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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 Flight Simulator (58)


BRT / DIM Functionality - Lights Test Switch

The annunciators in the Boeing 737 are very bright when illuminated, and the reason for the high intensity is justified - the designers want to ensure that any system warnings or cautions are quickly noted by a flight crew.

However, when flying at night for extended periods of time the bright lights can be tiring on your eyes.  Also, during critical flight phases such as during a night-time approach, the bright lights can become distracting.  At this time, the flight deck is usually dimmed in an attempt to conserve night vision. 

For example, the three green landing annunciators (Christmas tree lights), speed brake and flaps extension annunciators are all illuminated during the final segment of the approach.  At full intensity these annunciators can, at the very least, be distracting.

LEFT:  Lights Test switch.  The three way switch located on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP) Captain-side is used to toggle the intensity of connected annunciators.  The panel label reads TEST, BRT and DIM.  The switch in the photograph is an OEM switch which has been retrofitted to a Flight Deck Solutions (FDS) MIP.

To help minimize eye strain and to enable night vision to be maintained as much as possible, pilots can select from two light intensity levels to control the brightness output of the annunciators. 

Anatomy of the Lights Test Switch

The switch (a three-way toggle) which controls the light intensity (brightness level) is called the Lights Test switch.  The switch is located on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  The switch is not a momentary switch and whatever position the switch is left at it will stay at until toggled to another position.  The switch has three labelled positions: Lights Test, BRT and DIM. 

(i)           UP controls the lights test (labeled Lights Test);

(ii)          CENTRE is the normal position which enables the annunciators to illuminate at full intensity (labeled BRT); and,

(iii)         DOWN lowers the brightness level of the annunciators (labeled DIM).

OEM annunciators have a built-in Push-To-Test function, and each annunciator will illuminate when pushed.  The brightness level is pursuant to the position the Lights Test switch (DIM or BRT). 

The Lights Test will always illuminate all the annunciators at their full intensity (maximum brightness). An earlier article explains the Lights Test switch in more detail.

Special Conditions

When the Light Test switch is set to DIM, all the annunciators will be display at their minimum brightness.  The exception is the annunciators belonging to the Master Caution System (MCS), which are the master warning, fire bell and six packs, and the Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS).  These annunciators will always illuminate at their full intensity because they are construed as primary caution and warning lights.

Variable Voltage

There is nothing magical about the design Boeing has used to allow DIM functionality; it is very simplistic.

Annunciators for the most part are powered by 28 volts; therefore, when the Lights Test switch is in the neutral position (center position labeled BRT) the bulbs are receiving 28 volts and will illuminate at full intensity.  Moving the switch to the DIM position reduces the voltage from 28 volts to 16.5 volts with a correspondingly lower output.  In the real aircraft, the DIM functionality (and Light Test) is controlled by a semi-mechanical system comprising relays and zener-type diodes that vary the voltage. 

Two Controlling Systems - your choice

The DIM and Lights Test functionality can be achieved in the simulator by using one of two systems - software or mechanical.

Software Controlled

The avionics suites developed by Prosim-AR, Project Magenta and Sim Avionics have the ability to conduct a full Lights Test in addition to allowing DIM functionality.  However, depending upon the hardware used, the individual Push-To-Test function of each annunciator may not be functional.  The DIM functionality is controlled directly by the avionics suite software; it is not a mechanical system as used in the real aircraft.

In ProSim737 the DIM function can be assigned to any switch from the configuration/switches and indicators menu.  In Sim Avionics the function is assigned and controlled by FSUPIC offsets within the IT interface software.

Mechanically Controlled

I have chosen to replicate the Lights Test and DIM functionality in a similar way to how it is done in the real aircraft. 

There are no benefits or advantages to either system – they are just different methods to achieve the same result.

Two Meanwell power supplies are used to provide the voltage required to illuminate the annunciators.  A 28 volt power supply enables the annunciators to be illuminated at their brightest intensity, while the less bright DIM functionality is powered by a 16.5 volt power supply (or whatever voltage you wish).

A heavy duty 20 amp 28 volt relay enables selection of either 28 volt or 16.5 volts.

DIM Board

A small board has been constructed from ABS plastic on which is mounted a 20 amp 28 volt relay and a terminal block. The board, called DIM is mounted behind and beneath the MIP. This facilitates easy access to the required power supplies mounted within the Power Supply Rack (PSR)

LEFT:  The DIM Board is surprisingly simple and comprises a single terminal block and a heavy duty 28 volt relay.  Wires are coloured and tagged to ensure that each wire is connected to the correct terminal (click to enlarge).

An important function of the DIM board is that it helps to minimise the number of wires required to connect the DIM functionality to the various annunciators and to the Lights Test switch.   

Interfacing and Connections

Prior to proceeding further, a very brief explanation is required to how the various panels receive power. 

Rather than connect several panels directly to a power supply, I have connected the power supplies to two 28 volt busbars - one busbar is located in the center pedestal and other is attached to the rear of the MIP.  The busbars act a centralised point from which power is distributed to any connected panels.  This allows the wiring to be more manageable, neater, and easily traceable if troubleshooting is required.

Likewise, there is a lights test busbar located in the center pedestal that provides a central area to connect any panel that is lights test compliant.  Without this busbar, any panel that was lights test compliant would require a separate wire to be connected to the Lights Test switch in the MIP.  To read more about this feature, navigate to the page that deals with the lights test busbar.

The below mud schematic may make it easier to understand.  To view the schematic at full size click the image.

A 28 volt busbar located in the center pedestal is used as a central point from which to connect various panels to (lower pale blue box).  

The busbar is connected to the terminal block located on the DIM board.  Wires from the terminal block then connect to a 16.5 and 28 volt power supply located in the PSR (orange boxes). 

The 28 volt relay is also wired directly to the terminal block on the DIM board and a single wire connects the relay with the Lights Test switch located in the MIP (green box). 

From the Lights Test switch, a single wire connects with the lights test busbar located in the center pedestal (pale blue box).  The purple box represents any panel that is Lights Test compliant - a single wire connects between a panel and the lights test busbar.

Although this appears very convoluted, the principle is comparatively simplistic.

How it Works

When the Lights Test switch is toggled to the DIM position the relay is closed.  This inhibits 28 volts from entering the circuit, but allowing 16.5 volts to reach the 28 volt busbar (located in the center pedestal); any annunciators connected to this busbar will now only receive 16.5 volts and the annunciators will glow at their lowest brightness level.  Conversely, when the switch is toggled  to BRT or to Lights Test, the relay opens and the busbar once again receives 28 volts.

Which Annunciators are Connected to DIM Functionality

The annunciators that connect with the DIM board are those in the fire suppression panel, various panels in the center pedestal, the forward and aft overhead, and in the MIP.  If further annunciators in other systems require dimming, then it is a matter of connecting the appropriate wires from the annunciator to the 28 volt busbar, and to the and lights test busbar, both of which are located in the center pedestal.

BELOW:  A rather haphazard video showing the two brightness levels.  The example shows the annunciators in the OEM Fire Suppression Panel (FSP).  The clicking sound in the background is the Lights Test switch being toggled from BRT to DIM and back again.  Note that the colour of the annunciator does not alter - only the intensity (brightness).  The colour change in the video, as the lights alter intensity, is caused by a colour temperature shift which is not visible to the naked eye but is recorded by the video.


Annunciator - A light that illuminates under set conditions.  Often called a Korry.
Busbar - A bar that enables power to distributed to several items from a centralised point.
Mud Schematic - Australian colloquialism meaning a very simplistic diagram (often used in geological mapping / mud map).
Push-To-Test Function - All annunciators have the ability to be pushed inwards to test the circuit and to check if the globe/LED is operational.
OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer aka real aircraft part.
Panel/Module - Used interchangeably and meaning an avionics panel that incorporates annunciators.
Toggled - A verb in English meaning to toggle, change or switch from one effect, feature, or state to another by using a toggle or switch.


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.  


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:


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.


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).


Book Review - Touch and Go Landings by Jonathan Fyfe

I read Jonathan Fyfe’s initial on-line tutorial ‘Flying the Circuit in the B737’ some time ago.  I was impressed with Fyfe’s writing style which is succinct and easy to read.  As a result I was keen to review his latest publication ‘Touch and Go Landings in the 737 NGX’ which is a follows on from his original tutorial.


The book (here on referred to as a guide) is paperback A5 in size, is 135 pages in length and has been printed in colour.  The guide is printed on quality paper and has a glossy-style plastic cover.

As the title of the text eludes, the guide examines in-depth all the aspects needed by a flight crew to successfully fly the Boeing 737 in a standard circuit, including crosswind approaches, missed approaches, engine out operations and rejected takeoffs.   Although the title of the guide may not appear substantive, the guide addresses nearly everything required to conduct a manual/part automated takeoff and landing.


I was surprised at the volume of information that Fyfe has managed to place in the guide; initially I thought the content appeared rather thin; however, closer examination revealed a wealth of information covering both systems and procedures.  This is in addition, to pictures that demonstrate correct landing technique and diagrams that are well-presented and clear. 

Derated takeoffs, assumed temperature thrust reduction, descent profiles, runway markings, drift calculations and aircraft systems data, which include: spoiler use, flap schedules, flight deck warnings, use the autothrottle and controlled wheel steering – too mention a few, are explained.

Well-written Framwork

Fyfe’s ability as a flight instructor and educator comes to bear in the nature of how he explains the various procedures.  He does not ‘parrot’ procedures, the FCOM or FCTM, but rather adds to this information by his ability to be able to shape the material into a parcel that is easily understood.

Many of the more complicated aspects, such as crosswind approaches, the effects of wind and the balanced field length are explained more clearly by the use of coloured diagrams.  This translates to a guide that is very easy to comprehend allowing the reader to easily apply the information when flying their simulated aircraft. 


The guide is divided into three primary lessons which encompass: standard circuits, missed approach and crosswind circuits and engine out/asymmetrics. 

Each section has three sub-sections.

(i)         Groundwork;
(ii)         Systems; and,
(iii)        Air Work.  

In groundwork, the theory and methodology for the upcoming lesson is primarily discussed, along with a lesson briefing.  In Systems, the focus is towards pertinent information that relates to the lesson; for example, flap positions, warning horns, autothrottle, N1 calculations and FMA annunciations.  In Air Work, a tutorial-style lesson is presented, in which Fyfe explains the necessary procedures to complete the lesson.   The student (you) can set-up their simulator to mimic the same conditions that Fyfe is flying.  This allows the student to self-evaluate their ability. 

All the sub-sections, but especially so in air work, are augmented by several screenshots depicting aircraft positions and instrument readings.

The lessons revolve around the use of the Boeing 737 NGX produced by Precision Manuals Development Group (PMDG) and Flight Simulator 10 (FSX); however, the information can easily be applied to any simulated B737 that is using a professional avionics suite, such as ProSim737, Sim Avionics, Project Magenta, I-Fly, etc. 

Some enthusiasts may find the guide lacking in that it does not attempt to explain or demonstrate the various automated-style approaches that the B737 is capable of (ILS, VOR, IAN, RNAV, etc.).  Nor does it cover off on climbing to altitude, descent or cruise. Although this knowledge is important, it is not relevant to touch and go takeoffs and landings.

Peer Review

The amount of information, especially on the Internet concerning flying the Boeing 737 aircraft is voluminous; however, a  caveat must be issued in that much of this information has not been peer reviewed and in many instances is not correct.  Although there are numerous monographs available that deal with the Boeing aircraft, these texts are usually very expensive and have not been written with the lay person in mind; often they are technical and assume an inherent level of prior knowledge.  Likewise, the FCOM, FCTM are certainly very helpful documents; however, they have been written for trained flight crews and their method of explanation is often clouded without prior knowledge and experience in aircraft systems. 

In this guide, Fyfe has succeeded in translating much of this information in a concise way that is easy to read and comprehend.

Why Touch and Go - Why Are They Important

Some enthusiasts may wonder why knowing how to accomplish a touch and go landing is important.  After all, surely it is more important to understand the intricacies of a full stop landing using one of the several approach types that the B737 is certified to carry out, and be able tom land the aircraft following the procedure outlined in the approach chart.

LEFT: FedEx - steep climb out after touch and go (photograph copyright Bob Wood).

Flying circuits and performing touch and go landings will vastly improve your airmanship, as a good majority of what is required during touch and go landings can be applied to other aspects of flying the B737.  Additionally, the touch and go procedures are consolidated into a time-dependent envelope in which everything occurs relatively quickly.  If a virtual flyer is competent in carrying out a touch and go landing, then it is a very easy transition to use one of the more advanced approach formats.

Final Call and Score

‘Touch and Go Landings’ is aimed at the novice to intermediate virtual pilot who wishes to learn the correct procedures first time around; advanced users will also benefit by not second guessing procedures they are presently using.   This said, there are many ways to fly the Boeing 737 aircraft, and often the method chosen depends on the flight crew, environmental constraints and the airline policy. 

It is important to realise that the guide is not a glorified tutorial written by an aviation enthusiast, but rather is a thoroughly researched and well written and easy to read text, that provides a pallet of information and comprehensive procedures that are relevant to flying the B737.  The guide not only provides a framework of what to do, but it also explains the how and why.

To read more about the guide or to purchase a copy, navigate to the author's website at www.jf737ngx.wordpress.com. Otherwise, copies can be purchaed directly from Amazon.

The current retail price is $24.95. 

Introductory discount coupons are available, for a limited time, at Jonathan Fyfe’s website.

I have given the guide a score of 9/10.


I have not received remuneration for this review; however, I was provided a guide ‘gratis’ to read.  The review is solely my opinion. 

Glossary and Acronyms

FCOM – Flight Crew Operations Manual (Boeing airline specific document)
FCTM – Flight Crew Training Manual (Boeing airline specific document)
FMA – Flight Mode Annunciations


B737 Original Equipment Manufacture RMI Knobs Fully Functional

In two previous posts, I documented the installation of two home made reproduction RMI knobs, and a OEM RMI switch assembly (ADF/VOR).  The switch assembly was mounted in the center pedestal.  The purpose of the switch assembly, which originally was used in a Boeing 727 airframe, was to provide an easy method to switch between ADF and VOR as the two knobs mounted on the RMI were non-functional.

RMI Knobs Installed to Main Instrument Panel

RMI Switch Assembly

With the acquisition of OEM RMI knobs, the next step was to implement the functionality of these knobs by installing micro-rotary switches to the RMI frame behind each knob.  The non NG compliant RMI Switch Assembly panel would then be superfluous and removed from the center pedestal.

Installing the Micro-rotary Switches to the RMI Frame

The first step was to remove the RMI frame from the MIP and enlarge the holes that the RMI knobs reside.  This is to allow the installation of the two micro-rotary switches. To do this, a Dremel rotary tool was used.   

To enable the wires from the rotary switches to be routed neatly behind the RMI frame, a very narrow trench was cut into the rear of the plastic frame.  It is very important that this task is done with due diligence as the RMI frame produced by Flight Deck Solutions (FDS) is manufactured from ABS plastic and not metal – if the cut is too deep or too much pressure is applied to the Dremel, then the frame will be damaged.

The wires from the the RMI knobs are then laid inside the earlier cut trench and aluminum-based tape is  applied over the wires.  This ensures the wires are secure and do not dislodge from the RMI frame.

The micro-rotary switches used in this conversion are 1 cm in length (depth); therefore, to use these rotaries successfully you will need to have a certain amount of airspace between the rear of the RMI frame and front of the computer screen (central display unit).  Whether there is enough room to facilitate the installation of the rotary switch, will depend upon the manufacturer of the MIP and RMI frame – some manufacturers have allowed a centimeter or so of space behind the RMI frame while others have the frame more or less flush to the center display unit screen.  If the air space is minimal, the rear of the rotary may rub against the display unit.

There are several methods that can be used to secure the rotaries to the RMI frame.  By far the easiest is to enlarge the hole in the RMI frame to a diameter that the rotary can be firmly pushed through the hole and not work its way loose.  Another method, more permanent, is to glue the rotary inside the hole.  No matter which method used, the rotary must be secured inside the hole otherwise when the RMI knob is turned the rotary will swivel within the hole.

LEFT:  RMI frame with OEM knobs - albeit on the wrong side :).  Note the metal sleeve and grub screw in the knob (click to enlarge).

Once the rotaries are installed to the frame, the OEM knobs are carefully pushed over the rotaries and the metal grub screws on the knob tightened.  One of the benefits of using OEM knobs is that the inside of the knob has a metal sleeve which ensures that the knob will not wear out and slip with continual use – reproduction knobs rarely are manufactured with an inside metal sleeve.

Interface Card and Configuration

To enable functionality, the wires from the rotaries are carefully threaded through the MIP wall and routed to an interface card; A PoKeys card, mounted in the System Interface Module (SIM), has been used.  It is not necessary to use a large gauge wire to connect the rotaries to the interface card.  This is because the electrical impulse that travels through the wire is only when the RMI knob is turned, and then it is only for a scond or so.  

The functionality for the RMI knobs is configured within the ProSim737 avionics suite in the configuration/switches area of the software.

Micro-rotary Switches

There are several micro-rotary switches available in the market.  This conversion uses A6A sealed rotary DIP switches; they are compact and inexpensive.

When selecting a rotary, bear in mind that many rotaries are either two, three or four clicks in design.  This means that for a 90 degree turn, such as required when altering the RMI from VOR to ADF, the rotary will need to travel through a number of clicks to correspond with the visual position of the switch.

The A6A type mentioned above are a two click type.  The first click will change the designation (VOR to ADF or back again), however, for realism two clicks are made (90 degree turn).  At the time of the conversion it was not possible to find a small enough rotary that was one click.  Despite this shortcoming, the physical clicks are not very noticeable.

This conversion is very simple and is probably one of the easiest conversions that can be done to implement the use of OEM knobs.  There is minimal technical skill needed, but a steady hand and a good eye is needed to ensure the RMI frame is not damaged when preparing the frame for the installation of the two rotary switches.


This  conversion uses two OEM RMI knobs and rotaries to interface with the standard virtual RMI gauge provided within the ProSim737 avionics suite.  Converting an OEM RMI gauge for standalone operation is possible and has been accomplished by other enthusiasts; however, whether a full RMI conversion can be done very much depends upon your particular simulation set-up.

If a OEM RMI gauge is installed, there may be a spacing issue with the other alternate gauges.  In particular, the Integrated Standby Flight Display (ISFD) will require a smaller dedicated display screen.  Likewise, the EICAS display screen will need to be smaller so as to fit between the RMI gauge and the landing gear assembly.  Also, an extra display port will be required for the computer to read the ISFD display screen. 

Certainly, a complete conversion of a RMI gauge is the best way to proceed, if you already own a OEM RMI unit, and if the set-up problems are not too difficult to overcome.


MIP – Main Instrument Panel
OEM – Original Equipment Manufacturer
RMI – Radio Magnetic Indicator


Boeing Nut Cracker - Loosening Stab Trim Wheel Nuts

Any industry has tools that have been designed for a specific task – whether it is for automotive, construction or aviation.  

Specialist tools enable a particular job to be accomplished quickly and effectively with the minimum of fuss.  More importantly, damage to a part is lessoned when using a specialised tool. 

LEFT: Boeing Nut Cracker - two raised lugs fit firmly into their opposite number to enable the stab trim wheel nut to be easily loosened or tightened (click to enlarge).

A person who makes tools usually has a trade certificate and those who are gifted in this area are called boiler makers; a gifted boiler maker can literally

make anything.

Stab Trim Wheel Nut

The stab trim wheels have two nuts that hold the wheels in place - one on each side of the throttle quadrant.  When attempting to remove the nut it is a good idea to use a tool, as the nut can be easily damaged (burred).

LEFT:  Captain-side stab trim wheel nut showing recessed indentations on the nut.  The screwed rod (tip showing in photograph) is ~40 cm in length and is inserted through one of the  trim wheels, through the throttle quadrant, and is then secured by the unique nut on the opposite trim wheel (click image to enlarge).

The nut has two shallow indentations each side of it to enable it to be firmly tightened. 

Often the nut is over-tightened by the continual rotation of the trim wheels, or by an overzealous technician applying more force than they should.  If the nut has been over tightened, removing the trim wheels can be problematic. 

A common man’s blade screwdriver can be used to loosen the nut, by applying the blade to one side of the two indentations, grasping the trim wheel and turning the driver.  But, do not be surprised if the recessed indents are damaged, the screwdriver slips and scratches something, or worse you end up with the blade of the screwdriver through your hand!

Boeing Specialised Tool

Boeing technicians use a specialised tool to loosen and tighten the nuts that hold the trim wheels in place – no doubt it also has a special name (?).  This tool, like all specialist tools is expen$ive, and more so because it is used in the aviation industry. 

I explained the problem to a friend of mine who like a ‘genie in a bottle’, designed and made this small tool for me.  It is not fancy or technical, but it does the job it has been designed to do especially well – every time. 

The tool is made from aluminium with two raised indentations that fit into the two recessed indentations on the trim wheel nut.  A simple shaft placed through a drilled hole in the stem of the tool enables the user to apply enough leverage to 'crack' all but the most resistant of trim wheel nuts. 

Caution - Removing the Trim Wheels from the Main Shaft 

Whenever the trim wheels have to be removed from the throttle quadrant, it is very important not to dislodge the cogs by pushing or pulling them through the throttle unit.  This is relatively easy to do as often the trim wheels adhere to the cog.

LEFT:  The heavy duty cog wheel that the trim wheels are secured to.  When removing the trim wheels it is very important not to dislodge the cog as the bearings on the inner side of the cog will fall out of alignment (click image to enlarge).

Attached to the cog and shaft are several bearings, which if dislodged, will fall out of alignment.  The bearings are important to the correct functioning of the trim wheels and it is very difficult to put the bearings back into alignment after they have fallen out of place.

When removing the trim wheels, carefully 'jiggle' the trim wheel until it works its way loose of the cog - never forcefully pull the trim wheel outwards as the cog may dislodge along with the wheel.  Furthermore, be mindful that when you remove one of the trim wheels the other may rotate forward or backwards due to centrifugal force.

Before replacing the trim wheels, to help avoid the wheel from sticking to the cog, apply an amount of grease to the cog teeth.

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