Even in the notoriously dedicated flight simulator community, air traffic controller James Price stands out: he's spent almost two decades assembling a cockpit within the nose of a real Boeing 737. After first becoming interested in flight sims around 20 years ago, Price began building full-sized model cockpits. The first "were just basically made up of wood in my spare room in my house," he says, but his enthusiasm soon led him to furnish them with more and more authentic parts. From there, "it's a natural progression to want the shell to put it all in." In 2000, he and fellow hobbyist Matt Ford went to an Oklahoma boneyard, where Price found not just the specialized part he'd been looking for but the full nose of a retired 737.
Price estimates he's spent about $150,000 on his cockpit, which now includes genuine seats and instruments as well as three large projection screens that serve as windows. "You can fly to basically any airport in the world," he says. "There's terrain scenery for the entire world. It has a complete weather system in it with real-time weather from the Internet." Price, who flies private planes himself, has still never flown a full-sized jet. With his project, though, he's actually done something much rarer — many enthusiasts build model cockpits, but Price may be one of only four or five people worldwide to build one in an actual airplane. Even now, though, he says he probably won't ever really be finished. "There is always some new technology coming along that is too irresistible not to add to my project. ... This is pretty fulfilling." You can find a full interview over at Mercury News.