Clint Fishburne, a regional-airline pilot based in Atlanta, wanted to help his children develop the body movement and muscle memory necessary to fly and land a plane. With the cost of commercial flight simulators starting at $2,800, though, Fishburne, a longtime PopSci reader, decided to make one from scratch. Building the plywood-and-PVC plane, frame and control stick was relatively easy. The challenge was making a platform that could mimic a plane’s motion and that was strong enough to support and move a 75-pound child.
After some experimentation, Fishburne built four custom airbags made of PVC-coated fabric and, to inflate them, connected them to 457-air-watt central vacuum motor. The amount of air in the four bags varies, allowing the simulator to bank or pitch up to 25 degrees on either axis. When the pilot pushes the stick left, a valve increases airflow to the right airbag and vents air from the left. An accelerometer sends spatial-position data to a laptop by USB, and an LCD projector beams the imagery from Microsoft’s Flight Simulator software onto a wall. Fishburne is now trying to commercialize a kit version of his simulator, in part to inspire more young gamers to become pilots.
Time 20 months
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.