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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...)

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

Journal Archive (Newest First)

Entries in B737-800 Flight Simulator (45)

Friday
Sep182015

New Interface Module Installed - SMART

The installation of an OEM flaps gauge to the simulator was the catalyst to the design and development of an additional interface module. 

The module, called 'SMART' is a platform to accommodate the various components necessary to configure and drive the flaps gauge.

LEFT:  OEM Flaps gauge installed to Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  A new interface module was designed to incorporate the 400 hertz needed to power the gauge.  Furthermore, SMART is also responsible for the interface a several other OEM gauges.

SMART has also been used to accommodate the interface cards necessary to use the OEM AFDS units, Autobrake Selector knob and the Used Fuel Toggle.

The SMART module has been discussed in a separate section as a subset to the Interface Module section.

Updates

Also of note, is that the throttle page, a subset of the Flight Control pages (main menu) has been updated.

The page now refers to the most recent throttle quadrant used in the simulator.  There is also a internal links section, at the bottom of the page.

Thursday
Aug272015

10 Mile ARC to VOR 30 Approach - Hobart, Tasmania Australia (YMHB)

Recently, I flew from Brisbane to Hobart and the pilot flying made a different style of approach to what normally is made at this airport.  After landing, I approached the pilots and queried the approach.  The Captain stated that he had decided to fly a semi-automated VOR approach along an arc to land at runway 30. 

The reason being, that Air Traffic Control (ATC) had warned them of turbulent conditions near the airport.  He commented that in such conditions, he felt more confident using the older style arc approach using LNAV/VNAV with Speed Intervention (SPD INTV) engaged, with a transition to Vertical Speed and VOR once on final.

LEFT: Approach chart depicting VOR 30 Approach to YMHB.  Important points to note are: initial approach courses to intercept the arc (295 & 334), the D10 HB arc, the altitude increments of 4000, 3000 and at 7 miles, 2400, and the Initial Approach Fix (IAF) and speed of 210 kias (click to enlarge).

The First Officer stated that this was the first time he had seen an arc being used to set-up for a VOR approach.  He said that usually they use ILS into RWY 12 or RNAV into RWY 30.  He commented that the only time he had made a VOR approach was during simulator training, and then he would probably only use such an approach, if the ILS was inoperative or there was an issue with RNAV.

The use of this approach is a prime example of the variation offered to pilots in relation to how they fly and land the Boeing 737. 

Screen Images

Several screen captures from the Instructor Station, CDU and Navigation Display (ND) which I hope will make it easier to understand this post.  The avionics suite used is ProSim737 distributed by ProSim-AR.  Note that some of the mages are not sequential as I captured the images over two simulator sessions.

How To Set-Up An Arc

To set-up an approach using an arc is very easy.  

The following example is for Hobart, Tasmania Australia (YMHB).  The instructions assume that you are conversant with operating the CDU and have a basic understanding of its use.  

Essentially, an arc is using a Place/Bearing/Waypoint to define an arc around a point at a set distance.  The distance between each of the generated waypoints along the arc, is at the discretion of the flight crew.

Approach Charts

To determine the correct distance to create the arc, the approach chart for the airport should be consulted.  The chart, in addition to providing this information, will also aid you in decided where to place the final waypoint (if wanted) along the approach course.

In this example, the YMHB VOR 30 approach states that the aircraft must fly an arc 10 miles from the airport between an altitude of 4000 and 3000 feet before descending to be at 2400 feet 7 miles from the runway  threshold.

The approach chart depicted is provided by Lufthansa Systems (LIDO/FMS) distributed by Navigraph

CDU Instructions

(i)    Open the FIX page and type in the scratchpad the airport code (YMHB).  After uploading, type the distance (/10 miles).  This will create a green-dotted citcle around YMHB with a radius of 10 miles.

(ii)    Open the LEGS page and type into the scratchpad the airport code (YMHB).  Immediately following YMHB, type the required radial1 (in degrees) from the airport that you wish the initial waypoint to be generated.  Follow this with a slash and type in the distance from the airport (YMHB340/10).  

This will generate a waypoint 10 miles from YMHB on the 340 radial.  This is the waypoint from which you will begin to build your arc.  

Obviously, the radial you use to define the location of your first waypoint will depend upon the bearing that you are flying toward the airport.

(iii)    To Generate the ARC you must repeat the above process (ii) changing the radial by 10 degrees (or whatever you believe is needed) to generate the required waypoints around the arc at 10 miles from the airport.  As an example: YMHB320/10, YMHB340/10, YMHB000/10 and so forth until the arc is built.

As you upload each of the radials you will note that the name for the waypoint is changed to a sequential number specific to each waypoint.  As an example; the above waypoints will each be named YMH01, YMH02 and YMH03.

If you make a mistake, you can delete a waypoint and start again; however, realize that the sequential numbers will not be in order.  This is not an issue (it is only a number) but it is something be aware of.

In our example, the VOR approach is for runway 30.  Therefore; your final waypoint on the arc will be YMHB121/10.  Prior to reaching this waypoint, if flying manually, begin the right hand turn to intercept the approach on the 121 radial (bearing 300 degrees).

A Note About /-+

The more observant will note that the distances in the example above do not utilise the /+ key before the distance (YMHB340/+10).  When entering the distance it can be with or without the + key.  

Variation

Before going further, there are many ways to fly the B737.  The method selected is at the discretion of the pilot in command and is dependent upon airline preferences, environmental conditions, and pilot experience.  This statement was stressed to me when I spoke with the Captain of the aircraft.

Often an approach will incorporate a number of automated systems including VNAV, LNAV, Vertical Speed, Level Change, VOR Localizer and old fashioned manual VFR flying.  In most cases the particular approach will be programmed into the CDU, at the very least for situational awareness.  However, the CDU does not have to be used and often a step down approach is a good way to maintain flying skills and airmanship.

Handy Hints

The following hints will assist with situational awareness and in allowing the aircraft to be guided by the autopilot to a point to which manual flight can commence.

If you carefully study the approach chart for YMHB VOR 30, you will note that the altitude the aircraft should be at when at 7 miles from the threshold should be 2000 feet.  The chart also depicts the letter D at this point meaning that a continuous descent can be made this point.

Hint One - visual descent point (VDP)

To make the transition from the arc to the approach easier, create a waypoint at the 7 mile point from the airport along the radial used for the approach (YMHB121/7).  Using a waypoint allows the aircraft’s Lateral Navigation (LNAV) to be used.  This type of waypoint is usually refered to as a Visual Descent Point (VDP).

When the waypoint at 7 miles from the threshold is reached, a transition to manual flying can commence, or Vertical Speed can be used to maintain a 3 degree glidepath (GP) while following the VOR.  Remember to change the EFIS from MAP to VOR so you can use the VOR indicator during the approach.

Hint Two - extend runway line

Assuming you have not inserted an approach into the CDU, an aid to increase situational awareness is to select the correct runway from the CDU and enter a distance that the runway line is to be extended from the threshold.

To do this, select runway 30 from the ARRIVALS (ARR) page in the CDU (RWY30) and type the numeral 7 (or whatever distance you require) into the scratchpad and upload.  This will extend the green line from the runway threshold to the previously generated waypoint at 7 miles.  Ensure you clean up any discontinuity (if observed) in the LEGS page.

This enables three things:

  1. The generation of a 3 degree glidepath (GP) from the distance entered (example is 7 miles) to the runway threshold.
  2. It enables LNAV (even if the autopilot is not engaged) to continue to provide the Flight Director (FD) with heading information during the approach, and 
  3. It enables the Navigation Performance Scales (NPL) on the Pilots Flight Display (PFD) to provide glidepath (GP) guidance (assuming that the correct runway or approach is selected in the CDU and NPL is enabled within the ProSim737 avionics suite).

UPPER LEFT: Screen capture from the instructor station PFD and ND for the approach into YMHB.  The aircraft, after turning right from the 10 mile arc, is aligned with the 121 radial approaching the waypoint YMH07 (the WP entered at the 7 mile point).  LNAV is engaged and the aircraft is being controlled by the autopilot.  As RWY 30 was inserted into the route, the Navigation Performance Scales (NPS) show Glidepath (GP) data in the Primary Flight Display (PFD).  Note that the EFIS is still on MAP and is yet to be turned to VOR.  In real life, VOR would have been selected earlier (click to enlarge).

LOWER LEFT:  The transition from LNAV to VOR has occurred and the autopilot and autothrottle are not controlling the aircraft. The aircraft is on short final with gear down, flaps 30 and the airspeed is slowly decaying to VREF+5.  The EFIS has been changed from MAP to VOR to allow manual tracking using the VOR needle. The NPS show good vertical alignment with a lateral left offset; the VOR indicator confirms this.  The Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) displays LNAV (although the autopilot is disengaged) and the Flight Director (FD) and NPS show glidepath (GP) data.  The Flight Path Vector (FPV) symbol shows a continuous descent at roughly 3 degrees.  The altitude window and heading on the MCP has been set to the appropriate missed approach (4200/300).  Click image to enlarge.

Do Not Alter Constraints

As alluded earlier, there are many ways to accomplish the same task.  However, DO NOT alter any constraints indicated in the CDU if an approach is selected and executed.  CDU generated approaches have been standardised for a reason.

Finding the Correct Radial/Bearing to Build Your Arc

Finding the correct bearing to use on the arc can be challenging for those less mathematically inclined.  An easy method is to use one of the two MCP course selector knobs.  

Rotate the knob until the green dotted line on he Navigation Display (ND) lies over the area of the arc that you wish the waypoint to be created.  Consult the MCP course selector window - this is the figure you place in the CDU.  Next, rotate the knob a set number of degrees and repeat the process.  You can also consult the data displayed along the course indicator line on the Navigation Display (ND). 

When you build the arc, ensure you have set the EFIS to PLN (plan).  PLN provides more real estate to visualize the approach on the Navigation Display (ND).  You can use STEP in the LEGS page to cycle through the waypoints to ensure you have an appropriate view of the surrounding area.

Important Points

  • Always double check the Place/Bearing/Waypoint entries in the CDU and in the ND (PLN) before executing.  It is amazing how easy discrepancies can occur.
  • Always check the approach plate for the approach type you are intending to make.  Once again, mistakes are easy to make.
  • If using VNAV, double check all speed and altitude constraints to ensure compliance with the approach chart and situation (some airlines promote the use of the speed intervention button (SPD INTV) to ensure that appropiate speeds are maintained).
  • If need be, select the approach (ARR) in the CDU to provide added situational awareness.

Final Call

I rarely use automated systems during landing, unless environmental conditions otherwise dictate.  I prefer to hand fly the aircraft where possible during the approach phase, and often disengage the autopilot at 5000 feet.  If flying a STAR and when VNAV/LNAV is used, I always disengage the autopilot no later than 1500 feet.  This enables a safe envelope in which to transition from automated flight to manual flight.

Using an arc to fly a VOR approach is enjoyable, with the added advantage that it provides a good refresher for using the Place/Bearing/Waypoint functionality of the CDU.

Other posts that deal with similar subjects are:

Glossary

CDU – Control Display Unit (aka Flight Management Computer (FMC).
EFIS – Electronic Flight Instrument System.
LNAV – Lateral navigation.
RADIAL/BEARING – A radial radiates FROM a point such as a VOR, whilst a bearing is the bearing in degrees TO a point.  The bearing is the direction that the nose of the aircraft is pointing.
VNAV – Vertical Navigation.

Images

The following are screen captures from the instructor station CDU and Navigation Display (ND).  Ignore altitude and speed constraints as these were not set-up for the example.

LEFT: Circular FIX ring has been generated around YMHB at 10 mile point.  The arc waypoints will be constructed along this line (click to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT:  Various waypoints have been generated along the 10 mile fix line creating an arc.  The arc ends at the intersection with the 212 radial for the VOR 30 approach into YMHB.  The route is in plan (PLN) view and is yet to be executed (click to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT:  The constructed arc as seen in MAP view.  From this view it is easy to establish that the aircraft is approaching TTR and once reaching the 10 mile limit  defined by the 10 mile FIX (green-coloured dotted circle), the aircraft will turn to the left to follow the arc waypoints until it intersects with the 121 radial (click to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

LEFT:  This image depicts the waypoint generated at 7 mile from the threshold (YMHB121/7).  This waypoint marks the point at which the aircraft should be on the 121 radial to VOR 30 and at 2400 feet altitude (according to the VOR 30 approach plate  (click to enlarge).

 

 

 

 

 

LEFT:  In the example, RWY 30 has been selected from the arrivals (ARR) page.  In addition to situational awareness, the selection of the runway in the CDU provides glidepath (GP) assistance.

The result of this is that the runway line is extended from the threshold to 7 miles out; the same distance out from the threshold that the final waypoint was generated.

The course line is coloured pink indicating that LNAV is enabled and the aircraft is following the programmed route. 

At the final waypoint (YM10) the autopilot (if used) will be disengaged and the aircraft will be flown manually to the runways using the VOR approach instrumentation and visual flight rules (VFR).  The EFIS will be changed from MAP to VOR.  LNAV will remain engaged on the MCP to ensure that the NPL indications are shown on the PFD.  The NDL indicators provide glidepath (GP) guidance that is otherwise lacking on a VOR approach (click to enlarge).

Wednesday
Aug122015

Below G/S P-Inhibit Annunciator (korry)

 

The Below Glideslope (G/S) P-Inhibit annunciator (korry) is located on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  There are two identical korrys; one on the Captain and the other on the First Officer-side.

LEFT:  Captain-side G/S P-Inhibit korry illuminated during daylight operations.  All OEM korrys can easily be seen during the day, as they are powered by 28 volts that energise two incandescent bulbs.  This korry came from a B737-500 (click to enlarge).

All korrys have a push to test functionality and the G/S P-Inhibit korry is no different in this regard; however, what makes this korry different is its additional ability to inhibit an aural warning and extinguish an annunciator, when the light plate is depressed.  This is what the P of P-Inhibit stands for (P=push).

The korry 318 indicator operates by a dry set of momentary contacts, which are controlled by pressing the annunciator light plate.  The part number for this korry is 318-630-1012-002.

Below G/S P-Inhibit Annunciator - Function

The Below G/S P-Inhibit korry is a radio altitude alert and annunciates when there is deviation in the glideslope during an ILS approach.  If the aircraft deviates more than 1.3 dots below the glideslope, the korry will illuminate amber, followed shortly thereafter by an aural warning ‘glideslope’.

This alerts the flight crew to a deviation in glideslope and a possible fly into terrain situation.  The volume and repetition rate of the aural and visual warning will increase as the deviation from glide slope increases.
However, at times the aural warning is not necessary; therefore, a flight crew can silence the aural warning by pressing the korry.  This will cancel or inhibit the alert if the aircraft is at or below 1000 feet Radio Altitude, but is above 50 feet Radio Altitude (RA).

Warning Lights - GPWS and MCS

The korry is part of the Ground Proximity Warning System (GPWS) which provides for several ground proximity alerts for potentially hazardous flight conditions (modes) involving imminent impact with the ground.  The G/S P-Inhibit korry is addressed in MODE 5 of the GPWS modes.

The GPWS loosely falls within the Master Caution System (MCS) in which various coloured warning lights and aural warnings are generated to reflect certain conditions.  The key to the condition colours are as follows:

•    Red lights – Warning:  Indicate a critical condition that requires immediate action.
•    Amber lights – Caution:  Require a timely corrective action.
•    Blue Lights – Advisory:  Do not require any action by flight crew.
•    Green lights – OK: Indicate a satisfactory or on condition.

The Below G/S P-Inhibit korry is amber coloured; therefore, the caution condition generates a priority of 18 (according to the MCS).

Triggering

The Below G/S P-Inhibit korry is triggered when the following conditions are met:

•    Excessive deviation below the glideslope.
•    Armed when number 1 glideslope receiver has a valid signal and the aircraft is less than 1000 feet RA.
•    Excessive deviation (1.3 dots) below of an ILS Glideslope between 1000 feet and 150 feet.

Simulation and Configuration

The 318 korry is an OEM aircraft part and must be connected to an interface card that supports 28 volts to enable illumination of the korry.  I have used a Phidget 0/16/16 interface card.  This link will provide information on how to connect the korry to the Phidget card.

There are four aspects that need to be addressed when configuring this korry to operate in the flight simulator.

•    The initial connection of the OEM annunciator to a interface card and power supply;
•    The illumination of the annunciator (amber warning);
•    The playing of the aural call-out (glideslope); and,
•    The cancellation (inhibit) of the illumination and the aural call-out.

Whether the korry operates as intended in the simulator depends primarily upon the avionics suite used.  Certainly, ProSim-AR (using User-Offsets) and Sim Avioincs (using FSUIPC offsets) can be configured to allow the korry to illuminate.  The the push to test and push to inhibit function can also be configured.

However, there is a high probability that only the illumination will work if a reproduction annunciator is used.  The reason being, that stock standard annunciators do not replicate the push to test and push to inhibit functions.

ProSim-AR Configuration

The following instruction should provide enough information for you to configure the 318 korry in ProSim-AR.

  • configuration/switches - Register the korry by pressing the annunciator and recording the number displayed (*).
  • open Phidgets library - Open the correct Phidgets card - Click (check) each of the outputs until the korry illuminates.  Remember this output number (**)
  • configuration/indicators - Scroll until you find the glideslope function.  From the menu call-out box select the correct Phidget card number and then select the correct output number (from earlier step marked**).
  • configuration/gates - Scroll to you find the audio call-out 'Glideslope'.  Open the menu call-out box and select the correct Phidget card and the correct output (*).

Classic and NG Differences

The function of the korry used in the classic and NG series airframes is identical.  However, there are differences in appearance.  The classic has a yellow bulb colour when activated and the lens displays G/S INHIBIT on two lines.  The NG korry has a more orange coloured hue, and displays BELOW G/S P/INHIBIT on two lines.

LEFT:  Captain-side NG compliant korry (click to enlarge).

Further Information

To read more about OEM annunciators, how to wire them, and the main differences between OEM and reproduction units:

OEM Annunciators Replace Reproduction Annunciators in MIP.
 

Wednesday
Jul012015

Throttle Quadrant Rebuild - Parking Brake Mechanism Replacement, Improvement, and Operation

As part of the throttle quadrant rebuild, the parking brake system was enhanced.  In the previous system, the parking brake lever was controlled by a relay and a 12 volt solenoid.  The system worked well, however, there were some minor differences between the simulated system and that of the system used in the real Boeing aircraft.

LEFT:  Parking brake lever in the UP engaged position.  The red incandescent bulb is 28 volts, however, a 12 volt bulb can be used.  Throttle is Boeing OEM (click to enlarge).

Furthermore, as it was predominately a software system, any change to the avionics suite would affect its operation.

To 'get a handle on' the mechanical linkages used, please read the article regarding the previous system B737 Parking Brake Mechanism.

Revamped System

There has been minimal alteration to the mechanical system, with the exception that the solenoid has been replaced by a 12 volt actuator, a micro-switch has replaced the toggle switch, and the system now requires the toe brakes to be depressed to engage the parking brake.

What is an Actuator

An actuator is a type of motor that is responsible for moving or controlling a mechanism or system.  It is operated by a source of energy, typically electric current, hydraulic fluid pressure, or pneumatic pressure, and converts that energy into motion.

Almost every modern automobile has a door lock actuator which is responsible for the locking and unlocking of the door locks.  This website 'How Stuff Works' provides a very good overview of how an actuator works.

The actuator is responsible for maintaining the parking brake lever in the UP position.  This occurs when the circuit is closed and 12 volt power is briefly directed to the actuator to lock the device into the engaged position. 

LEFT:   The actuator is the blue coloured plastic mechanism.  The parking brake vertical control rod, micro limit switch and upper part of the high tensile spring can be to seen to the lower right (click to enlarge).

System Overview

The actuator is the mechanism that enables the parking brake lever to be locked into the UP position.  Without power, the actuator is in the resting position and the parking brake lever is pulled to the DOWN position by a high tensile spring.

The annunciator is mounted horizontally on the Captain-side of the throttle quadrant and is powered by 12 volts.

To connect the actuator to the parking brake system, the following items have been used:

(i)      An actuator;
(ii)     A micro-limit switch;
(iii)    A relay;
(iv)    A 12 volt power supply and busbar;
(iv)    A standard interface card (Leo Bodnar 836 Joystick Controller card); and,
(v)     Depending upon your requirements (mechanical or part mechanical system), a Phidget 0/0/8 card (1017_1).

Registration of Parking Brake Movement

Prior to proceeding, the movement of the parking brake lever must be configured.  This is done by wiring the parking brake to a Leo Bodnar Joystick Controller card and registering the device in Windows.  Following this, the movement of the lever is registered in ProSim-AR (configuration/MCP Throttle Switches), FSX, or via FSUPIC.

Relay and Micro-Switch

Two items are used to control whether power enters the circuit: a double throw relay and a micro-switch.

The relay is connected to the toe brakes, and when the brakes are depressed, the relay will close.  When the brakes are released the relay will open.  The connection of the relay to the toe brakes can be done a number of ways, but probably the easiest way is to install a button or micro-switch to the toe brakes.  A Phidget 0/0/8 card can also be used, but this method is slightly more convoluted.

The relay (open/closed) is triggered by the movement of the toe brakes.

A micro-switch is used to open or close the circuit when the parking brake lever is raised or lowered.

The micro-switch is mounted proximal to the vertical control rod, and when the parking brake is is in the DOWN position, the connectors from the micro switch are touching a flange that has been attached to the rod, however, when the parking brake lever is moved to the UP position, the connection is severed (circuit open or closed). 

The use of a micro-switch facilitates a second line of containment.  What this means is that the mechanism will only function fully when the relay is closed (toe brakes depressed) and the micro-switch is closed (parking lever raised).

The relay, either enables or inhibits 12 volt power to flow into the circuit, and this is dependent upon the whether the toe brakes are depressed.

The reason for this set-up will be understood shortly.

Toe Brakes

In the real aircraft, the parking brakes can only be engaged or disengaged when the Captain-side or First Officer-side toe brakes are depressed.  This mechanical system has been faithfully replicated by using a relay, micro-switch and actuator.

How It Works

The actuator will only engage when the toe brakes are depressed.  This means that the parking brake cannot be engaged (lever locked in the UP position with red annunciator on) or disengaged (lever in DOWN position with red annunciator off) unless the toe brakes are depressed. 

Depressing or releasing the toe brakes closes or opens the relay which in turn enables 12 volt power to reach the annunciator via the busbar.  However, the system is only 'live' (closed system) when the parking brake lever is moved to the UP position, enabling power to flow unhindered through the circuit.  When the toe brakes are released, the circuit is open and the actuator remains in the engaged locked position with the parking brake lever locked in the UP position.

To release the parking brake lever, the opposite occurs.  When the toe brakes are depressed, the relay opens directing power to the actuator which disengaged the actuator lock.  The parking brake lever is then pulled to the DOWN position by the tensile spring.

How To Engage The Parking Brake

The method used to engage the parking brake is as follows:

(i)        Slightly depress the toe brakes.  This will open the relay and enable 12 volts to engage the actuator;
(ii)       Raise the parking brake lever to the UP position and hold it in this position; and,
(iii)     Release the toe brakes.  Releasing pressure on the toe brakes causes the actuator to lock into the engaged position, as the power ceases to flow to the actuator.

To release the parking brake, the toe brakes are depressed.  This will cause the actuator to unlock and return to its resting position.  The high tensile spring will pull the parking brake lever to the DOWN position with a loud snapping sound.

More Ways To Skin A Cat - Full Mechanical or Part-Mechanical

There are several methods that can be used to connect the actuator to the parking brake mechanism. No one method is better than the other.  I have outlined two methods.

(1)   Mechanical Method: This has been described above.

The toe brakes are connected to a relay (via micro-switches, buttons or whatever) and then connected with a busbar/12 volts power source, micro switch, and finally the actuator. 

Other than  connection of the parking brake lever to an interface card, and registration of the movement of the parking brake lever (either in ProSim-AR, FSX, or via FSUIPC) this method requires minimal software.

(2)  Part-mechanical/Software Controlled:  This involves using the USER section in the configuration menu within ProSim-AR.

A Phidgets 0/0/8 relay card is connected to ProSim-AR and the the USER interface located in the configuration/switches menu of ProSim737 is programmed to read the movement for the toe brakes.  In this example USER 1 has been selected.  This process removes the need to install a micro-switch or button to the toe brakes.

Each USER IN has a corresponding USER OUT and this is located in GATES.  Opening Configuration/Gates, the same USER number is found (USER 1).  In the tab beside USER 1 the output from the Phidgets 0/8/8 card is entered.  Therefore, whenever USER 1 is triggered, there will be a corresponding output.

When the toe brakes are depressed, the software will read the movement and send a signal to the Phidget card to engage the relay.  This in turn will enable the busbar to be powered and the micro-switch to receive power.  Whether the parking brake lever is engaged (UP) or disengaged (DOWN) will open or close the micro-switch (closing or opening the circuit).  

The actuator will be engaged (circuit closed) only if the micro-switch (located on the vertical rod mentioned earlier) connection is severed (parking brake lever is in the raised position closing the circuit).

NOTE:  Since publication, ProSim-AR has incorporated into their software a parking brake release 'command'.  This by-passes the need to use the USER OUT settings mentioned above.  The 'command' is set to the output on the Phidget 0/0/8 card.  The parking brake release can be found in the Configuration/Gates menu.  (MORE TO COME HERE - in construction).

The power for the actuator (in my set-up) is connected from the 12 volt busbar in the Throttle Communication Module (TCM) and then, via a straight-through cable, to the Throttle Interface Module (TIM).  The relay for the parking brake mechanism is located in the TIM.

Actuator Caution LED

The design of an actuator is such, that if power is continuously applied to the mechanism, it will burn out.  If operating correctly, the actuator will onlt receive power when the toe brakes are depressed and the parking brake lever is raised at the same time.

To combat against the unforeseen event of power being continuously supplied to the actuator, for example by a relay that is stuck in the open (on) position, a coloured LED has been incorporated into the three LEDs that are fitted to the front of the Throttle Communication Module (TCM).  This flashing LED illuminates only when the circuit is closed and the actuator is receiving 12 volt power.

Additional Information

Like many things, there are several ways to accomplish the same or a similar task.  The following posts located in the ProSim737 forum discuss the conversion of the parking brake lever.

How To Make Your Own Parking Brake Release

Parking Brake Logic

Glossary

Two terms often confused are open circuit and closed in relation to an electrical circuit.

Any circuit which is not complete is considered an open circuit.  Conversely, a circuit is considered to be a closed circuit when electricity flows from an energy source to the desired endpoint of the circuit.

Conversely, a closed relay means it allows voltage to travel through it, while an open relay is the opposite.

ProSim-AR - Refers to the ProSim737 avionics suite which has been developed by ProSim-AR.


Thursday
Jun112015

Throttle Quadrant Rebuild - Speedbrake Motor and Clutch Assembly Replacement 

The speedbrake system has been completely overhauled. 

In the previous conversion a number of problems developed.  In particular, the speed of the speedbrake lever when deployed was either too fast, too slow, or did not move at all.  Furthermore, the clutch mechanism frequently became loose.

Rather than continually ‘tweak’ a problematic system, the motor and clutch assembly was removed and replaced with a more advanced and reliable system.

LEFT:  The motor that provides the power to move the speedbrake lever is attached via a slipper clutch to the speedbrake control rod (click to enlarge).  Below the motor is the Throttle Communication Module (TCM).

To read about the first conversion and learn a little more about closed-loop systems and how the speedbrake works I recommend you read the first portion of my earlier article.

B737 Throttle Quadrant  Speedbrake Conversion and Use

Motor and Clutch Assembly

A 12 volt motor is used to power the speed brake.  The motor is mounted forward of the throttle unit above the Throttle Communication Module (TCM).  The wiring from the motor is routed, in a lumen through the throttle firewall to a 12 volt busbar and relays.  The relays, mounted inside the TCM, are dedicated to the speedbrake. 

Attached to the 12 volt motor is a clutch assembly, similar in design to the slipper clutches used in the movement of the two throttle thrust levers.  The clutch can easily be loosed or tightened to provide the correct torque on speedbrake lever, and once set will not become loose.

The slipper clutch was commercially made.

LEFT:  A linear throw potentiometer has been mounted on the Captain-side of the quadrant.  The potentiometer enables the movement of the speedbrake lever to be finely calibrated (click to enlarge).

Speedbrake Mechanics and Logic

The logic that controls the speedbrake has not be changed from what it was in the previous conversion. 

Micro-buttons have been strategically placed beneath the speedbrake lever arc.  As the speedbrake lever moves over one of the buttons, the button will trigger a relay to either open or close (on/off).  The four relays, which are mounted in the Throttle Communication Module (TCM) trigger whether the speedbrake will be armed, stowed, engaged on landing, or placed in the UP position.

To improve the positional accuracy of the speedbrake lever, a linear throw potentiometer has been mounted to the throttle superstructure on the Captain-side. 

Speedbrake Operation

The speedbrake system is a mechanical closed-loop system, meaning it does not require calibration using FSUIPC or from the avionics suite (ProSim737).  The speedbrake lever, however, does need to be registered and calibrated  as a joystick controller in the Windows operating system.  This enables the avionics suite to see the potentiometer.

The following condtions will cause the speedbrake lever to deploy from the DOWN to the UP position.

(i)  When the aircraft lands and the squat switch is activated;

(ii)  During a Rejected Takeoff (RTO).  Assuming the autobrake selector switch has been set to RTO, there is active wheel spin, and the groundspeed exceeds 80 knots; and,

(iii)  If the reverse thrust (reversers) are engaged with a positive wheel spin and a ground speed in excess of 100 knots.

Point (iii) is worth expanding upon.  The speedbrake system (in the real aircraft) has a built-in redundancy in that if the flight crew forget to arm the speedbrake system and make a landing, the system will automatically engage the spoilers when reverse thrust is engaged.  This redundant system was installed into the Next Generation airframe after several occurrences of pilots forgetting to arm the speedbrake prior to landing.  

Therefore, the speedbrake will deploy on landing either by activation of the squat switch (if the speedbrake was armed), or when reverse thrust is applied.

The illumination of the speedbrake annunciators (condition lights) is not part of the system and must be programmed directly within ProSim737 (switches/indicators).

Programmed Variables

The following variables have been programmed into the logic that controls the operation of the speedbrake.

(i)    Rejected Take Off (RTO).  This will occur after 80 knots call-out.  Spoilers will extend to the UP position  when reverse thrust is applied.  The speedbrake lever moves to UP position on throttle quadrant.  RTO must be armed prior to takeoff roll;

(ii)    Spoilers extend on landing when the squat switch is activated.  For this to occur, both throttle thrust levers must be at idle (at the stops).  The speedbrake lever also must be in the armed position prior to landing.  The speedbrake lever moves to UP position on throttle quadrant;

(iii)    Spoilers extend automatically and the speedbrake lever moves to the UP position when reverse thrust is applied;

(iv)    Spoilers close and the speedbrake lever moves to the DOWN position on throttle quadrant when the thrust levers are advanced after landing (auto-stow); and,

(v)    Speedbrakes extend incrementally in the air dependent on lever position (flight detent).

Speedbrake Lever Speed

When the speedbrake lever is engaged, the speed at which lever moves is quite fast.  The term ‘biscuit cutter’ best describes the energy that is generated when the lever is moving; it certainly will break a biscuit in two as well as a lead pencil.  Speaking of lead pencils, I have been told a favorite trick of pilots from yesteryear, was to rest a pencil on the throttle so that when the speedbrake engaged the pencil would be snapped in two by the lever!

In the real Boeing aircraft the movement of the lever is marginally slower and is controlled by an electrically operated actuator (28 volts DC). 

LEFT:  The actuator that controls the movement of the speedbrake.  This image was taken from beneath the floor structure of a Boeing 600 aircraft.  Image copyright to Karl Penrose (click to enlarge).

In theory, the moderate speed that the speedbrake lever moves in the real aircraft should be able to be duplicated; for example, by suppressing the voltage from the 12 volt motor by the use of a capacitor, using a power supply lower than 12 volts, or by using speed controllers.  These alternatives have yet to be trailed.

It is unfortunate, that most throttle quadrants for sale do not include the actuator.  The actuator is not part of the throttle unit itself, but is located in the forward section under the flight deck.  The actuator is then connected to the speedbrake mechanism unit via a mechanical linkage.

In the real Boeing aircraft, the speedbrake lever and actuator provide the input via cables, that in-turn actuate the speedbrakes.  There is no feedback directly from the hydraulics and all operation is achieved via the manual or electric input of the speedbrake lever.

Actuator Sound

The sound of the actuator engaging can easily heard in the flight deck when the speedbrake engages (listen to the below video).  To replicate this sound, a recording of the actuator engaging was acquired.  The .wav sound file was then uploaded into the ProSim737 audio file library and configured to play when the speedbrake is commanded to move.  

The .wav file can be shortened or lengthened to match the speed that the lever moves (download .wav file).

Video

The upper video demonstrates the movement of the speedbrake lever.    The lower video, courtesy of U-Tube, shows the actual movement of the lever in a real Boeing aircraft.

Notice: Not for operational use; video is intended to present the features and functions of the unit in question and not procedures.

If you listen carefully to both videos, you will note a difference in the noise that the actuator generates.  I am lead to believe that the 'whine' noise is slightly different depending upon the aircraft frame.  The actuator in the older classic series Boeing being more of a high whine in comparison to the actuator in the NG airframes.

Glossary

Condition(s) - A term referring to a specific parameter that is required to enable an action to occur.
FSUIPC - Flight Simulator Universal Inter-Process Communication.  A fancy term for software that interfaces between the flight simulator programme and other outside programmes.
Speedbrake Lever Arc - The curved arc that the speedbrake lever moves along.

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