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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)

Entries in B737-300 Boeing 737 Flight Simulator (4)


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.


Take Off / Go Around (TOGA) - Explained

Performing Go-Around can be a confusing procedure, made more so by the effects of inclement weather. 

TO/GA is an acronym for Take Off / Go Around.  TO/GA is used whenever an approach becomes unstable or environmental conditions alter that do not allow an approach and landing within the constraints that the aircraft is certified.  If you watch the short video (embedded from U-Tube) you will note that the crew utilized TO/GA when a rain squall reduced visibility to almost zero as the aircraft was about to cross the runway threshold.

VIDEO: Boeing Business Jet (BBJ)  - Final Approach engaged TO/GA due to inclement weather (courtesy & copyright "DougLesso" U-Tube).

So why is TO/GA confusing?  It’s not the actual use of TO/GA that is confusing, but more the level of automation you have in use at the time of engaging TO/GA.  By automation, I am referring to  the command mode selected for the approach: VNAV, LNAV, V/S, ILS and whether the autopilot is enaged or not (CMD A/B).  In this post three three distinct scenarios will be discussed; however, engine out (single engine) procedures will not be examined.

Scenario One

Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) configured for autoland:  CMD A & B engaged with localizer and glideslope captured and 'FLARE armed' and annunciated on the Flight Mode annunciator (FMA).  Auto throttle engaged.

  • Pushing the TOGA buttons will engage the Take Off / Go Around mode & Flight Director guidance will 'come alive';
  • The auto throttle will automatically move forward to produce reduced go around (RGA) thrust;
  • The Thrust Mode Display (TMD) will annunciate TO/GA and the appropiate thrust will be displayed;
  • The autopilot will remain engaged and will pitch upwards to follow the Flight Director (FD) guidance
  • Landing gear will need to be raised and flaps retracted on schedule; and,
  • A 'bug up' will be observed on the speed tape of the Primary Flight Director (PFD) which indicates flap retraction speeds.

Scenario Two

Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) configured for manual landing (autopilot on):  CMD A or B engaged.  Auto throttle engaged.

  • Pushing TO/GA buttons will engage the Take Off / Go Around mode & Flight Director Guidance will 'come alive';
  • The auto throttle will automatically move forward to produce reduced go-around thrust.  However, the autopilot will disconnect;
  • The Thrust Mode Display (TMD) will annunciate TO/GA and the appropiate thrust will be displayed;
  • The crew will need to take control and manually fly to follow the Flight Director guidance (around 15 Degrees nose up);
  •  Landing gear will need to be raised and flaps retracted on schedule; and,
  •  A 'bug up' will be observed on the speed tape of the Primary Flight Director (PFD) which indicates flap retraction speeds.

Scenario Three

Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) configured for manual landing (autopilot off):  CMD A or B not engaged.  Auto throttle engaged/not engaged.

  • Pushing TO/GA buttons will engage the Take Off / Go Around mode and Flight Director guidance will 'come alive';
  • The crew will need to take control and manually fly to follow the Flight Director guidance (around 15 Degrees nose up);
  • The auto throttle will not command reduced go around thrust.  The crew must manually move the throttle levers to roughly 85% N1;
  • Landing gear will need to be raised and flaps retracted on schedule; and,
  • A 'bug up' will be observed on the speed tape of the Primary Flight Director (PFD) which indicates flap retraction speeds.

How is TO/GA Engaged

The Boeing 737 has two buttons on the throttle quadrant for engaging TO/GA.  These buttons are located on each thrust handle below the knob of the thrust levers.  The TO/GA buttons are not the buttons located at the end of each throttle knob; these buttons are the auto throttles (A/T) disconnect buttons.

Pushing one or two of the TO/GA buttons will engage the go-around mode and command Flight Director guidance for attitude pitch.

Depending on the level of automation set, but assuming minimal automation, the pilot-flying may need to push the throttle levers forward to roughly 85% N1 (Reduced Go Around Thrust).  Boeing pilots often refer to this technique as the 'Boeing arm' as an outstretched arm grasping the throttle levers moves the levers to 'around' 85% N1.

If the crew pushes the TO/GA button once, reduced go-around power is annunciated on the Thrust Mode Display (above the N1 indications on the EICAS screen) and also in the Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA).  Reduced go-around thrust is roughly 10% below the green coloured reference curser on the N1 indicator.  This thrust setting will generate a rate of climb between 1000 and 2000 fpm.

LEFT (2):  Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) on Primary Flight Display (PFD) indicated TOGA and TOGA will be displayed on Thrust Mode Display (TMD).  Replace CRZ (1) with TO/GA.

If the TO/GA buttons are pressed again (two button pushes), go-around thrust will be set to maximum thrust (at the reference curser). Engaging the TO/GA button twice is normally only used if terrain separation is doubtful.

A Typical Go Around (CAT 1 Conditions)

The pilot flying focuses on the instruments as the aircraft descends to about 200 feet AGL.  The pilot not flying splits his attention between his responsibilities to both monitor the progress of the approach, and identify visual cues like the approach lighting system.   If the approach lights of the runway come into view by 200 feet, the monitoring pilot will announce 'continue' and the flying pilot will stay on instruments and descend to 100 feet above the runway.

If the non-flying pilot does not identify the runway lights or runway threshold by 200 feet AGL, then he will command 'Go Around Flaps 15'.  The pilot flying will then initiate the Go Around procedure.

The pilot flying will engage the TOGA command by depressing the TO/GA buttons once, resulting in the Flight Director commanding the necessary pitch attitude to follow (failing this the pitch is roughly 15 Degrees nose up).  The auto throttle (depending on level of automation selected) will be commanded to increase thrust to the engines to attain and manage a 1,000 foot per minute climb; a second press of the TOGA buttons will initiate full thrust.  

The pilot not-flying will, when postive rate is assurred, raise the landing gear announcing 'gear up all green' and begin to retract the flaps following the 'bug' up schedule as indicated on the Primary Flight Display (PFD).  Once the Go Around is complete, the Go Around Checklist will be completed.   

Important Points to Remember when using TOGA

  • If the Flight Directors (FD) are turned off; activating TO/GA will cause them to 'come alive' and provide go around guidance.  
  • Engaging TOGA provides guidance for the flight modes and/or N1 setting commanded by the auto throttle, It will not take control of the aircraft.  If the autopilot and auto throttle is engaged then they will follow that guidance; however, if the autopilot is not engaged the crew will need to fly the aircraft.
  • TOGA will not engage the auto throttle unless the autopilot is engaged.  The only way to engage auto throttle is with your hand (flip the switch on the MCP).  See sidenote below.
  • TOGA will engage only if the aircraft is below 2000 RA (radio altitude).
  • TOGA will engage only if flaps are extended.
  • Remember to dial the missed approach altitude into the Mode Control Panel (MCP) after reaching the Final Approach Fix (FAF). The FAF is designated on the approach plate by the Maltese cross.  This ensures that, should TOGA be required, the missed approach altitude will be set.

Side-note:  It is possible to engage the auto throttle using the TO/GA buttons if the auto throttle is in ARMED mode and the speed deselected on the MCP.  Note this method of auto throttle use is not recommended by Boeing.

Flight Crew Psychology

Flight crews are as human as the passengers they are carrying, but it’s difficult to accept that a Go Around is not a failure, but a procedure established to ensure added in-flight safety.  Several years ago airline management touted that a go-around required a detailed explanation to management; after all, a go-around consumes extra fuel and causes an obvious delay as the aircraft circles for a second landing attempt. This philosophy resulted in several fateful air crashes as flight crews were under time and management pressure to not attempt a go-around but continue with a landing.

Management today see the wisdom in the go-around and many airlines have a no fault go-around policy.  This policy is designed to remove any pressure to land in unsafe conditions - regardless of the reason: visibility, runway condition, crosswind limits, etc.  If one of the pilots elects to go-around, that decision will never be questioned by management.  So while TO/GA isn't the desired landing outcome, a go-around is not considered a failure in airmanship.

Minimal Discussion

This post has briefly touched on the use of TO/GA in an approach and landing scenario; nonetheless, to ensure a more thorough understanding, I urge you to read the Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM) available for download in the Training and Documents section of this website. 

Acronyms Used

AFDS - Autopilot Flight Director System
A/T - Auto Throttle Category 1 - Decision height of 200 feet AGL and a visibility of 1/2 SM
CMD - Command A or B (autopilot)
FAF – Final Approach Fix
FD - Flight Directors
FMA - Flight Mode Annunciator
FPM - Feet Per Minute
MCP - Mode Control Panel
N1 - Commanded Thrust % (rotational speed of low pressure spool)
RA - Radio Altimeter
RGA – Reduced Go-Around Thrust
TMD - Thrust Mode Display (on EICAS display)
TO/GA - Take Off / Go Around


B737-800 Primary Flight Display (PFD) Diagram


I recently came across this in the Flight Crew Operations Manual (FCOM) for the B738. The simple to understand picture is an excellent visual reminder to the most important areas of the Primary Flight Display (PFD).

When I was new to jets, I had this image printed in colour above the computer screen as a quick reference guide. It doesn't take long before the its part of memory.

I've made the image quite large so you can right click, save and print it out if you want to.

If you want to read ther B738 Flight Crew Manual (FCOM) navigate to the Training & Documents section (menu above) and you can download the manual. There are a lot of Boeing documents that can be read and downloaded from this section.





















1. Bug 5 (white)
2. Flaps Manoeuvring Speeds (green)
3. V2+15 (white)
4. Takeoff Reference Speeds (green)
5. Minimum Manoeuvre Speed (amber)
6. Minimum Speed (red and black)
7. Maximum Manoeuvring Speed (amber)
8. VREF+20 (white)
9. Landing Reference Speed (green)
10. Speed Reference Display (green)
11. 80 Knot Airspeed Bug (white)



Are The Engines Running - B738 Sound 

One of the main purposes of building a flight deck is to increase the realism and immersion levels when simulating flight.  You want to move real yokes, flick real switches and spin real rotaries whilst maintaining focus on real instruments within a modern glass flight deck. 

Simmers go to exuberant lengths to create the illusion of flight.  Purpose built flight decks, aircraft shells, real aviation equipment and stunning external visuals all add to the immersion effect.  But, what about sound – in particular realistic aircraft engine sounds.

But what about sound……

All of us have had that dejavoo feeling when we have smelt a certain smell or heard a certain noise and are projected back to that event and time.  Vietnam veterans often have vivid flash-backs when they hear news helicopters flitting overhead.  We all can recall a song within out romantic past which conjures up images of a past partner or event.  The power of sound and smell cannot be underestimated. 

If the engine sound of your chosen aircraft is perfect or near perfect you will barely notice it – the sound will blend with everything else.  However, if the sound is not correct or is video arcade game-like, you will always be thinking how it can be improved.  This is especially so if you’re using the standard stock FS9 (FS2004) or FSX aircraft engine sound.

I feel confident saying that: “with decent sound, your one notch higher concerning realism and immersion”. 

Sound makes a huge difference to the simulation experience.  When on final approach, concentrating on flight adjustments and jigging with the throttle to obtain the correct thrust, the sound you hear, if realistic, will make you forget you’re sitting in your spare room!  It’s like that smell or sound I mentioned earlier – you’re mentally transported back to the source.  I recently trialled the PMDG 737-800NGX in the simulator, and the first thing my girlfriend in an adjoining room exclaimed was “that sounds like a real plane”.  

The recently released PMDG 737NGX has an exceptional sound package; however, not everyone flies this aircraft model.  What is available to augment or replace the default flight simulator sound files?

Turbine Sounds Studio (TSS)

Turbine Sounds Studio (TSS) produces a variety of different sound packages that are direct recordings of the real aircraft engine sounds.  The sounds have been professionally recorded from specific aircraft types and in my opinion are exceptionally good and eons ahead of anything supplied by Microsoft. 

The package to purchase for the B737NG is the: Boeing 737NG CFM56-7B HD Sound Pack for FSX.  If you fly the older classic series B737, TSS also produces a sound package specific to the 300,400 and 500 series aircraft.  To actually hear a sample of the sounds, I recommend your navigate to their website at http://www.turbinesoundstudios.com/

TTS – Software Installation

The software provides you with an executable file, which when selected, will download to your desktop a “sound” folder containing a number of engine, instrument and ambient sounds specific to the aircraft type.  It’s just a matter of backing up your original sound folder in the aircraft of choice and copying the TSS sound folder in its place. 

How To Add Custom Sounds

If you’re not happy with every sound in the package, it’s quite easy to remove or replace a particular sound with another favourite.  Search for the sound folder, usually located within the aircraft folder (FS10/sim objects/aircraft).  Within this folder you will discover various sounds and a sound.cfg file.  If there are no sound files within the folder, they maybe aliased to another folder in another aircraft. Open the sound.cfg file and note the folder/file location.  Follow the trail until you actually discover where the .wav files are stored.

It's important that when you replace sounds, that the replacement sound is in the same format and has the same file name as the file you are replacing.  If the file name is different, you will  need to alter the specific parameter in the sound.cfg file to reflect the file name change.  The same is for the location of the sound (if this if different).  The sound.cfg file must have the correct name, format and location of the actual .wav sound. 

Always back-Up Before Editing

Always back-up the folder and files you wish to edit BEFORE editing anything.  If you make a mistake or something is not quite right, it's then easy and straightforward to put your system back to where it was beforehand.

In my set-up I am using the base NGX sound pack installed into the FS9 737-800; but I have customized a few of the sounds to those that I prefer.

If you want a more or less accurate sound set for the B737, but don't want to go to spend the time hand-picking, renaming and customizing your sound files, then either give TSS a fly or use the PMDG NGX sound set, which is a tad more realistic than the set provided with the PMDG FS9 B737.  Whichever set you choose (or combination thereof), it will be far better than the default sound that comes packaged with flight simulator. 

In a future post I’ll tackle the issue of separating sounds to different speakers on different networked computers.  This allows you to have ATC through the headset, engine sounds left and right of the flight deck and other sounds played through another pair of strategically placed speakers..

Well, I’m more or less pleased with my sounds.  Should I throw some avgas on the carpet to get that aviation smell….