Remember when you were a kid, and your parents got a new refrigerator and let you turn the cardboard box into a space ship? I do. So now I’m an old retired guy with a workshop, resources, and grandkids, and I’ve made a «grandpa» version.

This project actually started almost a year ago. I spent a lot of time with flight simulators starting with Microsoft’s in 1985, and building a «cockpit» has been on my bucket list for a long time. Last year I decided it was time to finally do it when I purchased three 50″ TVs for $209 each on Black Friday. However, with grandkids involved, the «airplane dashboard» project turned into a «cockpit» project, which then turned into a whole «space plane» project (with three kids, you need room for four, right?), which was too big to do before Christmas. ☹

So I’ve had those three TVs, five 4×8 sheets of whiteboard and two of foil covered foam, a dashboard frame, and four floor recliners, all sitting in my basement since December waiting for a reason to get started again.

Then I saw the Instructables 2021 «Space» contest, which my project is perfect for, and still had 23 days left. I decided since I had time, it was time! I’ve spent most of my free time over the last three weeks working on it, and what you see here just got finished around 8:30 last night, on 10/17.

The reason I think that this is a great «Instructable» project is that much of the work can be done by kids (e.g. 10-16?) So it’s a great parent/children project, that can be enjoyed for years (unlike most $300 toy investments). It’s not like cabinet making or serious carpentry. Nothing has to be perfect, and the rough edges will all be covered in duct tape at the end anyway. If a mistake wastes part of a 4×8 sheet of white board, you can spend less than $20 to get another one – no big deal. (Just be careful not to screw up on the Lexan!)

Hopefully the judges will agree with me! This is my very first Instructable, so I’m hoping I’m «doin’ it right!»

The goal of this project, and this Instructable, is to build a kind of «playhouse» for your kids (and/or you), to face toward a projector screen and play space (and flight) simulator games (like Orbiter and XPlane.) I wanted to make something that can be disassembled and stored very compactly, yet reassembled easily, while remaining sturdy and safe. For version 1, I wanted to make it as simple as possible, using cheap materials you can buy (and have cut for you) at Home Depot, that you can carry home in an SUV.

At some point, I’ll add the LED lighting, external screens, dashboard monitors and peripherals, 5.1 surround sound system, etc, and turn it into a true simulator – but for now, it’s just a simple «toy». It’s also «version 1». At the end I’ll talk about what I learned and what «version 2» might be like.

This project is actually a number of projects done sequentially. Specifically:

  • The Dashboard: 4x4x2′ deep, with a plexiglass windshield;
  • The Cockpit: 4x4x3′, with folding «gull-wing» doors with 24×36″ plexiglass windows;
  • The Cabin: 4x4x4′ (or shorter) with a back panel that can have a «mock up» engine added;
  • The Cosmetics: A 2′ deep «nose», an «engine module», and the wings and tail.

You can build just the dashboard, or the dashboard and cockpit (two «passengers», suitable for a triple screen simulator), or add the cabin too (room for 4 passengers and a drink cooler), and then add the cosmetic stuff or not. Note that if you do, it’s a great opportunity for some creativity! 

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