My Flight Sim Setup by Kevin Egan September 2007 issue of PC Flight.
It all started for me around 5 years ago when I got a copy of FS2004 and installed it and played with it and then. I was looking for an Aer Lingus livery to add to the default FS B737 and soon found my way to the PC Pilots Ireland website, where I saw that some people were flying online with ATC. I got all the software I needed to go online and soon found myself at gate 34 at Dublin, listening to what was going on. I was stunned to hear how serious people were taking this - I was instantly hooked. The next night I wanted to try this online flying, so I got my Cessna ready, tuned into the ATC, it was Greg Coyle at that time who was controlling Dublin. It was all very new to me, so much so, that I did not know what a callsign was, so Greg gave me one, you guessed it, 'Shamrock 117' (EIN117) and from that day on it has stayed with me.
On the hardware side, I started out just like all of us, with a Joystick and PC, but then things soon began get out of hand. I progressed to the Level-D 767-300 with a total of 6 screens and a Projector. I was flying this setup for about a year, and was finding that using the mouse for everything was a bit of killjoy. So I invested in some GoFlight modules and over time I had ten units in all, which made flying more enjoyable. Thanks to the buttons and switches on the GoFlight modules, using the mouse was dramatically reduced.
But as time went on I visited websites where I saw what others were doing with their cockpits to make them look so real. I started to look into it myself and see what was out there for building a real looking simulator and what was involved in building one. I searched for hardware that was available for the 767 and soon found that there weren't a lot of panels for the 767 and those that were available, were very costly. Another thing was the electronics hardware, I'm not an electronics expert by any means - all I had was basic background knowledge from my DJ days. A big factor in the build was to get hardware that was easy to understand and fit. But soon things started to point to a 737 Simulator. There was a lot of information out there as a lot of builders had fully functioning 737 Simulators. So help was at hand and there was a great choice of panels and hardware available for the build, so I decided that it was going to be the B737-800 that I was going to take on as my new project. project.
The first thing I went looking for were panels for the 737-800. The two things I kept in mind were cost and quality and after a few weeks looking all over the web, I found a builder from Poland who made them to order. He also made them at a 1:1 scale and best of all, at almost half the price of other companies out there. So I took the chance and ordered the MIP (Main Instrument Panel) just to see how it looked. Four weeks later it arrived and I was stunned by his workmanship and the attention to detail. Soon after, I put my order in for the Glaresheild and FMC housing. There was one thing about starting down this road to a full scale sim, I was going to have to get the Project Magenta software, which is not cheap, but most cockpit builders recommended it and I would need it to control the overhead and the engine displays on the MIP. I paid around €800 at the time but then Project Magenta dramatically upped the price at the start of this year (2008). The next thing I needed was the control cards for the MIP, as it was the only panel that had a lot less knobs and switches, so it was a good place to start on the road to electronics. I found what I wanted from the UK Company ‘Flightdeck Technology’ - something that was easy to fit and get things working. I played around with it for about four months and started thinking about what was my next move. There was no way of flying yet and I knew it was going to be a long time before I would be back online flying. My next order was going to be a big one, the Overhead Panel, a Throttle Quadrant, along with the FMC and EFIS Panels and all the matching fittings. The order was placed and I had eight long weeks before they were delivered. It wasn't too bad as I had other things to do, like make more room for the simulator as I was going to need all of my shed space, which was 9' x 20'. But where was I going to put all the stuff that was already in the shed? There were Bikes, Paint cans, the Cat - here I go again, more costs! I was going to build a timber shed for it all but I also had to think about lining the shed walls, floor and roof - all this within 8 weeks. I had 6 weeks off work resting a bad back, so I got it all done just as the panels and hardware arrived. After a lot of long nights and weekends, I finally had a working but unfinished 737 Simulator. I have to say thanks to my good wife Marie, who put up with me not being around in the house as I was spending all my time in the shed. As for my plans for the future? Get the 737 finished and then I would like to do an A320 next.
The Overhead Panel is a 1:1 scale of the real thing. It is equipped with electronic and wiring for almost all the Switches and LEDs. With the Project Magenta (PM) Systems it makes it a fully working Panel, except for AC functions, which I am working on. I hope to have a heater working off it for the cold nights. This is all controlled by FSBUS. The FSCOM cards make it just like the real thing when starting up from a cold and dark cockpit to a fully ready aircraft.
The EFIS is controlled by Flightdeck Technology cards, which work along with Project Magenta (PM) software. All the functions work on the EFIS and the MCP runs off the FSBUS and PM. I had difficulty in getting the back lighting working on this panel.
MIP (Main Instrument Panel)
The MIP is one full piece and again is 1:1 scale. It is fitted with LEDs, Switches and Buttons, which are not all functioning, as you don't get to use them all. Behind the MIP are three LCD Screens - one 17" and two 19". The two 19" monitors are used for the Captain's side and the F/O side, while the 17" is for the Engines info at the centre of the MIP. The control cards for the MIP are from Flightdeck Technology, on which I have a total of five cards working the MIP.
FMC (Flight Management Computer)
Now where would you go without your FMC! It's a nice bit of hardware, which is controlled by FSBUS and Project Magenta. It has a lot of functions (more than you need), its screen is from a PSP and fits just nicely into it.
TQ (Throttle Quadrant)
I love this bit of hardware. The TQ is again 1:1 scale and is run by FSBUS. It is fitted with Motors and Servos, making it a fully automatic TQ. I do have a small problem with the Speedbrake, but I should have it working 100% soon.
I have all radios functioning: NAV1, NAV2, COM1, COM2 and ADF (scaled 1:1). There are a lot of switches and buttons, again all controlled by FSBUS.
The aircraft I am using is the PDMG B737-800 with the Aer Lingus livery by Niall O'Reilly (available on the FS2004 Aircraft page)
I have two CH Control Yokes and two CH Rudder Pedals.