Category: Overhead

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.

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.

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

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).

737 Landing Light Caps

My 3D printed landing light switch caps arrived and turned out pretty good.

 

The inside diameter of the tube was about a 1.5mm too large so it kinda wiggles on the switch arm.  But I figure once I glue it into place it should be ok. The length also was about 2mm too long but I’ve already trimmed that off.  Next up will be painting and then attaching.

I also received my first batch of overhead indicator boxes.

Once these kit painted I’ll be working on installing those.

Overhead Parts

I recently posted about replacing my overhead with a mini, custom one. Will I decided against it. I’m gonna keep the overhead just in case I ever get room for a bigger cockpit 🙂

So with that, today I ordered a batch of parts for the overhead indicators. I ordered up the full set of indicatos from Opencockpits (I’ve given up waiting on ProSimParts) along with some white switch knob covers.

674x501_1179219_1100324_1372342030I also ordered the first 20 of 100 3D printed custom boxes I made to fit the panels. I ended up cutting down the box size to be about half the depth of what OpenCockpit uses. I still get a nice spread of LED light on the indicators, but cuts about 40 cents off the price.  Not a lot but after I order 100 of them it’ll save me about $40.

 

674x501_1020889_933600_1365705356Along with the boxes I ordered 4 of my Landing Light switches to see how they turn out.

Change of (Overhead) Plans

Seeing as how my ‘cockpit’ will probably never evolve past being a desktop-based cockpit I’ve decided to replace the my fullsize overhead with a custom “mini” overhead. Here’s a look at the print out of the first design.

I’ve compacted most of the overhead down into a 23″ x 14″ panel. Most gauges have been left off along with some non-essential switches that I’ve never ever used. I may remove some more as well that I’ve simply never touched. The panel is small enough that I could use sitting on my desktop or still mount to an stand like my current overhead, but just not be so huge.

Here’s a comparison shot on the fullsize overhead.

In other news, if you’re looking for an overhead I’ll have one for sale soon. 🙂