Category: General

The Winter Season

With winter weather in full swing now, the cold garage has been been slowing me down from wanting get in there and working on the 737 panels.  Since November I did mange to some progress, but not as much as I would’ve liked.  Here’s a recent photos of the panels, along with a new workbench I managed to build just before the temps dropped in later December.

MIP MIP MIP MIP MIP Throttle Bay Throttle Bay Bench

 

Custom PCB Files

I’ve added a section under the files menu where I’ll post up all of my custom made Printer Circuit Board (PCB) designs and 3D printed files.

So far I have my FMC and LED Flaps Gauge files posted, but will soon add the others I’ve made over the years.

PCB & 3D Files

October Update

After constantly tweaking the MIP design, I think I’ve finally nailed it down.

The biggest issue for me with the design was how high the monitor was going to be.  I use this PC for other stuff, so I need the monitor to be at a comfortable height over the MIP. So last week I finally picked up a new monitor arm so I can see exactly how high the monitor could go and still be comfortable to use.

With that in mind I created a new 1-panel MIP design.

Panel

The two big height savers were removing the FMC and switching from using a single 20″ or so monitor for the displays to 3 8.4″ displays.  this dropped the height from 14″ to about 11″.  With the panel angled a little bit, the height it just about 10″, leaving the monitor and a nice height.

Since I went and ordered 3 monitors, I need a way to hook to them up. So I started shopping for a 2nd video card but that then kicked off a whole shopping spree event. Over the course of the previous week, I ordered:

  • GTX 1060 Video Card
  • Saitek Flight Yoke
  • Saitek Pro Rudder Pedals
  • Prepar3d v4
  • PMDG 737NGX for P3D
  • Subscription to Navigraph

I basically bought everything I’ve been wanting to buy except for the panels and display bezels.  I’m hoping to get the panels ordered this week.

This afternoon I came home to a package at my door, the GTX 1060 card had arrived! I was eager to get all my displays hooked up for a test run.

MFD Displays

Everything ran and looked great on them.

You’ll notice a small panel there on the left, under the monitor.  That’s gonna be my CDU Bay panel. It’ll house the FMC, IRS indicators/switches, engine start switches, switches for exterior lights, aircraft doors, and a keypad.  I’m planning on building a simply throttle stand to mount the Jetmax throttle to along with that panel.  I’m really debating if I should add another 8.4″ lower Eicas monitor to it though for future 777 flights. Hmm….

Now where was I?

So here we are, nearly 4 years later… and pretty much right where I was 4 years ago.  Actually, I’m more behind now as over the last few years my flight simming got pushed off to the side and much of my equipment sold.  Doh!

But then I saw P3D v4 get announced and that it supports 64-bit.  With PMDG supporting it as well, it peaked my interest and kinda got me wanting to starting flying again.

After a few “Why did I sell that?!” moments, I dug out the old files and began hatching a plan.

The first item on the list is a new Main Instrument Panel (MIP). As in the past, I’m still limited to the space at my office desk, so I’ll be building up a custom MIP for the space.  My last version of a MIP looked like this:

At the time I was thinking about getting into DCS A10, hince the 2 Thrustmaster MFD panels.

But this time around it’ll just be for FSX/P3D with the 737, so I want to gear the design that way.  While doing some surfing for ideas, I stumbled across this beauty:

and said “THAT! That’s what I want.”

This unit is (or was?) made by company as an all-one-package for desktop simming. MIP, TV Screen, computer, throttle, etc.. for like 20,000eur.  But that MIP layout helped form the basis of my new cockpit.

Here’s a shot of my initial mock-up for planning out the design.

Mockup

I had to make a few changes to accommodate keeping my monitor at a reasonable level.  My initial design was a little taller but this resulted in me having to look up towards my monitor, which eventually strained my eyes and neck pretty quick.  So I cut the design down as much as I could.  The landing gear panel was pretty much my minimum height.  So I lowered the MCP extended piece down as far I as I could but had to to cut it short on the right hand side for the landing gear panel.  It does block the view of the landing gear annunicators right now, but I may extend it a little more to the right all the way to the gear panel and put the gear lights it on it, next to the EFIS panel.  We’ll see.

Previously  I was also working on a mini-overheard as a replacement to a full-size I had.  It was one of “This is just too big” things at the time, so I started working on a mini panel. However, after the initial quote came back at around $350 for the panel I started rethinking if that was the ideal thing to do.  So now I’m toying with going back to a full-size unit as I can buy a full-set of panels for nearly the same cost.  Or do smaller overhead using actual panels… but not all of them. That way I’ll be able to re-use those panels if I continue on to a full overhead.  So the overhead plan is still being developed.

The last piece of the puzzle is the throttle quadrant.  Previously I had a JetMax 737 TQ, which I’m kicking myself for for selling as JetMax no longer sells them separately. Gah!  I’m toying with the idea of trying a self-build using some plans and tutorials I’ve found online.  Initially I may just use a Saitek throttle with some 737 handles on it while I work on the MIP.

So that’s where we are today!

Change of Plans

After a lot of thinking I decided to cancel my fullscale build.  For my needs, space and budget, the desktop cockpit has proven to be sufficient for my flying.

So with that I decided to sell the overhead panel.  While I loved it, it felt too much for my space. I was able to find a buyer for it and it’ll be shipped off to a new home in sunny Florida this week.

My MIP from Panda Simulations will be arriving soon and that will probably go up for sale shortly afterwards as well.

In the meantime, I’ve begun designing Version 3 of my desktop panels.  I’m looking at condensing the setup a bit and having it setup for flying both the 737 and 777.

Stay tuned!

Progress Update

I’ve been making progress trying to get the overhead complete.  I’ve got about 75% of the indicators installed.  I need to pick up another bottle of flat black paint tomorrow so I can airbrush the rest of the indicator boxes.  I have a OpenCockpits USB Output card that’ll power most of the LEDs, while the rest will be powered by a Mastercard I will install.

 

Not crazy about the ProSimParts knobs so I may eventually replace those with some from Opencockpits.

I also installed Display card kit and was able to use some of my existing display card PCB’s from my radio panels to make the wiring nice and tidy.  A 2nd display card will be installed for the electrical panel.  I have a custom PCB on order for those displays.

 

May need to insert some sort of tint to the electrical display panel so the 7-segment displays aren’t so visible when off.

And here’s a USB hub I installed.

 

I’m trying to consolidate cables as much as possible to reduce the number of cables needed to connect the overhead to the sim.  With a custom PCB I made for the mastercard, I’ll be able to carry the Mastercard signal, up to 3 servos, 5v power and 12v power if needed on a single ribbon cable along with a single USB cable.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 5.58.53 PM

 

I also made a custom Input/Output board for the Mastercard.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 5.59.00 PM

I can get three of these for about $23 versus $33 for a single Opencockpits board.  One side is used as an Input board while the other is used as an Output.  There’s solder pads for direct soldering to the board or 2.54mm pitch headers for terminal block or pins.  The board is small enough that with you could plug it right into the Mastercard with the right connector (or some just pins if you build the cards yourself).

Update

After taking a few weeks off to pack and move I’m back at the cockpit building now.

Yesterday I received another GP-Wiz joystick controller card to wire up the last few switches on the overhead panel. After that what remains are the Flight/Land Altitude Displays and rotaries, the Power Displays, and all the annunciators.

Hoping to get some video of the hardware in action soon too.

Display Panel PCB Success

Today all of the PCB’s I made for my 7-segment displays arrived. I was eager to see how they worked so off to work I went.

Here’s the PC Boards. 1 card to attach to the Opencockpits DisplayCard, 1 for the Nav panel, 1 for the Comm panel, and 1 little jumper for the ATC panel.

 

Interface board attached to the DisplayCard.

 

Interface board attached to the back of the NAV radio panel. The displays are soldered to the board and then a 40-pin IDC ribbon cable connects the displays to the DisplayCard.

 

And when I fired up all the digits….


Success!

This will make wiring up the displays soooo much easier.

Custom PCB Boards

To make wiring a little easier on some components I built some custom PCB boards.

First one I did I was a simple LED board that I’ll use with my HISPA Panel Sixpacks.

 

Then I got a little fancy and made a PCB board for my new Opencockpits USB LCD Card. The wiring for this card can be a rat’s nest. Here’s a look at the wiring diagram.

wire

So I built a small board that plugs into the back of the LCD. The two pots are directly on the board along with a display # jumper (The USB LCD Card can control up to 4 LCD screens.)  It connects to the the USB LCD Card by a single 40-pin connector.  Way easier than dealing with all the wiring.

And here’s with the components installed:

And here it is in action:

To build these boards, I used the free version of Diptrace to design the boards and OSH Park to fabricate them.

Now I’m trying to figure out if I can make some boards to make the wiring of the Radio 7-segment displays a little easier.