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  • Writer's pictureEd G.

Introduction to the HotBox Sim

I try to look back to recognize when things got out of hand with my flight simulator. I should blame this guy. His basement sim served as the inspiration for this thing that has taken over half of my garage. But the reality is that I enjoy doing this. It's a great blend of aviation and tech, both things I really enjoy.

I've put together a fairly decent sim from a hardware standpoint, and most of the parts I picked up second-hand and cheap. Like most hobbies, people are always upgrading, so if you catch them at the right time, you'll find stuff at a pretty decent price. Specs will be posted later, but here's a rough draft so far:

Interior shot of my garage flight simulator
Version 1.2 of my HotBox Sim

The idea is to make it close to real without going overboard on price. Design-wise, I opted to enclose everything so that I had more flexibility with mounting the hardware (rather than trying to make office furniture work), and also to provide additional realism of being enclosed. System-wise, the large monitor in the background, the two on the sides, and the 7" display in the top right of the foreground are all driven by a single PC. I experimented with having the side monitors powered by a second PC, but didn't see enough of an improvement on the frame rate to warrant the weirdness of booting up a second PC and dealing with all that.

The gauges in the foreground are being run on a Raspberry Pi 3, using Sim Innovation's Air Manager and a built in Cessna 172 panel.

The Garmin display on the top right is brand new from RealSimGear which I picked up at Flight Sim Expo. This piece has done a great deal in adding to the realism by allowing me to change radio frequencies much like I would in a real plane. Before this, I was using the iPad and Haversine's AirTrack...which is a great tool, but not totally realistic for GA (General Aviation) practice.

Controls are all Saitek right now. I have the ProFlight Yoke and two Throttle Quadrants, along with the ProFlight Rudder Pedals and the multi-function Instrument display which I hacked and re-purposed as the magnetic compass up top.


I have some work to do on the software side of things, but I want to finish cleaning up the form first. Next step is to box it in so I can add some climate controls to make it less hotboxy.

I did sign up for PilotEdge, which is seriously cool, but I haven't spent much time on the sim since it's been much too warm out there. A/C first, the ATC. Here's a short video of me running through a checklist and being interrupted by PilotEdge traffic. Very cool! You can also see that I've mounted the iPad to the instrument panel.

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