Simulator - Phase 1:

It was decided to start with a fairly basic simulator which would utilise the existing flight controls (yokes, throttles, rudder pedals etc) and provide instrumentation by means of LCD computer monitors placed behind the existing instrument panels. For additional realism, many of the remaining aircraft switches have also been wired into the sim.

The simulator is driven by 3 standard PC's (connected by means of a simple network) which manage the following functions:-

PC1 runs the X-Plane software and provide the 'out of window' view.
PC2 displays instruments for the left cockpit instrument panel.
PC3 displays instruments for the centre cockpit instrument panel.

PC2 will also handle changes in switch positions and send the necessary info across the netowork connection to the master simulation machine, PC1.

The outputs from the simulator are both audio and video. The audio gives engine sounds, movement of flaps or gear and random radio chatter. To this end, the PC speakers were installed in place of the original non-functioning cockpit speakers with a bass unit fitted against a bulkhead to enhance the lower frequency sounds like gear etc.

For the view out of the window we had a problem. Had the aircraft been inside a hangar, we would have placed a large screen in front of the aircraft and projected the view onto it. Being outside and very exposed to the elements we were forced to come up with a solution inside the cockpit. With very little room, and more importantly very little funding, a projector was sadly out of the question. The cockpit windows are far too steeply angled to place LCD monitors against them - which initially seemed to be the most logical solution. In the end we settled for a single LCD monitor mounted on the glareshield coaming to provide the window view.

Given that we had none of the original instruments but we did have the fascia to which they had been mounted, it was decided that the quickest and most cost-effective means of providing instrumentation was to place yet more LCD screens behind the fascia panels. This method had been used successfully before and although it required a lot of custom software to be written was relatively painless.

One of the most important aspects of a simulator is getting away from the traditional keyboard, mouse and joystick - We wanted to use the aircrafts own controls. The easiest way to achieve this was to take the circuit board from a standard off-the-shelf joystick and connect this to position sensors attached to the aircraft flight controls. We chose the Logitech Wingman Extreme Digital 3D for phase-1 simply because it had a fourth axis we could use for the rudder pedal yaw control. Using a standard joystick controller had several benefits - it was inexpensive and appears to the PC like a regular joystick even though it is connected to the aircraft controls - no custom software required!

To make use of the many switches in the cockpit, we elected to use a Hagstrom KE72 keyboard controller. This wonderfully easy to use and reliable device sits between the keyboard and the PC and allows up to 72 switches to be connected to it. When each switch is turned on or off, one of more keystrokes are sent to the PC thus eliminating the need for a keyboard.

Here are a few photo's of the cockpit before and after phase1. Click on either picture for a supersize version.