The Laymens Guide To
Virtual Reality Motion Flight
Copyright 1997 - 2006 Ken Hill


OK, everyone got their JoyRider flying? If not go back and get busy. The next sections are devoted to fine-tuning the platform and optimizing it for your sims.


Without the pilot in the seat and with all accessories installed, the cockpit ideally will balance itself neutrally at the center of the pitch range. With the pilot in the seat, balance should be unchanged. This way different weight pilots will not affect the trim of the cockpit as the pilots center of gravity is right at the cockpits CG and also at the pitch pivot point. Without counterweights at the rear of the cockpit, this becomes hard to achieve as the majority of our cockpits mass is in front of the balance point. With rudder pedals, throttle, keyboard and especially a monitor, it gets worse fast.

We elected to add bungees to hold down the rear instead of weights when we originally had a monitor mounted. This effectively helped counter balance the cockpits' nose heaviness when empty but added some pitch pressure to the pilot in flight. Without the monitor, the pitch pivot points can be located almost at the pilots CG so any weight pilot can fly without having to change the trim. We used brackets that clamped the pitch bearings to the cockpit tubes so they could be loosened and slid to different balance points easily.


It's all in the program. Each flight sim handles differently. Not just different planes, but the same planes from different programmers. Some good programs allow custom modifications to joystick response, null zones, etc. This helps when fine tuning your JoyRider to fly in harmony with the visual "feel" of the planes handling characteristics. Some sims fly more like an arcade game and others like a real plane. Most of the rest of the sims are somewhere in between. One program has so little control damping that it causes so much overcontrol that it's nearly impossible to fly in the 'Rider. Lag time can also be a problem, but these sims are rare. The only time the screen shouldn't match what the 'Rider is doing is during a stall or spin and then as in real life, once you regain control of the craft, everything's back to normal. Of course, in a loop or roll, the screen will continue in the direction the platform is moving but won't match again until you cancel the maneuver.


To calibrate the cockpit, just think of it as another joystick. Be sure you are relaxed and centered in the pitch and roll range, and the joystick in the base is centered as well. It may be hard to see it, so get a helper to look for the first time. Be sure it's trims are centered as well, since you won't be able to reach them in flight. Next just follow the "move stick to ***** and click button" instructions in the program and you're set.


Most pilots go crazy the first time in the cockpit. They overcontrol, complaining that it won't react as fast as they are used to. Actually, once you get used to it and stop trying to slam the stick like you unrealistically did on your desktop joystick, you'll settle in and relax and find that suddenly you're really just starting to learn to fly. Let's face it, could you physically really pull those 10+G turns in that F-16? You won't pull any down Gs in the JoyRider, but you will experience pitch and roll inertia loads and you'll have to adapt.


Besides the control method described in the last chapter, we also tried another option you should know about. There are a couple of wireless joysticks on the market that can be attached to the control stick directly so that no other connections need to be made! If you happen to have one of these sticks, by all means use it. The catch is that the control range of the wireless stick may be limited by the motion range of the control stick. The up side is that they (at least the VIR-1 model we have) allows response programming. This lets you increase the joysticks response to max out sooner so the limited range is minimized. It takes some tweaking and fiddling, but it does work. These digital controllers seem too unfeeling for my taste, but hey, give it a try!


Just as in the general aircraft market as pilots became designers in the home-built movement, sim pilots can also hand craft their "flying" machine. This way they can balance the flight characteristics they prefer and not be forced to fly a platform that is too expensive or something that someone else thinks is the best design. You've seen some of the store bought models available from the picture links in the other pages. We don't say we have the best design. It's sure not the best looking, but so far it's the least expensive we've found, works well, and is adaptable to multiple configurations.