Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Recovery of RMI and Stand-by

The displays of the RMI and the STBY instruments of the MIP share the same screen of the upper EICAS. The gauges are drawn by ZHSI; the quality is pretty good. The only missing feature on the RMI was the orange flag when on VORs/ADFs when there is no signal but Duncan has been very kind to implement for me.

RMI and STBY were connected to a CPFlight card that is not produced anymore and for that reason it was not possible to conncet them to the MIP board and were unusable.
The card gets the inputs of the baro knob (button and encoder), the 5 buttons of the STDBY and the 2 knobs for selecting between ADFs and VORs. The card also has the LEDs for backlit of buttons and signs.
The idea to fix is to keep the card as it is because the components are drectly mounted on it and perfectly fits with the panel. I am pretty sure that if I buy a panel the measures will be different and it will not look nice once mounted in the frame.
These picture shows the front and rear view CPFlight panel with the STDBY-737 card once dismounted from the MIP.

With a multimeter I looked for the connections used by buttons, encoders, switches and when found I decided to cut the connection in the STDBY737 card and connect them directly to a LeoBodnar card. You can see in the following picture the soldering with the cable to connect to the LeoBodnar card.

I could not recover the rotaries to select between ADFs and VORs of the RMI. Probably my knowledge of electronic components is too limited.
All the other components work perfectly.
At the end I decided to use the + and - buttons of the STDBY to select ADFs/VORs. Not very realistic but it works and I do not need to change the light of the STBY gauge so I am not loosing anything.
XPlane see the LeoBodnar board as a joystick. It has been very easy to associate each push button and the rotary to the proper event with the XPlane menu of the joystick,
The LeoBdnar board need to be configured to recognize the knob but it has been very easy following the documentation and immediately recognized by XP.

I have not been able to light the LEDs  because could not really understand their connection in the CPF board. I will have to get back to them sooner or later as I suspect that it s only matter to find the proper connection to have them working. Ideally, I will connect the LEDs to a power supply so that they stay ON all the time but first I have to find how to do that!

In conclusion I recovered the panel and its full functionality with some trick. In particular the selection ADSs and VORs happens with the + and - buttons of the STDBY.
Backlight still pending.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Home cockpit software integration

The software setup consists of XPlane, Zibo 737, CPFlight midwest plugin, ZHSI and a rasperry Pi4.

I personally prefer XPlane over P3D and for sure do not want to spend the huge amount of money requested by ProSim that is not justified for non-professional use IMO. XP or P3D is a personal taste of course. I think that what XP gives out of the box is much better than what P3D offers; on top of that XP has a great number of tools and sceneries provided for free by passionate users while on P3D you have to pay for everything. 
In the past XP was a difficult environment for home cockpit builders but now the situation is very good and promise for improvements in the future. XP is easy to customize, upgrading does not require full reinstallation and most of HC tools are available for free.

The integration of the CPFlight hardware has been very easy thanks to the great midwest driver that supports the Zibo 737 natively. The driver is cheap and the support is very good; the installation is easy and intuitive. My radios, MIP and CDU worked immediately once connected.
CPFlight hardware  is, as I constantly repeat, very good even if a bit expansive. IMO the time saved using this hardware its look and feel and quality really pays off. During the integration I had few problems with power supply and finding the correct way to connect the components in daisy chain problems that have been solved with CPFlight support. In this respect that documentation is not good enough and should be improved a bit.

I add a 75 inch 4K Samsung TV for the main screen and connected the monitors on the MIP and the one of the CDU to my 980Ti graphic card. It has not been easy to find the proper configuration of the monitor cables as it depends on the graphic card. It supports up to 4 mnitors but no VGA socket while MIP monitors have VGA connectors. In the market exists converters from VGA to HDMI and DVI but not all of them work well. 
My NVidia card has only 4 Gb RAM; it runs with 4k resolution and all the other monitors but need 3jFPS to keep the frame rate under control.. This is very important while flying on VATSIM because it disconnects the sim if the frame rate drops below 20/second. The reason is that when the frame rate is below 20, XP slow the simulation down and other people on VATSIM sees big liners flying as slow as a Cessna does. Perfectly fine IMO to make the simulation more close to reality.

The TV fits perfectly in the wall of the sauna. I do not foresee to install monitors for lateral views but I admit it makes a big difference so I will probably review this decision in future. For such a big screen a resolution of 4K is mandatory so I had to trick a bit the configuration of XP to get a reasonable frame rate. Now I fly at 30 or more frames per second  and 3jFPS reduces the graphic details when the frame rate drops below 30.
To improve the frame rate I connected the upper and lower EICAS to Raspberry Pi4.

737 instrumentation is displayed in the MIP monitors with ZHSI bot the in the main computer and in the RPi4. A must for home cockpit builders. The CDU screen is managed by ZCDU. The content of the FMC can also by displayed in the monitor of the CDU with xPanels but it is a bit slow.

RPi4 supports 2 4K monitors and in my case they are used for the upper and lower EICAS and the stand-by instruments whose content is displayed by ZHSI. I am satisfied of the result but note that the refresh is a bit slow. For this reason I have delegated the RPi4 to the EICAS. The slowness is due to the default graphic driver of the RPi4: I know that there is a better driver but I was not able to let it work unless together with VLC. Now there are other linux distributions for Rpi4 like ubuntu and fedora core that could help.

It is a pity that Zibo does not allow to dis-anchor and move around the display of the instruments. ZHSI and ZCDU works well and they are very well supported. However ZHSI uses jfoenix java library that seems to be unsupported so it could be a critical tool in future.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Cockpit environment

I have decided to build the single cockpit into a sauna.


  • closed environment
  • wood on walls where it is easy to attach/remove staff
  • good sound quality
  • 3 monitors for lateral views does not fit in
During the construction I had to dig holes for the network and the power/ Network cable goes straight to the router.
The power cable goes in the power panel with a dedicated switch to power on/off the power inside it. This cable is dedicated to the simulator and all the devices. Another industrial switch is inside the sauna and must be switched on to startup all the devices and boot the computer.

Another cable bypasses the switch and it is used to have light and power while building and the main switch is shut off. 

Building the sauna. Holes for power and network.
The following picture shows the sauna after the building construction with the single seat cockpit moved into it but not yet connected. Power sockets are mostly behind the cockpit with dedicated switches so that it is possible power on/off individually or by logic area. The main switch is on the right side but not visible in this picture.
This picture clearly shows that there is enough room for the single seat but not enough for three monitors unless the 2 lateral ones are put at 90 degrees that I do not like.

The cockpit in the sauna
Temporarily I moved in the sauna the old little monitor I was using before.
Below you can see the single seat connected to it but not yet connected to all CPFlight devices.

A powerful light for working has been put in the other side and must be switched off during flight because it is too high and reflects on the monitor.

First connection
The single seat has 3 monitors but initially I could only connect 2 of them to the computer. In this picture I am setting up ZHSI.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

AFSD completed, pedals and future expansion

The AFDS has bene completed and connected to the MIP of CPFlight. Below a picture of the wiring and the integration in the actual system.

The old Logitech pedals had to be replaces and I choose the thrustmaster pendular rudder. This is a great product: very stable, soft and precise. A bit expansive bu very suggested.

The time to  build something more serious is coming: I have acquired a single seat cockpit that will install soon into a sauna (to create a closed environment). The sauna is being built those days.

The single seat is based on CPFlight hardware and includes the monitors for the display. It is also ready for adding the overhead.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

AFDS progress, XP and MIP

AFSD and the MIP board

The AFD is progressing. Only electronics need to be connected to the CPFlight MIP board. I tested the used MIP bard that I bought long ago and it seems to work well. 

CPFlight MIP board

Next step is to connect LEDs and buttons of the AFDS to it.The CPFlight MIP output does not require a resistor that is already in the board; the output for LED is 2 volt (I measured 2.2).

AFDS: front side

AFDS: back side

LEDs are still missing. The midwest driver claims to work with CPFligh MIP.

New panels

Yesterday I also bought the panel for the landing gear from FlightSimulatorParts and the auto brake panel from CockpitSimParts. Both to be connected to the CPFlight MIP board. I do not know the panels from FlightSimulator parts but this landing panel seems interesting and includes the landing gear annunciators. Regarding the auto brake, I found only one suitable panel from CockpitSimParts that includes annunciators. There was one interesting alternative from OpenCockpits but the electronic is already connected and I am not sure if it is compatible with CPFlight requirements.

XPlane and P3D

To use the FlyEngravity CDU, I setup P3D with PMDG with an old driver I got long ago. It is very nice and it is really a pity that FlyEngravity support is so bad that they do not even reply to emails. Today I wrote them again offering to coding something myself. What I really like of this CDU is that it does not require a dedicated monitor connection.
I offered to write a driver for interfacing this CDU with PMDG and/or ZIBO 737 on XP if they provide me with enough info to control the CDU. It would be a win-win situation: I can use the device with my preferred add-on and they can claim compatibility with more add-ons instead of ProSim only. Let´s hope they reply.

Coming back to the simulators, the test with P3D has been disappointing: IMO XP is far long better than P3D nowadays. ZIBO 737 is a great product. People says that PMDG is simulated better but I don´t see much of a difference between the two.

So I have decided to use XP for the home cockpit. CPFlight to be connected with the midwest driver. For the other panels like the light panel, I will use the OpenCockpit boards and devices that I already have. OCUSBMapper allows to interface OpenCockpits to XP. 
Another problem is how to show the displays of the 737 in other monitors like ProSim easily allows to do. I found at least HXSI for that. From the HXSI forum, it seems that it is not yet 100% compatible with ZIBO displaying the route on the PFD. Let´s hope they fix that for the time when I will need it.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Resuming with the AFDS

Just back from one more year of work in South America and resuming the development of the home cockpit.

After so long the driver for using the CDU I bought from FlyEngravity with PMDG is still not available. I found one very old post in the FlyEngravity software claiming to as CPFlight support for that but they told me that they are not working on that anymore. FlyEngravity should clearly say that the CDU is not compatible with PMDG or provide a driver. In the mean time they should offer to reimburse people like me instead I sent already 2 emails and got no reply. I was even offering to develop a driver by myself.

I was exploring how the HC build wor changed in th epast years and found a lot of new technologies. Starting from the flight simulator, I personally think that XP is now great and prefer it to P3D under many aspects. However I am aware that building a HC in XP is not as easy as in P3D.
Another big change is the v2 of ProSim but it is crazy expansive for an hobby: apart of the initial cost of 1250€ there is an additional fee of about 100€ er year. It is a big prize but all the community agrees that it is invaluable to build a serious HC.

I bought few panels from CockpitSimParts: the light panel and AFDS. I am starting to assemble the AFDS that would interface with the CPFlight MIP card to the flight simulator.

This is picture of the AFDS at the beginning of the assembly:

There is a good video on youtube expaling how to mount it:

The panels seems very solid and good quality: I am evaluating CockpitSimParts for the entire MIP panel. The AFDS was not that expansive either.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

FlyEngravity CDU v.2

Together with CPFlight FMC and NAV2, I bought a FlyEngravity CDU v.2.
The product is quite expansive but does not need an additional display.

It has been shipped with a good packaging and once opened it lookd very solid and robust. The feedback of the switches is very good as well as the back light. Sorry for the poor quality of the photos..

The connection is very easy: it needs the power supply and a ethernet cable. The manual is pretty clear and the process quite easy (it took me around 5 minutes to have the CDU up and running).
However note that the network connection procedure described in the manual is not correct as it assigns a static IP number to the device regardless if it is connected to a DHCP as normally happens with modern modem/routers.

It is possible to assign the CDU a dynamic IP number even if the procedure is not described in the manual.
I suggest to assign a dynamic IP to the CDU. Then associate the device to a static IP in the DHCP server.

I am planning to use the device with PMDG 737 initially. Later n with ProSim.

FlyEngravity claims that a driver for PMDG will be available soo.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

MCP backlit

The MCP and the CPT EFIS have been mounted into the wooden frame sitting below the monitor.
The quality of the product is impressive compared to the 10 years old RS232 model I was using before.
The picture below shows the MCP with backlit on.

I have mounted also the auto throttle off button and the T/O GA on the left side of the MCP.
The feedback of buttons, switches and toggles is worst the money I spent for this toy.

Insallation has been very easy as well. The picture has been taken while flying with P3D v2.5 and PMDG 737.

After many years I replaced the 2 old monitors with a new one, the BENQ B2711U 4K UHD 3840x2160 pixel with IPS tecnlogy. The quality is very good but have to reduce the screen resolution with my PC and graphic card that I will replace soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Project restarted

It is long time I am not updating this blog. In fact the project was on hold because I could not decide if it was the case to phase out FSX in favor of P3D or XPlane.
Finally I decided for P3D 2.x that is a great product from my point of view. Never ever had a crash till now.

I had also decided to develop the cockpit of a B737 instead of the 767. The reason is that 767 D has never been updated for years and is compatibility with P3D and new operating system is very limited. It is pity: I really loved that plane. I will get rid of the panels I built and sell the FMC.

I tried the PMDG 737 and B777 . Both are great products but the hardware available on the market offers much more for the 737. My plan at the present is to develop for the PMDG 737 and switch to ProSim when possible. I have tried ProSim demo and it is great but without a throttle is difficult to use. I have bought one for the 767 that will adapt to the 737 and it makes me closer to ProSim.

I still do not have enough space for the simulator and it limits my setup. But we are now actively looking for a new apartment so.. cross the finger.

In the mean time I have decided to renew my CPFlight MCP and EFIS devices and add the second NAV. All these parts arrived few days ago and I am now installing them. The MCP pro seems a very good. Unfortunately I have not yet tried on the simulator. The MCP has also few buttons more then the old 737 (speed and alt intervention for instance) and buttons commanded by a relays that disengage depending on the status of the plane. Look the picture below:

The A/T and the disengage buttons  will move to the OFF position autonomously depending on events from the simulator. Switches and buttons have a much better feeling then the old ones.
The MCP connects to the sim through a USB. As I said I have not yet installed the device but it seems that the device internally has a serial port and there is a intgrated converter serial to USB to interface with the computer.
I wish to report once more that CPFlight staff, Paolo for instance, are very kind and professional as usual. Their products are quite expansive but the quality and reliability is very good.

I am also going to replace the open cockpit FMC with a FlyEngravity one. It arrived at home at the beginning of this week and well be the topic of a another post.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


After so long time looking for a easy way to implement annunciators, I believe I finally found something very interesting. I am talking of squares plastic boxes. The fit into the holes of the cards for soldering; in the middle go the LEDs and on top you can fit a strip with the written of the annunciator. Finally on top of that goes a protectiv plastic cap so that it is not possible to damage the written with the finger tips.
I fount them at conrad after a long search.
The first model has a transparent cap that for me is the best solution. You can find the with the ID number 705332. An image says much more:

The second model, 702237, has a diffusor on top i.e. it is not transparent:
They have a surface of around 1x1cm, maybe a little more (1 inch?). But I think they are good enough even if not perfect. Perfect for me would be 1x1,5.

Another interesting piece of hardware that I bough just for testing are momentary buttons with the surface coloured by 2 LEDs. The exists in greem (704423), in red (704415) and orange (704431) and yellow. About the same size of the annunciators:
I finally mounted the landing gear on the wooden frame. It is the biggest panel I have in mind so it will take a long time. I thin to place there the flaps (a rotary with annuciators and the gauge I bought from opencockpits), auto brakes, ILS and so one.
I also planned a littler panel having only a rotary for the APU with its 2 annunciators and the push button to communicate with cabin attendandts and ground services. Ok this last part is not very interesting to fly but it is used more often then other controls in the header panel. The other are just set on departure and turned OFF at the apron. I will use this panel to practice with the rotary before using severalof them in the other big panel.

I did not yet bought the gauges from flightillusion: I wrote a email but they never replied...

One word to must be said about my CPFlight MCP. After I upgraded the driver there are several problems. But I am in contact with the support for fixing. I have to say that CPFlight support is always very good. On the other hand I suspect to be the only using their products with the 767: it is something I have to keep in mind for the future.