Sunday, 17 March 2013

Q&A 2 - Instrument monitor height

Pete Hudson wrote: When you sit the instrument monitor atop the yoke it does seem very tall. I bought a widescreen to limit the height but you almost have peer over the top of the dash to see out. Maybe all will look ok when I get the outside view sorted but did you have the same problem?

Hi Pete, I have the same problem with my instrument monitor. Because it has to sit on top of the yoke it raises the top of the MIP higher than it would normally be in most RL aircraft.

To mitigate this I removed the bezel from the monitor and cut the MIP as close to the top of it as I could. I also lowered the yoke as far as I could. I found that by sitting further back the angle of my legs allowed me to lower the bottom of the MIP quite a bit. The last thing I did was lower the exterior view monitors behind the rear of the MIP as far as possible without losing too much of the bottom of the picture.

I haven't got round to using car seats yet. If I raise the office chair I use to almost full height I can get my legs in under the MIP quite easily to use the rudder pedals, and the top of the exterior view monitors are just above my eyes. Ideally I would want to be almost looking down at them, but at least I'm looking straight ahead and not up. It's not perfect, but a pretty good compromise.

Also for the outside view would a 42" TV be any good or there a reason most people use the 3 monitor route?

I've never used a TV but I believe the resolution on a big TV would be pretty similar to a single monitor, ie. you wouldn't see any more to the left and right. The PC sees the three monitors as one super wide one with a res of 5760x1080, so it's really wide and normal height. The native resolution of a 1080p TV is only 1,920x1,080, so you're only seeing a third of the width of the image you would using three monitors, just larger. Hope that makes sense!

Monday, 18 February 2013


Doc Fester has asked a few questions in the comments of this post, so I thought I'd try to answer them in a post instead of comments to make them a bit more accessible.

Hope you don't mind, Pete :)

What do you think of a beamer setup for the outside view? I'm contemplating a single projector for forward view and possibly 2 monitors for left/right views. With an enclosed pit I just think it will give so much more realism. A single monitor IP for the guages, that's the idea anyhow!

I have a long term plan to build an enclosure and replace my current triple monitor setup with one of the following:

  • Three projectors giving a wide enough field of view to allow me to make side windows. I'm not sure if this is feasible given the available space.
  • One or more projectors for the main view and a monitor on either side as a side view, which is what you're suggesting.

Side windows are important to me as I spend a lot of time glancing to each side, particularly when in the circuit. At the moment I have to use the hat switch to shift the main view which ruins the immersion.

I haven't looked into it enough to advise you on the best solution, but most enclosed simpits I've seen make use of projectors so if you have the space and the money that's probably the way to go. Not sure if one will be enough though, but you might get away with it if you're using monitors for side views.

If you haven't already done so I suggest you ask in some of the forums, as there are plenty of people out there far more knowledgeable than me on the pros and cons of projectors :)

I have a few old keyboards knocking around and thinking of going down the keyboard emulator route for many of the on/off switches. I own a sign company so bespoke panels are no problem for me.

I've seen keyboards with labels stuck on the keys used as switch panels, and they will certainly do the job for little or no outlay.

However, I prefer the tactile feedback of flicking a switch to pressing a button and I also think that bespoke panels look so much better than a keyboard. If you can make your own panels so much the better as I found actually attaching the switches to the Bodnar card was really simple. I would definitely go for bespoke.

You have gone for the GoFlight kit, better than Saitek?

After extensive research I went for the GoFlight modules mainly because I prefer their looks over the larger Saitek modules. It made sense financially as well as you can pick them up second hand pretty cheaply, particularly the older black ones that I use

I can't say if they're better as I've never used the Saitek modules, but I'm very pleased with the GoFlight kit.

My yoke, pedals and throttle quadrants are all Saitek though, and they're great.

How easy is the process of ganging the saitek quadrants to share throttle pitch etc?

Dead simple. I got one quadrant with the yoke which plugs into it using a DIN type connector. The second quadrant has a standard USB connector so you can plug it in anywhere. FSX recognises it and you can configure the levers and switches either in FSX or using FSUIPC in the usual way.

Hope that helps. Happy to answer anything I can.


Radio stack and overhead

I managed to make some steady progress over December and January. I sprayed the MIP black using Halfords matt black spray, which made a big difference. I have some cheap black paint from B&Q to brush paint everything else.

I also got hold of a few more GoFlight modules which I've used to build a radio stack.

x1 GF-P8 button module
x4 GF-166A radio modules (3 pictured)
x1 GF-46 multi-function module

These were all the old black versions and pretty cheap on eBay, although one of the 166s was missing a knob when it arrived. I'll try to return the faulty one and sell on one of the others as I only need two of them. I'm thinking of replacing it with a second 46 so I can use one as a DME and one as a transponder. Then I'd like a GoFlight autopilot module to go in the centre pedestal or OEP.

They are all great modules but for a while I just had the 46 and, to be honest, you could get by with one of these on their own. You can pick them up for around £50 on eBay and they do pretty much everything. I can't recommend them highly enough for adding a bit of reality on a budget.

The idea was to use the P8 to switch between COM and NAV etc as in a RL radio stack, but I'm having trouble getting it to work.

I fixed the modules in place using these:

They're really excellent for fastening panels and look the part too.

I also built a new overhead electrical panel. This took some time and now I've used up all the inputs on my Bodnar card, so I'll need a new one before I can add any more switches to it.

I got a couple of metal handles from Homebase and some black quilted material which looks pretty good as insulation pinned on either side of the OEP.

At the moment the individual switch panels are made from thin MDF with printed paper labels stuck on with spray mount. Once I'm happy with the design of these I will have them made up properly by a local signwriter shop I've spoken to.