August Updates

Been a while since my last update, I’ll try and recap everything that’s been on.

FMC

I left with the ordering of a custom PCB board for my OpenCockpits FMC Kit.  They board arrived in a couple days and looked great…. at first.

 

FMC FMC FMC

At first I noticed I goofed on the pin spacing for the resistors, then I next noticed I had the pin spacing wrong on the header pins for the LEDs and backlight inputs. I though no problem, I cna work with that still. So i went and soldered all the SMDS and switches in place. And that’s when I when I found the big error. I completely missed including some switches into the traces. So many of the switches didn’t. Doh!

So it was back to the drawing board. I updated the design to move all the resistors to the back of the board in a single spot, redid the wire diagram for all the switches and also redid the diagram for the backlight to make sure they were correct too. And fixed the header pin spacing. The 2nd boards came in and this time, everything worked. 🙂

FMC FMC FMC FMC FMC

So with the PCB project now complete, the assembly of the FMC is slowly underway.

 

737 throttle

My original plan for a throttle was still up in the air. With Jetmax no longer selling their throttle unit, I was looking into building a housing to use a Saitek throttle in.  And the 1 day my phone dinged. It was for a Jetmax 737 Throttle that showed up on Ebay.  After a quick look over the pictures, everything seemed to be in good condition so I jumped on it.  A few days later, I had my throttle problem solved.

Throttle Throttle Throttle Throttle Throttle

I plan on building a small CDU bay to go in front to probably hold a few custom panels with some buttons and switches on it.

Other Stuff

I’ve pretty got my MIP layout finalized.  I’ll have to put together mock up but basic plan is to put the FMC on the left side, 3 displays and then MIP switches like landing gear, flaps guage, etc..  The top portion of the panel with have the MCP unit, sixpack indicators, master/fire switches and the COMM and NAV radio panels.  this way I keep the bulk of the wiring and I/O cards contained into a single unit.

Speaking of MPC, I recently picked up a OpenCockpits MCP from them last week.  I’m trying to get most of the panels I need in order to finalize where cutouts need to be in the MIP panel as I plan on getting a metal frame fabricated for it.

MCP

Ended up with the Honeywell version as that’s all they seem to sell now, but I do like the custom knobs on and was delighted to find the unit comes with backlighting installed already.  I haven’t tested that out yet though.

I’m also working on some PCB’s for my Comm and Nav panels for the 7-segment displays, so I’ll show those off whenever I get them done and fabricated.

That’s about it for now.

FMC PCB Design

My current project has been working on the PCB board for the FMC unit. Opencockpits used to sell one but no longer does, so I decided to create my own in DipTrace.

I used the included clear panel in the FMC Kit as my guide to laying out all the button locations and screw holes.  I also added in some pads for small SMD LEDs for backlighting.  Here’s a look at the 3D render from DipTrace.

fmcpcb

I’ve got my fingers crossed that I have the tracing down correctly for the key matrix.  I submitted the file for fabrication to EasyEDA last yesterday.  Will probably take about 2 weeks to arrive from China.

I normally use USA based OshPark.com for all my small PCB boards, but because of the size of this one I went with EasyEDA as it was waaaaaay cheaper ($20 for 5 board min vs $150+ for 3 min.)

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!

New Custom Panel Design

Working on a new panel idea for the MIP.

20130923-132542.jpg

Looking at maybe moving all the controls to a 2nd panel that will fit under the monitors so it’s more out of the way when not in use. A new middle panel will also be made that’ll be just the lower monitor and the MCP, again at a height so it will fit underneath the monitors. Right now everything really sticks out. Looking to try to get everything flush for a cleaner look.

Panel will also be a 737/777 hybrid as you’ll see a few controls on the panel specifically for the 777 for when I get it. Also moved all the switches from the FMC stand to this panel as I may install a small lower Eicas monitor for EFB or something.

Here’s another design that also moves the MCP letting me use the whole front monitor (since I use this PC for other games too):

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 8.05.32 AM

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).

Custom Indicator Box PCB

For my current indicators I used the Open Cockpits Printed Circuit Boards (PCB) but you have to add a resistor between the board and their I/O cards.  So for those I did some circuit rerouting on their PCB by cutting one of the traces, glueing a resistor to the board and then soldering the electrical connection.  It was a pain to do but it worked.

So this time around I decided to create some custom LED PCB’s  to use with my overhead indicator boxes with a resistor built in.

  

My Green and Blue indicators use 2 resistors per board while the Orange (Amber) ones use 1 resistor.

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.

Working Around the NGX SDK

If there’s one thing you learn when doing a hardware cockpit with the PMDG 737NGX is that the SDK isn’t perfect.  Namely it sends values that don’t match whats happening in the cockpit.

A perfect example of this is the ‘Cold and Dark’ Cockpit.  There’s no power so nothing is on in the VC, yet the SDK is pushing “on” values to various MIP indicators, such as the landing gear, sixpacks, and Master Caution. So my MIP would be lit up when it shouldn’t be.

This weekend I finally sat down and re-did my SIOC code using some subroutines to fix that.

Basically instead of just reading the state of the indicator, I first read the state of the battery switch on the Overhead.  If it’s off, all the indicators are turned off.  If it’s on, it then calls the Subroutine to check the indicator’s state.  So I know my hardware items finally match what really should be happening.

I’ve posted a copy of my updated code here.  As always, you’re welcome to use it but will need to update Device/Output numbers for your setup.

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.

LIVE NOW! CLICK TO VIEW.
CURRENTLY OFFLINE