 Checklist, pitot tube cover etc.  I wanted a real life checklist for the Cessna 172 Skyhawk, and
 found a nice one at AvShop. They also have an abundance of
 other cool stuff for the sim pit, like the pitot tube cover I used for
 decor.
  avshop.com
   pitot       check 
 More Checklists  Checklists for all the other airplanes were not in the same format,
 plus that's a lot of checklists to buy, but I found this site -->
 where you can download (free) checklists for any and all aircrafts
 that you may find in the simulator.
 freechecklists.net
 
                  737  
 Approach Plates (for USA)  A great place to get (free) approach plates -->
 EchoPlate
                    ktyr
 Tailnumber  I had my tailnumber made via the internet -->
 It only took a few minutes to make online, and I received it in the
 mail in a few days. Cheaper than buying stencils.
 custom-vinyl-lettering.net

                 tailno
 Wire loom  I needed a lot of split loom tubing to organize all that wiring , and
 found a nice 1" loom by American Terminal. When you buy 100' of
 it, it's a real good deal.

 And by the way, if you get more than you can use in the SimPit, it
 works just as well in other areas of the house. Really a nice way to
 "declutter" your office etc. Depending on where you buy, it also
 comes in many other colors (and diameters).
 amazon.com

                   loom
     
 
A word on power consumption:

 In my little cockpit-room there are 2 electrical outlets, running on a 20 amp circuit breaker (which also supplies 2 other
 rooms with only a few lamps).

 With the 20 Amp circuit breaker, I have available in that area approximately 1900 watts.
 I checked on the power consumption of each individual piece of electrical equipment in my sim, as well as any other
 lamps etc. in the area, and I'm using no more than 1400 Watts total.

 This issue is important to keep an eye on when setting up a sim pit, some equipment is more power-hungry than other,
 and it does you no good to have a fancy setup, if it flips the breakers everytime you turn it on.

 NOTE: these numbers may vary depending on the country you live in, so do your homework before installing electrical  equipment.

 More on this subject on the "Plans" page.




THE ORIGINAL PC:

 COMPUTER:   (Power consumption total for the simpit with this PC
  was 1000 Watts)
 
 Model  Dell E520  (Oct. 2006)
 dell.com         

      PC
 Power supply  305 W
 (probably a minimum, but it works)
 Always check your available power supply in your computer,
 before adding new cards etc.
 Some graphics cards for example are very power hungry, and
 may cause crashes if your PC's supply is insufficient.
 Processor  Intel Core 2 Duo E6400,  2.13 GHz / 2MB Cache / 1066 FSB
 Memory  2 GB dual DDR2 533MHz
 Hard Drive  160 GB ATA 3Gb/s (7200rpm)
 (80 GB would've been plenty)
 Primary graphics card  256 MB nVidia Geforce 7300LE
 (for 3 upper monitors)
 Secondary graphics card  BFG Geforce 6200OC 256MB Dvi S-video (PCI)
 (for 2 lower monitors)
 Optical Drive  16X Cd/DVD R/W
 Really not important, all you ever have to do is install software,
 and leave your FS-disk in it.
 USB   2 front / 6 back
 (using only the 6 in the back)
 Remember to connect your main controls (mouse and keyboard)
 directly to the PC here, not via a hub, or you'd loose them during
 a power failure.
 Sound Card  Integrated sound blaster Audigy
 So far I've found no reason to spend money on a sound card,
 this works just fine. You're not listening to music here, just the
 rumble from the plane and radio conversation.
 Everything comes through loud and clear.
 Operating System  Windows XP Media Center
 Comments  This PC is for simulation only, it is NOT connected to the internet.
 It has been stripped of all unnecessary software, running only
 Windows and whatever programs needed for flight simulation.
 I've had several Dell's over the years, for work and flight sim as well
 as train sim, and they have always worked well for me, price
 considered. (And that's a good thing, cause when you buy a Dell,
 you're basically on your own, dude.)
 This particular PC has been running MSFS 2004 since October
 of 2006, in a steadily growing setup, with no complaints.
 My frame rate in FS2004 is now down to an average of 20-25
 (not all settings are maxed), which is fine for the present, it runs
 smoothly enough, but with no power left over for add-ons.