And we're done! For the moment.
Connecting everything back up was the usual headache of swapping USB sockets around until everything mysteriously worked. My good friend Mark, who'd helped enormously with the practical side of this build, wanted to see the results of our hard work before he left, so I nervously fired up FSX and setup a Cessna 172 on the runway at our local aerodrome (Barton EGCB) After four months away from the flight yoke I was incredibly rusty, but somehow managed to get into the air, do a circuit and bring the plane back in for a half-decent landing.
Then, with a little coercion, I was able to persuade Mark, a non-flight simmer and self-proclaimed clumsy oaf, to have a try in the pilot seat with the flight model turned down to Easy. Take-off was a little hairy, just making it into the air over the perimeter fence and clipping a few treetops, but once in the air, he quickly picked things up, and after a bit of flying around tentatively brought the plane back in for an impressively bounce-free landing. He seemed quite energised by the experience, Even though it was just "a game", he reported a nervous tingling in the hairs on the back of his neck that must be a familiar feeling to most simmers. I was delighted that after he'd put in so much hard work to help put this project together, he was able to get at least a taste of the flight sim experience for himself.
So what's next? Well no cockpit project is ever really finished and we've already been thinking about improvements we can make. I'm going to try and get in a few flights with it as it is for now before investing any more time and money in prettying it up. After that we might think about covering the top and sides a bit more to give it a more enclosed feel, and obviously at some point it'll be painted. I certainly need a lot of practice to refresh my flying skills before I can think about getting back to driving the heavy metal. There's also a little bit of reconfiguring and re-installing of sim components required - things like GSX and MCE which aren't currently installed for some reason.
Reading the various flight-sim forums, I've also discovered that the FSX "real world weather" function is no longer providing up-to-date weather. This is probably down to Microsoft ending support for FSX at the tail end of last year (I believe that the multi-player functionality is similarly affected, although I don't do multi-player FSX so that's not such a problem.) Unfortunately, since flying with "real" weather was a big thrill for me, I'm going to have to do something to get around this. There are several notable weather engines available, REX, ActiveSky, OpusFSX etc. I've tried the freeware "FSrealWX Lite" but found it completely impossible to figure out. I'm going to have to bite the bullet and find the money to buy one of the other products. Right now I'm leaning towards ActiveSky, but all of them seem to have their detractors and supporters in equal numbers, it's a tough choice.
But I've flown. Not far, and not particularly well, but I got the sim-bird up into the air and back down safely again. I am content.