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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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Entries in Flight Simulator (58)

Wednesday
Mar252015

OEM Annunciators Replace Reproduction Korrys in Main Instrument Panel (MIP)

A task completed recently has been the replacement of the reproduction annunciators located on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP) with OEM annunciators. 

LEFT:  There can be little doubt that OEM annunciators shine far brighter than their reproduction counterparts.  The korrys are lit during the lights test.  Flaps gauge yet to be installed.   (click to enlarge).

The reason for changing to OEM annunciators was several-fold.  First, anything OEM is superior to a reproduction item.  Second, I wanted to reproduce the same korry annuciation  lighting observed in the OEM panels in the center pedestal, fire suppression panel, and when fitted, the forward and aft overhead panels.  Additionally, it was also to enable the push-to-test functionality and to provide better illuminance during daylight.  Certain reproduction korrys are not that bright when annunciated and are diffiucult to see during the day.

This post will explain the anatomy of the annunciators that are fitted to the Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  It will also detail how the annunciators are wired and configured in ProSim737, and provide incite into some of the advantages and functionality that can be expected when using OEM annunciators.

Anatomy of a Annunciator

An annunciator is a light which is illuminated when a specific function occurs on the aircraft.  Annunciators are often called by the generic name of a ‘korry’, as korry is the registered trademark used by a company called Esterline that manufactures annunciators.  

There are two types of annunciators used in the Boeing aircraft, the 318 and the 319 which are either a Type 1 circuit or a Type 2 circuit.

The 318 and 319 korrys are not interchangeable.  Each Korry has a different style of bulb, differing electrical circuits, and a different method of internal attachment (captive hex screw verses two blade-style screws).  The only similarity between the 318 and 319 korrys is that the hole needed to house the korry in the MIP is identical in size - .440” x .940”.  

The circuit type refers to the electrical circuit used in the Korry.    Both circuit types require a ground-controlled circuit to turn it on, however, Type 1 circuits are ground-seeking while Type 2 circuits are power-seeking.    Typically, a Boeing 737 uses Type 1 circuits.

Annunciators have five parts that comprise:

(i)     The lower assembly and terminals (usually four terminals in number);
(ii)    The upper assembly;
(iii)    The outer housing/sleeve which has a lip to allow a firm connection with the MIP;
(iv)    The push-in light plate which includes the bulbs; and,
(v)    The legend, which incorporates a replaceable coloured lens.

The four terminal connections on the rear of each annunciator are specific to the functionality of the unit.  Each will exhibit a differing circuit dependent upon its function.  Likewise, each annunciator is individually indexed to ensure that the upper assembly cannot be inadvertently mated with the incorrect lower assembly.

LEFT:  A disassembled annunciator showing the main components (click to enlarge).

Annunciators typically are powered by 28 Volts, use two incandescent ‘push-in style’ bulbs, and dependent upon the korry’s function, may have a light plate coloured amber, white red or green.  The legend is the name plate, and legends are usually laser engraved into the light plate to ensure ease of reading.  The engraved letters are in-filled with colour to allow the printing to stand out from the light plate’s lens colour.

Specialised Korry

The Next Generation series of aircraft use a korry, a type 318, that is slightly different to the standard Korry. This Korry enables the functionality for the BELOW G/S – P-Inhibit function.  

The Type 318 differs from other korrys used in the MIP in that it has a dry set of momentary contacts which are controlled by pressing the light plate.  Pressing the illuminated light plate extinguishes the annunciator and cancels the aural ‘Below Glideslope’ caution.

Reproduction Verses Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM)

The four biggest differences between reproduction and OEM annunciators are:

(i)     The ability to depress the light plate in the OEM unit for Push-To-Test function;
(ii)    The ability to replicate specific functions, for example the Below G/S P-Inhibit korry;
(iii)    The hue (colour) of the lens and crispness of the legend; and,
(iv)    The brightness of the annunciator when illuminated (5 volts verses 28 volts).

Reproduction Korry Shortfalls

Two areas lacking in reproduction units is the brightness of the annunciator when illuminated, and poorly defined legends.  

For the most part, reproductions use 5 volts to illuminate two LEDS located behind the lens.  Whilst it is true that the use of LED technology minimises power consumption and heat generation, the brightness of the LEDS, especially during the day,  may not be as bright as the two 28 volt incandescent bulbs used in an OEM annunciator.   Moreover, 5 volts does not allow the successful use of DIM functionality.  

It is unfortunate that many lower priced annunciators also lack well defined engraved lens plates making the ability to read the annunciator legend difficult at best.

Shortfalls notwithstanding, most high-end reproduction annunciators are of high quality and do the job very well.  

Table 1: provides a quick reference to determine the main differences between OEM and reproduction annunciators. Note that the appearance of the annunciator can alter markedly between different manufacturers of reproduction units.

Installation, Interfacing and Configuration of OEM Annunciators

Replacing a reproduction annunciator with its OEM counterpart is straightforward if the Main Instrument Panel (MIP) has been produced 1:1; however, reproduction MIPs are rarely exactly 1:1 and in all probability you may need to enlarge the hole that the annunciator resides.  If this is the case, ensure you use a fine-grade aluminum file and gentle abrade the hole to enlarge it.  When enlarging the hole, ensure you continually check the hole size by inserting the korry – if the hole is enlarged too much, the korry will be loose and will require additional methods to secure to the MIP.

Disassembling a Korry

It is important to understand how to disassemble the annunciator.  

LEFT: The individual indexing can be observed on the top surface of the upper assembly.  To separate the two assemblies a hex screw must be used to loosen the hex screw located inside the brass-coloured circular fitting.  Note that this is a new style LED korry which does not support the older incandescent bulbs (click to enlarge).

First, the light plate has to be gently pried loose from the upper assembly.  Once this is done, the upper and lower assemblies must be separated to allow the outer/sleeve to be removed.  The Type 318 annunciators have a hex screw, located in the lower assembly unit, which needs to be loosened with a 5/64th hex wrench to allow separation, while the Type 319 annunciators are secured by two standard screws that require a small blade screwdriver.  

Once the two parts are separated, it should be noted that the upper assembly has a flange at the forward end; this flange enables the annunciator to be firmly connected to the MIP.   

Attaching a Korry to the MIP

Insert the upper assembly into the MIP flange facing forward.  Next, slide the housing over the rear of the mechanism from the rear of the MIP.  Rejoin the lower section and tighten the hex screw.    If the MIP is 1:1, the annunciator should now be firmly secured to the MIP wall. The light plate can now be pushed into the mechanism.

LEFT:  Is your MIP 1:1 and will it fit OEM korrys without further to do?  Click the diagram to see the dimensions of korrys (with thanks to Mongoose for diagram).

If the annunciator does not fit firmly into the MIP, it can be secured by using silastic or a glue/metal compound.  (I do not recommend this.  It is best to ensure the hole is the correct size or a tad too small.  This will guarantee that the annunciator will have a firm fit).

Provided the mechanism is not faulty or does not break, the chance that it will need to remove it is very remote.  If the bulbs fail, they are easily replaced as they are contained within the light plate.

Wiring - Procedure

Wiring the MIP annunciators is a convoluted and repetitious process that involves daisy-chaining the various annunciators together.  Because wiring is to and from four terminals, it can be difficult to remember which wire goes where.  As such, it is recommended to use coloured wire, label each wire and keep meticulous notes.  

Each annunciator has four terminals located on the rear of the unit that corresponds to:

(i)      Positive (28 volts);
(ii)     Logic for the function of the korry;
(iii)    Lights test; and,
(iv)    Push-To-Test.  

To crosscheck the above, each Type 2 korry has a circuit diagram stenciled on the side of the assembly.

Figure 1: A schematic of the three types of korrys used in the Boeing 737.  The left diagram is from the 318 push to inhibit korry.

For the OEM korrys to function correctly, they need to be connected with an interface card (I/O card).  An example of such a card is a Phidget 0/16/16 card.

(i)    Designate the annunciator closest the I/O card and power supply as the lead annunciator (alpha).  

(ii)    Terminal 1 and Terminal 4 are the power terminals for each korry.  Connect to the alpha korry the positive wire from the 28 Volt power supply to terminal 1 and the 28 Volt negative wire to terminal 4.  The wires from these two terminals are then daisy-chained to the identical terminals on the other korrys in the system.

(iii)    Terminal 2 controls the logic behind the function for each korry.  A wire must connect from terminal 2 of each korry to the output side of the I/O card.  To close the loop in the I/O card, a wire is placed from 28 Volts negative to the ground terminal on the card (input).

(iv)    Terminal 3 controls the logic behind the light test toggle.  A wire is daisy-chained from terminal 3 of the alpha korry to all other korrys in the system.  A wire is then extended from the final korry to the lights test toggle switch.  This switch has been discussed in detail in a separate post.

Quite a bit of wire will be needed to connect the thirteen or more annunciators and it is a good idea to try and keep the wire neat and tidy by using a lumen to secure it to the rear of the MIP.

Mounting and Brackets

Every simulator design is different, and what is suitable for one set-up may not be applicable to another.  

The I/O card that is used to control the MIP annunciators is mounted within the System Interface Module (SIM).  To this a straight-through cable is securely attached that connects to a D-Sub connector mounted on an aluminum bracket.  The bracket and two terminal blocks are strategically mounted on the rear of the MIP and enable the various wires from the korrys to connect with the straight-through cable.

Interfacing and Configuration Using ProSim737

To interface the annunciators, follow the directions on how to wire your I/O card.

This article provides information on the Phidget 21 Manager (software) and how a Phidget interface card is used.

If the annunciators have been correctly daisy-chained together, only the wires from terminal 2 of each korry will need to be connected to Phidget card.  When power is applied, the Phidgets software will automatically assign outputs to any device (korry) attached to the 0/16/16 card.  

To determine the digital output number for each annunciator, open the Phidgets 21 Manager, push the light plate on a chosen annunciator and record the allocated output number.  The output numbers are used by ProSim737 to allocate that annunciator to a specific software command line.  

Configuring the MIP annunciators in ProSim737 is a two-step process.  First, the annunciator must be assigned as a switch (for the puhs- to-test function to operate), then as an indicator (for the annunciator to illuminate).  Before commencing, check that Phidgets have been assigned in the driver section of the configuration section of the main ProSim737 menu.  

Open the configuration screen and select switches and scroll downwards until you find the appropriate switch that corresponds to the annunciator.  Assign this switch to the output number assigned by the Phidgets software (If you have multiple Phidget cards installed ensure the correct card is assigned).  

After this has been completed, continue the configuration process by assigning each annunciator to the appropriate indicator in the configuration/indicators section.

Lights Test

A lights test is used to determine whether all the annunciators are operating correctly.  A lights test can be accomplished two ways. 

The first method is to press the light plate of an annunciator which operates a momentary switch that causes the light to illuminate (push-to-test).  This is an ideal way to determine if an individual annunciator is working correctly.

The second method is to use the MIP toggle switch.  Engaging the toggle switch to the on position will illuminate all the annunciators that are connected to the toggle switch.  This is an excellent way to ensure all the annunciators are operational and is standard practice before beginning a flight.

It should be noted that for all the annunciators to illuminate, each korry must be connected to the toggle switch. 

An earlier post explained the conversion and use of a OEM 'Lights Test' toggle switch.

Korry Systems

This post has discussed the main annunciators on the MIP which is but one system.  Other systems include the annunciators for the forward and aft overhead annunciators, fire suppression panel and several other panels.

LEFT:  The fire suppression panel annunciators are also korrys.  Like their MIP sisters, the korrys are very bright when illuminated as they are powered by 28 volts (click to enlarge).

To connect additional systems to the enable a full lights test to be done, an OEM aircraft high amperage relay can be used.  

Depending upon the type of relay device used (there are several types), it may be possible to connect up to three systems to the one relay.  This is made possible by the unique multi-segment system that the OEM toggle switch provides and the ability of the relay to handle high amperages from multiple aircraft systems.

LEFT:  OEM multi-relay device.  The relay from a Boeing aircraft is not necessary; any aircraft relay will suffice.  It's wise to choose a relay that has multiple connection posts as this will enable different systems to be connected to the relay.  The relay is easily fitted to the rear of the MIP or to the inside of the center pedestal.

A benefit of using an OEM relay is that it provides a central point for all wires from the various systems to attach, before connecting to the lights test toggle switch.  Note that 28 volts bmust be connected directly to the relay for correct operation.

The relay will, depending upon the throw of the toggle switch (lights test), open or close the circuit of the relay.  Opening rhe relay circuit (when the light test toggle is thrown) enables 28 volts to flow through the relay and illuminate any annunciators connected to the system.

Availability

Fortunately, apart from a few functions, there is little difference between older style annunciators used in the classic series airframes and those used in the Next Generation aircraft - an annunciator is an annunciator no matter from what airframe (200 series, Classic or Next Generation).

Annunciators are relatively common and are often found ion e-Bay.  However, to acquire a complete collection that is NG compliant can be time consuming, unless a complete panel is purchased and the annunciators removed.

Lineage

The annunciators used in the simulator came from a B737-400 airframe.   This aircraft - serial number N843BB and construction number 25843 had a rather interesting lineage. 

LEFT:  25843 B737-400 in service with British Airways (click to enlarge).

It began service life in March 1992 with British Airways as G-DOCM before being transferred to Fly Dubai and Air One in 2004.  Late 2004 the airframe was purchased by Ryan International and the registration changed to N843BB.  Between 2005 and 2010 the aircraft was leased to the Sundowner LCC who at the time was contracted to the US Dept. of Justice.   The aircraft was returned to Ryan International mid 2010 and subsequently scrapped.

Acronyms

OEM - Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real B737 aircraft part)

Saturday
Mar142015

New Interface Modules 

My friend and I have not been sitting idle.  Part of the upgrade to the simulator has been additional interface modules.

In early 2014, an Interface Master Module (IMM) was constructed to trial the modular concept.  This module housed most of the interface cards and relays that, at the time, were used in the simulator.  This trail was successful.  The single trial IMM has now been discarded and has been replaced with the:

•    Throttle Interface Module (TIM);
•    Throttle Communication Module (TCM);
•    System Interface Module (SIM); and,
•    A more advanced Interface Alert System (IAS) that connects to the TIM and a lesser degree the TCM.

Information concerning each of these modules, including an introduction to the modular concept, can be found in a new section on the website named Interface Modules.  Interface Modules can be assessed from the main menu tabs located at the top of each website page.

It has taken considerable time to design and construct, and then interface these modules to the simulator.  To some, the process may appear complex and convoluted.  However, in the long term the idea is sound and a centralized area offers considerable advantages.

I hope you enjoy reading about the new modular systems.

If you note any problems with the new pages, please contact me so I can rectify this issue.

Friday
Dec192014

How To Calibrate Flight Controls Using FSX/FS10 and FSUIPC

Imagine for a brief moment that you are driving an automobile with a wheel alignment problem; the vehicle will want to travel in the direction of the misalignment causing undue stress on the steering components, excessive tyre wear, and frustration to the driver. 

Similarly, if the main flight controls are not accurately calibrated; roll and pitch will not be correctly simulated causing flight directional problems, frustration and loss of enjoyment.

Flight controls are usually assigned and calibrated in a two-step process, first in Windows, then either by using the internal calibration provided in the FSX/FS10 software, or using the functionality provided by FSUIPC.

In this post, the method used to assign and calibrate the main flight controls (yoke, control column and rudder pedals) in FSX/FS10 and FSUIPC will be discussed.  The common theme will be the calibration of the ailerons, although these methods can calibrate other controls. The calibration of the throttle unit will not be discussed.

Many readers have their controls tweaked to the tenth degree and are pleased with the results, however, there are 'newcomers' that lack this knowledge.  I hope this post will guide them in the 'right direction'.

STEP 1 - Registering Control Devices in Windows

All flight controls use a joystick controller card or drivers to connect to the computer.   This card must be registered and correctly set-up within the Windows operating system before calibration can commence.  

  • Type ‘joy’ into the search bar of the computer to open the ‘game controllers set-up menu’ (set-up USB game controllers).  This menu will indicate the joystick controller cards that are attached to the computer (Figure 1). 
  • Scroll through the list of cards and select the correct card for the flight control device.  Another menu screen will open when the appropriate card is selected.  In this menu, you can visually observe the movements of the yoke, rudder pedals and any yoke buttons that are available for assignment and use.  The movement of the controls will be converted to either a X,Y or Z axis (Figure 1).
  • Follow the on-screen instructions, which usually request that you move the yoke in a circular motion, stopping at various intervals to depress any available button on the device.  The same process is completed for the movement of the control column (forward and aft) and the rudder pedals (left and right).  Once completed, click ‘save’ and the profile will be saved as an .ini file in Windows.

FIGURE 1:  Game Controllers Menu in Windows (registering joystick controllers).

Registration is a relatively straightforward process, and once completed does not have to be repeated, unless you either change or reinstall the operating system, or recover from a major computer crash, which may have corrupted or deleted the joystick controller’s .ini file. 

STEP 2 - Assigning Flight Control Functionality in FSX/FS10

  • Open FSX/FS10 and select from the menu ‘Options/Settings/Controls’.  The calibration, button key and control axis tab will open (Figure 2).
  • Select the ‘Control Axis’ tab. When the tab opens, two display boxes are shown.  The upper box displays the joystick controller cards connected to the computer while the larger lower box displays the various functions that can be assigned.  The functions that need to be assigned are ailerons, elevators and rudders.
  • Select/highlight the appropriate entry (i.e. ailerons) from the list and click the ‘Change Assignment’ tab.  This will open the ‘change assignment’ tab (Figure 3).  Physically move the yoke left and right to its furthest extent of travel and the correct axis will be assigned.  To save the setting, click the ‘OK’ button. 
  • When you re-open the ‘Control Axis’ tab you will observe that the function now has an axis assigned and this axis is identical to the axis assigned by Windows when the device was registered.  You will also note a small box labelled ‘Reverse’.  This box should be checked (ticked) if and when the movement of the controls is opposite to what is desired (Figure 3). 
  • Save the set-up by clicking the ‘OK’ button.

FIGURE 2:  FSX/FS10 Settings and Controls Tab.

FIGURE 3:  FSX/FS10 Change Assignment Menu.

STEP 3 - Calibrating Flight Controls in FSX/FS10

The flight control functions that have been assigned must now be calibrated to ensure accurate movement.   

  • First, select and open the ‘Calibration’ tab.  Ensure the box labelled Eenable Controllers(s)’ is checked (ticked) (Figure 4).
  • The correct joystick controller card must be selected from the list displayed in the box beside the controller type label.

Whether simple or advanced controls are selected is a personal preference.  If advanced controls are selected, the various axis assignments will be shown in the display box.  The axis, sensitivity and null zone can be easily adjusted using the mouse for each of the flight controls (ailerons, elevators and rudders). 

Concerning the sensitivity and null zone settings.  Greater sensitivity causes the controls to respond more aggressively with minimal physical movement, while lesser sensitivity requires more movement to illicit a response.  It is best to experiment and select the setting that meets your requirement.

The null zone creates an area of zero movement around the centre of the axis.  This means that if you create, for example, a small null zone on the ailerons function, then you can move the yoke left and right for a short distance without any movement being registered. 

Creating a null zone can be a good idea if, when the flight controls are released, their ability to self-center is not the best.  Again, it is best to experiment with the setting.  To save the settings click the ‘OK’ button.  

FIGURE 4:  FSX/FS10 Settings and Controls.

This completes the essential requirements to calibrate the flight controls; however, calibration directly within FSX/FS10 is rather rudimentary and if greater finesse/detail is required then it is recommended to use FSUPIC.  

FSUIPC Software

FSUIPC pronounced 'FUKPIC 'stands for Flight Simulator Universal Inter-Process Communication, a fancy term for a software interface that allows communication to be made within flight simulator.  The program, developed by Peter Dowson, is quite complex and can be downloaded from his website.  FSUIPC allows many things to be accomplished in flight simulator; however, this discussion of FSUIPC, will relate only to the assigning and calibrating of the flight controls.

It is VERY important that if FSUIPC is used, the FSX/FS10 ‘Enable Controllers’ box is unchecked (un-ticked) and the joystick axis assignments that are to be calibrated in FSUPIC be deleted.  Deleting the assignments in optional; however, recommended.  The flight controls will only function accurately with calibration by FSX/FS10 or FSUIPC - not both. 

STEP 1 - Assigning Flight Controls Using FSUIPC

  • Open FSX/FS10 and from the upper menu on the main screen select Aadd Ons/FSUIPC’.  This will open the FSUIPC options and settings interface (Figure 5).
  • Navigate to the ‘Axis Assignment’ tab to open the menu to assign the flight controls to FSUIPC for direct calibration (Figure 6).
  • Move the flight controls to the full extent of their movement.  For example, turn the yoke left and right or push/pull the control column forward and aft to the end of their travel.  You will observe that FSUPIC registers the movement and shows this movement by a series of numbers that increase and decrease as you move the flight controls.  It will also allocate an axis letter.
  • At the left side of the menu (Figure 6) is a label ‘Type of Action Required’; ensure ‘Send Direct to FSUIPC Calibration’ is checked (ticked).  Open the display menu box directly beneath this and select/highlight the flight control functionality (ailerons, elevator or rudder pedals).  Check (tick) the box beside the function.

FIGURE 5:  FSUIPC Main Menu.

FIGURE 6:  FSUPIC Axis Assignments.

Calibrating Flight Controls Using FSUIPC

  • Select the Joystick Calibration’ tab.  This will open an 11 page menu in which you calibrate the flight controls in addition to other controls, such as multi-engine throttles, steering tiller, etc.  Select page 1/11 'main flight controls' (Figure 7)
  • Open the ‘Aileron, Elevator and Rudder Pedals’ tab (1 of 11 main flight controls).  Note beside the function name there are three boxes labelled ‘set’ that correspond to min, centre and max.  There is also a box labelled ‘rev’ (reverse) which can be checked (ticked) to reverse the directional movement of the axis should this be necessary.  The tab labelled ‘reset’ located immediately below the function name opens the calibration tool.  The ‘profile specific’ box is checked (ticked) when you want the calibration to only be for a specific aircraft; otherwise, the calibration will be for all aircraft (global).  The box labelled filter is used to remove spurious inputs if they are noted and for the most part should be left unchecked (not ticked).  The tab labelled ‘slope’ will be discussed shortly.
  • Click the ‘reset’ tab for the ailerons and open the calibration tool.  Move the yoke to the left hand down position to its furthest point of travel and click ‘set’ beneath max.  Release the yoke and allow it to center.  Next, move the yoke to the right hand down position to its furthest point of travel and click ‘set’ beneath min.  Release the yoke and allow it to center.  If a null zone is not required, click the ‘set’ beneath centre.

If a problem occurs during the calibration, the software will beep indicating the need to restart the calibration process.  The basic calibration of the yoke is now complete.  However, to achieve greater accuracy and finesse it is recommended to use null zones and slope functionality.

FIGURE 7:  FSUIPC Joystick Calibration (ailerons, elevator, rudder).

Null Zones

The null zone concept has been discussed earlier in this article.

If a null zone is required either side of the yoke center position, move the yoke to the left a short distance (1 cm works well) and click ‘set’ beneath centre.  Next, move the yoke 1 cm to the right and click ‘set’ beneath centre.  

As you move the yoke you will observe in the side box a series of numbers that increase and decrease; these numbers represent the movement of the potentiometer.  It is not important to understand the meaning of the numbers, or to match them.

Replicate the same proceedure to calibrate the elevators and rudder pedals (and any other controller devices)

To save the setting to the FSUIPC.ini file click ‘OK’

It is a good idea to save the FSUIPC.ini file as if a problem occurs at a later date, the calibration file can easily be resurrected.  The FSUIPC.ini file is located in the modules folder that resides in the FSX/FS10 route folder.  

Slope Functionality

Slope functionality is identical to the sensitivity setting in FSX/FS10.  Decreasing the slope (negative number) causes the controls to be more sensitive when moved, while a positive number reduces the sensitivity. To open the slope calibration, click the ‘slope’ tab.  This will open a display box with an angled line.  Manipulating the shape of this line will increase or decrease the sensitivity.

Slope functionality, like the null zone requires some experimentation to determine what setting is best.  Different flight controls have differing manufacturing variables, and manipulating the slope and null zone allows each unit to be finely tuned to specific user preferences.

Does FSUIPC make a Difference to the Accuracy of the Calibration ?

In a nutshell – yes.  Whilst the direct assignment and calibration in FSX/FS10 is good, it is only rudimentary.  FSUIPC enables the flight controls to be more finely adjusted equating to a more stable and predictable response to how the controls react.

Potential Problems

If using FSUIPC for axis assignment and calibration, remember to uncheck (not tick) the ‘enable controller’ box and delete the axis assignments in FSX/FS10 – only one program can calibrate and control the flight controls at any one time.  If FSX/FS10 and FSUIPC are both engaged simultaneously, spurious results will occur when the flight controls are used.

If the calibration accuracy of the flight controls is in doubt (spurious results), it is possible that the simulator software has inadvertently reassigned the axis assignments and enabled calibration.  

An intermittent issue does exist in FSX/FS10 in which the software occasionally enables the controllers and reassigns the axis assignment, despite these settings having been deleted (I am unsure why this occurs).  If a problem should occur with the accuracy of the calibration, before, re-calibrating the controls using FSUIPC, always check the calibration box and assignments in FSX/FS10 and ensure these settings have not inadvertently been enabled.  

Final Call

Many enthusiasts are quick to blame the hardware, flight avionics or aircraft package, when they find difficulty in being able to control the flight dynamics of their chosen aircraft.  More often than not, the problem has nothing to do with the software or hardware used, but more to do with the calibration of the hardware device.

The above steps demonstrate the basics of how to calibrate the flight controls - in particular the ailerons.  If care is taken and you are precise when it comes to fine-tuning the calibration, you maybe surprised that you are now able to control that 'unwanted pitch' during final approach.

Further Information and Reading

The following documents are invaluable in understanding FSUIPC and its advanced features.  In addtion, a link demonstrates how to calibrate the steering tiller.

Saturday
Nov012014

B737-600 NG Fire Suppression Panel (Fire Handles) - Evolutionary Conversion Design

Originally used in a United B737-600 NG and purchased from a wrecking yard, the Fire Supression Panel has been converted to use with ProSim737 with full functionality.

LEFT:  B737-600 NG Fire Suppression Panel installed to center pedestal.  The lights test illuminates the annunciators (click to enlarge).

This is the third fire panel I have owned.  The first was from a Boeing 737-300  which was converted in a rudimentary way to operate with very limited functionality in Flight Simulator. The second unit was from a B737-600 NG; but, the conversion was an ‘intermediate’ design with the relays and interface card located outside the unit within the now defunct Interface Master Module (IMM).  Both these panels were sold and replaced with the current 600 NG series panel.

I am not going to document the functions and conditions of use for the fire panel as this has been documented very well in other literature.  For an excellent review, read the Fire Protection Systems Summary published by Smart Cockpit.

LEFT:  B737-600 NG series Fire Suppression Panel light plate, fire handles, annunciators and installed interface card and relays (click to enlarge).

Nomenclature

Before going further, it should be noted that the Fire Suppression Panel is known by a number of names:  fire protection panel, fire control panel and fire handles are some of the more common names used to describe the unit.

'Plug and Fly' Conversion

What makes this panel different from the previously converted B737-600 NG panel is the method of conversion.  

LEFT:  Panel with outer casing removed showing installation of Phidget and and relays.  Ferrules are used for easier connection of wires to the Phidget card.  Green tape has been applied to the red lenses to protect them whilst work is in progress  (click to enlarge).

Rather than rewire the internals of the unit and connect to interface cards mounted outside of the unit, it was decided to remove the electronic boards from the panel and install the appropriate interface card and relays inside the unit.  To provide 5 and 28 volt power to illuminate the annunciators and backlighting, the unit uses dedicated OEM (Original Equipment Manufacture) Canon plugs to connect to the power supplies.  Connection of the unit to the computer is by a single USB cable.  The end product is, excusing the pun - ‘plug and fly’.

Miniaturization has advantages and the release of a smaller Phidget 0/16/16 interface card allowed this card to be installed inside the unit alongside three standard relay cards.  The relays are needed to activate the on/off function that enables the fire handles to be pulled and turned.

LEFT:  Rear of panel showing integration of OEM Canon plugs to supply power to the unit (5 and 28 volts).  The USB cable (not shown) connects above the middle Canon plug (click to enlarge).

The benefit of having the interface card and relays installed within the panel rather than outside cannot be underestimated.  As any serious cockpit builder will attend, a full simulator carries with it the liability of many wires running behind panels and walls to power the simulator and provide functionality. Minimizing the number of wires can only make the simulator building process easier and more neater, and converting the fire handles in this manner has followed through with this philosophy.

Complete Functionality including Push To Test

The functionality of the unit is only as good as the flight avionics suite it is configured to operate with, and complete functionality has been enabled using ProSim737. 

One of the positives when using an OEM Fire Suppression Panel is the ability to use the push to test function for each annunciator.  Depressing any of the annunciators will test the functionality and cause the 28 volt bulb to illuminate.  This is in addition to using the lights test toggle located on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP) which illuminates all annunciators simultaneously.

At the end of this post is a short video demonstrating several functions of the unit.

The conversion of this panel was not done by myself.  Rather, it was converted by a gentleman who is debating converting OEM  units and selling these units commercially; as such, I will not document how the conversion was accomplished as this would provide an unfair disadvantage to the person concerned.

Differences - OEM verses Reproduction

There are several reproduction fire suppression panels currently available, and those manufactured by Flight Deck Solutions and CP Flight (Fly Engravity) are very good; however, pale in comparison to a genuine panel.  Certainly, purchasing a panel that works out of the box has its benefits; however the purchase cost of a reproduction panel is only marginally less that using a converted OEM panel.

By far the most important difference between an OEM panel and a reproduction unit is build quality.  An OEM panel is exceptionally robust, the annunciators illuminate to the correct light intensity with the correct colour balance, and the tension when pulling and turning the handles is correct with longevity assured.  I have read of a number of users of reproduction units that have broken the handles from overzealous use; this is almost impossible to do when using a real panel.  Furthermore, there are differences between reproduction annunciators and OEM annunciators, the most obvious difference being the individual push to test functionality of the OEM units.

Classic verses Next Generation Panels

Fire Suppression Panels are not difficult to find; a search of e-bay usually reveals a few units for sale.  However, many of the units for sale are the older panels used in the classic B737 airframes. 

LEFT:  B737-200 Fire Suppression Panel.  The differences between the older 200 and 300 series and the NG style is self evident; however the basic functionality is similar.

Although the functionality between the older and newer units is almost identical, the similarity ends there.  The Next Generation panels have a different light plate and include additional annunciators configured in a different layout to the older classic units.

Video

The video demonstrates the following:

  • Backlighting off to on (barely seen due to daylight video-shooting conditions)
  • Push To Test from the MIP (lights test)
  • Push To Test for individual annunciators
  • Fault and overhead fire test
  • Switch tests; and,
  • A basic scenario with an engine 1 fire.

NOTE:  The video demonstrates one of two possible methods of deactivating the fire bell.  The usual method is for the flight crew to disable the bell warning by depressing the Fire Warning Cutout annunciator located beside the  six packs on the Main Instrument Panel (MIP).  An alterative method is to depress the bell cutout bar located on the Fire Suppression Panel. 

Thursday
Sep182014

B737-800 NG Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA)

Automatic Flight System - Background

The Boeing 737-800 NG has a relatively sophisticated Automatic Flight System (AFS) consisting of the Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) and the Autothrottle (A/T).  

LEFT:  B737-800 NG FMA.  This is photograph has been take in a real aircraft and provides a good idea to the size, font and position of the FMA.

The Boeing 737-800 NG has a relatively sophisticated Automatic Flight System (AFS) consisting of the Autopilot Flight Director System (AFDS) and the Autothrottle (A/T).   The system is as follows:

  • The N1 target speeds and limits are defined by the Flight Management Computer (FMC) which commands airspeeds used by the A/T and AFDS;
  • The A/T and AFDS are operated from the AFDS Mode Control Panel (MCP), and the FMC from the Control Display Unit (CDU); 
  • The MCP provides coordinated control of the Autopilot (A/P), Flight Director (F/D), A/T and altitude alert functions; and,
  • The Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA), located on the Captain and First Officer side of the Primary Flight Display (PFD),  displays the mode status for the AFS.

If you read through the above slowly and carefully it actually does make sense; however, during in-flight operations it can be quite confusing to determine which system is engaged and controlling the aircraft at any particular time.

Reliance on MCP Annunciations

Without appropriate training, there can be a reliance on the various annunciations displayed on the MCP.  While some annunciations are straightforward and only illuminate when a function is on or off, others can be confusing, for example VNAV.

Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA)

All Boeing aircraft are fitted with a Flight Mode Annunciator (FMA) of some type and style.  The B737-800 NG FMA is located on the Captain and First Officer side PFD and is continuously displayed.  The FMA indicates what system is controlling the aircraft and what mode is operational.  All flight crews should observe the FMA to determine operational status of the aircraft and not rely on the annunciators on the MCP that may or may not indicate an operational function.

The FMA is divided into three columns and two rows. The left column relates to the A/T while the center and right hand column display roll and pitch modes respectively.  The upper row indicates modes that are operational while the lower row indicates modes that are armed.  Operational modes are always coloured green while armed modes are coloured white.  Below the two rows are the A/P Status alerts which are in larger font coloured green, and the Control Wheel Steering (CWS) displays which are coloured yellow.

When a change to a mode occurs (either by by a flight crew or by the AFS), a mode change highlight symbol (rectangle) is displayed around each mode annunciation for a period of 10 seconds after each engagement.  Depending upon which flight avionics suite is being used, the time that the rectangle is displayed may vary between 2 and 10 seconds.  According to the Boeing manual the default time should be 10 seconds.

The below image and table (ProSim-AR 737 avionics suite) indicates the various mode annunciations that the FMA can display.  The the pitch mode column and CWS display are not populated.  Furthermore, the FMA annunciations may differ between airframes depending upon the software installed to the aircraft (and avionics suite used in your simulation).  W, G and Y indicates the colour of the annunciation (white, green or yellow).

NOTE:  I have not covered autoland and IAN in this article as this feature is not enabled on every aircraft.

ERRATUM: I have failed to mention in this image ILS, SINGLE CH and IDLE (update to come as time permits) - apologies....

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