Programmer makes simulated cockpit using 3D printing
Guan Chao

The coronavirus pandemic has put many people under lockdown this year. The months of staying at home have forced people to become creative with their time and find new interests. And some of those stuck at home have been giving another shot at their childhood dreams. One programmer from China's Zhejiang Province brought his aviation dreams to life.

This homemade equipment simulates a real-size cockpit of a 737 passenger jet.

Its creator, Cao Lin, is a network engineer in his 30s, but beyond his daily routine with algorithms, he's also deeply interested in everything related to planes.

"The pandemic made me think about my life. This feels like I'm doing something to realize my unfulfilled dreams. Many parts are hardly ready for sale in the market. But I want to make it look real. 3D modelling and 3D printing seemed to be my only way," Cao said.

The panels, monitors, together with dozens of modules and more than a hundred buttons, are all made by hand. 

"There's no way for me to get the real specifications. I have to guess the size based on the pictures," Cao said. "I once tried 20 times just to print a proper-sized button."

But making them look real is not the hardest part.

"As a civilian, I have no access to watch the whole process of a plane's operation. I might have read about it in books or seen it in films. But it's hard to imagine how it really works," he said.

When it comes to piecing the parts together, Cao must learn through the process. He taught himself aerodynamics, fluid mechanics, and electronic devices, and even drove for over a hundred miles to seek help from a professional pilot.

After three months, his efforts paid off. The cockpit was built in his apartment and could simulate a real piloting experience. Like many people, Cao's enthusiasm comes from his longing for the skies when he was a child; his recent attempt has revived that feeling and made him realize that it's never late to go after your dreams.