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Mission Statement 

The purpose of FLAPS-2-APPROACH is two-fold:  To document the construction of a Boeing 737 flight simulator, and to act as a platform to share aviation-related articles pertaining to the Boeing 737; thereby, providing a source of inspiration and reference to like-minded individuals.

I am not a professional journalist.  Writing for a cross section of readers from differing cultures and languages with varying degrees of technical ability, can at times be challenging. I hope there are not too many spelling and grammatical mistakes.

 

Note:   I have NO affiliation with ANY manufacturer or reseller.  All reviews and content are 'frank and fearless' - I tell it as I see it.  Do not complain if you do not like what you read.

I use the words 'modules & panels' and 'CDU & FMC' interchangeably.  The definition of the acronym 'OEM' is Original Equipment Manufacturer (aka real aicraft part).

 

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Journal Archive (Newest First)

Entries in FS9 (3)

Saturday
May042013

SISMO Soluciones - Avionics Review: My Negative Experience 

 I initially wasn't going to document my negative experience with Sismo Soluciones as many simmers use SISMO products and are fiercely loyal to this company.  This post has sat unpublished for close to 10 months until a friend convinced me otherwise, saying that bad reviews can be beneficial, especially to new simmers who are undecided on what and whom to purchase from.

This is the first negative review I have written and in doing so realize that I will no doubt annoy some people, especially loyal SISMO customers.  My aim is not to annoy, intimidate or create malicious rumours.  Rather, it is to share with others my experience with this company. Due to the negative nature of this review, it WILL NOT be posted to any forum.

I purchased the following units from SISMO:

  • ADF radios (2)
  • Transponder / ATC radio
  • Audio Control Panel 
  • rudder trim module

At the time, I was using Sim Avionics as my avionics suite.

I had issues with: aesthetics, quality assurance and the SC Pascal script usage.  

When you initially look at the modules offered by SISMO, they do look attractive; however, it's often the small things that count and SISMO, in many respects, lacks quality and attention to detail.

  • This post is a little different.  I've made a basic review of the modules, then discussed the issues I had with the panels/modules and the company.

Overall Module Construction and Appearance

The modules are constructed from acrylic and painted in Boeing grey.  CNC machining produces a crisp finish resulting in lettering cut-outs that are well defined allowing back lighting to illuminate the lettering.  Buttons and switches are machine injection moulded and secured to rotary stems via two small grub screws. The electronics are not sealed within the unit (such as in CP Flight) but are visible.  DZUS fasteners are not included although holes have been drilled in the appropriate position (although these holes are too small to fit genuine DZUS fasteners).  The backing plate is made from plastic.

Paint Work

The paint work used by SISMO is not of a high quality.  The paint wears thin on the panel beneath the knobs and switches after minimal use.  The paint also chips very easily and is not evenly applied to include the side of the unit.  Although I don’t know how many layers of paint have been used, I’d suggest it’s minimal.  Minimal paint saves time and expense and does not lend itself to high quality and longevity.

Integrated Back-Lighting (IBL)

SISMO does not utilise real aircraft bulbs for backlighting.  Rather they use a number of strategically placed LED lights.

LEFT:  SISMO ADF unit & FDS NAV1 unit.  Note the difference in backlighting and module colour between the two units.  FDS use real aircraft bulbs. 

There are several arguments for and against the use of bulbs and LEDs.  The former provide a realistic throw of light at the correct colour temperature, while LED’s are usually more pin point, require less power to run and usually appear colder in colour temperature.

The Backlighting on the SISMO modules is reasonable; however there is not an even throw of light across the rear of the modules to allow complete illumination of all cut out lettering, nor does a light skirt inhibit stray light from illuminating the outer edge of the modules  The backlighting is powered by 12 volts.  The colour of the LEDS is amber yellow or warm orange.

I had an issue with two LED lights; The LED lights stopped working.  SISMO informed me I would have to repair this myself.  Shortly thereafter, a third LED light failed. This suggests that SISMO may have a quality issue in relation to LEDS (at least in the batch I received).

Electronics

The upper panel of the module is attached to the electronic circuitry within the lower section by a backing plate.  This backing plate is made from plastic.  It should be constructed from metal to aid in strength.  The electronics “appears” substantial and to be well built.  

System and I/O Cards

The modules are not stand-alone devices.  Depending upon your requirements, the modules require connection to various system and sim cards for complete operation.  As an example, to operate the ADF units and rudder trim module requires three GIC connection cards, an Ethernet motherboard card, and three servo-daughter cards – seven cards in total!  

Although there is nothing wrong with this method of operation, it does pose a challenge to find a suitable location to mount the cards.  The cards appear to be constructed to a high standard and are very solid; they do not feel or look like cheap Chinese cards.

The main Ethernet mother board requires a 5 volt power supply.

I’ve included, for interest, a schematic wiring and card diagram of the module set-up for the Captain-side ADF radio. (click the image to enlarge the picture). 

Wiring

SISMO provides you the opportunity to either use their prefabricated flat wiring or to wire everything yourself.  I choose the former and this saved a lot of time and frustration wiring and soldering.  The flat wiring packs are each fitted with heavy duty plastic clips for attachment to the cards.  Connection is straightforward and SISMO provide large A3 colour wiring sheets so you know exactly what wire plugs into what card.

When you do utilise the flat wiring, it’s necessary to include in your system a number of additional cards that act as joiners between the different system cards and modules. These cards are called Generic Interface Cards (GIC), and are little larger than a credit card in size. 

Too Many Cards

The amount of wiring and number of cards needed to use SISMO products is ridiculous!  With four modules connected, the interior of the center pedestal is a mass of wires leading to and from various interface cards.  There are far better and easier alternatives available from other manufactures.  

LEFT:  SISMO modules, power and flat cabling.  There is a lot of cabling and several required interface cards that are required.

The Power of Ethernet

SISMO’s product range utilises Ethernet technology rather than USB.  According to SISMO literature, USB was not designed to carry the volume of information necessary for flight simulation.  Although USB is practicable and does work very well, it can on occasion malfunction (drop out) or slow the operation of the intended device by creating a bottleneck for information flow.  Ethernet, on the other hand, has been designed at the onset to allow for high information flows ensuring fast and consistent transfer of information.

Another benefit of Ethernet is that it doesn’t matter if the computer that your modules are connected to is not a high-end machine, as the speed of Ethernet flow far outweighs the need for a high-end machine as a client PC. 

An Ethernet cable is required to link the main Ethernet mother board, either directly to the computer or to a switch if using two or more networked computers.

Although the theory is sound, speed wise I don’t believe there is a great difference between using Ethernet or USB for the transmitted information loads (at least for the center pedestal).

Real B737 Center Pedestal - Not Drop & Fly

An important point to note is that the ADF and ATC radios will not drop directly onto the DZUS rails fitted within a real B737 center pedestal. 

SISMO modules have been designed so that the electronic boards, mounted directly beneath the panel, are flush to the edge of the module.  What this means is that the unit cannot be placed directly onto a rail, as the electronics board abuts the edge of the rails. 

LEFT:  The two tabs overlap the DZUS rails.  You must cut the DZUS rails to allow the module to fit the pedestal.

To allow correct placement in a genuine center pedestal requires that the DZUS rails be cut in the appropriate position.

All the other SISMO modules, other than the ATC and ADF modules drop onto the rails without an issue.

Misleading Information

During my initial research, I asked SISMO if their modules fitted a genuine center pedestal.  Juan Ma stated they were compliant and did fir genuine DZUS fasteners; however, when they didn't fit the rails, Juan Ma claimed he had misunderstood my question due to his poor understanding of the English language!

To utilise genuine DZUS fasteners, you will need to enlarge the attachment holes in each of the modules to allow the fastener to fit the hole.  A word of caution here – SISMO use plastic backing boards which will crack easily if you are overzealous with a power drill. 

This is why I mentioned earlier that modules that incorporate metal plates in their construction are a better investment.

Communication and Support

Support for SISMO is either directly via e-mail or by their dedicated forum.  All e-mails are answered quickly (in English or Spanish).  

All my e-mail communication with JuanMa and Cristina has been on a very professional level.  They are courteous, exceptionally patient and very helpful; both strive to help you as much as they can.  

SISMO Modules - a closer inspection

ADF Radio Module

Initially, you’re impressed when you look at the ADF modules.  The seven segment displays, illuminated in either amber yellow or warm orange are easy to read, well lit and look similar to the displays you would see on a real aircraft. 

As you turn the rotary knobs to change the frequencies there is no catching as the knobs are turned and the push-to-activate buttons do not stick in the down position when depressed. 

Problems

One small issue I immediately noticed was that the tinted window plate which sits over the frequency display is not secured; as opposed to other manufacturer’s modules that incorporate the plate into the actual construction of the module.  If you invert the modules the cover plate will fall out of the recess.  I decided this wasn’t a problem as how often are simulators inverted, and securing the plate is an easy exercise; a small piece of double-side tape is all that is needed.

My problems began after roughly four hours of use.  The frequency push-to-activate button was temperamental and would not allow the stand-by and active frequency to be changed with one push; several pushes were required.   The problem is intermittent, but it suggests an issue with clicking mechanism or the button itself.

The next issue to develop was with the rotary knob; turning the knob caused the frequencies to jump digits.  As with the push-to-activate button, the problem was intermittent but, was rectified when you closed and reopened the SC Pascal script.  Perhaps the script needed tweaking.

Knobs and Switches - Poor Quality

I was disappointed with the switch knobs used by SISMO.  The two ADF-ANT switches are hand injected low quality “plastic” (?) and have several small injection holes within each of the knobs.   For the minor cost involved, it would have been nice to use high quality machine-injected knobs.  

Each of the ADF-ANT switches slides onto and over the plastic circular shaft of the rotary mechanism.  The knob is then secured to the shaft by two grub screws each side of the knob.  It doesn’t take too long for the grub screws to become loose resulting in the knob slipping. 

Other companies have solved this potential problem by using D-shaped shafts or higher quality rotary switches incorporating metal shafts instead of plastic.

My rating 4/10

Audio Control Panel (ACP)

The Audio Control Panel (ACP) replicates the audio system of the B737 (navigation radios, etc).  The ACP occupies a large piece of real estate in the center pedestal and the ability to turn on and off navigation audio sounds should not be dismissed.

LEFT:  SISMO ACP unit does not look realistic with inexpensive poorly moulded buttons and very stark backlighting.  Note that some of the rectangular buttons are not in alignment.  This unit has been constructed with very poor attention to detail.  Note black knob is not a SISMO knob.

The main ACP switch is of similar construction to the ADF-ANT switches on the ADF module; it is poor quality with injection holes readily observed.  The clear push buttons used to turn on and off the various audio sounds are of low quality.  The buttons are fashioned from clear acrylic and lack detail and definition.  

I was disappointed that when the ACP unit was fitted onto the pedestal, light from the rear LEDS seeped through along the edge of the module (to stop this I applied masking tape to the side of the panel to create a light skirt.  I have also noted that some of the buttons are not accurately aligned with one another. 

Often it’s the small things that count and push a product to the next level. 

I was not impressed with the quality and attention to detail on the SISMO ACP unit; therefore, have decided to convert two real B737-500 ACPS to simulator use.

My rating 2-10

Rudder Trim Module

The rudder module incorporates a large knob that is center-spring loaded.  The knob allows the rudder to be deflected in either direction and be recorded in degrees of offset on the scale.  The movement of the defection needle is made possible with the use of small servo motor fitted beneath the module and powered by 12 volts.

The rudder trim knob is poorly moulded and shows hollow holes left over from the injection process.  For those searching for aesthetics, replacement using a real B737 knob is very easy (if you can find a real knob).

LEFT:  SISMO rudder trim module.  Note the very poor moulding on the knob and colour shift with lighting.

The trim needle, at least on my module, is a little lop-sided.  As with the ACP module, stray light from the LED back lighting is readily seen around the edge of the module.  Like other SISMO modules, there is no inclusion of a light skirt to stop straying light.

The remainder of the module is aesthetically pleasing.

The rudder trim is one of the modules that is necessary to complete a center pedestal, but unless one is regularly flying with one engine, the module is seldom used.  Therefore; this module from SISMO, even with the irregularities, is a reasonably priced alterative to some of the more expensive counterparts available.

My rating 5/6-10

ATC (Transponder) Module

This is one of the better produced modules from SISMO. 

The switches and knobs are well presented, there are no injection holes in the knobs, and the operation is very smooth when altering frequencies. The digital read out is crisp, yellow amber in colour, and the tinted window, which falls out easily on the ADF modules seems to be more secure (although it is the same drop in type).   As with the ADF modules, this module will require you to cut the DZUS rails if you are using a genuine 737 center pedestal.

As a script was never supplied with this module (SISMO did not send it), I cannot provide information to how well it operated.  

My rating based solely on appearance is 8-10

Reliability and Performance - Software and Modules

Software - SC Pascal Scripts

The modules require SC-Pascal scripts to be installed on the computer of your choice. 

The basic script is downloaded from the SISMO website.  A further “customised” script is needed to configure the modules to the avionics software package you are using (Sim Avionics, Project magenta, ProSim737, Orion, etc) and FSX.  SISMO generate this script for you and all you need to do is run the executable file when you open a flight session.

SC-Pascal scripts are completely new to me, but a little research indicates that the script is used as a software interface between the actual functionality of the avionics modules and FSUPIC / FSX.

Once the scripts are installed and configured correctly, a folder is created in which is stored the config.ini file and the executable script.  The folder and files can be named and stored anywhere on your computer system.   Activation of the modules is achieved by activating the executable script.  

Optionally, direct access to the script can be made by adding the executable command to the auto start folder of your computer.  This option automatically starts the modules when the computer is turned on.  The script then runs in stand-by mode until FSX is activated.  This saves time and repetition having to turn on the SISMO modules separately.

As SISMO utilises Ethernet technology, the various IP addresses of the computer (s) you are using need to be correctly configured to allow communication between the computer and the modules.  This is basic networking knowledge and is relatively easy to learn.

Once the software is configured, the software and modules should operate flawlessly.  

Script Problems

I did have some issues with the SC Pascal script freezing when it was initiated.  The script also caused some issues which appeared to cause the ADF radios to incorrectly display frequencies.  To Juan Ma's credit, he did tweak the script, however, the problems remained.

As I know nothing about SC Pascal scripts, I do not know with certainty whether the problems experienced were caused by a script issue, hardware issue, or something particular to my system.  I believe the issue may have been the SC Pascal script.

For those who know me, I try to keep things simple, and running multiple scripts for this and that does not exactly fit into this "ethos".  There already is the proven and tested FSUPIC, WIDEFS and configuring functionality through ProSim737.  Why complicate matters..... (I have learnt this lesson from experience...)

It would be inaccurate to state that SC Pascal scripts don't work, because there are many simmers who have them operating perfectly.  But, I am not one of these individuals.

Note that at this time using Sim Avionics and NOT ProSim737 avionics suite.

Quick List - Pros and Cons

PROS

  • Fairly accurate 1:1 ratio (or close to)
  • Easy to install and use software (knowledge of SC Pascal required if altering software)
  • Laser cut and stencilled lettering
  • Ethernet technology

CONS

  • Plastic shafts on ADF-ANT knobs (should be metal/stainless)
  • Poor quality knobs and switches on ADF, ACP and Rudder Trim module
  • Average light coverage for LED back lighting
  • ADF and ATC modules do not drop directly onto DZUS rails
  • Large number of cards needed for operation
  • Not DZUS complaint (requires existing holes to be enlarged)
  • Plastic backing plate (easily damaged when enlarging holes for DZUS fasteners)
  • Light seepage around edge of some modules from back-lighting (no light skirt)
  • SC Pascal script troublesome and works intermittently.
  • Poor quality paint work
  • Considering the above, expensive

Overall Opinion

The modules are ideal for the budget-conscious flight simmer.  

The lack of quality knobs, switches and poor attention to detail detract aesthetically, while the large number of cards that need to be installed can make installation challenging.  Three failing LEDS and problems with the frequency selector switch on the ADF radio unit may point to quality assurance issues.  The use of Ethernet over USB is highly commended and may reduce information bottlenecks.

My rating for the software is 4/10 (The supplied scripts did not work with my system, which at that time was Sim Avionics and not ProSim737).

My overall rating for the modules is 3/4/5-10 (based on fitting issues, quality of knobs, poor attention to detail, poor painting, no light skirts and temperamental frequency selection switches on ADF).

Please note that this review is my opinion only and is not endorsed.

 

POST SCRIPT: - July 15, 2012 - RETURNED MODULES TO SISMO REQUESTING REFUND

I have returned all the modules, cards and wiring  to SISMO for refund

Initially, SISMO offered me 10% of the value of the products purchased (this included I/O cards that had never been used).  

SISMO stated that the return period had been exceeded, and any products returned would be treated as second hand units.  It didn’t matter that SISMO had not, at that time, sent all the appropriate SC Pascal scripts to ensure correct operation of the modules.  

The writing of the SC Pascal scripts was delayed close on 2 months after I received the modules, and when received, the scripts did not operate as intended.  Excuses were; staff holidays, workloads, Easter break, and awaiting confirmation from another company to facilitate operation.  

Upon receipt of the returned items, SISMO claimed that many of my issues were incorrect or not relevant.

  • They claimed that the modules had been damaged.
  • They stated that I had broken the LEDS (I told them the LEDS were not working when I received the parcel).
  • They claimed I had disassembled the units and damaged the paint and screws.
  • They claimed I had re-painted portions of the units.
  • They claimed sticky plaster was attached to one of the units. (true as I used tape to secure the wiring together when I returned the units & also to create a trial light skirt)
  • They deducted from my refund, import duty and inspection fees, when I returned the goods to Spain.
  • They claimed I did not include paperwork (which I did). 
  • They stated that as the ATC RADIO module was discontinued, a refund was not possible.

I am not going to go into a long account to what has transgressed.  But, I will say that this company cannot be trusted…..They promise the world to you, but if you are not happy with the products, they provide every excuse possible to NOT provide an adequate and reasonable refund.

For example, when I reported the failure of the LEDS to SISMO, their response was “they worked when they left here”.  They did offer to replace the LEDS but, at my shipping expense.  They did offer a discount on further purchases due to the inconvenience.

It should also be noted, that in my initial correspondence with SISMO, I asked whether their modules would drop directly into a real B737 center pedestal.  Juan Ma stated “YES”.  However, on receipt it was discovered that the modules were too large to fit directly onto the pedestal DZUS rails.  I queried Juan Ma from SISMO on this; he stated that it was a language misunderstanding.

Juan Ma understood perfect English when it came to avoiding refunding my purchase money.

Legislation, PayPal and Delays

Spanish legislation states that every purchase has a 7 day cooling off period, in which a return and refund can be made.  PayPal policy states you have 45 days in which to make a claim.  EU legislation states that refunds are possible if items do not function correctly - within set time frame.

Without a working script for Sim Avionics (which took two months to receive), how can testing of modules occur!  Because of the approximate two month delay on sending operating scripts to me, all these options had expired.

I cannot help but think that SISMO delayed the sending of the scripts so as to provide a reason for NOT refunding 100% of the purchase price.

SISMO Solicones appears to be a company that will ONLY support and stand by their products if you want to purchase something or want to use it. 

If you ask for a refund on faulty components, components that do not work with your choosen avionics software suite, or scripts that do not function correctly, then expect NOTHING, or at the very least, a minimal refund (and you will have to fight to get this refund). 

What you can expect from SISMO, is e-mail after e-mail informing you that you have no right to refund, that you have damaged the items, that you did not follow SISMO policies, etc, etc.

After many e-mails I succeeded in gaining a E400 Euro refund for an initial E1400 Euro outlay.

I am sure there are many happy customers using SISMO product; however, I am not one and I do not recommend SISMO Solicones.  The quality of their products is poorly executed, attention to detail low, and attempt to maintain good customer relations non-existent (I was returning items)...

In my opinion, it is VITAL that a company standby and support their product-line, and this includes refunds if the product (for whatever reason) does not operate with your simulator set-up.

If you search the Internet, you will find very few comments regarding SISMO, other than company endorsed reviews on forums that are supported by manufacturers and resellers.

If you are searching for quality avionics modules, look no further than Flight Deck Solutions or CP Flight

These two companies are reliable, produce good products and provide exceptional after sales service.  They also offer a refund if not 100% satisfied with their product.  Whatever you do, don’t spend your money on inferior products from SISMO! (my opinion only).

  • This review is rather negative towards SISMO Soluciones; however,  I have "toned down” my anger to this company to produce a balanced and accurate review.  Please understand that this is my experience with this company.  Your experience may well be positive. 

The avionics panels/modules I am currently using are genuine Boeing items converted to FS use and modules made by Flight Deck Solutions and CP Flight.

Feel welcome to make comments, either good or bad in the comments section.

Wednesday
Jan162013

Magnetic Declination - FS9 & FSX Navigation Datebase Update

Flight simulator whether it be FS9 or FSX, is quite long in the tooth as far as software programs go.  These programs was released several years ago and during this time span there have been many improvements in computer technology and in real world flying procedures.  When released, FS9 and FSX contained the latest navigational data, including the correct declination, VOR, and ILS radio frequencies; however, these are now out of date with real world counterparts.  

Magnetic Declination

Magnetic declination has a very important influence on air navigation, beginning with the use of the standard compass and sectional flight chart.  Similarly, radio navigation aids on the ground, such as VORs use magnetic variation to ensure reliable and accurate in-plane navigation.  The direction of the runway also relies heavily on magnetic variation and runway directions often require updating to ensure that ILS systems operate as designed. 

Simply explained, magnetic declination is the difference between true north and magnetic north and the value changes each year.  Flight Simulator is referring to a value that was accurate when the software was developed but has changed considerably in the ten years plus since the program was released. 

I realized a problem existed when I noticed that the direction of the runway did not align correctly with the latest navigational database installed into ProSim737 (Navigraph).   The CDU continually issued advisory warnings informing me that the runway direction and database were not identical.  Although it's possible to ignore the warning advisory, it becomes tiresome to continually reset the CDU  whilst in the more demanding phase of approach and landing.

Updating Magentic Variation

Updating this data is easy thanks to Herve Sors.   Herve has developed a free stand alone program that easily and quickly updates the magnetic variation in either FS9 or FSX whilst also providing the opportunity to rectify out of date and changed runway directions.  The information can be updated globally or by country region, and if necessary you can revert back to the old data.

LEFT:  Screen grab of program interface (click for larger view)

Without going into unnecessary detail, the program decompiles, corrects, and recompiles the necessary information within the .BGL files, located in the scenery folder of flight simulator; it's in this folder that the various navaids are recorded.

Do I need To Update ?

The ability of simulator to accurately simulate navigation is only as good as the navigational database installed.  Think of the database as a street directory or telephone book - do you want to search the directory for out-of-date information?  The update is a very simple process and takes but a few minutes and it's strongly recommended.

By updating virtual pilots will benefit at the very least from:

  • All VOR and NDB data will be up-to-date, allowing chart usage to easier with current charts.
  • Correct calibration of magnetic declination of navaids that provide an azimut information (VOR/VORDME/NDB) that will be greatly improved matching the "as real as it gets" experience while navigating (tracking navaid radials will be as it is indicated on charts).
  • ILS data (for those that are corrected, Europe only at this time) will be correct.

To download the required software (FSX World NavAids 4.32 & MagVar Data) and investigate Herve's various other programs, navigate directly to his website at AeroSors NavAids.

The software also updates the database for Prepar3D.

Sunday
Nov252012

Modular Floor Structure / Base Platform Installed

Although it has taken longer than anticipated, the second platform to replace the platform made from wood and MDF fibreboard has been completed. 

The new design is constructed from aluminium flat tubing, is modular, and incorporates the mechanical hardware needed for operation of the OEM B737 control columns.  Click images for larger view.

LEFT:  Portion of floor structure showing modules bolted together with control columns and rudder pedals installed to structure.

The structure comprises two main sections - the modular floor structure, and floor (called the base platform).

The modular design of the platform, which in addition to allowing easy disassembly and transport (if required), also allows the platform to be increased in size by adding further modules.  For instance, if I decide to add an instructor station in the future it will be straightforward to manufacture another module and bolt it to the existing framework.  The hollow underneath section also provides an ideal area for the hidden storage of wires, power boards, and other pieces of necessary equipment such as external speakers and sound systems.

LEFT: Centre platform with ABS plastic floor structure attached. Note the shiny appearance.  This was later removed by painting. (click image for larger view).

Access to the underside of the base platform (floor) is via several well-positioned observation hartches.  Removal of a hatch enables access to whatever is beneath the floor.The platform comprises ten modules which are bolted together at strategic locations to ensure the structure is rigid, strong and sturdy.  Each module has several cross stays that have been welded in place ensuring adequate support for the weight which will be placed on the platform (Weber seats, MIP, throttle unit and people).

LEFT:  Two aft modules with flooring fitted, rudder pedals in background on forward command module.

The first three modules, which I call the command module, have been constructed as one unit and house the rudder pedals, control columns and incorporate the duel linkage rods and other mechanical hardware for control column and rudder pedal operation.  Although this unit can be separated into the three modules (by removing the attachment bolts, springs and linkage rods),

it’s best to leave them attached, as removing the steering mechanism and associated equipment is a complicated and timely operation.

Behind the forward command module are three secondary modules to allow attachment of the two Weber seats and throttle quadrant.  The MIP is attached to two smaller and narrower modules bolted at the front of the command module; whilst at each side two longer and narrow modules provide side support. 

LEFT:  Half circle flange and seal around control column and drill holes through floor that match corresponding hole in aluminium framework.  Bolts have been used to secure Weber seats.  In the second picture of this series, you can see the claw feet secured by four bolts through the flooring to the support beneath.

Platform Height and Dimensions

The height of the platform measures 16 cm (6.3 inches) and the total weight, including the two rudder pedals, internal mechanisms and control columns is approximately 160 kilograms (353 pounds).  At this weight, it certainly will not be sliding anywhere.

The platform is not a full size platform as space availability at the current time is limited, however, if and when I wish to move into a full size platform, it will be easy to incorporate and bolt additional correctly sized modules to the existing structure.

Installing Weber Seats

The Weber seats need additional support as seat movement can generate stress at the connection point of the claw feet and floor.  To ensure the seats fitted securely and any stress of seat movement was absorbed by the platform and not just the floor structure, the claw feet bolt directly through the floor to the aluminium tubing structure.  Therefore, the platform absorbs the stress when the seats are moved rather than the flooring.

Platform Floor - ABS Plastic

In the real aircraft the floor is made from pressed aluminum which is studded (rivets) in strategic locations to ensure it is solidly fixed.  Various hatches (hinged and otherwise) are present in certain areas to facilitate access to areas beneath the sheeting.

Builders use many different products for the floor, ranging from MDF fibreboard, ply and aluminium to tin or plastic.  I was intending to use thin aluminium sheeting as a platform floor, however, when I discovered the price I decided to use something less conventional.

A supply of heavy duty ABS plastic was readily available; the advantage of this material being it doesn’t require painting as it’s already coloured Boeing grey, is easy to cut and work with, is of a thickness and weight that can withstand the intended weight and finally, doesn’t flex.  Rather than use one large sheet of board for the platform cover, which would be unmanageable, the sheet has been cut to fit each corresponding module.  The sheets are attached to the aluminium tubing of the module by normal stainless screws. If the material doesn’t hold up to my expectations, I’ll replace it with aluminium or quality ply board. 

Although the ABS plastic is coloured grey, I found it to be too shinny in appearance.  Preparing the ABS plastic for painting was straightforward and entailed thoroughly cleaning the plastic with detergent to remove any residue oil.  Then the plastic was lightly scoured using a low grade sandpaper.  This creates a suitable texture for the paint to adhere.  The ABS sheeting was then painted with one coast of epoxy plastic primer and two coats of matt Boeing grey. 

The ABS plastic and paint has held up to use very well.  Even after scuffing, and moving the throttle quadrant onto and off the floor several times the paint and plastic has not been damaged.

One downside of using ABS plastic can be electrostatic discharge.  If you wear socks on the platform and rub your feet on the ABS plastic a charge can build-up.  I have yet to discover a way to stop this from occurring (other than wearing shoes).

Perhaps I will upgrade the ABS floor at some stage to a full aluminium floor, but at the moment I am more than content with the use of ABS plastic.

Installing the Control Columns, Rudder Pedals and Column Flange

The floor has been cut and the hole shaped to accommodate the control columns and rudder pedals.  The various linkage rods and internal mechanisms have either been either bolted or welded directly to the lower platform superstructure.

LEFT:  Tyre inner tube cut and stretched to fit beneath control column flange.  The overlapping area of rubber tube sits over the bulbous part of the control column lever with the floor.

The half circle flange (or whatever Boeing call it) that surrounds each control column on the floor was constructed from light metal.  To replicate the rubber-like seal that is often observed above at the lower end of each control column, a piece of recycled inner tyre tube was used.  The rubber was cut and easily stretched to fit beneath the half circle flange. 

The installation of the control columns to the platform structure has been addressed in a separate article.

The addition of a forward module to the platform is discussed in this article.

The Main Instrument Panel (MIP) is secured to the platform by several bolts strategically placed on the MIP.

Computer and Sound System Installation

The two computers that are needed to operate the simulator will be positioned at the front of the platform where access is relatively easy to both power supplies and the MIP.  The sound system, which comprises three speakers and a sub-woofer speaker, will be placed directly beneath the floor structure. In the first picture, you can just see the sub-woofer speaker towards the end of the platform.

New Platform Verses Former Platform

The structure of the first platform was from wood, and access to the underside of the platform from the side was next to impossible.  The floor was made from two large sheets MDF fibreboard and although sealed and painted, still appeared to release gases (MDF fibreboard releases gas and requires sealing for indoor use).  The structure and flooring was very solid, but access to anything beneath the floor (maintenance) was difficult. 

Too view additional pictures navigate to the image gallery

BELOW:  Diagram layout of modular design.