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

 

ADS-B Log Back Online

I recently got the ADS-B Tracker Log back online, logging daily flights my Tracker is catching.

My latest addition was to use Flightware for route information.  Virtual Radar has a route database it uses, but often times I find these routes out-of-date, missing or using destinations for different legs of the callsign.  I discovered FlightAware offers a free option for it’s new API XML 3 feed. It gives you 500 queries a month, but as a ADS-B Tracker, you get 500 more, so 1,000 total.

To reduce the daily query count, I archive everything into a database table.  Since I’m catching aircraft in the same area daily,  whatever part of a route a flight is one will generally be the same day to day. So there’s no need to fetch the same info over and over from FlightAware.   To help build up the route archive initially, I subscribed to their lowest tier plan at $12/month for 2,500 queries.  I may use that for a month or two, and then drop back down to the free one once the archive builds up.

I also only check FlightAware for data from from major airlines. I simply filter it down to flights that broadcast a callsign 5 or more characters long and are flying a Boeing, Airbus, or MD aircraft (1 or 2 others).  This pretty much narrows it down to the airlines, and excludes general aviation flights who my use a different call sign every flight.

It was a fun challenge to figure out, and I’m still tweaking the code.  In the future I want to have callsigns updated every 2-3 months maybe in case they do eventually change.

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

Panels Arrived

My two custom fabricated panels arrived yesterday afternoon and they came out great.

Panel Panel

My two main concerns were the opening for the FMC and the AFDS panel, but luckily they came out perfect and the items fit right in. I ordered these from Front Panel Express this time around. Order to delivery took 12 days and the panels came extremely well packaged as well.

With the panels in hand, I can now work on building up the MIP frame and a housing for what I’ll just call the CDU panel.

Throttle Stand

Not many construction photos of this as I practically was planning it as a built it, but here’s a throttle stand I built for the JetMax throttle and my “CDU Bay”.  While I have the stand from JetMax for the throttle, I needed something a little shorter so I could slide the whole throttle unit under the table when not in use.

Throttle Stand Throttle Stand

Constructed out of 1/2″ oak and painted RAL 7011 Iron Grey.

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….

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!