Common Mistakes on Home Cockpit Building
Oral Barkay, a 737 enthusiast, cockpit builder himself and worked Pan Am and DELTA for five years as an operations agent, has been kind enough to share with us his experiences on cockpit building, with a series of articles. The first article is on 'Common Mistakes on Home Cockpit Building'. We are sure you will enjoy this article, specially if your just into building your home cockpit.
While thinking about how we started this hobby and ending up becoming a company that provides hardware and software for home cockpits, I could not help but had a flashback about what was wrong in our own setups.
We have made a very important decision to move the experience of simulator flying to a new category and started to control everything which is primarily designed for mouse clicks and joystick button pushes with a lot of hardware developed with different logic and without really having a standard. These hardware either ended up conflicting with each other, or we could not find enough sockets to plug them in. Meanwhile we have already invested quite heavily ending up with a lot of good looking but not working parts and pieces on hand. But why??? Or how did we end up blaming ourselves to be naive and started crying?
When you start a home cockpit at home there is a dream of a closed cabin with all the equipment looking exactly like the airplane to fly and making people jealous that you are actually flying and airplane. This dream or image on our brains are getting so strong that we bypass the vital part of reality to be accepted before even moving a finger. That reality is that home cockpit building requires a descent amount of knowledge on electronics, hardware, software, aircraft knowledge, craftsmanship, being a painter, being a cable solder, constructor etc. Well, none of us are that complete but the image on our brain forces us to read the bit of information that we think is vital and actually pay the money and get the stuff. Result... crying faces in forums, public posts asking for help, inability to explain what the problem is and
hoping to find the people sharing or shared the same destiny. Right at this point mistakes start as we start seeing a lot of way around solutions to our problem.
The system we are building is actually a series of very tightly connected chain reactions that trigger each other based on a specific condition. For some reason if there is a conflict on communication, hardware or software we are using this trigger mechanism never works correctly.
Ok enough you say...I agree...but what to do about it and where to start building?
Our personal opinion is if you are not good enough to be able to build the whole hardware like MCP, EFIS, FMC, RADIO PANELS or so you would better buy these. Having said that does not mean you have to jump in to first web site that comes in google in exchange for a search phrase "home cockpit".
You have to start reading. First thing to read is to learn the functionality of the hardware in the real airplane. How to use it? Learning what happens when you press one function and actually knowing the functionality. This information is widely available in web.
Then you have to go on with more reading. Then check the forums for similar users. Their comments and look for the functionality of the hardware on whether it matches the real deal or not?
Then more reading on;
- How does it get connected?
- What kind of drivers it is using?
- Is there a chance for you to adjust or change parameters from within the script supplied with it?
- Does it do what is required?
- Does it work with your predicted setup? i.e. if you intend to use a glass cockpit software does it support it?
- Is there any previous installations? How successful?
The problem part of the above is you have to do this for each and every component and actually keep a good archive about what you have found. By looking at the archive make a good plan and proceed your very first steps.
HAVE A TEST PIT
One important aspect is to have a test pit. No matter what, you will end up someday if not at the beginning with some kind of a problem. If you are willing to mess up neatly installed bunch of programs and start from scratch just jump into the community, start spending and end up miserable.
Instead spend you hard earned money wisely and get two computers and install them exactly the same and keep one for testing. Then as you start building slowly test, test and test everything before you connect them to the main computer. In most cases even after you connect them again. Not sounding so wise right? Ok what does after you connect mean?
You buy a piece of hardware, set it up on your test pit, test it and see it works. Good . Then you move it to your main PC. Still good.
Then you buy a new hardware and connect it individually to your test pit. Test it. Works? Good. Does it give any guarantee that if you connect it together with the previous one it will work? No one knows. So connect the old one to test pit, add, change, play with configuration, make sure it works then move on to the main system.
Hard work right? Well you are building an airplane. No one said it will be easy. So the main idea is to keep everything in pieces where they can be moved back and forth easily before actually building the panels, cabin etc and put everything in place beforehand. You will burn your precious hours building it. One stupid led can cause you a couple of hours. So save your sweat.
PLAN AHEAD AND PANELIZE
In most cases aircraft cockpits and related functionalities will be designed in panels with separate but indirect connections. And these connections generally are the warnings as the panel itself does the work.
So plan your building schedule panel by panel, keep everything intact, finish the panel and move on to the next one. Keep an eye on the indirect connections and program them or install them together. For example, if you switch off the hydraulic pumps from your overhead you have to know (because you must have already read it) that six pack warning panel lights up HYD led for B737. In this case if you only concentrate on the leds on overhead it will work but when you install the rest of the parts you will recognize that you forgot to either add it to function script of your cockpit or connect them physically. Some more hours dead.
KEEP THE DISPLAY SEPARATE FROM REST OF COCKPIT
One of the bigger problems of home cockpit building is that there is not good enough products in the market to enable wide angle, big enough 180 degree view to give you the 3D feeling. We all end up with either software or hardware solutions which is better than a single monitor but not enough for peripheral view essential for good landings. Surely the companies are advancing on this but the display system is a standalone system and must be thought separately. If possible to start from the display system will ensure that you will not end up with a bad graphical card or a solution that will partly work.
In the oncoming articles each and every issue mentioned will be evaluated separately.
Till then good readings