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Building the Opencockpits COMM

COMM tutorial

Building the Opencockpits NAV

NAV tutorial

Building the Opencockpits ADF

ADF tutorial

Building the Opencockpits XPDR

XPDR tutorial

Radio Pedestal Circuit Diagram

Full Circuit Diagram

Backlighting the Opencockpits MCP

Backlighting the MCP

Simple and Cheap Home-Made Panels

Simple Home-Made Panels


December 2008 Builder of the Month

rfds simulator

The Royal Flying Doctor Service Visitors Centre in Alice Springs NT asked me to build them a simulator for their centre and so of course I based it on mine and their aircraft of choice the Pilatus PC12.


And here it is installed and running the Pilatus PC12 for FSX! Please note that the outside enclosure and seating was already in place, left over from their old "toy" simulator. My part is the sim panel, controllers and computer to drive it. It was really convenient they had this cool enclosure as it added that extra touch of realism to the simulator experience.


A bit closer with this shot. Unfortunately the flash tends to obliterate the displays, but the area was too dark to take a photo without it. The outside view screens are behind perspex "windcreens" and, although you can see the wall behind, that's only due to the camera flash. When flying, the whole area is virtually black behind them due to the high contrast of the panels.


Left side perspective with rudder pedals in view.





Right side perspective.





And a closer shot of the centre section in action. As noted below, the buttons and knobs don't do anything in the sim. (That would have been a whole other level of simulator and headaches!)



Centre console.

Here you can see the two buttons that do operate in the sim. There is an "Abort Flight" button which abruptly ends any flight in progress before the alloted time, and a "Don't Press" button which should appeal to human nature :)



And a shot without the flash with the PC12 loaded and in flight. Although blurry you can see the very clear panel and outside view image and how you can't see the back wall of the enclosure.



And this is what it looked like prior to my installation. As stated earlier, this was already in place prior to my arrival.




The main panel was built out of 6mm (1/4") grey PVC plastic. This was very easy to work with and very strong. It needed to be durable for public usage so this was the best choice.



These two pictures show the full setup as it was in my dining room for debugging prior to disassembly and shipping interstate to its new home.



There are a number of panels with switches and knobs to play with but don't actuate anything in the sim. What does work is the pilots yoke (co-pilot is for play only), Rudder pedals, Landing Gear lever, Throttle, Condition lever & Flaps. Certainly enough to adequately fly any plane. The software is Microsoft FSX with SP2 along with Flight1's latest PC12 release v1.02 for FSX to accurately emulate the real plane. I have also configured custom panels as there is a 19" LCD's for the main instrument panel and the outside view on a 22" LCD on stands in front. These are coming off an 8800GT video card in the Dual Core PC. Co-Pilot's panel screen and outside view are simply via a VGA splitter from the Pilots screens.

Other planes loaded for the sim are:

  1. King Air B300 in RFDS livery VH-FDR (Aircraft by Allied FS Group & RFDS livery by Joerg Zeitschel)
  2. PC12 livery VH-FGR by Lawrence Dorries.
  3. DH82 Tiger Moth (Warwick Carter & Garry J. Smith)
  4. Friendly Panels Cessna 182RG.

These are flying at varying locations under differing weather conditions and times of day throughout the Central Australian area. The idea being to emulate some of the history of the RFDS aircraft and their flying locations and conditions.

FSX runs in Kiosk mode which allows for a selection of pre-loaded flights to be flown for a predetermined period of time. This will be set to 5 minutes to avoid anyone monopolising the sim, but is customisable to any time limit required. Kiosk mode also means there will be no keyboard and mouse in public view that could be used to reconfigure the sim inadvertently


I tried to replicate the PC12 cockpit layout as best I could and here you can see my custom built engine controls with working Throttle, Condition and Flaps levers. The lever on the far left is the Manual Override Lever and is for show only. You can also see some other panels like the Trim & Cabin Temp, Stab Trim selections and the Cabin Lights at the very bottom. These all have non-functioning switches. See below for more extensive pictures of the throttle build.


The Trim panel also houses the EFIS controller. Two of these buttons will be active in the sim as stated above i.e. "Abort Flight" and "Don't Press".



Likewise the Stab Trim switches are for show and play. This sim will be used mainly by kids who just want to flip switches and twiddle knobs!




And finally the Cabin Lighting adjustment. All these panels are replicated from the real PC12 and drawn up in Microsoft Publisher, then printed onto Avery A4 Inkjet labels. As a final protection they were then coated with a clear lacquer.


Throttle Build:

Here is the beginning stage of the PC12 custom throttles. They were constructed out of a nylon kitchen cutting board. Easy to work with and gives a nice amount of friction once tightened up.



Here are the handles all installed with spacers made of PVC reticulation risers cut to size. Levers are mild steel and leteral support rods are 5mm (3/16") threaded rods. You'll have to adjust sizing to suit your centre console and fitment.


Throttles mounted in their support bracket made of patio brackets (cheap!). POTS mounted on metal brackets and plastic arms from my childs lego/machano set.



A side view showing the plastic machano levers. Coat hanger wire was used to connect these levers with the main actuating levers of the throttles.




An overhead shot for more detail. POTS are connected to a terminal block for eash of wiring.



Mounted in the centre console.







I made a base plate with some vinyl sheet (left over from the glareshield covering). Slits were cut in order to hide the throttle mechanism and to stop dust and liquid spills from entering the throttles.





And finally the all important cover plate complete with graphics designed using MS Publisher and printed on an al-cheapo inkjet onto self adhesive paper. To finish it off a protective layer of clear lacquer was applied.