Ashland man flies a Boeing 737 in his living room

Ashland man flies a Boeing 737 in his living room

Posted by in Flight Simulators, News

BY CINDY HUANG Richmond Times-Dispatch Alvaro Coronado put on his headphones as sounds of flight attendants and passengers flooded the cockpit, his eyes looking straight ahead. He checked his various gauges and put his feet gingerly on the pedals. Then the plane lifted off the ground at 165 mph, without Coronado ever leaving his cozy home in Ashland. Coronado built the cockpit of a Boeing 737 in the middle of his living room. Four outdated Dell monitors display the changing view of the sky and earth. A keyboard allows him to use Microsoft software that simulates flight. Bent plumbing pipes hold the shape of the nose. Layers of thin metal sheets used for roofing are nailed to a plastic material around the piping. Hard spray foam used for insulation holds everything together. Coronado is a jewelry store owner by trade and a renaissance man by habit. He plays the flamenco guitar, creates replicas of museum artifacts, practices martial arts and, now, dabbles in aerospace engineering. “The whole thing started because I was afraid of flying,” said Coronado, his voice carrying a smooth Colombian accent. He said that if he’s afraid of something, it’s because he’s afraid of the unknown. And so he had to face it. “By learning all the sounds and movements the airplanes does, everything seemed so normal. The sound of the landing gears, the flaps,” Coronado said. As he flew his handmade Boeing 737 in his living room, his friend and pilot Col. Javier Garcia looked on. Garcia, who flew KC-130s in Iraq, explained how the steering wheel controls the altitude of the plane. “When you push (the steering wheel), the houses get bigger; when you pull, the houses get smaller,” Garcia said. He joked that the goal is to “keep the blue side up, brown side down.” Garcia said a real simulator costs millions of dollars. And Coronado’s simulator has the basic functions to keep a pilot in practice. “If I wanted to stay current, I would do this to keep my eyes where I want it to be,” said Garcia, referring to all the gauges and controls that pilots have to monitor and control. Coronado said he never went to flight school or engineering school. “I go to YouTube University,” he joked with a grin on his face. The process of building the plane involved trial and error and some unconventional thinking. Coronado’s wife and business partner, Caroline, said that when the project first began more than a year ago, her husband put the plumbing pipes in their tub so the hot water could help the pipes retain their shape. She joked that she doesn’t know how many wives would tolerate having plastic pipes in the tub and an airplane nose in the middle of the living room. But she’s proud of his fearless approach toward his projects. “He doesn’t think anything negative. He...

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Afraid of flying, this guy built his own cockpit

Afraid of flying, this guy built his own cockpit

Posted by in Flight Simulators, News

Instead of flight school, he chose ‘YouTube University’ By CINDY HUANG Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch ASHLAND, Va. – Alvaro Coronado put on his headphones as sounds of flight attendants and passengers flooded the cockpit, his eyes looking straight ahead. He checked his various gauges and put his feet gingerly on the pedals. Then the plane lifted off the ground at 165 mph, without Coronado ever leaving his cozy home in Ashland. Coronado built the cockpit of a Boeing 737 in the middle of his living room. Four outdated Dell monitors display the changing view of the sky and Earth. A keyboard allows him to use Microsoft software that simulates flight. Bent plumbing pipes hold the shape of the nose. Layers of thin metal sheets used for roofing are nailed to a plastic material around the piping. Hard spray foam used for insulation holds everything together Coronado is a jewelry store owner by trade and a renaissance man by habit. He plays the flamenco guitar, creates replicas of museum artifacts, practices martial arts and, now, dabbles in aerospace engineering. “The whole thing started because I was afraid of flying,” said Coronado, his voice carrying a smooth Colombian accent. He said that if he’s afraid of something, it’s because he’s afraid of the unknown. And so he had to face it. “By learning all the sounds and movements the airplanes does, everything seemed so normal. The sound of the landing gears, the flaps,” Coronado said. As he flew his handmade Boeing 737 in his living room, his friend and pilot Col. Javier Garcia looked on. Garcia, who flew KC-130s in Iraq, explained how the steering wheel controls the altitude of the plane “When you push (the steering wheel), the houses get bigger; when you pull, the houses get smaller,” Garcia said. He joked that the goal is to “keep the blue side up, brown side down.” Garcia said a real simulator costs millions of dollars. And Coronado’s simulator has the basic functions to keep a pilot in practice. “If I wanted to stay current, I would do this to keep my eyes where I want it to be,” said Garcia, referring to all the gauges and controls that pilots have to monitor and control. Coronado said he never went to flight school or engineering school. “I go to YouTube University,” he joked with a grin on his face. The process of building the plane involved trial and error and some unconventional thinking. Coronado’s wife and business partner, Caroline, said that when the project first began more than a year ago, her husband put the plumbing pipes in their tub, so the hot water could help the pipes retain their shape. She joked that she doesn’t know how many wives would tolerate having plastic pipes in the tub and an airplane nose in the middle of the living room. But she’s proud of...

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Going in Reverse: How Old World Artisans Put the Ashland Theater on the Governor’s Christmas Tree

Going in Reverse: How Old World Artisans Put the Ashland Theater on the Governor’s Christmas Tree

Posted by in Custom Jewelry, News

Alvaro and Caroline Coronado’s Ashland Jewelry studio is a creation frozen in time. A seemingly ancient, chaotic workbench reveals a mystifying selection of primitive, handmade tools, recycled dental picks and computer scraps, chunks of wood, cloth and metal with proprietary uses that master goldsmith and jewelry designer Alvaro closely guards. Foot-powered bellows, discarded TV stands and various railroad ephemera clutter the studio, but all serve to enhance his imaginative creations. “When I have handmade tools I can mold exactly what I need,” says the lean, cheerful and doggedly self-sufficient Colombian native, whose long fingernails attest to his love of flamenco guitar. “I am a hoarder. I keep each little piece of metal because one day it will become a tool, and when I have my hands trained and my brain trained to create that tool, it works better than anything else.” Alvaro’s remarkable tool-making abilities, with Caroline’s business acumen combined to meticulously create a sterling silver Ashland Theater Christmas ornament. In a recent Celebrating Virginia’s Localities competition, it was chosen to grace the tree of the Executive Mansion. With no formal or professional training other than an unwavering work ethic, Alvaro put 50 years of Old World craftsmanship and experience into the scant 48 hours he had to create the exquisite ornament while Hurricane Joaquin raged outside the couple’s 800-square-foot Ashland studio apartment. “We originally were planning to go North that weekend,” Caroline says. “Since we were stuck here, we decided to make it after all.” Working feverishly, almost nonstop, Alvaro completed the piece with less than 15 minutes to spare. Alvaro’s jewelry-making career began at age 9, watching over the shoulders of master jewelers in Bogota as he swept the floors. He endured brush-offs and elbows to the stomach but started learning trade secrets. “Colombia is a loving country, but jobs are extremely difficult to find,” Caroline says, which helps explain why older jewelers are reluctant to teach their young charges. “So when you have a skill, you go into survival mode and are reluctant to share.” “But poverty and hunger are great motivators,” Alvaro says. Arriving in America in 1985, and then moving to Ashland 10 years later after living in Long Island and North Carolina, the Coronados originally had a second-floor studio by the railroad tracks. Passing trains shook the building, further challenging Alvaro to perfect his rock-steady skills, honed from the adversities of working in Colombia. Successfully completing the ornament by deadline was testament to Alvaro’s discipline and half-century dedication to perfecting his craft. With the partial view of the historical theater from his studio window shrouded in torrential rain, he worked from photographs — melting, forming and then flattening finger-size silver ingots into square strips in a hand-cranked press. He then cut, molded and soldered those strips into rudimentary shape. He scratched the shapes and texture of brick into the central tower, set the...

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