Afew small details can go a long way towards producing a convincing illusion. While refining the cockpit design over the past few weeks, I have been producing a collection of small details—based on original technical drawings—to make it more believable that we are in a real cockpit.
Most of these details—and the instrument panel—are now in place and ready to go as soon as the main structure is ready!
Forms for Shaping Aircraft Skin
There are several promising candidates for materials to use for the aircraft skin—in the last entry, I had mentioned sandwiching acrylic between two sheets of bent plywood, but wider sections of the 5 mm plywood underlayment do not bend the way I had hoped, and I have been advised by multiple experts that it will be far easier to achieve the desired result using aluminum. The leading approach at this point is to sandwich acrylic between two sheets of aluminum for the main canopy and use some kind of plywood or hardboard for the forward/nose section.
I am building forms to enable fitting acrylic and wood to the profiles required for the nose and the canopy. The glue in the forward form holding down the hardboard surface is currently setting—if I have no issues with this design, I will repeat the process for the main canopy profile.
Getting everything securely clamped down took more time than I anticipated—I hope the glue was still wet enough when I finished securing the straps!
Set Design Work Resumes
Cockpit set design work is finally resuming. To help refine the design prior to final construction, I built a full-scale prototype of the basic frame out of thin (5 mm) plywood from Home Depot. Thankfully, here were no big surprises when I put the pieces together, although I have subsequently made a number of small changes to the design.
One of the bigger parts I had not figured out prior to the construction of this model was how to make the canopy, and I may have inadvertantly stumbled upon a material that will work—this plywood seems to be able to achieve the curvature I need without breaking. If all goes well, I hope to be able to make the final canopy out of a thin sheet of acrylic sandwiched between two layers of this plywood.
The next step will be to make a form and test this method. I intend to follow up with more information about the updated design as work continues.
Instrument Panel Nearly Complete
After many weeks of hard work, the p-51 Mustang instrument panel mockup I designed for use in the book trailer for John J. Dwyer’s upcoming wwii aviation epic, Mustang, is nearly complete.
Three instruments are real, functioning, pneumatic gyros that reflect actual changes in orientation of the panel and are powered by an attached vacuum pump; three other instruments are also real and function identically to how they would work on a real aircraft during flight; three instruments that would not normally move perceptably during flight are static mockups set at a desired level; and the six remaining instruments are animatable via a companion iPad app.
At this point, I have become painfully aware of a small handful of inaccuracies, but am pressed for time and most likely will not be able to correct these prior to production (I do not think they will affect the viewing experience for the vast majority of the audience). However, I am considering machining a new panel out of aluminum and addressing these issues once the book trailer is complete.
The next phase of the project will involve building a mockup of the rest of the cockpit based on plans I have been working on for some time. Thankfully, most of the remainder of the cockpit will not be visible at all—and most of what will be visible will not be visible in great detail. I therefore expect the rest of the cockpit to take me a fraction of the time it took me to build the instrument panel. It had better—if it takes even nearly as long, I am in trouble.