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Mission Statement 

The purpose of FLAPS-2-APPROACH is two-fold:  To document the construction of a Boeing 737 flight simulator, and to act as a platform to share aviation-related articles pertaining to the Boeing 737; thereby, providing a source of inspiration and reference to like-minded individuals.

I am not a professional journalist.  Writing for a cross section of readers from differing cultures and languages with varying degrees of technical ability, can at times be challenging. I hope there are not too many spelling and grammatical mistakes.

 

Note:   I have NO affiliation with ANY manufacturer or reseller.  All reviews and content are 'frank and fearless' - I tell it as I see it.  Do not complain if you do not like what you read.

I use the words 'modules & panels' and 'CDU & FMC' interchangeably.  The definition of the acronym 'OEM' is Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real aicraft part).

 

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Journal Archive (Newest First)
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Thursday
Feb012018

Variation in Panel Colour, Manufacture & Location - Center Pedestal

The center pedestal in the Boeing 737 accommodates a number of panels, several of which are standard for all commercial passenger airlines.  All high-end simulators replicate these panels and enthusiasts often fixate on several issues.  Namely:

(i)         The colour of the panel and lightplate;

(ii)        The position of the panel in the center pedestal;

(iii)       The backlighting of the lightplate (bulbs verses LEDs);

(iv)       The manufacturer of the panel, and;

(v)        The aesthetic condition of the lightplate.

Although seemingly important to a cockpit builder, to the casual observe, or indeed to many pilots, these attributes are of little consequence.  Nevertheless, it's understandable why many believe all the panels are identical in all B737 airframes.

Whilst it's true that all airlines must meet aviation standards for the type of operation they fly, the panel manufacturer and where in the pedestal the panel is located is at the discretion of the airline.  Furthermore, it's not uncommon to observe older style panels mixed with modern panels and to see lightplates that are illuminated by bulbs and LEDs side by side.

Note that some of this information probably pertains more to older Next Generation 737s than to the latest airframe build released from Boeing.  I use the word 'panel' to denote an avionics module.

Colour of Lightplates

The official colour shade used by Boeing is Federal Standard 5956 36440 (light gull grey).  However, OEM part manufacturers may use slightly different colour hues.  For example, IPECO use British Standard 381C-632 (dark admiralty grey) and Gables use RAL 7011.  This said, often an airline will 'touch up' a lightplate that is damaged or faded - this introduces a further colour variant. 

LEFT:  Air Alaska 737-700 pedestal.  Note higher than standard position of ACP panels and relocated position of the door lock panel.  Also high mounted position of rudder trim panel (click to enlarge).

As an example, a lightplate I repaired from a B737-500 airframe revealed three differing shades of grey beneath the final top coat of paint.  This is not to mention that, depending on the manufacturer of the lightplate, the final coat of paint may be matt, semi-matt or gloss.

From the perspective of an engineer, the colour (and to a certain extent aesthetic  condition) is unimportant when replacing a defective part with another.  Time spent in the hanger equates to a loss in revenue by the airline.  Therefore turn-around times are as brief as possible and keeping an aircraft on the ground while procuring the correct shade of Boeing grey does not enter the equation.

Position of Panels in the Center Pedestal

Boeing recommends a more or less standard position for the essential panels in the center pedestal (NAV, COM, ADF, ASP, rudder trim, door lock and panel flood), however, the location of the panels is often altered by the receiving airline, and is to a certain extent is determined by what other panels are installed to the pedestal.  Areas (holes) in the pedestal not used by a panel are covered over with a grey-coloured metal blank.

LEFT:  This photograph of the center pedestal of a Boeing 737-500 was taken in 2016.  The aircraft is a freighter used to transport parcels that has been converted from a passenger aircraft.  Apart from the older style ACP panels, note the disparate displays between the NAV and COM radios.  Also note the position of the ADF radios and some of the other panels; they do not conform to what is usually thought of as a standard set-out.  Finally, note the scratches on the pedestal and on some of the panels and lightplates - they hardly look new (click to enlarge).

Panels are manufactured by several companies, and often there appearance will differ slightly between manufacturer, although the panel's functionality will be identical.  The airline more often than not chooses which panel is used, and often the decision is biased by the cost of the panel.  Therefore, it's not uncommon to observe several airframes of a similar age with differing panels positioned in different areas of the center pedestal.

Panel Condition

Enthusiasts pride themselves in having a simulator that looks brand new.  However, in the real world a Level D simulator or flight deck rarely looks new after entering service.  Panels can be soiled and paint is chipped and scratched, and depending on age, some lightplates are faded to due to the high UV environment that is present in a flight deck.

So where am I going with this?  Enthusiasts strive to match their panels with those observed in a real airliner, however, more often than not this information comes from photographs distributed by Boeing Corporation (which nearly always depict panels in a standard position in the center pedestal). 

The variables noted by enthusiasts should not cause consternation, as real aircraft show similar variation.  Remember that in the real aircraft, colour, manufacturer, and to a certain extent aesthetic condition is not important - functionality is.

To see additional photographs, navigate to the image portal.

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