The 777 Project is an attempt to build a full scale B777 simulator in my home. Starting from scratch, I have built up a very close replica of the multi-million dollar simulators found at many professional training facilities. Since 1998, constant upgrades have been made to the simulator to make it constantly more realistic. This web site shows much of what I went through, especially my Lab Journal.
This project incorporates a flight sim electrical wiring technique, that I created, which DRAMATICALLY decreases the total cost of the simulator. In effect, this technique turns your entire simulator into one big keyboard emulator. All you need is an AT, PS/2, or USB keyboard port and a keyboard. See the Keyboard Hacking page for details.
I like to call this hobby, hybrid sim building. This name reflects the wide array of airplanes and resources we scour to build up our projects. In my simulator, I have used parts from airplanes such as classic 747s, 737s, 757s, and even L-1011s. With enough time and patience, the parts have all been retored and converted to work realistically with my 777 hardware. It is a delicate balance that takes a lot of trial and error, but the end result is more fullfilling than one could ever imagine.
How it all began
This project began back in late 1998 when I stumbled upon a report on FlightSim.com called "Kev's Cockpit." I read it and was extremely intruiged, but unfortunately the project was way out of my experience level and not to mention terribly out of my budget. But after about 11 months of research, the project slowly began to become a reality. Though I still knew nothing about construction, I went to Home Depot (a huge hardware store) and purchased a sheet of thin wood. One of the employees was more than happy to tell me what I would need to cut it. I walked out of there with a sheet of wood, a jigsaw, and shortly afterwords a power drill. I had never used a jigsaw before (didn't even know what one looked like), but I went ahead and cut the wood and found myself becoming very comfortable with it. With this single purchase, my project moved full speed from then on. I don't remember what I was thinking that one day just made me say, "I'm going to do this," but I guess it's what people mean when they say, "When you're ready, you'll know it."
My project officially started when I was reading Saker's report and he made the statement, "I believe it is possible to hard wire a keyboard running wires directly to the various switches," and of course I could not see the word "possible" without attempting to make it work. Within a few days, I took apart a keyboard and saw the simplicity of it's operation. I pushed a node on the transparent sheets and a letter popped up on the screen. I was very happy to see this, but the next step would change the course of my whole project. I noticed that the transparent sheets resembled thin wires, so I thought, "What if I put a physical wire in place of these sheets?" So I carefully removed the transparent sheets and bridged a wire between two random slots. GOOD GRIEF, when I say I was off the wall with excitement to see a letter pop up! I had never seen a membrane or disassembled a keyboard before so I was even happier to see this work.
From there, I wrote my first report on an Alternative Electrical system for building flight simulators. Even though I had figured this part out, I still new nothing about construction. So it was almost a year before I began the actual construction of my simulator. I decided to build a 777 after I noticed that it used no analogue gauges, therefore alowing all instruments to be displayed realistically through the use of computer monitors. My project has been rolling full speed ever since.
Along the way, I have met many great people from around the world who have each exchanged with me some great ideas for enhancing our simulators. I found that international networking has been an imperitive part of this sim and that I could never have obtained this realism/cost effective ratio without their help.
The simulator I am building is a Boeing 777. I use many cost effective techniques, but I try to keep a high level of realism throughout construction. Remember that saving even $1 dollar on each switch can save you hundreds on the complete simulator.
The "New" 777 Project?
In June of 2001, about 90% of the 777 Project was destroyed in a flood caused by hurricane Allison. Nearly 3 feet of water covered all my electronics, panels, and tools. Strangely enough, this event actually made me want to work even more dilligently on the project. I spent the next 4 months sleeping on a friend's couch (while our home was repaired) drawing up diagrams for what would be the "New" 777 Project.
This time around I am pulling out all the stops in reconstruction. I have virtually tripled my project budget and have been planning absolutely everything on paper! I had meetings, both in person and on the phone, with representatives from aeronautical and mechanical companies all over the world to find new resources for simming in general. Some of these meetings provided priceless information, which you will see on this site in the near future. Writing this passage right now, I just realized how obsessed I really must be with this stuff , but I hope that this project will show others just what is possible when you persue a hobby even when it seems impossible...
Competitions The 777 Project has competed in:
NSF national competition - Tuskegee, AL - 1st place
City of Houston Science Fair - Houston, TX - 1st Place
NFISD District Science Fair - Houston, TX - 1st place
ACT-SO regional competition - Houston, TX - 1st place
ACT-SO national competition - Charlotte, NC - 1st place
NSBE national competition - North Carolina - 1st place
NFISD District Science Fair - Houston, TX - Highest score overall
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777 hybrid sim builder