1/1 Scale F-16 Cockpit

Gallery Article by Ted Sachs Jr. on Nov 18 2003


Being a modeler and a flight sim enthusiast has some unique advantages. Flying my favorite flight sim required learning a lot more key commands than my mind could handle so to me, the logical thing to do was build a cockpit that had all the switches to replace the key commands. It's a lot easier to remember to flip a switch that says ECM than it was to remember which key that was. Mounting the switch where it was in the real cockpit seemed the only logical thing to do then. Having built untold model cockpits it was now time to build a little larger scale. With today's internet, finding documentation for this is just a matter of mouse clicks. Armed with all the dimensions of the real cockpit, I headed to my cabinet shop and started making sawdust. Oh, did I mention, it helps to have been a cabinet maker for over 20 years? The basic tub is constructed of 3/4" birch plywood with the panels and center console made of 1/2" Baltic Birch. After finding some graphics online of all of the switch panels and gauges, I went to a friend that engraves trophies and such and had a set of panels made out of the plastic for badges that are black and leave white where any engraving is done. These panels are about 1/32" thick so I laminated them to some 3/16" lexan and drilled them out and mounted my switches to them. I had them engrave some of this plastic to look just like the bodies of the gauges and laminated that to the same clear lexan and then glued a color graphic of the gauge to the back of the lexan. This is very similar to the way we make our panels for cockpits and I thought this would work for the gauges since they were going to be there for looks only anyway.


Click on images below to see larger images

After finding some plans online for an ACES II seat I took some more 3/4"and 1/2" birch and made the seat. With a lot of puttying and sanding all of the parts, it was time to prime, touch up and paint all of the parts. The airbrush wasn't going to work on this, so off to the local Wal-Mart and I found a cheap paint gun and sprayed everything with a mixture of semi-gloss white mixed with semi-gloss smoke gray mixed to what looked like the same light ghost gray as the real pit. I used semi-gloss instead of flat paint to make it easier to keep clean since I would be climbing in and out of the thing all the time. I took my Thrustmaster joystick and throttle and did a little modifying to make it fit to the cockpit and installed them. Finding a USB Matrix board from X-Keys that would take switches and emulate keystrokes I broke out the soldering iron and started the wiring process. This board would allow me to program each switch and button to duplicate the keystroke for the various functions the pilot needs to complete his mission. 

This project has been a lot of fun as it involved all of my hobbies at one time. The end result makes flying the virtual skies so much more enjoyable now.

Ted Sachs Jr.


Photos and text by Ted "Hammerfly" Sachs Jr.