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mauriceb

How does one start a home cockpit?

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I'm finally getting serious about building a home cockpit & I have spent a considerable amount of time in the forums & in hundreds of websites dedicated to home cockpit hardware & software. Nowhere yet have I found a single place where someone starting construction of a home cockpit would have some sort of a guide of where/how to start. The more I read, the more confused I seem to get since there are so many hardware & software options available today. My

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I am also new to the building process. The first thing I did, was to build all of circuit boards (FSBUS) to interface to the PC. Building the boards can have an expensive learning curve. It would be best to have someone make them for you. As far as offsets go, the FSBUS software takes care of all of that for you. It was an amazing thing to see what I was changing with the FSBUS setup was actually changing the values in FS9. I have just ordered my MCP from WWW.Dakenskys.com. I am getting very anxious to start putting my homebuilt circuit boards into this panel. Go slow, ask a lot of questions, that will eliminate the expensive errors encountered in the "try it and see what happens" approach. Good Luck!! Milt

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There are some howto's in Flightsim.com HOWTO section. But the problem is, there is no "right" way to do this. Everyone tends to use the tools and facilities available, with the budget that one has.My suggestion is to sit down and think what you want. Start by building one thing at a time - if it is an airliner you want, a MCP / autopilot panel is a big thing in realism. See how others have done that, look at the different options, ask on the forum (it is much easier to get useful answers when you ask a more specific question than the "how do I start?" :))What you could do, if you want a generic cockpit, is to identify the *aircraft systems* you want to implement (hydraulics? autopilot? light swithces? want them on a overhead panel? gear switch and other stuff? what else? good flight controls are a good start too etc..) Try to think of a flight, what stuff you want to move from the mouse to your self-built gizmos? Probably everything like we all do, but start with something that is small enough to complete without too much hassle, since you *will* rebuild stuff later for sure when you get better ideas. That's why it is not smart to start off by ordering a full panel set from flightdecksolutions and then wondering what to do next :) Peter Cos's stuff is great once you have a clear idea what to do - it can be a huge time-saver (and money too, when you look how much it will cost to have a CNC milling work done somewhere else) - but before getting a panel set for a certain airliner type it is very very important to know how to do the rest - the BIG work is the interfacing, and the electronics and computers and scenery display etc - a full cockpit is a huge job - all those panels dont just magically work when you carry them home - it is a huge task to do a type-specific cockpit. And all the electronics, switches and wiring will be costing easily a lot more since a modern airliner has a huge amount of knobs and switches and lights and such.Better start with some prototypes, build something that can be used with less than a huge building effort and you'll know a lot better what you can do. In a generic setup you can simplify things too - just implement the systems you think are most important to improve the feeling of realism on your own sim flying.There is no "right way" to do things - the tutorials are good, but we all are just human beings - you might come up with even better ideas when you put your creative thinking into work.Good luck :)//Tuomas

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>it is much easier to get useful answers when you>ask a more specific question than the "how do I start?" :))The only problem here is that I don't know what I need to ask until I actually start & this is where I'm stuck right now :-)>Better start with some prototypes, build something that can be>used with less than a huge building effort and you'll know a>lot better what you can do. In a generic setup you can>simplify things too - just implement the systems you think are>most important to improve the feeling of realism on your own>sim flying.I understand that & this isn't what I was really asking. I am just looking for a guide about taking your first baby steps by building something useful & yet not overly complicated. Perhaps an MCP panel is too big a bite to start with, but I thought this would at least make me understand what needs to be done and how the hardware & software functions & is able to control that part of the simulation. Once I understand the various principles, I can move on to bigger & better things.Would starting with something relatively simple like a keyboard encoder for instance be enough to give me the basics I need to move on to more complex items?Thanks

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> I am also new to the building process. The first thing>I did, was to build all of circuit boards (FSBUS) to interface>to the PC. Building the boards can have an expensive learning>curve. It would be best to have someone make them for you. I looked at that website & it struck me as being a very complex way to start. Making circuit boards or even populating them is not something I would like to start with. There must be other alternatives (undoubtedly more pricey). I'm impressed you had no difficulties starting there :-)>As far as offsets go, the FSBUS software takes care of all of>that for you. It was an amazing thing to see what I was>changing with the FSBUS setup was actually changing the values>in FS9. That's good to know. Offsets are a big mystery to me right now & I'm glad that I may not have to really understand what they are if the hardware takes care of that. > Go slow, ask a lot of questions, that>will eliminate the expensive errors encountered in the "try it>and see what happens" approach. Good Luck!!>If I went any slower right now, I'd be dead :-). I will certainly ask questions once I know what specific questions to ask.Thanks

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Welcome to our world!I've been building my 777 full-size cockpit since 1997.Some things I learned along the way:1. Wear safety goggles!2. Buy a nice scrollsaw and lots of blades3. buy a few dozen soldering irons4. ...and about 4 miles of various wiring types5. If you're married, buy lots of flowers for your S.O.6. Install a dedicated power circuit.by far though.... your biggest challenge is the continuing will to build it.

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>5. If you're married, buy lots of flowers for your S.O.I've already taken care of that. I wanted to renew my pilot's license & build a real airplane from a kit. Building a simulator instead seems much less 'threatening' to her :-) > by far though.... your biggest challenge is the continuing will to build it.I intend to start small and only build enough small pieces at a time so that I can still fly from time to time (if that is possible). How much longer do you think it will take you to finish your project, if there is such a thing :-)

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I started by pulling my joystick apart and making a flight yoke from an old desktop computer case, the sliding parts out of an old scanner and some cogs and ingenuity. (oh, and lots of patience)This was a great way to start because you have to think laterally about how you going to get it to work. And when it does, your ready for bigger and better things.I have now gone on to build FSBus boards (no prior electronics knowledge) 2 different versions of throttle quadrants, trim wheels using FSkey and 12 pos. rotary switches.All this sounded like some foreign language 6 months ago, now it's almost my second language.The point is, start someware easy and learn as you go.David

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>All this sounded like some foreign language 6 months ago, now>it's almost my second language.>>The point is, start someware easy and learn as you go.>>DavidI get your point. Perhaps I just need to dive in without trying to understand everything before I start (which would never happen anyway). I am still very curious though about the meaning of FSUIPC offsets. I have yet to find a decent simple explanation anywhere. It seems like everyone in the AVSIM forums understands what they are except me.Can anyone provide an explanation that someone with zero knowledge about the internals of FS could understand?Thanks

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People starting cockpits today have a wider selection of resources to draw from. Back in 1997 when I started mine, there was Ralph... and some guy named Matt and Peter. ;-)I also started with absolutely no knowledge on where to start or how to tie everything together. For you, that will come with time, or at least one switch at a time. In '97, had you asked me about FSUIPC offsets, I'd have looked at you with about as much intelligence as the chair I'm sitting in... Today, it'd be the couch. I'd have to say, at my current progress rate, I have about 1 year left.One year, until I factor in a possible motion platform, upgrading all my CRTs to LCDs, all the necessary (Necessary) system upgrades to handle FS2009 :-) ... So... the process never ends.I have all the panels from www.flightdecksolutions.com (Plug!) and with that has come a furvor of activity in getting all the switches and lights to work.I have flown my sim regularly since 1997, even in it's unfinished state which I think is key to keeping the momentum going to finish. If I had started back in '97 without the ability to put the soldering iron down and just fly for flying's sake, I'd have abandoned the effort long ago.

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About FSUIPC offsets...In earlier versions of MSFS, the variables were stored together in a block of memory. FS5IPC, the precursor to FSUIPC, used an inter-process communication technique to gain access to that block. Specific FS variables were identified by their positions within the block rather than by a specific variable name. (FS5IPC and FSUIPC are not Microsoft products.) The offsets are just the location within that block. Moving forward to more current MSFS versions, we find that variables are no longer stored in the same block. The current releases of FSUIPC have been greatly enhanced to add additional features and to keep track of where the different FS variables are stored while maintaining the same user interface (same use of offsets) for those of us using the data I/O features of FSUIPC.Essentially, you can think of the offsets as indices into a large monolithic virtual table that stores a great many internal variables used within MSFS.Mikewww.mikesflightdeck.com

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Definately dont concern yourself about FSUIPC offsets and any software when your first starting out, simply because most of the hardware interfaces have the software already written to these offsets anyway so all you will have to do when you get to that stage is point and click. Besides it will probably be some time down the road before you even get to that stage and you will end up picking it up along the way anyhow.Although at first simbuilding may look overwhelming,the very basis you need to begin building is basically just simple commonsense as you can see exactly what needs to be done. If you have been to most of the sites you would have already seen tutorials from building a MIP frame to an airline type seat, but in a nutshell you need to:Pick a plane and decide how realistic its going to beBuild a supporting frame for the mip, pedestal etc.Choose a panel manufacturer for the panels or make your ownpopulate the panels with switches etc and wire them to the interface you choosebuild or buy your yokes, rudder pedals and seatsFLY!Think simple, follow tutorials and you will be amazed at what can be achieved in only a short time.Gary

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Hi, I'm new here, but if your considering building a F-16 cockpit you might want to try www.viperpit.org . These guys are willing to answer any questions you may have. Lucky

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>In '97, had you asked me about FSUIPC offsets, I'd have looked at > you with about as much intelligence as the chair I'm sitting in...>Today, it'd be the couch. Does that mean you still don't understand what they are as well? :-)>I have all the panels from www.flightdecksolutions.com (Plug!)>and with that has come a furvor of activity in getting all the>switches and lights to work.I'm lucky to live almost next door to Peter Cos. I will be visiting him soon>I have flown my sim regularly since 1997, even in it's>unfinished state which I think is key to keeping the momentum>going to finish. If I had started back in '97 without the>ability to put the soldering iron down and just fly for>flying's sake, I'd have abandoned the effort long ago.Couldn't agree more.

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Hi MauriceThis is, I stress a personal opinion, but one I believe makes a lot of sense.Build your shell first!This way you will have plenty of time to assess all the interfacing choices and take advantage of the very latest developments in interfacing when the time comes for fitting out. The other advantage is that you have somewhere to put each device as you complete it and something that looks and feels like a flight deck along the way.You will need to make some initial decisions about such things as monitor size, type etc based on your budget intentions.Good Luck...its a much bigger task than I estimated but as they say...it is a sad day when all the work is done!!!

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I don't know if I totally agree with building the shell first.. An average sim project entails hundreds of hours spent within the internals of the sim. Having to work within the confines of a shell from the beginning would get old real quick. Imagine rebuilding your car's engine while never removing it from the car...I am sure there are some benefits. However, going to bed every night with a sore neck and back probably isn't one of them.EDIT:hehe.. already I am second-guessing myself. Your sim frame is one superb piece of work! Nice job! (I guess it depends on how young you are! ;-) )

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As much as I've complained about making boards, I've found it for me the easiest start.If you can get someone to print the boards to start with I would suggest it, but even if you don't have someone the actually making of the boards believe it or not is easier than actually soldering the parts.What I did is got my first boards printed, but I stuffed a couple of them up, and then learnt how to make the boards - and I made them a lot cheaper than buying them, and of a good quality - at least I think so.I have both the fskey and the display boards and I have set up some basic switches to run a basic autopilot board - which is working fine.Plus the feeling of getting the part I thought was going to be hardest working was amazing - now I'm ready to try different parts of the cockpit.

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Hi RayI agree about "rebuilding a car engine without removing it from the car"....but does anyone do this?. Same with sims ....you build the gear on the bench and then fit it into the shell...I hadn't really thought of doing the 400 or so soldered connections on my FMC and breakout box with the FMC in its final position!;-)Thanks for your over generous comments about my shell....and my age...I'm nearly 59 so a sore neck is the least of my problems!Seriously I have found this a good way start a sim and I would do the same on any future project....at least you have something to look at and fly as you go, rather than a whole lot of gadgets waitng for a home.CheersIan

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Hi Ian,Thanks for your response . I would love to be able to build the shell first, but right now I do not have the space. We are planning to build a new house & moving in about 5 years and basically, I want to build it around my future flight simulator room. My wife has different ideas of course :-).In the meantime, I would like to start with smaller modules that I could fit into the future shell. That hopefully will include some of the 'internals' of the shell like the center pedestal for instance.Your shell & your project in general is quite impressive indeed. I'm amazed at the number of homemade parts you have. You sound like a very handy & determined person. Hopefully, some of that will rub on me but I'm afraid I am more impatient & will probably buy as many ready made components as I can afford. I am 59 & time is a definite factor :-)I was also quite intrigued by the pictures you posted with the Cessna screens in place of the 767. When your project is finished, do you intend to make the shell multipurpose or will it be fully dedicated to a 767 cockpit? I would assume the latter is true otherwise the logistics of making the sheel mutipurpose would be quite daunting.Anyway, as an aside, my daughter made a long trip to Australia last summer (your winter) & she loved your country & the people there.Best regards,

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>Essentially, you can think of the offsets as indices into a>large monolithic virtual table that stores a great many>internal variables used within MSFS.>Thanks Mike. Finally, a simple explanation about what offsets really are. I was beginning to think no one could come up with a simple description that makes sense :-)Thanks again,

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Thanks Gary. It's always nice to hear that this is not an 'impossible' project as it sometimes seems when you are overwhelmed with the amount of new & old information from countless sources.Best regards,

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Hi MauriceI should have prefaced my suggestion with "Providing you have the SPACE"....I fully understand your reasoning on that one!Regarding the Cessna panel I was just playing around with the multi screens....at one stage I thought I would make my panel masks easily removable so that I could fly other types in the same shell, but I really don't have time and still have lots to learn about PIC767 on which my sim is based. So yes it is a dedicated 767 but a multi purpose sim is not such a bad idea....aircraft have many common functions and with different configuration files its quite possible to enjoy more than one type in the same "office".Glad your daughter enjoyed OzCheers Ian

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>Hi Maurice>I should have prefaced my suggestion with "Providing you have>the SPACE"....I fully understand your reasoning on that one!>Regarding the Cessna panel I was just playing around with the>multi screens....at one stage I thought I would make my panel>masks easily removable so that I could fly other types in the>same shell, but I really don't have time and still have lots>to learn about PIC767 on which my sim is based. So yes it is a>dedicated 767 but a multi purpose sim is not such a bad>idea....aircraft have many common functions and with different>configuration files its quite possible to enjoy more than one>type in the same "office".>Glad your daughter enjoyed Oz>Cheers >IanHi again,I know it is a stretch, but if you don't really care whether you have an accurate physical layout of one particular type of airliner, is it possible to emulate several different types in the same physical sim. I'm not talking about mixing Cessna's with 747's, but rather flying different types of airliners such as 737's, 767's 777's etc... Since most of these have practically all the same instruments & controls, is it possibel to do that? Or would you need to re-program all your various encoders & instruments every time you switched planes. As you can probably tell, I'm quite igorant about the finer points of building home cockpits :-).Just trying to have my cake & eat it too, but perhaps I should just be content with coffee & donut. :-)Thanks

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>Hi again,>I know it is a stretch, but if you don't really care whether>you have an accurate physical layout of one particular type of>airliner, is it possible to emulate several different types in>the same physical sim. I'm not talking about mixing Cessna's>with 747's, but rather flying different types of airliners>such as 737's, 767's 777's etc... Since most of these have>practically all the same instruments & controls, is it>possibel to do that? Or would you need to re-program all your>various encoders & instruments every time you switched planes.>As you can probably tell, I'm quite igorant about the finer>points of building home cockpits :-).>>Just trying to have my cake & eat it too, but perhaps I should>just be content with coffee & donut. :-)Basically the same functions work on different aircraft - all autopilots in FS use the same mechanisms - course selector etc.The problem is that many of those add-on planes that have sophisticated systems added on top of FS (PIC767, the PMDG 737NG etc) have their own code that bypasses FS. Thus those things are different. Sometimes you can interface those wiht keyboard events or such, but getting stuff out of the sim can be hard on those since the things are not present on the standard FSUIPC offsets.Generic planes are thus much easier to interface. I am building around the Dreamfleet Cessna 310 twin which is neat, has a handful of stuff to keep you busy but everything works through the standard things.//Tuomas

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