Farewell, hovercontrol.com

Some really sad news out there:

Goodbye, HoverControl, you had a heck of a run

It was long ago when I have still been a child.

This was the site from where I’ve downloaded first decent helicopter models for FS9 I tried, the forum where I’ve learned a lot about helicopters, and the multiplayer server, where I first tried flying online with people who loved rotary wing machines as much as I did. I’ve never received an HC certified pilot status because my skills in English were far from being sufficient for that in those days, yet the whole experience had influenced me to the point I am still using my callsign as a nickname pretty much everywhere. I’ve never been anywhere near the town of Hood River in real life, yet its fictional representation from FSX brings memories and feels so familiar. The whole area around Ken Jenstedt airfield (used as a base for a fictional Hood River airfield – former HoverControl base) still feels like a virtual hometown to me =)

It’s really sad to see the resource going down…

Below, there’s a slightly edited cross-post of my comment under Sergio’s article.

I’ve been noticing that the forum wasn’t looking good lately… It is a huge loss for the community. I don’t think the reason lies solely in social networks replacing forums, but rather in an end of MSFS era.

How about reviving the whole thing in XP11 and Vatsim? As far as I know, there are no barriers for helicopter operations in VATSIM, live ATC is often online, xsquawbox is working pretty good, Dreamfoil helis are not perfect, but good enough, so… why not? Nothing’s wrong with flying in DCS as well.

I can offer my technical knowledge as an IT engineer and Simchair MKIII open-source 3d-printable heli sim hardware design, that you can find on this site. We could have used some similar domain name (e.g. hovercontrol.net) and make a fresh start, if anyone’s interested. Of course, there wouldn’t be much to do without people actually flying together, so the question is, whether we really need it and want it to happen. If so, we’ll need guys, willing to participate as instructor pilots, forum moderators, etc.

With all these quality helicopter sims out there, like DCS helis, or DF helis for XPlane, it doesn’t look like the whole simulation thing is dying at all, especially with the rise of VR. Yet, should we will become too scattered as a community, sooner or later people will stop making quality products, and that’s where things will start going downhill and it won’t be long before we will have nothing, but FSX-default-206-alikes (flight model wise) with super-duper-HD-textures and mega-realistic sounds, with their main features being VR-ready animated cupholders and an Ipad in the cockpit.

I, for instance, would hate seeing that happen, so I would love to do what I can to support the revival of the resource that had been helping to introduce newcomers to our friendly fellowship in some new, up-to-date shape.

Anyway, thank you, Jordan, for everything you did for the community and for popularisation of helicopter simulation. It’s been a great time. Thank you, Sergio, for letting us know.

Please let me know what you guys think in comments.

Universal throttle quadrant page added

I have accidentally noticed yesterday that I’ve actually forgotten to add a throttle quadrant page after I finished working on it and built a prototype!

This is now fixed, and the quadrant finally has its own page with a humble description. Consisting of only 4 different (stackable) parts, the thing is probably the easiest one to make, so doesn’t require much of a manual to assemble mechanically. Regarding the software, its current version supports 3 main axes and 3 secondary (reverse or smth) axes, and can be easily changed to support 6 main axes. If you need more and are in doubt about how to do it, please feel free to contact me, I will advise the best way to tailor the software to your needs. This quadrant design can be used to drive any axes number, so you can fly pretty much anything from a Cessna 182 to a B52 with it! =)

Helicopter pedals improvements

While building another set of helicopter pedals, I’ve accidentally cracked the wall of the frame in its weakest spot while press-fitting a 300mm piece of aluminum tubing.

As the frame is quite a long print, requiring some noticeable amount of plastic, I felt the need to do something with this problem (which I have already tried to address a while ago by inclining the tubing slot to reduce its shrinkage). As the fit is quite tight (which is intended) depending on a printer (and temp used to print parts, which should be higher than usual for pedals, I use 225 degrees centigrade for regular PLA, at first, try printing a frame leg and fitting it on a piece of aluminum tubing, it should not break), and also tubing used (there’s a tubing that is 9,8mmx 19,8mm and there’s a tubing that is 10,0×20,0) it may become overly tight. In this case, one needs to sand it a bit, but if the available clearance is misjudged, the frame can crack. Of course, that’s what happened to me (again!) =)

So, here’s the fix, that hopefully will straighten things out:

I have added 10mm extra width to the back of the frame and removed the forward slot for aluminum tubing because of aesthetical reasons (I’ve never used it anyway, and to make it reliable I would have had to add a similar “thing” to the front of the frame, which would have looked kinda out of its place). Note that I have also added a little chamfer, hoping to reduce shrinkage on edges thus reducing chances of an overly tight fit.

I have also added a mod with rubber band holders removed. I have been testing the spring-loaded version for a while now, and it works perfectly (better than rubber bands) yet this is a very refined thing I like to improve gradually. Besides, one can still use it with rubber bands just fine, but note that the latest force-trim mode for a spring-loaded cyclic will only work with pedals with springs. That’s because pedals have to return to the same exact spot every time when released, what actually cannot be achieved with rubber bands.

I hope to be able to print the new frame until tomorrow and tell you guys how things worked.

All changes are already in the repo.

Adjustable ergonomic stick frame for a spring-loaded cyclic

After flying with a spring-loaded reinforced gimbal for a while, I noticed that slight backlash has developed in a stick connector part. While it was absolutely tolerable and that part can be replaced easily, I thought it was a good idea to design a new cyclic frame for those of us who value absolute precision over being able to remove the stick when not in use by simply pulling it off its socket.  The new stick frame is based on M8 bolts and mounted to the gimbal with nuts.  The cool thing about it  – you can easily adjust stick grip inclination (you can make a copy of AS350 stick for example) and fine-tune its dimensions to suit your anatomy. It can still be attached or detached quickly but requires 2 wrenches to tighten/loosen nuts properly. I think it will be a new recommended default for a spring-loaded cyclic.

As always, you can find parts for it on GitHub.

Here’s how it looks (note a slight inclination of the stick on the second photo):