The Mode Control Panel (hereafter called the MCP) is central to the operation of all sophisticated aircraft. The most commonly available hardware version is the 737MCP from various manufacturers at various prices. As I am an advocate of Opencockpits hardware I decided to purchase their version. It helped that their’s was also the cheapest! When it arrived I was a little apprehensive as to the difficulty in getting it operational in the simulator, but as it turned out I needn’t have worried. It was simply a case of plugging it into a USB port, loading the config file in SIOC, and starting Flight Sim. Below are some pics of the beast in action.
This plug & play device is fully built and ready to plug into an available powered hub.
Download the SIOC file to run this unit.
The only drawback with this hardware is that it doesn’t come with backlighting and it’s going to be a tight fit retrofitting backlighting between these circuit boards, but not impossible. Go to the bottom of this page for my complete tutorial on backlighting the MCP.
The grey cable is the USB lead but there’s also a separate 5v power cable which is recommended if you intend to run the device direct from your computers USB outputs. If you run if off a powered hub you don’t need to connect this.
This is a modification I made in order to activate the pushbutton component of the 5 rotary encoders (grey cables for switches, lower black cables are the backlighting). These aren’t wired by default so I connected them to a terminal block and then to spare inputs on my OC Mastercard. These will be needed for the 777 MCP functions. Youcan also see the mass of LED cables out the bottom for the backlighting.
Here it is installed and running in my new sim. I have a custom configured SIOC file to operate in B777 mode and it does the job very nicely. I’ve activated the pushbutton functions of each rotary encoder so as to simulate the actions of a B777 MCP which requires HDG, ALT and SPEED activation by pushing the encoder in various flight modes. By default these aren’t activated in the OC MCP v2 (not sure about the new v3 model), a slight tweak of the SIOC file and voila, all working!
NOTE: Some aircraft designers code specific autopilot functions within their aircraft for greater realism as appose to utilizing the default functions available in FS. Case in point being the Flight1 PC12 and Mustang along with a raft of others. My investigations have proven that the Opencockpits MCP will control the aircraft as programmed but some of the selections may not actually display on the aircraft panel itself. Eg: On the Flight1 PC12 if you set an altitude and climb rate on the OC MCP these values won’t be displayed on the aircrafts EADI however the aircraft will climb and level as per the MCP settings. It obviously talks to FS but not the aircraft panel.
When I purchased my Opencockpits MCP it didn’t come with backlighting, their new model does however. But if you want a challenge or can’t afford the extra 50Euro for the backlit version then follow along my tutorial of how to do it yourself. Backlighting is one of those asthetics that in the beginning you may be tempted to do without, however if you get to fly just once in a sim with backlit panels you will soon hanker for the same in yours. There’s just no substitute to add that little extra bit of realism.
My Opencockpits Mode Control Panel didn’t come backlit and this was a big drawback however there is a simple solution which I will detail here. Of course the principle can be used to backlight any project.