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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 Flight Simulator (58)

Friday
May182012

B737 Cockpit Companion Guide by Bill Bulfer - Review

The B737 Cockpit Companion is a well known guide within the flight simulation community, having been published in several formats; each dealing with a specific release of a Boeing 737 aircraft series.

The guide, written by retired airline Captain Bill Bulfer, are very specialized and unravel each of the many B737 aircraft systems.  The 737 NG Cockpit Companion 600/-700/-800/-BBJ & BBJ 2 provides a detailed explaination into the following:

LEFT:  The companion may look small, but the information it includes is detailed and informative.  The small size allows easy storing in the throttle side pockets.  In my opinion, this guide is essential reading and answers many questions often asked by flight deck builders and virtual pilots.  Click image to enlarge.

 

 

CONTENTS

  • AFT Panel
  • Forward Overhead Panel
  • Glareshield Panel
  • Captain’s Panel
  • Centre Panel
  • First Officer’s Panel
  • Forward Electronics Panel
  • Control Stand (throttle)
  • Aft Electronics Panel

It is important to note that this guide provides much more information than just indicating a name for something.  Each system's functionality is explained in detail along with comprehensive sketches, diagrams and fold out schematics.

For example, in the Captain’s Panel section, there are several pages that explain, the elements that make up the Pilots Flight Display (PFD) and Navigation Display (ND).  There are two pages that deal only with the speed tape providing information dealing with the various options indicated by the tape during ascents and descents. 

Another page details the intricacy of Navigation Performance Scales (ANP and RNP) providing operational information on how to read and decipher the scales in relation to whatever flight mode is set on the MCP. 

A final example is several pages that detail the functionality of the EFIS unit and what exactly occurs when you push a button on the EFIS unit.

Flight Deck Builders

The guide is essential if you are constructing a flight deck and want to simulate the B737 systems.  Apart from systems information, the guide indicates switch functionality and provides information to which lights illuminate for what functions and when.

LEFT:  Example of a page from the Cockpit Companion.  Click to enlarge.

The guide is not a procedures manual; it is a technical reference manual.  The content will not provide instruction on how to fly the B737.  Rather it provides a detailed study of each system and provides information explaining the relationship between systems. 

No matter what your skill level, It is a very handy reference and strongly recommended.  I often leaf through the pages to cross reference something that I don’t quite understand.

Pocket Reference - PFD / ND Flags and FMC Messages 

Often when you fly, a message will show on the Pilot’s Flight Display.  Remembering what all the acumens mean can be daunting, and often you don’t have the time to open an manual because of the flight phase you are in  (approach).

Enter the pocket reference guide.  This small and very handy leaflet guide outlines all the PFD, ND flags and FMC messages providing a brief description of the flag displayed.  The pocket reference is sold separately to the cockpit companion.  It's size is 10 cm x 5 cm.

Written by an Aviator for Aviators (real or virtual)

The cockpit companion, written by an aviator for aviators, is very concise, easy to read and understand.  As with its sister companion, the FMC Guide, it’s a high quality production.

If your serious about how you fly your simulator or are developing your own simulator project, the Cockpit Companion is certainly a must have in your training material.

The guide that is most relevant to the B737NG is titled: The 737 NG Cockpit Companion 600/-700/-800/-BBJ & BBJ 2

It can be purchased from Leading Edge Publishing.

I will be reviewing another of Bill Bulfer's text in the near future - FMC Guide

My Rating 10/10

Please note that this review is not endorsed.

Tuesday
Apr172012

Look Dad - No Mouse! - CP Flight PRO MCP & EFIS Installed

In an earlier Journal entry, I mentioned that the CP Flight main control panel (MCP) PRO version I had purchased last September (before I embarked on the B737 Project) appeared to be faulty.  For some reason the MCP would not register on the USB port of the computer.  After many hours of wasted time, I returned the unit to Italy for either repair or replacement.

Just before Easter I received a replacement unit.  Paolo from CP Flight had decided to replace the electronics. 

Installation & Configuration

Installation of the CPF software and configuration of this new unit worked first time without any problem whatsoever.  Configuring the MCP to operate with Sim Avionics was straightforward and required some basic changes to the Server.exe configuration files.  I also had to clone the TCP_Client.exe and MCP.exe folders and copy these to the main server computer that has FSX and the MCP installed.  These folders and files need to be installed on the same computer as the MCP software and hardware is installed to allow Sim Avionics to recognise the device.

Simulator Start-Up Procedure

So what happens now is that I start FSX on the main server computer, then once FSX is running and the flight is open, I activate the MCP.exe shortcut which turns on the CP Flight MCP.  The process of the MCP.exe been turned on triggers the TCP_Client.exe to open and search for it’s counterpart on the network.  Turning on the Sim-A Server.exe (via a batch start file located on the client computer) allows the programs to communicate and the appropriate software to open on the flight deck.

Backlighting – An Initial Mystery

To connect the CP Flight backlighting was a mystery until SIM-A support informed me that you can either select a check box within the SIM-A server display window which causes the backlighting to be permanently on, or create a FSUPIC offset to a switch using the aircraft’s storm lights for manual activation.  I choose the later and have the backlighting set to a toggle on a GoFlight module.  This will suffice as I do not as yet have an overhead installed.

My Opinion of the Unit

The CP Flight MCP and EFIS unit has been discussed many times in various reviews and on U-Tube; the consensus being that the majority of users are very happy with the product.

The unit is well made, aesthetically looks pleasing, and works as it should.  The backlighting is very good and the green buttons that indicate whether a function is turned on or off are very visible.  The unit is quite light in weight compared with other MCPs on the market, so it must be installed solidly into the MIP to minimise movement when pushing buttons, etc.  The solenoid operated A/T switch is a nice change to the normal flick type switch and the use of replica DZUS fasteners is a nice touch.

CP Flight support is also beyond reproach.  Paolo is helpful, courteous and attempts to find solutions when a problem is evident.  I had an issue with my first MCP and Paolo spent considerable time with me working through issues attempting to find a solution.  CP Flight is not a “buy and forget” you type of company.

Major Advantage

One of the major advantages in using products from CP Flight is the very easy connectivity with other CP Flight modules.  The CP Flight family of modules are connected together by a daisy chain system.  A 5 pin (5 pole) DIN cable connects each module to each other with the main power being supplied by the MCP and its external 6 Volt power pack.  Connection to the computer is via a single USB cable.  What this makes for is a very simple, clean and modular way of installation.  There are no cards to connect or to find homes for -  nor any messy wiring.

Caveat

The only caveat is that the size of the MCP and EFIS are not an exact 1:1 ratio to a real B737 MCP and EFIS unit.  The CP Flight instrument is slightly narrower that the real module.  Whilst this is not a major issue, it does pose a slight problem if you’re using a OEM MIP or a MIP that is sized correctly to the real part. 

If you are using a MIP made by FDS, an additional bracket assembly is required, and even then there is a slight gap between the MIP and MCP unit.

This brings me to an interesting point.  Not all MIPS are the same size nor are they all an accurate 1:1 ratio.  CP Flight is used  exclusively with the MIP produced by Fly Engravity, so it stands to reason that the Fly Engravity MIP will fit the CP Flight products accurately.  if you are using another brand MIP, then it is best to check before hand to ensure that the CP Flight avionics will fit correctly.

Nice to Fly without a Mouse….

Whatever the difference in size, It’s very pleasing to be able to fly without a mouse and have something to fill the gaping hole in the MIP.  I’ve solved the issue of the spacing difference by cutting some thin acrylic to the appropriate size and painting it Boeing grey.  Once fitted, you barely notice the slight gap.  Sometimes you have to compromise...

Although this post is not a review, if pressed to give a rating it would be 8.5/10

To see further pictures, navigate to the Images Section / MCP & EFIS Units (internal link)

Now that the MCP and Captain EFIS is fitted and working, I need to order an addtional EFIS unit for the Flight Officer side. 

Next on the agenda will be to populate the avionics for the center pedestal. 

Sunday
Mar112012

Main Instrument Panel (MIP) by Flight Deck Solutions - Review

 

Overview

The main instrument panel (MIP) is arguably one of the most important pieces of equipment in a flight deck; it is around the MIP that everything revolves.  Every enthusiast wants the MIP to be athletically pleasing and as real to the OEM product as possible.  Depending upon the end use, the MIP may act as a skeleton from which to add OEM parts, or standalone accommodating reproduction parts.

There are several companies that produce MIPS and each has its nuances.  After extensive research, Flight Deck Solutions (FDS) in Canada was commissioned to supply the MIP.

Note that in this review, reference is made to the term OEM which is an acronym for Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real Boeing 737 aviation part).

The image above is the Duel Seat Training Device offered by Flight Deck Solutions (image courtesy and copyright FDS).

Information - Not Pretty Pictures

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the FDS MIP or the parts attached to the MIP.  Rather, the intent of the review is to provide adequate information for enthusiasts to make an intelligent decision to which MIP to purchase.  

Furthermore, it is important to understand that all reproduction simulator parts are exactly that - a reproduction or facsimile of a real part.  Often reproduction parts are not to scale and have subtle differences to the real item.  Whether this is important is at your discretion and very much depends upon whether you intend to use OEM parts or solely reproduction parts.

To view images of the MIP, navigate to the image gallery (images FDS MIP). 

Interface cards have not been discussed for two reasons.  First, there are several differing types of cards that can be used, and second, Integrated Cockpit Systems (ICS) units come ready-made with all wiring and interface cards installed. 

ICS and Options

FDS provide two options when purchasing their MIP - naked (do it yourself) or as an integrated cockpit system (ICS).

The ICS route was chosen because of time constraints; by eliminated the task of wiring and soldering a multitude of interrelated electronic parts together, it would allow more time to concentrate on converting real aircraft parts to use in the simulator.  At the forefront of the B737 project, the MIP was to be a skeleton from which to hang OEM parts.

The MIP consists of two sections; the main instrument display including the lower display and glare shields (eyebrows), and the base structure incorporating the CDU mounting area, lower display and stand.

UPPER MIP (Instrument Panel, Glareshield and Lower Panel/Kick Stand)

The panel is made from CNC machined acrylic and the glare shield from injection molded plastic. The panel and glare shields have been attached by screws to a light-weight powder coated aluminum frame which incorporates a 4 inch wide shelf on the rear side. 

The cut-out lettering, which allows the lettering to be back-lit, is very crisp with well defined edges.

LEFT:  FDS landing gear lever is a good facsimile of the real lever; however, the lever does not recess between the two half moons.  Nor is the red trigger spring-loaded as in the OEM mechanism.  Despite these aesthetic shortfalls, the landing gear functions well.  The leather skirt is a step in the right direction concerning authenticity (click to enlarge).

The panel has been professionally painted in Boeing grey.  Although the panel is made from acrylic, the use of high quality flat paint removes the sheen that acrylic is renowned for.  In comparison to other plastic-looking panels on the market, the colour and appearance is very true to form.  It looks 'almost; like the OEM panel. and matches the real aircraft parts very well.  Furthermore, FDS apply the paint in several thin layers which makes the coating very resistant to chipping and scratching.

Switches have been mounted in the correct locations and the wiring from these switches has been secured within a wiring lumen or by plastic cable ties.  The switches and knobs replicate those of the real aircraft and have the correct feel, although the general purpose knobs (GPK) do not replicate the exact appearance of the OEM knob.  Where a panel has not been included (not stock B737 configurations) a blanking panel has been fitted.

The soldering work and connections on all switches are excellent; it is more than obvious that the person who did the soldering work is a professional with many years experience.

The gear lever is sturdy and feels solid.  To engage the landing gear, the lever must be pulled out of its recess and pushed up or down.  The detail to the lever is excellent and installation includes the correct-looking fiber sleeve.  The mechanism does not have the spring-loaded trigger; the trigger is a solid cast item attached to the lever.

Annunciator lights (six packs) and various warning lights are all functional; however, pale comparison to OEM parts and other high-end reproductions; they appear 'cheesy'.  The glare shield is strong textured ABS plastic and wraps over the top of the MIP.  A correctly sized chart pocket is screwed to the top of the shield.  The two glares either side of the MIP on the Captain and First Officer side are painted MDF wood and although not have a negative appearance they do not replicate the appearance of the OEM glare which is made from textured foam plastic.

The shelf system, located behind the main instrument panel, is an excellent idea.  The shelf, in addition to providing an area for the FDS monitor stands to be mounted, is a good platform to mount various cards, speakers and other items that may be required.

The lower display modules, which are mounted to the lower area of main panel, are installed using normal Phillips-head screws.  In a real B737, panels and modules are usually secured using DZUS  fasteners or skirted screws.  It would have been a nice touch to have replicated the use of DZUS fasteners on the panels in the lower kick stand.

LEFT:  The FDS bracket, a novel design to hold the display units firmly in place.  The display unit bezel is made from plastic and does not hinge outwards as the real bezel does.  Note the reflection in the center display for the ISFD (click to enlarge).

Display Unit Covers

The protective displays that the computer monitor screens (display units) are made from 1.5 mm thick perspex.  I have found the perspex to be very reflective - especially so if the simulator is located in a well-illuminated room.    

Integrated Back-Lighting (IBL)

Integrated back Lighting (IBL) is the name FDS has coined to refer to their proprietary design in which FDS utilise aircraft bulbs rather than LEDs.  IBL is supplied to illuminate the back lighting in all FDS panels and modules.  

One of the main advantages of a bulb in contrast to that of a LED is the throw of the light and the colour temperature.  The area of coverage from bulbs is relatively even, where the coverage by an LED is more pinpoint and uneven.   The only way to achieve a similar light coverage to bulbs using LEDs is to use several LEDS mounted in close proximity to each other. 

One area that the use of bulbs  excels is the rear illumination of the stencil-cut lettering on the MIP.  Bulbs will completely illuminate the stencil cut-outs where LED lighting will often only illuminate part of the stencil cut-out (unless there are several LEDs).

Bulbs and LEDs have different colour temperatures.  A bulb transmits a warm colour (soft orange hue) whereby a LED transmits a cooler colour that appears more blue in comparison.

All Boeing airframes, with the exception of the newest airframes utilise 5 and 28 volt incandescent bulbs.

The only downside of IBL (if there is one) is that the bulbs generate quite a bit of heat.  The life of a bulb is also less than a LED.

What the MIP Lacks

The non-use of DZUS fasteners in the lower panel (kick stand) and the failure to use skirted screws has been mentioned.

LEFT:  Ground Proximity Panel showing use of Phillips head screws rather than the more usual DZUS fasteners (click to enlarge).

Stand-by instruments and clocks are not included.  FSD supply a stenciled backing card which is mounted behind the perspex to mimic the look of the yaw dampener, brake pressure, clock and flaps gauge. 

Considering the purchase price of a MIP, and considering the importance of a working flaps gauge, an operational analogue flaps gauge should be a stock item.  

The avionics suite (Sim Avionics) can display virtual stand-by instruments id required.

The speed reference panel and knobs are not functional. The knobs used in the speed reference panel do not replicate the OEM knobs used in the B737; the real aircraft uses double rotary encoder knobs. As with the flaps gauge, these knobs should be functional and, at least shoe some resemblance to the real part.

Software - Interface IT

The software to interface the MIP (InterfaceIT) seems to be well designed and robust.  It does require a learning curve to become proficent with the software, but once proficent the siftware is logical in layout and use.  Installation of the IT software is straightforward.

Additionally, there is a direct link between InterfaceIT and Sim Avionics which makes internal configuration and programming very easy.

Flight Avionics Suite

Duel Seat Training Devices (DSTD) and MIPS configured by Flight Deck Solutions use Sim Avionics as their flight avionics suite.  After you receive your MIP, FDS staff will e-mail to you a file which you import into InterfaceIT.  This file holds the data assignments for the MIP buttons and switches.

Although FDS recommend Sim Avionics, there is no obligation to use this software; the MIP will operate with whatever software you choose.  A seperate post will deal with a review of Sim Avionics.

Lower Base Structure

The base structure comprises the lower section of the MIP and includes the CDU bay structure and lower display screen.  The structure is made from aluminum which has been professionally powder coated in Boeing grey. 

LEFT:  The rear shelf located behind the MIP and the propriety bracket used to hold the display units (computer screens) firmly in place.  The bracket works exceptionally well and the shelf is very sturdy (click to enlarge).

As with the upper section of the MIP, the attention to detail is obvious.  There are no sharp edges on the CDU bay structure, nor are there gaps where panels attach together.  Screws match their holes correctly.

The DZUS rails that line the internal section of the CDU bay marry perfectly with the DZUS fasteners used to secure the Control Display Unit (CDU/FMC) to the rails.    It does not matter whether a reproduction or OEM CDU unit is used as both will fit perfectly.

The lower display screen, which fits between the two gaps in which the CDUs reside, is identical in shape and manufacture to the upper display unit bezels.  Unlike the three upper bezels in which a standard computer monitor can be mounted, the lower screen requires a smaller monitor which is not an off the shelf item.

Dimensions, 1:1 ratio and Using OEM Parts

The ability of a manufacturer to produce a MIP that is the correct 1:1 ratio to the real item cannot be underestimated.  If an enthusiast is intending to only use instruments and panels produced by that manufacturer, then any size disparity is probably unnoticeable and probably not that important.  However, if OEM parts are to replace reproduction parts, then the base sizing become crucial to the correct and easy fitment of an OEM part.  In this area, the FDS MIP has some shortfalls.

The MIP has a number of holes and gaps that parts reside, for example for the AFDS and flaps gauge.  If the holes are incorrectly matched to the OEM part, either a new panel (aluminum backing plate) will need to be engineered and painted, or the hole may need to be enlarged.  Although enlarging a hole in a MIP is straightforward, the opposite is problematic and requires the design of a new panel.

Unfortunately, many of the holes in the FDS MIP do not correspond to the correct size when fitting OEM parts.  For example, the holes that the AFDS units reside must to be enlarged considerably to enable OEM AFDS units to be fitted.  Likewise, the holes to fit the annunciators need to be enlarged.  The hole that the flaps gauge is housed is far too large and a new panel needs to be designed to gt an OEM flaps gauge.

Power, System I/O Cards and Cabling

A multi-voltage computer power pack is used to power the MIP and has been mounted at the rear of the lower base structure. 

The position chosen is well suited to internal wiring and allows easy access should a problem develop.

LEFT:  Detail of the angled shelf used to accommodate the I/O cards.  The multi-voltage computer power supply can also be seen mounted behind the perforated vents.  The terminal block caters to 5 and 12 volts.  The interface card is the FDS SYS card which comes standard with the ICS MIP. (click to enlarge).

An angled shelf has been engineered to fit immediately behind the CDU bay.  The design of the shelf is intended as an area on which to mount the various interface cards required to operate the simulator.

The interface cards required to operate the MIP have been secured to the angled shelf and all wiring has been expertly soldered or attached via solid electrical clips.  Cabling and connections are of the highest quality.  Each of the wires that are connected to the SYS board has been tagged with a plastic tag which indicates their function; a good idea if you need to change something at a later date or troubleshoot a particular problem.

There has been no compromises with regard to how the staff at FDS wired the MIP - it is beyond reproach.

Base structure (side stands)

The base structure (stand) has been designed to be mounted either directly to a base platform.  The mounting points are numerous holes along the lower angled edge of the stand.  A concern was that the structure would wobble, as it is quite high and made from light-weight aluminum. 

LEFT:  3mm replacement side stand.  The replacement stand inhibits any movement of the MIP as the structure is not (at the moment) installed within a shell (click to enlarge).

These concerns were short-lived; once each attachment point was secured with a screw the assembly was quite solid.  This said, if you energetically engage the landing gear lever, there is a very slight movement in the upper area of the MIP.  If you are mounting the MIP into a cockpit surround, any movement will cease as it will be attached to the outer skin of the shell.

To counteract any movement, it is a relatively easy matter to fabricate two replacement side stands from a thicker sheet of aluminum (3-5mm).  This will guarantee that there will be no movement when manipulating knobs, the landing gear, etc.

To read about the replacement side walls, navigate to this post.

Communication, Support and Delivery

Communication with FDS was excellent.  E-mails were always answered in a timely manner and Peter and Steven Cos are very professional in their approach. I was continually kept in the loop regarding construction and shipping.

Support if and when required is either via a dedicated forum, e-mail, or if necessary by telephone.  Peter and Steve Cos very approachable and helpful and their support is second to none.  I would go so far as to say that the support that FDS provides cannot be matched.

It is important to note that Flight Deck Solutions is not a mail order company with products in storage waiting to be shipped; products are assembled to order.  This means that often there is a timely wait until you receive your shipment.

The MIP I had delivered to Australia was packed in and attached (screwed) to the floor of a large wooden crate.  It arrived undamaged.

Quick List - Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Well designed & constructed
  • Excellent workmanship (metalwork and wiring)
  • Realistic and highly effective Integrated Back-Lighting (IBL)
  • Good functionality
  • Very clean appearance - wiring and cards favorably positioned
  • 1:1 (or as near possible) to the real MIP (exception if using OEM gauges)
  • Moderate to high attention to detail
  • Robust & functional software (InterfaceIT) if using Sim Avionics avionics suite
  • Excellent paint quality (several layers of paint) that resists chipping and scratching
  • Outstanding support - the best in the industry

CONS

  • No analogue flaps gauge, other than virtual version (rectified by spending more money)
  • No stand-by instruments or clock (rectified by spending more money)
  • Non use of DZUS fasteners in lower panels above 'kick stand' (small things do make a difference)
  • RMI knobs are very low quality
  • Speed reference knobs are very low quality & do not replicate OEM B737 knobs
  • Landing gear lever does not recess behind shield when in down position
  • Landing gear does not utilise the spring trigger as in the real aircraft
  • Section between upper and lower MIP (kick-stand) is not the correct shape.  It should be rounded and not be an angled piece of aluminum
  • Display unit covers are very reflective (easily rectified- remove or replace them with tinted displays)
  • Slightly inaccurate General Purpose Knobs (GPK) - poor stenciling on knobs
  • The MIP is not completely 1:1 and if using OEM parts, some engineering is required to fit OEM parts
  • The MIP is not an exact reproduction and artistic license has been taken in some areas (for example, the section between the upper and lower MIP (kick-stand).  The MIP also lacks various screws and fasteners seen on the OEM MIP

NOTE

If you are intending to add OEM panels, switches and knobs to the FDS MIP, be aware that many of the panels do not fit the FDS MIP.  This is because the MIP frame is not exactly 1:1 with the OEM equivalent.  In some instances (such as when retrofitting panels / lightplates) the MIP is out by up to 1 cm.  Also be aware that OEM korrys, flaps gauges and some of other avionics will not fit into the precut holes.  You will need to either enlarge the hole or make it smaller).

Final Call

The MIP is well made and has been finished with obvious care; parts line up correctly, screw heads have not been burred and paint not chipped.  Wiring, soldering, parts, switches, paint, colour, rotaries, blanking panels and display frames are of the highest quality.  It is obvious you are dealing with a premium product that provides an very good facsimile of a stock standard B737-800NG instrument panel.

Downside is the lack of any hard-wired gauges, poor quality speed reference and general purpose knobs, lack of DZUS in lower panels, no flaps gauge, and inaccurately positioned landing gear lever (when in the down position).  Another issue is that the MIP is not 100% 1:1 with its OEM counterpart, nor is it a 100% accurate rendition of an OEM MIP. 

This said, for many enthusiasts this will not be an issue as the differences are minor.  If you intend to use OEM parts then some parts of the MIP will need to be fabricated to enable the real parts to fit snugly into the MIP.

Depending upon your end use - a MIP with reproduction gauges or a MIP skeleton to hang OEM parts - your views will alter.  Certainly, the FDS MIP is not to be discounted as a premium product; it's a pity that FDS did not 'take a few extra steps' to make this MIP the 'Queen of the crop'.

The closest rival to the FDS MIP is the MIP manufactured by Fly Engravity and SimWorld.  Other MIPS are available from other companies, but the FDS MIP, although lacking in some areas is superior in many ways. 

Rating is 7.5/10

Please note that this review is my opinion only and is not endorsed.  Furthermore, note the date of the review.   Flight Deck Solutions may have updated their MIP after this review has been published. 

I must apologise for the lack of separate stand-alone MIP images.  I was very keen to begin building and failed to photograph the MIP as a stand-alone item.  Thanks to Peter Cos, Flight Deck Solutions for allowing the use of the front image.

A review of Sim Avionics will be published in the near future.

Thursday
Feb092012

FMC Guide by Bill Bulfer - Review

The Control Display Unit (CDU) is the pilot interface to the FMC (Flight Management Computer).  It’s one of the more complex items that real and virtual aviators need to the master.

Historical Context

First introduced on the B737-200 in 1979 as the Performance Data Computer System (PDCS), the Flight Management Computer (FMC) was a technological step forward in in-flight navigation  The PDCS was trailed on two in-service  737-200 series aircraft and crew reports indicated a fuel saving of 2.95% and an increase in trip time (based on  a 71 minute trip).  As a result, the PDCS became a standard fit and over time was developed to be reincarnated as the FMC will see today in the later 737 series aircraft.

The FMC is only one component of the Flight Management System (FMS) which is defined as being capable of four dimensional area navigation (latitude, longitude, altitude & time).  The FMS contains the navigational database. 

Learning CDU Functionality can be Frustrating if not Adequately Trained

Many virtual aviators blunder through the CDU line detents trying to understand what they do; often failing.  For the most part, the uninitiated will blame buggy software  for the aircraft’s sudden dive or climb in response to a CDU command. The algorithm behind the functionality of a CDU is not simplistic – it is complex, and mastering the  CDU is not achieved overnight.

LEFT:  Random page from the FMC Guide.  Click image to enlarge.

Real-world pilots attend lengthy pre-flight classes to understand the use of the CDU, and although there are several training guides available on the Internet, many are not peer-reviewed and fall short of being comprehensive.

Software Variations

One of the reasons that learning the CDU can be tiresome, is that the software that provides the intelligence behind the Flight Management System, has over time been upgraded to take into account technological advances.  This is in addition to there being several software variants available. Software variants have been developed to cater towards individual airline options; an airline may want, or not want a particular function available to its flight crews. 

Precision Manual Development Group (PMDG) produces a very good section in one of their manuals that deals with CDU usage  (PMDG B737 FMC Guide).  Tom Metzinger and Fred Clausen have also documented in their excellent tutorials, a segment on using the PMDG style variant CDU (PMDG use the latest sioftware version). 

To read these guides, navigate to the Training and Documents Section in this website.

Invest in Education - FMC Guide

If you are serious about your virtual flying or have a bent for technology, I strongly recommend you purchase Captain Bill Bulfer’s FMC Guide. 

LEFT:  Page from FMC Guide discussing fixed waypoints.  Click image to enlarge.

The guide is a real-world guide designed for real B737 pilots, and not only provides detailed information on a vast array of FMC commands, screens and nuances, but also examines many of the options relating to specific software versions. 

 

The guide is a high quality production and has been written in a style that provides clear and a concise guidance.  It can be purchased either in colour (recommended) or in black and white. 

Like anything in life, you get out what you put in.  With a good working knowledge gained from the study of this text, you will soon discover that the carrying out a procedural turn with altitude and speed restrictions, before flying a complex STAR and approach is not that difficult to fathom.

The information in this guide will allow you to be confidently and correctly operate the CDU.

To purchase a copy you can either navigate to Leading Edge Publishing.

I will be reviewing another of Bill Bulfer's text in the near future - The B737 Cockpit Companion.

My Rating 10/10

Please note that this review is not endorsed.

Wednesday
Feb012012

Update - B737 Project - Flight Deck Snapshot - February 1, 2012

 I thought I'd post an image of the flight deck to date (February 1, 2012).  It's still a a little messy, but most of the major things have been completed.