The good news: The cost for developing this kind of simulator has drastically reduced in the last 20 years thanks to the progression of the computer.
The bad news: This won't be a weekend project you can do on a shoestring budget. This is only for the dedicated with some cash to spare. If you're an actual pilot the cost savings can really add up- hours spent in a simulator are hundreds of dollars cheaper than being in an actual aircraft.
More bad news: Even if you build this your wife still won't call you by your callsign and you'll probably never look like Mav and Goose in the beach volleyball scene. But don't let that crush your spirits!
On to the meat. Here's what you'll need to build, acquire, cobble, and refine:
Estimated Cost: $300-$3,000
|Cockpit by Martin Schmitt|
Like anything else, you can go all out or save money in this part of the build. Saitek offers tons of different instrumentation packages that merge with several flight sims on the market now. You could spend thousands on just instrumentation. Based on the research I've done so far the set below looks like a solid starter for your cockpit though.
Estimated cost: $700-$1500
You'll need a gaming PC capable of keeping up with you at Mach 2. I've been a Mac guy since way before it was cool, but there just isn't the software or hardware out there for Macs.
Estimated Cost: $350
Estimated Cost: $30
Here's the cheap part- buying the actual software to get you in the air. There are hundreds of flight simulators out there, and these are some of the best:
Estimated Cost: $60
You won't need a fancy home theater setup, just a computer 5.1 system would be more than adequate to hear radio chatter and the earsplitting whine of the engine spooling up for take off. Step it up a notch by in stalling this $45 bass shaker to the underside of the ejection seat to feel the roar of the afterburner or that missile that just took off your left wing.
With an overall budget of about $2000 this could be yours. I bet though that the thrifty builder could do it for less than that. Check E-bay and Craigslist for some of the more expensive components.
We hope that this idea keeps you up at night plotting and scheming like it has for us.
Tim "Thunder" Storm
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