Author: nolatron

Overhead Update 2

This week I was able to get the main structure of the frame built up. I have two small supports left to install in the bottom section behind the lights panel, but I’m waiting on my switch order to arrive so I can make sure the supports don’t interfere with a switch.

Next on the to-do list…. Working on the back panel and the desk mount.

overhead overhead overhead overhead overhead

 

Overhead Update

This weekend I started working on the overhead frame.  I’m using 1/2″ x  3.5″ wood for the exterior pieces and currently planning on using 1″ x 2″ (.75″ x 1.5″ actual) wood for interior beams.  For securing everything together, my plan is using some pocket screws on the interior pieces with wood glue.

Here’s a look at the frame and the beveled pieces I made for the bottom angles.  Hoping these all work ok for getting the needed angles made.

Overhead Overhead Overhead

 

Then just test fitting the panels in place to see how everything fits.

Overhead Overhead

 

Here’s a video that going over the progress so far.

Single Encoder Radio Panels

My COM and NAV radio panels currently use a Single Rotary encoder instead of a Dual Rotary Encoder, so I had to modify the OC4BAv4 script to make this work.  I was able to set it up so pushing the encoder’s pushbutton toggles between changing the whole number and the decimal point.

Here’s the changes I made for COM1 and NAV1 radio panels.  You’ll need to adjust the Device and Input numbers for your hardware, and possibly the rotation value, adding a negative (-) or not, also depending on your hardware setup.

Find this block of code for the COM1 panel:

Var 0502, name ROT_COM1_SW, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 31, Input 57, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = &ROT_COM1_SW * 1 // change turning direction
&ST_COM1High = ROTATE 18 ,36 ,L0
CALL &Com1ToNGX
}

Var 0503, name ROT_COM1_SF, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 8, Input 4, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = &ROT_COM1_SF * 25 // instead of acceleration that doesn't wor
&ST_COM1Low = ROTATE 0 ,999 ,L0
CALL &Com1ToNGX
}

and replace with the following

Var 8600, name COM_SWITCH, Link IOCARD_SW, Device 31, Input 62 Type P // in the shaft

Var 8601, name ROT_COM1_SW, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 31, Input 57, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = v8601 // * -1 make sure turning right increments
IF v8600 = 0
{
L0 = &ROT_COM1_SW * 1 // change turning direction
&ST_COM1High = ROTATE 18 ,36 ,L0
CALL &Com1ToNGX
}
ELSE
{
L0 = &ROT_COM1_SW * 25 // instead of acceleration that doesn't wor
&ST_COM1Low = ROTATE 0 ,999 ,L0
CALL &Com1ToNGX
}
}

======

Find this block of code for the NAV1 panel:

Var 0524, name ROT_NAV1_SW, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 31, Input 55, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = &ROT_NAV1_SW * -1 // change turning direction
&ST_NAV1High = ROTATE 8 ,17 ,L0
CALL &Nav1ToNGX
}

Var 0525, name ROT_NAV1_SF, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 9, Input 4, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = &ROT_NAV1_SF * -5 // instead of acceleration that doesn't wor
&ST_NAV1Low = ROTATE 0 ,99 ,L0
CALL &Nav1ToNGX
}

and replace with the following

Var 8602, name NAV_SWITCH, Link IOCARD_SW, Device 31, Input 61 Type P // in the shaft

Var 8603, name ROT_NAV1_SW, Link IOCARD_ENCODER, Device 31, Input 55, Aceleration 1, Type 2
{
L0 = v8603 // * -1 make sure turning right increments
IF v8602 = 0
{
L0 = &ROT_NAV1_SW * -1 // change turning direction
&ST_NAV1High = ROTATE 8 ,17 ,L0
CALL &Nav1ToNGX
}
ELSE
{
L0 = &ROT_NAV1_SW * -5 // instead of acceleration that doesn't wor
&ST_NAV1Low = ROTATE 0 ,99 ,L0
CALL &Nav1ToNGX
}
}


Here’s a video of the panels in action:

PCFlight 737 Overhead

Once I received my PCFlights package I didn’t waste much time to get everything out the box to check it out. I was pretty anxious/nervous about seeing everything, hoping everything turned ok, but in the end I’m very pleased with my purchase.

I filmed the whole unboxing of everything. It’s not the most exciting video but I did it to A) show yall how everything came packaged and what not, and B) in case something came damaged I’d have it on video showing it came out the box that way.  I have that video embedded below.

Here’s a look at each set of items:

Overhead overhead Overhead

My first impression: Great looking hardware.

All of the panels look and feel great. Everything was nice and sharp and well packaged. I did notice a few of larger black plates they had a slight curve to them, but I think once they are screwed down to the frame that shouldn’t be an issue. The gauges are well built using thick acrylic plates and brass standoffs for the housing, and are backlightable.  The biggest surprise was the indicators.  I wasn’t sure how they were going to arrive, but I was happy to see the all came preassembled, even with resistors on the PCBs (I didn’t think they would). They even color coded every indicator on the pin connector. They light up great too.

indicators indicators indicators

After I got everything unboxed, I took photos of each panel and gauge, along some a few closeups of the indicators.
You can view all of those here.

And here’s the unboxing video of everything.  I’ll warn ya now, it’s kinda long and boring with not so great audio, lol

Picking an Overhead Panel

For a long time I bounced between building a small, custom overhead panel or just building a fullsize one.  The custom one would cost less to build, but the fullsize could be used in case I ever go full scale or something.  In the end, I decide to go full scale as I have this feeling if I don’t, I’d regret it latter on if I decide to expand beyond the desk.

There are several vendors of panels out there.  The main 3 I was looking at was OpenCockpits, Cockpit Sim Parts, and PCFlights.

I’m familiar with OpenCockpits panels and have always liked their quality, though shipping tended to be on the pricier side since they used DHL services (which is nice cause it’s fast and good tracking). Prices were on the high end for the panels, but they are good quality.

My EFIS panel and AFDS panel came from CockPit Sim Parts.  Both panels are ok for the price paid, though the EFIS was not backlightable at all.  CSP’s prices are pretty good too for what you get.  You can get the panels, indicators and switches for the same price as the OpenCockpits panel set for example.  But the tradeoff is probaly some quality differences there.  Cockpit Sim Parts also states 5-7 weeks for delivery.

And last was PCFlights. This was a company I stumbled upon via an ebay listing.  They produce a lot A-10 fighter panels and gauges, but also had a full set of 737 Overhead panels, indicators and gauges too.  I couldn’t find any reviews online about their 737 panels but did find stuff about their A-10 panels that was generally pretty positive.  Their prices were comparable to OpenCockpits as well.  PCflights is also the only vendor that is based here in the United States. A big plus for me.

So… which vendor to go with.

I had 2 main issues with OpenCockpits and Cockpit Sim Parts.  One was that they are overseas. You have to take into consideration currency exchange rates plus the cost of shipping large, heavy packages overseas when purchasing from the guys. For example, that £499.00 overhead panel set from Cockpit Sim Parts would actually run about $674.  Which is still a good bargain for what you’re getting.

The 2nd was mainly with CockpitSimParts and that was their lead time.  Their website states 5-7 weeks shipping time.  Personally I just don’t feel comfortable dropping nearly nearly $700 on a product with an overseas vendor that won’t ship for almost 2 months.  So while they had the cheapest prices, I felt they had the biggest risk. And that’s just my personal feeling on it.  I know there are others that have zero issues with purchasing from Cockpit Sim Parts and are happy with the product. Again, that’s just my personal feelings.

I eventually settled on PCFlights.  They are the only US vendor I’ve ever seen selling 737 panels, their A-10 panels looks good, they quoted a 1 week lead time on shipping the panels, and only $50 to ship.  Being in the USA was the biggest selling point for me. If something came up that required support or shipping something back, it would be a lot easier to do so being here in the states.  Same reason that if I got fullsize MIP, Flight Deck Solutions just over yonder in Canada would probably be my go to vendor being in North America.

So I pulled the trigger on April 16 and ordered a full overhead panel set, the overhead indicator set and overhead gauge set.  The following Monday I got my shipping notification and 1 week later on April 30, I had my package in my hands.

IMG_2033

More to come in the next post.

LED Flaps Gauge

Testing out the SIOC Code for the LED Flaps Gauge.

I tried having the indicators blink while the flaps are cycling through to give an indication of movement, but the blink came out like a bad flickering led, so I took it out for now.

Hmm. Maybe a dual color setup on a new PCB. One color for transition and then green when achieved. I’ll have to test that out.

 

SIOC CODE: http://www.tronaviation.com/tutorials/oc-flaps-sioc-script/

PCB BOARD: http://www.tronaviation.com/tutorials/custompcb/led-flaps-gauge/

 

All Lit Up

A look at the Main Instrument Panel fully lit up.  Once my Flaps PCB adaptor board arrives and gets installed, all that’s left is the installation of the Display frames.  Those I began painting today.

The Opencockpits MCP v3 model came backlit already (though not sure if you can actually turn off backlighting yet). The EFIS and radio panels won’t be backlit, didn’t think it was worth the effort for the small desktop cockpit.

Progress Update

One of the things holding back MIP work- was the assembly of the COM and NAV panels.  I finally picked up some window tint for the displays and was able to get them assembled and installed.

Radio Panels

In the middle of doing that I found the microcontroller on one of the Display Cards was bad. Luckily I had a PIC programmer already from my last cockpit project still, so I was able to purchase a replacement chip from DigiKey, copy the HEX code from the working chip and write to the new one.  Both Display cards are operational now! Yay!

With the radio panels installed I was able to get nearly all the wiring completed as well.  I decided to make a small PCB for making the connection from the Flaps LED board to my custom I/O board a little easier.  So once that board arrives that I think will round out the wiring for switches and indicators.

Here’s a look at the back side so far. Not as “clean” as I’d like as you sometimes just gotta roll with those “gotchas” 🙂   Also got a close-up shot of a I/O PCB I made as a cheaper and smaller alternative to the OpenCockpits Input/Outboard puts.  One side is for Inputs, the other for outputs and you can put female headers on and plug directly into a MasterCard or male headers and connect with a ribbon cable.  So far they seem to be working well.

Mip Wiring Mip Wiring Mip Wiring Mip Wiring

My 3D Printed display bezels also arrived on Saturday from Shapeways and they turned out pretty good. Just need to paint them boeing gray now.

Displays Displays Displays

And just a look at the front side of the MIP while testing indicators.

MIP MIP MIP

I’m waiting on a order of ribbon cable now to finish up the connections to the OpenCockpits Mastercard, then it’ll be time to move it over to the office desk and start programming things.

FMC Now Functional

Didn’t take as long as I thought as the FMC unit is now up and running.

I’m using an OpenCockpits USBKeys Cards and a custom PCB I made for my FMC.  To bridge OpenCockpits SIOC to the PMDG 737, I’m using the OCP4NGX software.  This software is primarily used for OpenCockpits Plug-&-Play modules, so custom built stuff like my FMC will need some script tweaking to make it work right.

So with the OCP4NGX Software,  the first thing I had to was manually set my KeyCard to be Device 13, what the software uses for the Captain FMC.  Once I got the variable set and the card recognized, the next main hurdle was my FMC PCB board’s key matrix wasn’t wired the same way as an OpenCockpits Plug-&-Play FMC would be, so the key inputs didn’t match up.  I was going to have to manually map each key on the FMC to appropriate SIOC input #.   After some internet searching, I found this required the following SIOC code for each key

if &KeyPressed = 20 // A
{
&CDUKey = 61 // Prosim value
&CDUKey = 0
}

Peter at Build A Boing had the same issue a few years back and shared his final code on the prosim forums, thus saving me a good deal of work of writing the whole thing from scratch.

Once I updated the first line to match what SIOC Monitor was reporting as the key # for each FMC key, my FMC worked great.  I have my FMC code available here.

Here’s a quick video testing the unit:

Throttle Bay Progress

This weekend I was able to get the final bits of wiring done on the Throttle Bay and began programming all the inputs.  As of last night I was able to get everything setup in FSUIPC in P3D V4 except for the FMC keys.  I’ll need to use opencockpits SIOC for that, so that’ll be this weeks project.

Throttle Bay

Of course it wasn’t until I was programming the toggle switches I noticed I have the “off” and “on” labels for the logo and collision lights reversed.  Whoops.

I was hoping to make some progress on the MIP wiring but I ended up running out of wire, so that’s on hold till my reorder of wire arrives this week.

MIP MIP

So in the mean time I started working on a overhead panel project.  For this panel I was thinking rather than having all the text and such etched on the panel directly, I’d create a printed overlay with it all along with some colored panels.  This way the panel could just be made with the cutouts for indicators and switches, cutting it’s cost by 50%.  It’s an early look at the photoshop file for the overlay.

overhead