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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).


All funds are used to offset the cost of server and website hosting (Thank You...)

No advertising on this website - EVER!


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If you see any errors or omissions, please contact me to correct the information. 

Journal Archive (Newest First)

Entries in B737 (9)


Autobrake System - Review and Procedures

The autobrake, the components which are located on center panel of the Main Instrument Panel (MIP), is designed as a deceleration aid to slow an aircraft on landing.  The system uses pressure, generated from the hydraulic system B, to provide deceleration for preselected deceleration rates and for rejected takeoff (RTO). An earlier post discussed Rejected Takeoff procedures.  This post will discuss the autobrake system.

LEFT:  Ryanair B737-800 -  autobrake set, flaps 30, spoilers deployed, reverse thrust engaged (photograph copyright Pierre Casters).


The autobrake selector knob (rotary switch) has four settings: RTO (rejected takeoff), 1, 2, 3 and MAX (maximum).  Settings 1, 2 and 3 and RTO can be armed by turning the selector; but, MAX can only be set by simultaneously pulling the selector knob outwards and turning to the right; this is a safety feature to eliminate the chance that the selector is set to MAX accidently.  

When the selector knob is turned, the system will do an automatic self-test.  If the test is not successful and a problem is encountered, the auto brake disarm light will illuminate amber.

The autobrake can be disengaged by turning it to OFF, by activating the toe brakes, or by advancing the throttles; which deactivation method used depends upon the circumstances and pilot discretion.  Furthermore, the deceleration level can be changed prior to, or after touchdown by moving the autobrake selector knob to any setting other than OFF.  During the landing, the pressure applied to the brakes will alter depending upon other controls employed to assist in deceleration, such as thrust reversers and spoilers.

The numerals 1, 2, 3 and MAX provide an indication to the severity of braking that will be applied when the aircraft lands (assuming the autobrake is set).

In general, setting 1 and 2 are the norm with 3 being used for wet runways or very short runways.  MAX is very rarely used and when activated the braking potential is similar to that of a rejected take off; passenger comfort is jeopardized and it is common for passenger items sitting on the cabin floor to move forward during a MAX braking operation.  If a runway is very long and environmental conditions good, then a pilot may decide to not use autobrakes favouring manual braking.

Often, but not always, the airline will have a policy to what level of braking can or cannot be used; this is to either minimize aircraft wear and tear and/or to facilitate passenger comfort. 

The pressure in PSI applied to the autobrake and the applicable deceleration is as follows:

•    Autobrake setting 1 - 1250 PSI / 4 ft per second.
•    Autobrake setting 2 - 1500 PSI / 5 ft per second.
•    Autobrake setting 3 - 2000 PSI / 7.2 ft per second.
•    Autobrake setting MAX and RTO - 3000 PSI / 14 ft per second (above 80 knots) and 12 ft per second (below 80 knots).


To autobrake will engage upon landing, when the following conditions are met:

(i)    The appropriate setting on the auto brake selector knob (1, 2, 3 or MAX) is set;
(ii)    The throttle thrust levers are in the idle position immediately prior to touchdown; and,  
(iii)   The main wheels spin-up.

If the autobrake has not been selected before landing, it can still be engaged after touchdown, providing the aircraft has not decelerated below 60 knots.

To disengage the autobrake system, any one of the following conditions must be met:

(i)   The autobrake selector knob is turned to OFF (autobrake disarm annunciator will not illuminate);
(ii)  The speed brake lever is moved to the down detent position;
(iii) The thrust levers are advanced from idle to forward thrust (except during the first 3 seconds of landing); or,
(iv)  Either pilot applies manual braking.

The last three points (ii iii and iv) will cause the autobrake disarm annunciator to illuminate for 2 seconds before extinguishing.

Important Facet

It is important to grasp that the 737 NG does not use the maximum braking power for a particular setting (maximum pressure), but rather the maximum programmed deceleration rate (predetermined deceleration rate).  Maximum pressure can only be achieved by fully depressing the brake pedals or during an RTO operation.  Therefore, each setting (other than full manual braking and RTO) will produce a predetermined deceleration rate, independent of aircraft weight, runway length, type, slope and environmental conditions.

Autobrake Disarm Annunciator

The autobrake disarm annunciator is coloured amber and illuminates momentarily when the following conditions are met:

(i)   Self-test when RTO is selected on the ground;
(ii)   A malfunction of the system (annunciator remains illuminated - takeoff prohibited);
(iii)  Disarming the system by manual braking;
(iv)  Disarming the system by moving the speed brake lever from the UP position to the DOWN detente position; and,
(v)   If a landing is made with the selector knob set to RTO (not cycled through off after takeoff).  (If this occurs, the autobrakes are not armed and will not engage.  The autobrake annunciator remains illuminated amber).

The annunciator will extinguish in the following conditions:

(i)    Autobrake logic is satisfied and autobrakes are in armed mode; and,
(ii)   Thrust levers are advanced after the aircraft has landed, or during an RTO operation.  (There is a 3 second delay before the annunciator extinguishes after the aircraft has landed).

Preferences for Use of Autobrakes and Anti-skid

When conditions are less than ideal (shorter and wet runways, crosswinds), many flight crews prefer to use the autobrake rather than use manual braking, and devote their attention to the use of rudder for directional control.   As one B737 pilot stated - ‘The machine does the braking and I maintain directional control’.

Anti-skid automatically activates during all autobraking operations and is designed to give maximum efficiency to the brakes, preventing brakes from stopping the rotation of the wheel, thereby ensuring maximum braking efficiency.  Anti-skid operates in a similar fashion to the braking on a modern automobile.

Anti-skid is not simulated in FSX/FS10 or in ProSim737 (at the time of writing).

To read about converting an OEM Autobrake Selector navigate to this post.


B737-800 NG EVAC Panel - A Nice-looking Panel 

A quick post to showcase an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) panel just installed to the center pedestal.  The evacuation (EVAC) panel is usually mounted in the AFT overhead; however, as I am still developing the overhead panels I have temporarily installed it into the center pedestal.  

The EVAC panel’s use needs no introduction – it is triggered by the flight crew if and when evacuation of the aircraft is required / occurring.  A switch in the passenger cabin can be triggered by the cabin crew alerting the flight crew that an evacuation is imminent.  The panel is only used when on the ground (obviously).

The EVAC panel is from a B737-800 NG and incorporates an arming/off switch, flashing red coloured EVAC annunciation, alarm cancelling pull knob and a piecing alarm (horn). 

The panel is not connected to any function within Flight Simulator; therefore, an interface card is not required.  A continuity test, using a multimeter, is used to ascertain which pins in the Canon plug correspond to which switch/toggle/alarm.  The backlighting is 5 Volts whilst the alarm and annunciator is 28 Volts.

Although the panel serves no true function in the simulator, it is a good-looking panel that improves the aesthetics of the center pedestal.  Once the overhead is fully developed the EVAC panel will be removed from the pedestal and placed in the aft overhead panel (the correct location).

The EVAC panel is an airline option and is not stock standard to the aircraft.

Below is a video showing the panel’s use.


Sheepskin Seat Cover added to Weber Captain-side Seat

Sometime ago I acquired a pair of Weber pilot seats which came with the correct Boeing diamond-pattern, grey honeycomb seat covers.  However, one of the seat covers was slightly damaged.  The lower cover was also a tad on the small side and kept popping off the rear section of the lower cushion when you sat on it.  Not a major problem, but it was slowly becoming irritating having to repeatedly attach the cover back on the cushion.

The small size was probably caused by the previous owner washing the seat cover;  Boeing covers are renowned to shrink substantially when washed in hot water!  To rectify these minor problems, I decided to have the captain’s side upgraded to a sheepskin seat cover.

A friend of mine has access to high quality Boeing-style sheepskins and being a wizard at sewing, agreed to retrofit the cover for me.

It should be noted that sheepskin covers are not attached to the seat like you would do on an automobile.  Rather, the sheepskin is sewn directly onto the existing fabric of the original seat cover.  Colour varies somewhat depending upon the manufacturer awarded the Boeing contract, but in general they are grey to tan in colour.

I think you will agree, that the final outcome looks, and certainly feels, much better than the original damaged and too small seat cover.


Ground Effect - Historical Perspective & Technical Explanation

During the Second World War, a crippled Boeing B17 was struggling to maintain altitude.  The aircraft and eleven crew members were over occupied Europe, returning to England, following a successful bombing mission.

Searchlights, Flak & Enemy Fighters

After negotiating the enemy searchlights that probed the darkness over their target, and then being struck by shell fragments from anti-aircraft flak, they were pounced upon by German fighters on their homeward leg.  The ensuring fight was dramatic and left the damaged bomber with only two engines running and third engine having difficulty.  As the bomber approached France, the enemy fighters, starved of fuel, aborted their repetitive attacks, but the damage had been done.  Loosing airspeed and altitude the aircraft could not maintain contact with the Bomb Group; soon they were alone.

The captain, in an attempt to maintain altitude, requested that everything heavy be jettisoned from the aircraft.  This included machine guns, ammunition and damaged radio equipment; soon the B17 was a flying skeleton if its former self.

The Captain was concerned that a fire may develop in engine number three as it was spluttering due to a fuel problem.  The Captain did not need to concern himself much longer, for the engine began to cough uncontrollably before vibrating and ceasing to function.   The aircraft was now only flying on one engine – something not recommended, as it placed great strain on the engine and aircraft superstructure.  

The aircraft continued to loose altitude despite the jettisoning of unwanted equipment.  The Captain decided it was better to ditch into the English Channel rather than land in occupied France.  His thinking was that Air Sea Rescue maybe able to pick them up, if their repeated morse code (SOS) had been received by England.  The power of one engine was nowhere enough to maintain such a large and heavy aircraft and the crew prepared to ditch into the freezing cold water of the channel.

We’re Going In – Good Luck Boys!

“Get ready guys, we’re 300 feet above the water” yelled the Captain into his intercom system.  “As soon as we hit bust them bubbles and get out.  Try to get a raft afloat”.  “Link up in the water  – Good Luck!”  

Everyone expected the worse.  Surviving a ditching was one thing, but surviving in the cold water of the English Channel in winter was another!  The rear gunner, since moving forward sat close to escape hatch and gingerly rubbed his rabbit’s foot; he had carried this on every mission.  The side gunner fumbled repeatedly with his “lucky” rubber band, the bombardier sat in private thoughts, a photograph of his loved one held tightly in his hand, and the navigator frantically punched his morse set trying to get the last message out before fate took command of the situation.

The aircraft, although trimmed correctly, slowly began to dip towards the sea.  But at 60 odd feet above the waves, the aircraft began to float  – it felt as if the aircraft was gliding on a thermal.  For some reason the aircraft didn't wish to descend.  The remaining engine screamed its protest at being run at full throttle, however the horizontal glide continued. 

The Captain was amazed and thankful for whatever was keeping this large aircraft from crashing into the sea.  It was as if the B17 was cruising on a magic carpet of air – why didn’t it crash.  

A tail-wind assisted in pushing the B17 toward England and safety; seeing the English coast in sight, the navigator quickly calculated a route to the nearest airfield closest to the coast.  Twenty minutes later the bomber lumbered over the runway.  The only way to land was to reduce power to the remaining engine and push the control wheel forward, thereby lowering the pitch angle.  They were home and safe!

Divine Interaction, Luck, or Skill ?

The crew thought it was divine interaction that the bomber had not crashed – or perhaps luck!

Aviation engineers were baffled to what had occurred.  The aircraft had glided many miles above the surface of the English Channel and had not crashed.  Boeing, in an attempt to unravel what had occurred, repeated the event in the confines of a wind tunnel, to realize that what had maintained the large aircraft airborne was not divine interaction, but the interaction of what has since been termed Ground Effect.

The above account, although embellished in detail, did occur.  The mishaps of this bomber during the Second World War demonstrated a previously unknown phenomenon - Ground Effect.

Ground Effect – Technical Explanation

Ground effect refers to the increased lift and decreased drag that an aircraft wing generates when an aircraft is about one wing-span's length or less over the ground (or surface).  The effect of ground effect is likened to floating above the ground - especially when landing.

When an aircraft is flying at an altitude that is approximately at, or below the same length of the aircraft's wingspan, there is, depending on airfoil and aircraft design, a noticeable ground effect. This is caused primarily by the ground interrupting the wingtip vortices, and the down wash behind the wing.  LEFT:  Diagram depicting ground effect with aircraft in flight.


When a wing is flown very close to the ground, wingtip vortices are unable to form effectively due to the obstruction of the ground. The result is lower induced drag, which increases the speed and lift of the aircraft.

LEFT:  Diagram depicting aircraft in ground effect whilst on the ground.

A wing generates lift, in part, due to the difference in air pressure gradients between the upper and lower wing surfaces. During normal flight, the upper wing surface experiences reduced static air pressure and the lower surface comparatively higher static air pressure. These air pressure differences also accelerate the mass of air downwards.  Flying close to a surface increases air pressure on the lower wing surface, known as the ram or cushion effect, and thereby improves the aircraft lift-to-drag ratio.  As the wing gets lower to the surface (the ground), the ground effect becomes more pronounced.

While in the ground effect, the wing will require a lower angle of attack to produce the same amount of lift. If the angle of attack and velocity remain constant, an increase in the lift coefficient will result, which accounts for the "floating" effect. Ground effect will also alter thrust versus velocity, in that reducing induced drag will require less thrust to maintain the same velocity.

The best way to describe ground effect and which many people, both pilots and passengers, have encountered is the floating effect during the landing flare.

Low winged aircraft are more affected by ground effect than high wing aircraft. Due to the change in up-wash, down-wash, and wingtip vortices there may be errors in the airspeed system while in ground effect due to changes in the local pressure at the static source.

Another important issue regarding ground effect is that the makeup of the surface directly affects the intensity; this is to say that a concrete or other hard surface will produce more interference than a grass or water surface.

Problems Associated With Ground Effect

Take Off

Ground effect should be taken into account when a take-off from a short runway is planned, the aircraft is loaded to maximum weight, or the ambient temperature is high (hot).

Although ground effect may allow the airplane to become airborne at a speed that is below the recommended take-off speed, climb performance will be less than optimal.  Ground effect may allow an overloaded aircraft to fly at shorter take off distances and at lower engine thrust than normal.  However, the aircraft will not have the ability to climb out of ground effect and eventually will cease to fly, or hit something after the runway length is exceeded.

Approach and Landing

As the airplane descends on approach and enters ground effect, the pilot experiences a floating sensation which is a result from the increased lift and decreased induced drag value. Less drag also means a lack of deceleration and could become a problem on short runways were roll-out distance is limited.

Therefore, it's important that power is throttled back as soon as the airplane is flared over the threshold and the weight of the airplane is transferred from the wings to the wheels as soon as possible.

How to Counter Ground Effect

To minimise ground effect on landing, the following must be addressed:

  • Pitch angle should be reduced to maintain a shallow decent (reduces ability of the wing to produce more lift).
  • Thrust should be decreased.
  • The power should be throttled back as you cross the threshold at ~RA 50 feet (note that in simulation ~10-15 feet is more effective).
  • Land the aircraft onto the runway with purpose and determination.  Do not try and grease the aircraft to the runway (often called a carpet landing).  The weight of the aircraft must be transferred to the wheels as soon as possible to aid in tyre adhesion to the runway (also important when landing in wet conditions).

Does Ground Effect Occur in Flight Simulator?

If the aircraft is not set-up correctly, ground effect will definitely be experienced in a flight simulator. 

If you have ever wondered why, after reducing speed on an otherwise perfect approach, your aircraft appears to be floating down the runway, then you have already experienced ground effect.


Construction Commenced - New Platform to Install OEM Control Columns

I thought it time to post what’s happening with regard to the construction of the simulator.  Additions and improvements are in the pipeline and it’s hoped that OEM control columns and a new platform will be installed very shortly.

Currently the simulator is mounted on a fiber-board and wood platform, which I constructed when I received my Main Instrument Panel (MIP) just before Christmas 2010. (picture here).  The platform has served me very well and was perfect for the installation of the ACE yoke and Precision Flight Controls (PFC) rudder pedals.  

Soon after constructing the platform and purchasing the ACE yoke, I was able to secure two OEM B737-500 control columns. I was surprised to find these units so quickly and I was fortunate that my timing coincided with the dismantling of a late model B737-500.

Fitting the OEM control coumns to the wooden platform appeared to be problematic, as the platform was a tad low in height and it was awkward to retrofit the linking rod that connects the control columns for duel operation.  Therefore, I decided that a new platform was required; custom designed  to fit the control columns.

Aluminium Modular Design

Rather than use wood and fiber-board, I selected aluminium tubing cut appropriately and TIG welded together.  To facilitate future transport, the platform has been constructed in modular form.  The forward portion comprises three modules bolted together in strategic places, while the rear part of the platform (not shown), where the seats and center pedestal reside, abuts snugly to the forward section.  It’s intended to use high density ¼ inch plastic/vinyl as the upper cover on the platform  as this material is easier to work than aluminium sheeting, is light in weight, very strong and comes from the factory in Boeing grey.

In the photographs (click to enlarge) you can see the control columns (striped completely) fitted to the forward modular section of the platform.  The control columns are connected to each other by a ¾ inch heavy duty shaft and heavy-duty double bearings.  Forward and aft movement of the control column is controlled by a heavy duty spring and left and right roll movement is controlled by another spring. 

Control Column Pull Pressures

The pull pressure on the control column is set to 24 pound which is slightly less that the standard pull in the B737 which is 34 pound.  The pull can be easily altered by moving the spring forward or backward on the spring retainer.  The pressure on the roll component is presently 12 pounds.  I've been told the roll pressure as per the Boeing maintenance manual is +_15 pound; therefore, I'm well within the ball park.

This link will take you to another article that addresses the installation of the floor to the platform.