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.
More to come in the next post.