• How To...Build Flight Controls

    How To...Build Flight Controls

    By Lolke Doornik
    September 28, 2011

    After buying and using several plastic joysticks I wanted to make my own, more sturdy flight controls, usable for GA aircraft and helicopters. This is what I made. You can use this article as a starting point for building your own version. Always check measurements, mine may not work for you.

    Main Components:

    • MDF fibreboard 18mm
    • Ball bearings used in inline-skates
    • 8mm steel rod
    • Some aluminium pipe with inner diam. 8 mm.
    • 15 mm. steel central heating pipe
    • 22 mm. central heating pipe
    • 10 K potentiometers
    • Plastic cog wheels, mine have 50 cogs/ 10 cogs
    • Metal strips to make brackets for the potentiometers
    • A second hand car seat
    • Some screws, bolts and nuts
    • Heavy duty glue for construction (wood/metal)

    Base Unit

    This is made from MDF 18mm, glued and screwed to make a sturdy base. The blue edged part is removable (screwed only with 4 screws) and the base for a car seat.


    To this base unit connects a "box" for the joystick. In this box are holes for the ball bearings and the ends of the axis. For maintenance better not glue these parts.

    Stick Assembly

    Stick is made from 15mm central heating pipe with a steel rod of diameter 8mm soldered or welded into a cross shape. Length of the stick depends mainly on how much space jou have under your table. The longer the stick, the more precise its movement.

    The stick is clamped between four pieces of MDF with holes for bearings, axis and bolts (M6x60). Three pieces are glued together and the 8mm rod for the ailerons-axis is inserted and glued in one piece. When the glue has dried cut away the centre piece of the (aileron) rod. This way the remaining two pieces are perfectly aligned.

    For keeping the stick centered a spring is used that pulls down from the floor of the base unit. Length, tension, stick length under the pivot point is trial and error.


    The rudder assembly is detachable by removing four screws. The rudderbar is made from 22mm central heating pipe soldered or welded through it is a piece of 8 mm steel rod. Centering: two springs. When you do this with tie wraps you can center the bar perfectly by sliding a tie wrap inwards or outwards (look at photo at the beginning).

    To keep the rudder at he right height there is a piece of pipe (inner diameter 8 mm) slid on the rod (pink in the picture), between the lower bearings, with a screw to keep it in place.


    Again a box and a steel cross shape. I planned to use a bolt on the metal rod for friction but that didn't work (too much stress on the parts). My son came up with a window retainer that works on friction. You can see it in the photo at the beginning. This system is perfect for me.

    Important Details

    The bearings always have a washer on both sides (white in the picture). Some have more washers to retain parts.

    The metal rod has a small piece of pipe (diameter 8mm) glued on top (red in the picture), to center the cogwheel.

    The metal rods have a hole into the front face (drilled) with thread M4 to fasten the cogwheel with a bolt M4 (be sure to drill this hole exactly in the centre of this face!).

    The small cogwheels are glued to the shaft of the potentiometer. And there is a groove in both the shaft and cogwheel in witch a smal piece of metal wire is pushed.


    I purchased an old serial joystick, took it apart and adapted the handgrip and buttons for use in this project. And made a control box on the right side.


    This howto is focused on the mechanical aspect of the cockpit. To complete this project you need an interface (see links below) and wire it all up. Instructions you can find on the internet.


    Cogwheels: www.pmot.nl
    Interface: www.leobodnar.com (BU0836 or the a/x version) or you could build an MJOY from the howto section of www.flightsim.com
    Parts: www.voti.nl

    Lolke Doornik
    [email protected]

    Download Sketchup model of controls

    1. ranger57's Avatar
      ranger57 -
      A very nicely put together set of instructions, and good to meet a fellow SketchUp user!

    1. Woodpecker1214388's Avatar
      Woodpecker1214388 -
      Congratulations and well done.
    1. FRED AMBLER's Avatar
      Very interesting project that's not too complicated or expensive and could easily be developed further. Well done
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