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  1. #1
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    Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    So a little bit of an introduction, since I am new here...

    I am a long time simmer, having flown various home computer flight sims since the SubLogic days on the Commodore 64. I worked my way up to Flight Simulator on the Amiga 500 & Amiga 2000, then on the FS4 on the PC and every MS version since then through FSX. I've done Flight Unliminted I & II, Fly! and Fly! II, and X-Plane 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

    I have a FAA APSEL private pilot's license which I obtained in August 2002 flying Cessna 172R and Cessna 172S models. Sadly, I haven't flown at all for the past 8 years mainly due to starting a family (I have 3 girls aged 4, 2 1/2, and 1) and not having enough money. I'm about to turn 40 in October, and as a "present" to myself, I plan to get current again. I've got my 3rd class medical exam scheduled for next Thursday, as a mater of fact.

    Anyway, I've wanted to build my own home cockpit or instrument panel for the past 15 years and I finally took the plunge last Friday and began building without a whole heck of a lot of planning or forethought (that's just how I roll!) Anyway, after about $25 in wood costs and $49 for Panel Builder for X-Plane (and a $8 used LCD monitor from Goodwill) and some pre-existing Saitek controls, I've begun my build. Yay! What you see in the attachment is what I got after about 6 hours of scratch building. Not a bad start. I am building a Cessna 172 instrument panel. I don't plan to be exactly 100% accurate, but I'm looking to get close enough to be satisfying. What I have now of course is just a starting point that will get refined over time.

    Since then I've discovered this site as well as some autocad drawings of the C172 panels and printed them out and taped them together. I plan to rebuild my frame around those dimensions and I hope to get the panels CNC'ed from a plastics shop I used before for another project. I also realize that I need a bigger LCD, like a 23" in order to accommodate the correct sizes and positions of the analog gauges. The yoke won't be in the right place, but I have to take a compromise somewhere.

    I eventually plan to build my own Bendix/King 155/165 radios and plan to replace the throttle and mixture with the real deal, and replace the Saitek panels with home made panels. Fortunately I do know my way around electronics and Arduinos, so that will help. I also have a lot of experience with animatronics and robotics, so that will help, too. I have designed PCB's and had them manufactured from multiple PCB factories (even in China!) and can handle EagleCAD well enough. I've already done a simple proof-of-concept radio display using an Arduino connected to a 16x2 character LCD over an i2c bus and had the Arduino USB connected to the computer and interfaced with some C# code that I wrote to bridge to the UDP protocol in X-Plane. I realize of course that there are multiple products out there that replicated the Bendix/King radios, and others that are more generic but look good. I don't have the kind of money to drop on those, so I plan to build them myself instead. I've just realized that the dual encoders are a little more expensive than I would have guessed, but oh well! I'll try to post updates to this thread as I progress. I don't really have any time frame... I'm just working on this here and there when I have time (probably like everybody else!)
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  3. #2
    300+ Forum Addict Shawn's Avatar
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    That's a great start, I'll be watching for future updates.

    Cheers
    Shawn

  4. #3
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    I did a lot more work the other day. The first thing I did was buy a new 24" LCD to run the instruments. I ended up having to take the frame mostly apart so that I could re-position the yoke and the LCD. I lowered the whole unit by 4" and added lock-able caster wheels on the bottom (which raised it back up 2"). I changed the wooden 1/2" shelf that went over the yoke and pushed it back so the LCD could sit as low as possible on the yoke. I dropped the top of the frame by about an inch since the new LCD is shorter and lower than the previous LCD. I got a 1/4" sheet of MDF and bought some new hole saws to out all the round gauges in their correct positions and sizes. I didn't do a perfect job here... At one point the pilot drill bit fell out and when I put it back in, I didn't realize I picked up the wrong drill bit and it wobbled. I also accidentally drilled into one of the steel saw horses I was using, and it shattered the bit! That's when I realized I was using the wrong bit! Anyway, got the holes cleaned up as best as I could and spray painted it with Rustoleum. When I get some more time, I will over up the blemishes with wood putty and carefully sand it and repaint as necessary. But it's good enough for now. Eventually I want to trace the panel lines onto the panel and actually cut it apart and then recombine them with some thin backing. I will also put decorative "instrument" screws and panel screws were they are on the real Cessna. I'm going to make a glare shield as well.

    I also dug out my old GoFlight radio stack when I haven't used in years and don't like very much. I'm going to have to use that for now as I just don't have the time or money to build the custom radios right now. My "adult supervision" (i.e. wife) was already quite pissed that I bought a new monitor.
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  6. #4
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    I tried SimAVIO instruments ever so briefly but decided they were not for me. I ended up "upgrading" to Project Magenta's GAIFR panel, but having some issues with instrument support. There are 4 different "panel" modes in the software. I bought GAIFR because of the realistic looking Cessna panel. Unfortunately it doesn't look like you can break apart that panel and position & size the instruments individually... you can only do that with the "black" panel. And the some of the instruments on the "black" panel are more generic and don't match what is on the Cessna panel at all. I can't use the Cessna panel because the gauges are in the wrong positions. That is disappointing. I've reached out to tech support to see if I'm missing something or if there's some sort of fix they can give me. We'll see what Enrico says.

    In the meantime, I've built out a specialized frame to hold the Saitek trim wheel at a 45 degree angle so that it is more flush with the panel like on a real plane. I still have to cut an MDF panel to fit over it. It's not exactly in the right position, but it's closer to what I'm used to in the real plane. I also added some screws (before I ran out of screws) to the instrument panel. I want to try to come up with some bezels to fit the holes in my MDF but so far I haven't come up with any workable solutions. I was considering getting the simPlugins bezels but they don't look to be the right size. I've heard about using coffee cups but I haven't had much success with what I've tried so far. Any ideas?
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    Quote Originally Posted by Xpendable View Post
    So a little bit of an introduction, since I am new here...

    I am a long time simmer, having flown various home computer flight sims since the SubLogic days on the Commodore 64. I worked my way up to Flight Simulator on the Amiga 500 & Amiga 2000, then on the FS4 on the PC and every MS version since then through FSX. I've done Flight Unliminted I & II, Fly! and Fly! II, and X-Plane 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.

    I have a FAA APSEL private pilot's license which I obtained in August 2002 flying Cessna 172R and Cessna 172S models. Sadly, I haven't flown at all for the past 8 years mainly due to starting a family (I have 3 girls aged 4, 2 1/2, and 1) and not having enough money. I'm about to turn 40 in October, and as a "present" to myself, I plan to get current again. I've got my 3rd class medical exam scheduled for next Thursday, as a mater of fact.

    Anyway, I've wanted to build my own home cockpit or
    solar kit for the past 15 years and I finally took the plunge last Friday and began building without a whole heck of a lot of planning or forethought (that's just how I roll!) Anyway, after about $25 in wood costs and $49 for Panel Builder for X-Plane (and a $8 used LCD monitor from Goodwill) and some pre-existing Saitek controls, I've begun my build. Yay! What you see in the attachment is what I got after about 6 hours of scratch building. Not a bad start. I am building a Cessna 172 instrument panel. I don't plan to be exactly 100% accurate, but I'm looking to get close enough to be satisfying. What I have now of course is just a starting point that will get refined over time.

    Since then I've discovered this site as well as some autocad drawings of the C172 panels and printed them out and taped them together. I plan to rebuild my frame around those dimensions and I hope to get the panels CNC'ed from a plastics shop I used before for another project. I also realize that I need a bigger LCD, like a 23" in order to accommodate the correct sizes and positions of the analog gauges. The yoke won't be in the right place, but I have to take a compromise somewhere.

    I eventually plan to build my own Bendix/King 155/165 radios and plan to replace the throttle and mixture with the real deal, and replace the Saitek panels with home made panels. Fortunately I do know my way around electronics and Arduinos, so that will help. I also have a lot of experience with animatronics and robotics, so that will help, too. I have designed PCB's and had them manufactured from multiple PCB factories (even in China!) and can handle EagleCAD well enough. I've already done a simple proof-of-concept radio display using an Arduino connected to a 16x2 character LCD over an i2c bus and had the Arduino USB connected to the computer and interfaced with some C# code that I wrote to bridge to the UDP protocol in X-Plane. I realize of course that there are multiple products out there that replicated the Bendix/King radios, and others that are more generic but look good. I don't have the kind of money to drop on those, so I plan to build them myself instead. I've just realized that the dual encoders are a little more expensive than I would have guessed, but oh well! I'll try to post updates to this thread as I progress. I don't really have any time frame... I'm just working on this here and there when I have time (probably like everybody else!)
    Looks like great project and thanks for providing bit of introduction..How much have you succeeded? Can you share some more details..

  8. #6
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    There's not a whole lot more to say. The sim is functional and I am using it several times a week when I have time. I never did hear back from Project Magenta's Enrico on the limitation of their GAIFR product. I don't think they plan to change a thing, which is a shame.

    I have recently discovered and purchased Air Manager from Air Rietveld and I'm using it in combination with GAIFR. What I really like about Air Manager is you can create your OWN instruments without too much trouble. They make it incredibly easy to clone an existing instrument that you can then re-skin or adjust to work the way you want it to work. They use LUA scripting to handle the instrument behavior and it's actually fairly elegant and easy to understand. Not only that, but they allow end users to create and upload their instruments back to Air Rietveld, potentially making them available for all customers! How cool is that? So Air Manager doesn't have any Cessna 172 instruments, but they do have Cessna 152 instruments. I've been able to use some of those as the starting point for creating Cessna 172 instruments. I've now replaced with airspeed, rpm, and attitude indicators from GAIFR with new ones that I made using Air Manager. The clock/outside air temperature gauge AirManager has is spot on and I'm using that, too. I'm able to run both programs at the same time and nobody would know that I'm using 2 different products. Another really cool thing about Air Rietveld... Ralph from that company actually volunteered to help me create a whole set of Cessna 172 instruments which will be made available to every customer. How awesome is that? Oh, I should also mention that another customer named Russ had created a "full" Cessna 172S panel instrument. It was basically 1 instrument that contained all the primary instruments in one. The fact that the software could handle this is impressive. While I couldn't use his instrument, I could use the LUA code from each of the individual pieces to create my own separate gauges. Anyway, I'm really impressed with Air Manager so far. I really, really, really like their approach. To put it in perspective... SimPlugins and their Panel Builder product left a bad taste in my mouth. I politely asked them they could make their annunicator instrument available for X-Plane (since it was only available with FSX and the A2A Cessna add-on) and they told me no. I then asked if I could make one myself and hook it in with their networking protocol (which I could easily reverse engineer with wireshark) and they stopped short of threatening me with legal action. Sorry guys, but you (Panel Builder) are out-of-touch and lost a customer over that one. Not only is Air Manager a better product, but it's cheaper in cost and infinitely more flexible.

    Back to my simulator. I haven't done much else on it yet, but I still intend to build my own nav/com avionics to replace the crappy looking GoFlight stuff. I am also thinking about building my own stepper-motor controlled whiskey compass. I'm also thinking about redoing the panel bezel with a CNC - either paying somebody to do it, or maybe even build my own CNC. I don't really have the money to drop on building my own CNC but it's tempting. I've looked at doing it before.

  9. #7
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    Re: Start of my Cessna 172R/S project

    In reference to my AirManager use... here's a photo of 3 Air Manager instruments (the airspeed and attitude are works in progress that I created, the OAT came with the software) running alongside GAIFR. The OAT, airspeed, and attitude are all Air Manager instruments.20141015_233745.jpg