Talk about taking your work home with you — air traffic controller James Price has spent nearly half his life building a Boeing jetliner flight simulator, constructed inside the actual nose of one of the aircraft maker’s 737 planes.
The incredibly advanced simulator is situated in Price’s garage, beside the family car.
It comprises genuine parts from a 737 and is the result of almost 20 years’ work, so far costing the Pleasanton, California resident somewhere in the region of $150,000.
Peter Cos of simulator specialist firm Flightdeck Solutions says he knows of only a few other hobbyists worldwide who have used real jet cockpits in the building of a flight simulator.
Price, who works at the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control center in Fremont, began his project by purchasing a 2,500-pound Continental Airlines nose for $1,500. He then hauled it to his home and set about kitting it out with genuine bits and pieces from Boeing planes.
“My big thing is that I wanted real parts,” the 52-year-old told the Mercury News. He wasn’t joking.
Price’s cockpit contains seats, dual controls, flying instruments, and a variety of lights and switches. And of course, it also includes the all important software to enable Price to get the thing off the ground (sort of).
Set inside his 737 cockpit are three enormous screens, onto which Price can project approaches to just about any airport on the planet, in all kinds of conditions.
“There’s terrain scenery for the entire world,” Price explains. “It has a complete weather system in it with real-time weather from the Internet.”
His software can also simulate engine failure, on-board fires and can even cause the plane to crash, though presumably without causing any damage to either Price or his garage.
Despite the simulator being fixed firmly to the ground and lacking the rolling mechanisms offered by those used by working pilots, Price has spent so much time tweaking the software and working on the look and feel of his cockpit that the effect is said to be very realistic.
Price is clearly proud of his efforts, and rightly so. “There’s a certain allure of sitting inside the cockpit of a real plane that’s flown 30,000 or 40,000 (trips),” he says. “It smells like a real plane. It’s a very purist approach.”
He adds: “Most people are into the desktop (flight) simulators,” Price says. “There are only a few of us who go to the crazy level.”