You've watched videos, looked at cockpit building forums, and you have so many questions about where to start, how much will this cost, what will I need to learn, and ultimately most of us arrive at the question "Can I really do this"?
In the words of Henry Ford "Whether you think you can or you can't.... you're right".
How much does it cost to Build a Boeing 737-800 Cockpit?
The Big Question, and depending on who you ask the answer will vary. I'll answer this from my personal experience by first stating that I'm after a high level of realism on a very limited budget. I also plan to order parts for different sections of the cockpit as I can afford. By building each individual panel, one at a time, it will spread out the cost over longer periods of time. The key to working with my budget is doing much of the work myself and the fact I have a decent collection of tools already at my disposal to accomplish this task. Tools not included, I expect to build my entire cockpit (with portable climate control unit) for less than the price of a fully functional plug and play 737 overhead panel. Depending on your location and suppliers available it could be much less or much more expensive so I'll provide links and details of the materials and components in my build for you to compare and source yourself. It would cost more than 5x the amount to buy the plug and play modules and probably 5x less fun than building the cockpit myself.
How long will it take to complete?
To complete the entire cockpit it is going to take me quite a while, but I plan on keeping a steady flow of updates rolling along the way. If I rush and make mistakes it will take longer so I want to do things right the first time (or at least try). I wish I had a definite answer but from following other builds and reflecting on my own projects in the past, regardless of time frame you can bet it will take longer than anything I commit to. If I wasn't documenting so much of it with video and tutorials I could get it done quicker, but that would defeat the entire purpose of Paul's Flight Deck.
There are other cockpit sites, what's different about Paul's Flight Deck?
I'm getting my information from researching a LOT of different resources for cockpit building, electrical & mechanical engineering, carpentry, and programming. It's difficult to keep up with so much information and having to piece together solutions from multiple sources. My goal is to provide other enthusiasts with all the information needed to build a fully functioning cockpit from start to finish in one site while giving due credit to all sources.
I'm eager to build my cockpit, where do I begin?
For me, I'm starting very simple. I ordered the Elegoo Arduino Super Starter Kit from Amazon and spent most of my Saturday doing every project in their tutorial since I've never used Arduino before. It gave me a lot of confidence in the next steps of making hardware and better understanding code. I'll provide more resources and recommendations in the resources section and I plan to provide my code as well.
What SIM and aircraft will Paul's Flight Deck Support?
Everything is currently based on X-Plane 11 for Windows 10 and the SIM is built to use Zibo's 737-800. As of today 12/28/2018 I'm not fully decided on which plug-in(s) or software I'll interface my sim hardware to X-Plane 11. There are some great options, but I'll have to experiment and see what works best for my setup.
I've never ordered parts directly from overseas before.
What if I told you a lot of those "cheap parts" are the same parts you're paying more for already, you just get them sooner in nicer packaging . Whether you order your encoders, switches, resistors, or capacitors from US Only or Worldwide, I'd wager it's all made in China. The difference is better packaging and in some cases you may experience lower QC on products, but I've built 2 CNC machines all with parts directly from China and they've been ran hard for years with no issue. If you want to keep costs low and have patience to wait on slow shipping, this is the best option. I always use PayPal for security and only deal with sellers that have 95%+ feedback with extensive history, a registered ebay store, and at least a 30 day return policy.
What are some important things to consider in maintaining my cockpit?
I'm sure the list will grow in days to come, but here are some general things you really want to consider. Operating cost can get high where power is concerned. For instance I'll be running the SIM on 2, maybe even 3 computers and will have dedicated climate control since my cockpit will live in the garage. I expect to pay around $5/hr my sim runs on the hottest or coldest days in South Carolina. I'll get a better gauge of the actual cost when I'm fully up and running, but this is the best estimate based on power draw for now. Consider electrical components do have a shelf life and you'll need to repair/replace various components throughout the life of your cockpit. Mobility, what if you need to relocate your sim? The build will be modular for access and breakdown when necessary, but not a fun task. Since I'll be building in my garage, I plan to have a mobile base to move if needed. Childproofing so your toddler or mean spirited cat doesn't vandalize your sim. For a child, lock the door. For a cat, get a dog.
Why X-Plane 11 instead of Prepar3d V4 or FSX?
When I got the itch to give a go at flight simulation, I only knew about FSX. But a quick Google search revealed XP11 and P3D. After looking at a few hours of video, reviews, available add ons, and community support I decided on XP11 due to it's graphics and from what I read, a better optimized sim with smoother operation than P3D. It's all about flavor, some people like Coke, others Pepsi and this is entirely a personal decision. I'm happy with XP11 and don't plan to change.