View Full Version : 100% Mac X-plane 373 flight deck

11-12-2009, 12:26 AM
I have been planing my Boeing 737 flight deck for the past year but haven't really done much until about a month ago. I realized early that there would be some major obstacles I would encounter, mainly money and time. Another area of frustration that developed early was the lack of support for Mac OS X. It's hard enough to to find products that support x-plane let alone the Mac. I knew this project would require a lot of home made solutions and hopefully, as I and time progressed, someone out there might see the need to expanded their support they offer for x-plane and extend it to the Mac community as well. I have been incredibly lucky to find Leo's USB joystick emulator and Thank you Sandy for the Go-Flight plugins. Between those two solutions, I had the confidence to get started on this project.

I am a die hard Mac user and this project would have to be 100% Mac. I currently enjoy X-plane with a CH products yoke,rudder and throttle. With this project, I wanted to incorporate my current setup with parts of the completed flight deck in stages until I was ready for enclosing the complete setup. I decided to build the flight deck in 5 sections. Section 1 is the overhead. When completed, I will be able to use it as a stand - alone unit until it is ready to mount in the cockpit shell. Section 2 is the Pedestal. I figured this too would be a way to gain functionality to my existing setup. Section 3 will be the control column and throttle assembly. I figure if I can afford them and if I made it this far, these 3 pieces Captain / FO yokes and Throttle, will be the last equipment required before closing it all in the shell. Section 4 is the cockpit shell. with a raised floor to provide clearance for the linked yokes, I am expecting this box to be about 7ft by 7ft . Once I have a floor, I can move to Section 5, the MIPS. and then bolt it all together. Thats the plan.

As I stated, I am currently working on the overhead. I looked online and found that this hobby is well loved in Europe but not so much here in the States. I was a little reluctant to spend $1500 for an Overhead kit that would not work with my mac. I had found Leo's USB card and figured I could just build one from scratch and that way I know what I can and can't support. I found a great site, http://www.737ng.co.uk/ , this guy has build an incredible overhead with a powered bus that operates like the real thing. I created a base panel in Adobe Illustrator as well as sub panels to go on top to give the look of the bolted panels used on the overhead. I had the panels CNC'ed out of grey polycarbanite. This was the first time I had ever done anything like this on the computer so I made some alignment mistakes, but nothing that couldn't be fixed. I plane to use false DZSU screws to complete the illusion when the electrical portion of the overhead is complete. So far, its coming alone nicely. I have about 50% wired up and operation with working power distribution for APU, Ground and Eng. Gen's. Lots of lights and toggles! The next step is to complete the electrical and remove everything for painting and finishing. The panel will not be back lit due to cost, I have dumped about $200 so far, back lighting would be beyond my pay grade. If what I learned with CNC'ing the panels from Illustrator can be used for the Pedestal and MIPS, I think I have found a way to afford this hobby with out getting a night job.

11-12-2009, 12:58 AM
If the simpit is a simpit 100% of the time the OS underneith is merely a destration to the goal. You could run it on Linux, Windows or MacOS and it shouldn't make much difference.

I think you need to sit down and think this through though. I suggest using the most cost efficient and funtional setup to meet your needs. While on the desktop, that is probably MacOS X for you, but while in a simpit MacOS X isn't exactly the best fit.

I have no issue with Macs and was a production artist and pre-press graphic designer for a decade before switching to being a manufacturing engineer, so I have zero bias against the MacOS X platform itself. My problem is exactly what you stated. The tools simply aren't there yet to efficiently pull it off using MacOS X yet. While I applaud the idea that you are interested in working through those issues somehow, I think you really need to step back a bit and evaluate if you'll have the programming resources and knowledgebase to do it? If not, will you be willing to pick those skills up along the way? I'd hate to see a bias towards MacOS X be an impediment towards getting you the most functional simpit options possible.

I think it's an error in limiting yourself just to MacOS X as a basis for the project. It's hard enough as is to see a project through to completion without putting up impediments and roadblocks to your goal like this.

11-12-2009, 01:21 AM
Thank you for your observation about supported OS's. There are many reasons one would want to want to use a mac for a simpit. Stability, ease of use and performance are a few. In my particular situation, I have a large collection of macs on a really fast network that I use for rendering. I will be building these machine into the simpit while retaining their ability to perform their rendering functions when called upon. So in response to your first statement, the simpit will not be a simpit 100% of the time. While I understand that the OS I chose may not be the best suited for the commercial simpit builder, The purpose of this thread was to share my experiences in building a 100% Mac X-plane 737 flight deck and hopefully attract others with similar ideas and plans.

11-12-2009, 01:43 AM
Thank you for your observation about supported OS's. There are many reasons one would want to want to use a mac for a simpit. Stability, ease of use and performance are a few. In my particular situation, I have a large collection of macs on a really fast network that I use for rendering. I will be building these machine into the simpit while retaining their ability to perform their rendering functions when called upon. So in response to your first statement, the simpit will not be a simpit 100% of the time. While I understand that the OS I chose may not be the best suited for the commercial simpit builder, The purpose of this thread was to share my experiences in building a 100% Mac X-plane 737 flight deck and hopefully attract others with similar ideas and plans.

Ah, makes a bit more sense when you mention you already have the hardware is it's working double duty. That changes the context for thigns a bit. It still leaves compatibility issues in the forefront though. My suggestion would be to make friends with a MacOS X programmer and see if he can help out.

11-12-2009, 07:30 AM
As an avid Mac user as well, (and a US-based 777 builder) I'm very interested in following your progress. Running X-Plane for Mac and PC, I honestly have to say that my 2007-era iMac is my best performing flight simulation machine- bar none. None of my 7 Windows-based sim PCs can match the smoothness of the Mac. On the other hand, I can't replace any of the 7 PCs with Macs, either- they won't run my SimBoard software. Not trying to start a Windows/Mac war at all, just saying what I've found.

I'm interested to see the Mac become a viable platform for home sims- I could foresee someday a handful of Mac Minis running my virtually silent, very cool-running, multi-CPU sim system, if the interface hardware can be made to work under OS X.

I've tried the XPUIPC plugin for X-Plane on Mac to no avail (didn't really think it would work anyway), but without Cocoa programming experience, I'm not able to advance the state of affairs on interfacing hardware and Mac software. Keep up the good work and keep posting your progress!


03-10-2010, 06:33 PM
Glad to see more people pushing the Mac envelope. I too am an avid Mac user. Chuckled about the Mac minis too. Was thinking the same thing!

Check out Revolution Simproducts if your doing the 737. I spoke with them via e-mail just last week. They have an awesome Throttle Quadrant that they say is not only X-plane compatible but Mac also. The whole thing runs off of joystick commands via USB so it will work with MSFS or X-plane and any operating system ( so they say ).

03-11-2010, 02:39 AM
it's been a while but things are moving along. I had a feeling this would be a slow moving project and it is. The overhead is 95% complete. I am having the final panels CNC'ed this week. I am very excited because these panels, my third attempt, will be back lit. I have learned a lot in the past few months about what USB HID devices play nice with Mac's and X-Plane and what don't. I have made some new friends like Steve over at Desktop Aviator, with their 2160 board that seems to be the perfect mate for X-Plane and the Mac. I have acquired more GoFlight gear and more headless MacBook Pro's and a projector. One thing I have learned with this hobby is the sooner you can get something up and flying, it makes the labor more rewarding. So as of now I have a fully wired and functional overhead, the start of a radio bay, flight controls for the captain, separate MIPs displays for captain, first officer and EIS. The only other system I have left to put together is some kind of FMC. Besides that, my goal of not having to use the mouse had been achieved. Right now everything is just kind of slapped together , but it flies. I am looking in to a couple options for a frame so my overhead is over my head. I understand that the level of commitment to this project will explode when I decide to box everything in. So I am taking my time and making sure I plan everything out. I have included some photos of my progress, It's not much to look at, but then again, Its not the destination, but the getting there.



03-11-2010, 11:07 PM

Just came across the update. Anytime I see something about a Mac I want to check it out.

I am a PC converted to a Mac user. I have many years experience with the PC every since the early 386 and DOS 3.0. Was always interested in a Mac but never seemed to find the right time to try. Used to be a corporate tech support for Gateway for 3 years. Hi stress job back in the Win95 days to Win98. I always knew graphics was better on a Mac verse's a PC as well as audio.

When I started my sim PC's came cheap and had many hanging around. I have both Project Magenta complete Boeing Suite and Sim-Avionic's so I pretty much need to stay with the PC for flight sim.

I decided to dabble in music so I purchase a Mac Pro to manage my studio using Apple Logic 9. This was my first entrance into a Mac. I could not believe how easy it was to learn and the quality under the case beats any PC I have ever seen. My main PC and FS PC started giving me issues. Sim PC started overheating and it seemed like I was constantly upgrading hardware on both units. After talking with Steve Becker about Mac's he recommended trying VMFusion 3 for the Mac. This allows windows to run simultaneously with the Mac OSX. Now I ditched the PC for a second Mac Pro running VMFusion 3 on a 2 monitor system. PC on the left and Mac on the right. Has worked out great. The PC image created run's great. I now slowly am moving PC software to the Mac side. Dropped Outlook Express for Mac Mail. Was able to import years of data and does everything I want it to do. Switching now from MS Office to iWork 09.

Soon the only thing to run on PC's will be the FS because of the investment. I have tried X-Plane on the Mac in demo. Haven't really had much time to get used to it. Ran pretty smooth when I had the opportunity. Just too much to try learning right now. I have been following a lot of new support for X-Plane through the FSBreak Podcast. Have learned quite a lot for both X-Plane and FS.

It may be worth trying the VMFusion 3 route with FS on the Mac. I too would like to se a surge in Mac user's and idea's. :D

Just my 2 cents, well maybe 4 cents, kind of got carried away. :D

04-04-2010, 01:18 AM
It's been a while and the overhead is about 99% complete. It is fully wired and brings me hours of enjoyment. I finished cutting the light panels and painted them last week. I was able to use clear acrylic for the panels and I placed an order for "warm" white LED's. It looks like I am going to try to back light it after all. I am waiting on the center panel and the landing light panel and then it's on to annunciators and gauges. I have found a plug in for simkit's USB gauges and X-Plane, but I have to contact them to see if a Mac Plugin is on the horizon. Here are some photos of the progress so far.



06-04-2010, 08:52 AM
Very useful info indeed. Do you have a website where you have documented events in more details? ( diagrams, instructions, etc). I am in the process of starting to build and have been gathering bits and pieces here and there. Problem is I only have access to x-plane on mac and I think that your efforts are making a huge contribution for those of us on mac. Any pointers to other resources you are using will be very useful.

06-11-2010, 01:23 PM
Thank you for the kind words. I do feel "out on my own" at times with this hobby, but I fully expected that from the start. I have thought about putting a website together, I want to get a little further in my build before that can happen. I just moved to the east coast to a suburb of Philadelphia called Delaware, so a lot has been put on hold. As far as I am concerned, all you need is X-Plane and a Mac! It's a fast and very stable platform running a simulator the puts the physics of flight and performance of objects the travel thru the air before eye candy. As your project starts to grow, you can add machines to your network, link them to your existing machine and gain displays or external views easily. Check out :
www.x-plane.org . Join up and check out the forums. If you haven't found it already. I use XHSI for my stand alone EFIS. The author is fantastic and has adapted his software to suit my pit. A real great community, like this one, to get involved with.

Usually, the only thing separating a PC from a Mac is a tiny bit of software. Hardware is hardware, and there is a lot out there that has been modified to work on a Mac. Almost all the Go-Flight modules will work, and Open cockpit has a plugin for x-plane (PC only) but we are working on that. As the potential for support and compatibility for MSFS gets left further behind when Microsoft updates their OS, It is nice to know that there is a very current and up to date simulator running on ALL platforms available today.

I am sure someone will have something to say to that, or remind me that 7% market share can't provide me with to tools and equipment to produce a realistic 737 experience. For me, I have enjoyed building from scratch, solving hardware problems and coming up with solutions where there were none, almost as much as flying the partial completed project. Its not the destination, but the journey.


06-13-2010, 09:23 PM
Had a bit of a break thru over at x-plane.org today with getting data refs working with EFIS range and map selection controls. I built a new prototype EFIS using rotary switches and the Desktop Aviator 2160. No more rotary encoders! And we will have separate controls for pilot and co-pilot real soon. The software HSI is called XHSI it lays over top of a networked copy of X-Plane. I know it's a bit modern compared to the usual 737-300 HSI (the author based his off a 737NG) But with a little resizing and limiting the max range to 320, it should be a close enough.



06-15-2010, 10:45 AM
Thank you very much. I have ordered the X-Plane DVDs, CH yoke and Saitek pedals. Hopefully that will get me into the first impressions. Will keenly follow your progress and learn along as I watch other threads for guidance.

Keep up the spirit.

05-16-2011, 11:14 PM
Well, I have been so busy building and flying, I thought it was time to post my progress. By the end of last summer I had found solutions for my HSI and PFD and outputting datarefs to LEDs I had an "almost" complete and operation overhead and have flown about 100 hours with outstanding results. So I figured it was time to tear it all down and build the big pieces.


I got my hands on a couple replica 737 yokes on ebay for a song. Built the columns from 3" steal pipe and shaped the elbows from 90 deg. 3" plastic pipe.


After a lot of experimentation, I was able to link the two yokes and have them operate smoothly.


I started to build the floor and get a feel for how much space this thing was going to take up. I design the floor to be in 4 sections for "easy" transportation. I really hope that day never comes.


My overhead is finally over head! The windshield is starting to take shape.


With the glare shield installed, I started to play around with gauges. It's starting to look like a cockpit!


I figured it would be easier to cut one large panel for the MIPs and then cut out all the unwanted bits.


A quick test of the projector. I am shooting onto a curved mirror that reflects back onto the curved screen. Doesn't look half bad, I plan to use 2 projectors and a Dual head to go, but for now, it works and I'm happy.


A close up of the almost complete radio bay with dual collins EFIS for separate cpt and fo control. I can only change modes on the transponder and not the numbers, I still have to use my go flight for that, but I love the 80's look in my bird.


Wired up my six packs and my master caution lights. The lights are real korry's that I grind down and made my own legend and sealed with epoxy. The six packs as well as every annunciator in my cockpit is a 1x3 Lego brick. Six of them glued together fit perfectly in a real glare shield and the price of Lego bricks are a lot cheaper that other options out there. Plus they are shiny on the inside and have bumps perfect for LEDs.


Starting to come together now.


I have added bezels to the altimeters that include a knob connected to an encoder for adjusting the pressure. For switch caps I use the little white rubber caps you put on the ends of closet organizer units. You can get a bag of about 50 for $10. Some more anti ice Legos are visible in the overhead.


And finally, I have just completed my 737's FMS and have it operation running on a mac. I bought a real Smiths FMC out of a Navy E-6A (rebuilt boeing from the late 80's) for $125. I gutted it and re mapped the keypad matrix to an old USB keyboard and with some key press re mapping and a new coat of boeing gray, I think it looks pretty good. I am running VasFMC 2.1 with the autopilot disabled and it works great. I no longer need to get online in the cockpit to check out weather or flight plans. With the addition of a soon to arrive psone screen, it will be complete and ready for installation in the old girl. So now I am up to 5 machines (six including the mac that is going to run the HUD, but thats still a work in progress) I have separate avionics for Captain and FO. Failure and warning feedback thru lights and indicators as well as OMI markers. And now I have a fully functional FMC for proper "adult" flying. All running 100% on Macintosh computers and X-Plane.


02-05-2012, 03:12 PM
Made a flaps gauge out of a Teensy and servo. total cost, $36. Just one $16 Teensy can drive all the gauges in my overhead as well as the flaps gauge. I can finally fill those holes!



Matt Olieman
02-05-2012, 03:24 PM
Nice work!!! Nice to see the Mac at work and interfaced.

Please continue to keep us up to date :) :) :)

Matt Olieman

02-09-2012, 07:08 PM
Mac Isaac great job, you can publish the code?

02-09-2012, 09:46 PM

#include <Servo.h>

Servo motor; // an RC Servo motor
FlightSimFloat FLAPRAT; // access to X-Plane's FLAPRAT
const int motorPin = 2;
int previousAnalog = -100;

// setup runs once, when Teensy boots.
void setup() {
FLAPRAT = XPlaneRef("sim/flightmodel/controls/flaprat");

// loop runs repetitively, as long as Teensy is powered up
void loop() {
// normally the first step in loop() should update from X-Plane

// When X-Plane changes the FLAPRAT....
void viewFLAPRAT(float val)
int angle = val *172.0 + 0.0;
Serial.print("(X-Plane) FLAPRAT = ");

The same code can be used to control about any gauge that there is float data ref for. Next is a cabin pressurization gauge.


04-25-2012, 05:21 PM
I have been busy with the teensy++. I have been able to reproduce the cabin pressurization system for my 737-300. I have also started to take an old gables transponder and interface it to another teensy++. It is truly amazing what can be done with this little device. I am able to begin a flight and during the flight, I can unhook the device, connect it to another machine for modification and then return it to the cockpit for testing without interrupting the flight or relaunching x-plane. Setting up a device to reproduce a specific system seems to be a lot more reliable than assigning multiple input devises to handle functions from x-plane directly. I can program the cabin pressurization to tap directly into data refs from x-plane and communicate them back to the sim. This gives me more control over systems that x-plane normally would provide in the advanced buttons commands. For example, x-plane does not have a switch for APU bleed. But it does have a data ref for Bleed air provided by APU. I programed the teensy to detect the APU switch is on and send the Bleed air data ref to 4 (apu). I will include the related code once I clean it up, until then, here is a video. $50 for 1 x teensy++, 1 x dual needle cabin pressure gauge and 1 x cabin vvi gauge, 4 x toggle switches and a encoder.


04-27-2012, 03:13 AM
Excellent!!! Well done and thanks for sharing. I just received 2 teensy boards and started experimenting with Paul's plugin. Very promising indeed. Please do share code whenever you can as some of us are not great with coding.

05-07-2012, 05:41 PM
As soon as I clean up the code I will post it. Sadly, I am not so good at coding, I am very good at copy and paste! It might be a while. I have started buying real instruments and interfacing them with the teensy, Here is a duct pressure gauge for the overhead. These things blow my mind, I am having too much fun.



06-23-2015, 07:26 PM

Nice job on this. I have been looking for code to drive my flap gauge. I do have a question for you. I am using a Teensy 2.0 and a Teensy 2++. Do you have any code to make the lights for the LE FLAPS TRANSIT and the LE FLAPS EXT work correctly. I have been playing around with some code but have not been able to get it to work correctly. Ant insight you may have would be greatly appreciated. I ma just learning how to program the Teensy and use datarefs. THANKS!!!!