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  1. #1
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    Which aircraft are best suited for home cockpit builders?

    All,

    I have been building a generic home cockpit sporadically for a couple of years now. I am now at the point where I wish to commit to a more specific cockpit. At this point, I have reviewed many postings on many sites, and not ever found a complete list of which add-on aircraft work well with cockpits and which do not. I am also interested as to what methods are needed for each - that is to say, do I need a utility like "KeytoMouse", or can I assign keystrokes and/or buttons to various actions.

    What I know so far is as follows:

    1) Keyboard Encoders:

    * Hagstrom - PS/2 model - works nice - good macro support ~72 inputs - I see they now have a USB model w/ 108 inputs but have not tried it (http://www.hagstromelectronics.com/p...s/modules.html)
    * X-Keys - USB or PS/2 Available - looks like 128 key support and macro support. Have not used it yet personally, but looks like an excellent bang for the buck @ $60 (http://www.x-keys.com/custom/xkmatrix.php)

    2) Joystick Controller:
    Simple USB module that can work with switches/rotaries/potientiometers $45 (http://www.leobodnar.com/products/BU0836/)

    3) Misc IO methods

    That being said, which aircraft lend itself to what type of IO??

    * For my generic setup and the built-in Cessna 172, I can do most everything with the FSUIPC software. Both writing my own C/C++ code to interface to rotaries, switches, and LED's to the on-screen controls and also mapping a keyboard encoder to MS FS keyboard commands.

    * I have made a full Garmin 530 GPS unit that takes button inputs and maps them to keystrokes (as configured in the Reality-XP Garmin 530 .INI file)

    * I have Flight One's Meridian and ATR72-500 and think I would have limited keystroke support and would have to do most operations with key2mouse (although I have not tried it myself yet).

    * I have seen that LEVEL-D 767 has a full SDK and have visited Nico's website often - http://www.lekseecon.nl/ This add-on appears to be best suited for the home cockpit builder.

    * I have seen Project Magenta software can help with this - but is cost prohibitive.

    * I have read in numerous locations that PMDG aircraft do not lend themselves well to home cockpit builders.


    What other add-ons work well with home cockpit builders (and which one's definitely do NOT) and using what technologies?? Your input is much appreciated!

    Dave Snyder
    Waukesha, WI

  2. #2
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    WOW Dave, you're opening up a can of beans LOL

    You'll get lot's of opinions this one. I would start with making a list of what planes you like and then look at what parts are available at the price you want to pay. Or what parts you are able to make yourself.

    And then.... bottom line is, how much do you want to spend

    Matt Olieman

  3. #3
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    I am very aware on what I am opening up here, but I figured this was a great place for it to happen - many experienced users on many types of aircraft using many different pieces of hardware.

    I have no problem making what I need, but at the end of the day I need to know how to get my real world inputs into Flight Simulator. I already have written custom USB PIC firmware (using the Microchip PIC18F4550) that talks to Maxim 7219 LED control boards, does servo control, reads switches, rotaries encoders, and potentiometers. Now I need to know how to get all of that data from my interface PC program into flight simulator. Writing to FSUIPC has worked well, but I don't think it will cover all the new specialized controls found in add-on aircraft.

    Bring on the opinions and I await the fun!

    Dave Snyder

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    1000+ Poster - Fantastic Contributor AndyT's Avatar
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    Dave,

    I think you are looking at this from the wrong direction.

    Sure some interfaces are easier to use than others, but that's not really the point.
    In the long run its going to come down to this:
    What aircraft do you want to fly? That is the really important question. Answer that one and then you have a base to work from.
    God's in command, I'm just the Pilot.
    http://www.geocities.com/andytulenko/

  5. #5
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    Andy,

    Actually, my angle on this comes from the fact that I enjoy creating the controls, instrumentation, and software at least as much as the flying/aircraft aspect of this hobby. In that regard, that is why I am soliciting feedback on opinions on which aircraft people have models and how they have interfaced to them.

    For what it's worth, I am going into this with the presumption that the Level-D 767 will be the most flexible, but want to get all of the data I can before I dive into a project like that. I have not had much experience with the heavies, but have done pretty well with the Flight One ATR72-500. The biggest problem with that aircraft is I have no idea how to interface to it's controls. From that I got to thinking "I wonder what aircraft others have implemented successfully and how did they accomplish it".

    In any case, by having a thread like this (with hopefully many different opinions), others will be able to reference it in the future to help them decide on their own cockpits as well.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Dave Snyder

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    Quote Originally Posted by dsnyder View Post
    Writing to FSUIPC has worked well, but I don't think it will cover all the new specialized controls found in add-on aircraft.
    You might want to investigate the use of the new FSUIPC "mouse macro" facilities in relation to sophisticated aircraft panels such as those from PMDG. I think pretty much all of the functions can now be operated via FSUIPC-assigned buttons.

    When using FSUIPC offsets you'd need to use the "virtual button" facilities to trigger the macros, that's all. There's 288 possible "virtual buttons" available, so you should be okay. These could operate every dial and switch in a PMDG cockpit.

    The main problem with such panels, really, is getting data OUT of them for display on your own gauges. For something like the PMDG aircraft this mostly amounts to the MCP autopilot registers, though that could be solved now, I think, by using one of the ready-made MCPs with PMDG driver support included.

    Regards

    Pete Dowson

  7. Thanks W9XE/Project777, dsnyder thanked for this post
  8. #7
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    (Thanks for the update on FSUIPC, Pete)

    So, are their any other add-on aircraft available that I can read data from? (I assume I can do it w/ Level-D 767).

    Also, for an aircraft that I don't have the ability to read instrument data from, I imagine that you must save your flight with your switches in a known position and always physically pre-position those switches before reloading that flight (in order to ensure the physical switches are in-sync w/ the virtual ones)?


    Dave Snyder

  9. #8
    25+ Posting Member salautom's Avatar
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    maybe you can have a look at http://www.sim-avionics.com
    the triple-7 is not that difficult to build (mostly glass cockpit)
    Regards,

    Henk.

    (my hobby: http://777simulator.nl)
    (FSX/Sim-Avionics/OpenCockpits)

  10. Thanks fweinrebe thanked for this post
  11. #9
    500+ This must be a daytime job
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    Quote Originally Posted by dsnyder View Post
    Also, for an aircraft that I don't have the ability to read instrument data from, I imagine that you must save your flight with your switches in a known position and always physically pre-position those switches before reloading that flight (in order to ensure the physical switches are in-sync w/ the virtual ones)?
    It wasn't really the switch positions that I thought would be the problem, but the data to drive external instrumentation -- digital displays, and so on -- with the MCP being the most obvious.

    With switch settings the way I adopted for the PFC 737NG cockpit and my PFC driver was to save, in the driver's INI file, the switch settings as they were being operated, and then restore them next time to the simulator. This works fine provided you don't mess with the switches when the driver isn't running.

    However, this was only necessary because the PFC hardware doesn't provide a way of reading switch settings -- it only sends data to the driver when a switch is operated. With many of the hardware solutions available these days it might be possible to simply read all the switrches and initialise the Sim accordingly. The only time when any manual synching would be needed is when switches are toggled by the same action -- push on, push off. If you can't read the setting that would be awkward and need manual checking/intervention.

    So, from that point of view a 737 is probably a lot easier to handle than a 747 (thinking of the overheads).

    Regards

    Pete

  12. #10
    2000+ Poster - Never Leaves the Sim kiek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peter Dowson View Post
    This works fine provided you don't mess with the switches when the driver isn't running.
    For large simulators with lot's of switches it is a tedious job to manually synchronise your hardware switches with the ones in the panel of your aircraft.

    And even more important, during a flight you have to be sure that your switches are sync, because you normally don't see the software panels (overhead, pedestal, mip, ..) of your add on.

    But there is good news: if you choose the Level-D 767 and my free lekseecon (or FSCONV) programs then synchronisation of the panel with your hardware switches is guaranteed, not only at start up but always!

    For instance, if you change a switch with your mouse in the panel, then lekseecon (or FSCONV) will revert that action.

    What a relief!

    And what about lekseecons built in features for lights test and cold and dark cockpit support...

    regards,
    Nico Kaan
    www.lekseecon.nl

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