For all those who want to see what it is like to actually build a flight simulator day by day, this is the place to look. I will try my best to document, everything I do to the sim on a daily basis. Of course I will not be working on the sim every day, but I will document it here when I do. Also, this page only lists construction events and doesn't mention much about research events.
Select a year: (yes it's been that long!)
1998 (Research only)
Major Events (most recent first):
|Saturday, April 20, 2002
||Finally a glareshield!
|Thursday, January 10, 2002
||Dismantling a 757 ACP
|Saturday, January 05, 2002
||First days of post-flood reconstruction
|Sunday, August 13, 2000
||Flying a Class D simulator
|Wednesday, March 14, 2000
||CDU display installed
|Tuesday, March 13, 2000
||Pro MFD is born
|Wednesday, December 22, 1999
||First time on a real 777
|Sunday, December 5, 1999
||Cutting my first panel base
|Sunday, November 21, 1999
||Cutting my first panel face frame
|Friday, November 19, 1999
||Installing the computer network
|Sunday, November 14, 1999
||777 Project Web Site Launched
|Wednesday, November 10, 1999
Anti-Productivity (what has gone wrong):
|Monday, March 10, 2002
|Saturday, July 7, 2001
||Destruction of the 777 Project
|Sunday, March 12, 2000
||Keyboard Card shorted out
|Sunday, February 13, 2000
|Saturday, February 12, 2000
||Inadequate wood thickness
|Wednesday, February 2, 2000
||Blown light stick
|Saturday, January 8, 2000
||12 holes instead of 10
Saturday April 12, 2003
I regret to inform readers that this will be the last entry posted to my online web journal. Why? I cannot say yet. The newest lab entries will be made available in the future, but for now they will not be posted. In the meantime, I will try to be as detailed as possible in the photo updates. Feel free to browse the remaining lab entries and enjoy the rest of the information on my web site!
Friday November 01, 2002
I am VERY happy that I finally obtained seats for my simulator!! This eliminates one of the four major parts that are remaining for me to obtain. The other three are throttles (from AGT), rudders (from Go Flight), and Yokes (from PFC). As you can see, I have sources for these products, but most of them are months away from completion. It is interesting that this hobby is so new that you have to wait on parts which haven't been created yet!
Time worked today: 1 hours
Thursday October 24, 2002
While in school, updates have somewhat slowed down. However, I received my CDU kit on yesterday. It consisted of around 200 pieces, but I was able to assemble it in virtually a single afternoon (I ran out of glue <g>).
Time worked today: 3 hours
Saturday July 27, 2002
After a whole year of searching, I finally got my Engine Fire Shut-Off switches. Advanced Graphics Technologies made them for me, and they were MUCH cheaper than the discards I was trying to get. They cast a really nice shadow on the panels but are not backlit like the real ones. I had to manually drill holes through the plexiglass panel where the fire handles were to be installed, so a titanium drill bit was used. I generally like to use "non-slip" carbide or cobalt bits, but titanium seems to be a lot more durable.
I also received my landing gear handle, my autobrake selector, and some light diffusing material for the panels. I realize that it would have been much easier to apply the light diffuser BEFORE installing hardware, because all the panels had to be individually removed and anything attatched to the engraved faceplate had to be removed then reattatched. Out of impatience, I had painted some of the panels a few months ago, so the paint had to be removed from those using paint thinner and a Brillo pad. In order to get better results with the rope lights (the christmas lights used for backlighting), I will experiment with a mirror to reflect more lost light. The insides may also be painted black to lower the levels of light being absorbed by the interior surfaces of the center pedestal.
One of the most time-consuming things that I did today was upgrade my ATC panel. If you look at the ATC panel page, you can see that the faceplate of the ATC panel is raised about 1/4" off the mounting plate. This is because the shaft of each rotary encoder was not long enough to attatch the hex nut to the surface. For this reason, the faceplate was elevated up by the encoders, and this looked terrible. So I used a power drill to widen the opening on the faceplate. Because the hole had to be wide enough for the entire hex body to fit, I had to manually widen the hole using an exacto knife. Now, the faceplate sits flush with the mounting plate. While all the hardware was removed, I also applied the light diffuser which made the panel more readable. During all of this, I accidentally knocked two wires off the circuit board from one rotary encoder, so I will have to solder that back on once I replace the tip that I fried trying to attatch the ribbon cable.
Time worked today: 6 hours
Sunday July 14, 2002
Today was spent wiring up the other two LEDs on the ATC panel. As you can see in the photo, a LOT of soldering took place in the construction of this panel. I actually wired it over the course of two days. The circuit that I used to make this panel work is Go Flight's GF-45 unit. The unit that I ordered was their standard unit, so it wasn't prepared like the remote mount GF-166.
The standard GF-45 unit has 5 LEDs. The first four are connected in pairs of two while the 5th digit is a single LED. This created a problem since the left four LEDs had to be used. The 5th digit is used as the 4th digit on the transponder, so this means that I currently only have three visible digits. This is a software issue though, so I will talk to the great folks at Go Flight (Doyle of course :-) about releasing a "digit shift" option. Overall, I am still very impressed with the unit!
The ATC panel I am using did not have an opening large enough for the LEDs to fit, so I also had to use a jigsaw to widen the opening. During unit tests, I also had to tighten and re-solder wired that I hadn't done such a great job on. So this slowed me down a bit. As you can see, there were a lot of issues involved with the installation of this panel. I guess these are the kinds of improvisations you have to get used to when trying to combine new technologies.
Time worked today: 2 hours
Saturday July 13, 2002
After getting the radio management panel functional on yesterday, I had to do some manual wiring today. I wired one of the radio function switches to be the frequency swap button on the GF-166 unit. The B777 has three buttons on the RMP, which read "VHF L" "VHF C" and "VHF R" all in a row. The "VHF L" and "VHF R" buttons will now switch the radio between comm 1 and comm 2. Since there is no third VHF radio, I decided to make "VHF C" the frequency swap button. The normal frequency swap button is so small, that I may not be able to find an adequate switch for it. Therefore, I will improvise.
Just as I thought I was finished for the day, the GF-45 kept calling my name. I was a seemingly simple operation, but it proved to be VERY tedious. I had to prepare ribbon cable and solder it to and from a total of almost 80 pins. It took an entire afternoon to wire up two digits. I will do the other two digits on tomorrow if time allows. The results are awesome though, so I'm definitely not complaining.
I also added the 10 transmit pushbuttons to the observer's Audio Control Panel. All other hardware had to be removed to perform this procedure.
Time worked today: 11 hours
Friday July 12, 2002
Another milestone was reached today. I was able to instal my first set of functional LED readouts for the Radio Management Panel. They are created from stripped down Go Flight GF-166 units in remote mount configuration, and the whole setup including rotary encoders, LEDs, and software, was only like $100 US. I had to saw away some of the plexiglass on my panels so that the LEDs would fit, but that was minor. I'm sure Peter Cos can adjust his panels for these new units. The entire installation probably took 30 minutes, and that's only because I had to enlarge the openings in my panels. I made a test panel first, and when that test succeeded, the panel was immediately added to the sim.
Time worked today: 2 hours.
Sunday June 30, 2002
Today, I spent a little time testing the mounted Eaton MCP pusbuttons for functionality. Many of the lamps had burned out, but those can be replaced inexpensively. I generated a tabular report of the switches that were functional and non-functional so that I know which ones will need to be repaired. The L-1011 may use the same bulbs, so I will be looking at that as a simple option.
Time worked today: 1 hour
Friday June 28, 2002
I spent this afternoon modifying the center pedestal mounting frame, to fit the rotary switches on the Audio Control Panels. In order to do this, all the other panels had to be removed, and the mounting frame had to be lifted from the center pedestal. The rear view of the ACPs is now starting to look somewhat complex, so I will have to contemplate wiring methods. If I were to let the wires hang randomly, the panel would be completely unmanageable.
I also did something that most veteran builders know to be very important. I spent time organizing the parts in the sim room. There are HUNDREDS of parts in the sim, many of which have not been installed. So it is very important that the parts not be allowed to pile up. Even the screws were seperated and labeled.
Time worked today: 4 hours
Sunday June 23, 2002
A problem was solved today, which has stunted my progress for days. How do you mount square switches when you don’t have the necessary mounting brackets?? Well, I finally figured out that friction mounting works quite well with square switches as long as they are tapered at the top edge. Since cutting square holes generally requires three equally important steps (outlining, drilling, and ripping), making 12 holes took quite a while. However, the finished product was more than worth it. This was another one of those case where the margin of error was like 1/64”, so patience was of the utmost importance. The MCP is 1/4" deep, so the switches needed panel stand offs to sit properly. Fortunately, I was able to salvage those from an L-1011 FCES panel which contained exactly 12 of those stand offs!
Time worked today: 6 hours
Saturday June 8, 2002
Today, I mounted the first hardware objects to the glareshield. The successfully mounted items included all toggle switches on the left EFIS and MCP panels, and the FPV and MTRS pushbuttons on the left EFIS panel. So far so good!
Time worked today: 2 hours
Sunday June 2, 2002
I am VEERRY Glad that I finally got a chance to mount my glareshield today!! It has taken years of mental preparation for me to finally get the nerve to tackle the glershield. I used a completely different technique than others for my glareshield. The glareshield is actually built in two seperate pieces.
The first piece is the faceplate, which can be seen in the first photo.This is the piece that will contain all the hardware such as switches, rotaries, etc. It is removeable via two screws on seperate ends. The second piece was the support frame. This piece was quite tricky though, because the angle of the support fairings had to be determined precisely or two bad errors can occur. The first error is an air gap. Having free space between your glareshield and your instrument panel looks unnatural, so that had to be avoided at all costs. The second problem to avoid was "undercompensation". In other words, I had to make sure that the angle of the glareshield was great enough that it would be able to vertically clear the instrument panel. The angled portion also had to be tapered to clear the monitors.
The glareshield face consists of a single piece of wood, on which all hardware directly connects. This face connects to the glareshield via two screws, then the EFIS panels, MCP, and DSP all connect to the glareshield face. The downside to this type of construction is that if a single error is made, the entire glareshield face has to be recut, and the margins for error are SMALL!
Time worked today: 6 hrs
Thursday May 16, 2002
I received another "box" today, filled with stuff I needed! Amongst the parts were a few gems including:
- The LED units from a 777 MCP (this was the last real part I needed for the MCP)
- Smoked lenses for the standby instruments
- A rotary knob for the standby airspeed indicator
- More Korrys
- Electroluminescent ligthing strips
The smoked lenses were quite amazing. It took me about an hour to figure out that these things are actually rotationally sensitive. In other words, if you turn the glass 90 degrees in either direction, it will become tinted to the point to where you can't see through it. Then if you rotate it back, it's perfectly clear??? Go figure. it gets stranger though... this effect only occurs with LCD screens. If you rotate the glass over a CRT screen, no tinting occurs at any angle?? In the adjacent photo, the top standby gauge has no lense, the middle lense is rotated 90 degrees, and the bottom gauge is not rotated. You can see that the middle gauge looks pitch black, and the bottom gauge looks almost like there is no lense at all. I tried mounting the lenses with strips of electrical tape, but they only held for a while. I will try some stronger tape soon.
Time worked today: 2 hours
Sunday April 28, 2002
After receiving a perfectly timed package of aircraft panels, I set out to complete my standby bezels by the end of the day. After some gluing and painting, I found a rotary switch which was sent most graciously to me by a good friend of mine, and it attatched perfectly to the altimeter. Quite to my surprise, it actually works and is no deeper than the bezel itself. Apparently it rotates on a plate which pushes against the bezel itself, thereby making this thing mountable over a monitor. As for painting, since the material is plexiglass, I decided to let the paint be self-priming. The bezels were clear when they arrived, therefore, I applied a coat of Boeing Brown paint and let it dry. Then I applied another coat of paint and allowed that to dry. Now, the bezels were ready to be attatched to the instrument panel.
I also mounted the captain's Display Selector Panel and spent some time converting some new Audio Control Panel plates to work with my 757 Volume Control knobs.
Time worked today: 6 hours
Saturday April 20, 2002
Finally a glareshield!
After over a year of contemplating and sketching possibilites, I FINALLY began construction of my glareshield! By starting from a very basic concept I actually solved a major problem while I was actually constructing the glareshield. I was wondering how I was going to actually mount the hardware since the lightplates I use are all designed for rear mounting. The plan was to make large cutouts in the mounting frame, but that proved unnecessary since the lightplates are internally illuminated. The real solution was simple and is as follows:
I started from a single piece of wood and cut it with these proportions:
Height = MCP height
Width = (EFIS Width x 2) + MCP Width + DSP Width + 3/16"
The 3/16" is to allow for 1/16" of spacing between each panel.
This gave me a square piece of wood for which all of the primary glareshield hardware could mount. Now I lined the panels up and screwed them to the square piece that I just cut. With these pieces attatched, the face of my glareshield was now complete! Now I had to figure out how to rear mount the switches with this square piece of wood behind the panels. So I tried attatching the switches directly to the square mounting frame, and it worked like a charm! Now the faceplates are very easily removed, and the switches look 100% realistic! So basically, to mount a toggle switch behind the MCP, I just drilled a mounting hole of the necessary size on the mounting frame exactly behind the opening on the face, and this provided INCREDIBLY realistic results. BIG CAUTION though... for some of the hardware, the room for error is less than half a millimeter, which means your markings MUST be EXACT, and you may need to use a drill press to insure that your hole is completely vertical. Even if your hole is properly aligned, if it is slightly crooked, the switch may still not fit.
I will probably have to adjust the width of the mounting frame so that there is space for mounting screws and mating of the glare end pieces to the support struts. I hop to solve that problem in the next week or so.
Time worked today: 3 hours
March 11, 2002
Traces of Silicon, Latex, and thinner are scattered around the house after a long day of refurbishing and installation. I spent this morning thoroughly cleaning each of my recevier volume control rotaries from the audio control panel. It's amazing how much dirt can build up around a switch after 17 years <g>. It was funny realizing that the switches I was cleaning were older than I myself.. lol!
The procedure I used to clean each switch was as follows:
- Apply paint thinner to an old toothbrush and scrub exposed areas thoroughly.
- Clean the toothbrush then apply rubbing alcohol to remove the thinner from the switches (you don't want to ingest that stuff accidentally <g>)
- Clean the toothbrush again and apply water to remove the alcohol from the switches
- Dry with a tissue or other absorbant cloth (you don't want the chassis to retain moisture and oxidize)
After taking a small break, I received a most exciting package from Mouser Electronics containing some components that I recently ordered. Amongst them were 35 Miyamas, which I needed to complete my center pedestal. I used household silicon epoxy "caulk" to attatch the switches to their respective panels. Caulk is good because it dries clear (if you get the clear kind) and it is fairly easy to remove. I tried using it to attatch a Korry switch and it worked pretty well for a week or so, but because of the force it takes to depress a Korry, the epoxy eventually failed. For this reason, I will need to figure out another way to mount these Korry's throughout the aircraft.
Time worked today: 8 hours
March 10, 2002
So much for good plans. I ripped 3 plexiglass panels this evening while trying to drill through them with my drill press. I noticed one thing that each incident had in common... each panel broke after the drill bit had been moved three or four times (in an effort to get the hole centered properly). I'm not sure why this caused the panel to shatter as I pushed thrugh the back side, but it happened exactly that way on three consecutive occasions.
Time worked today: 6 hours
March 09, 2002
Today, I painted the horizontal portions of the simulator, and now this thing is REALLY starting to look like a 777!
I also cut the bases for my throttle quadrant, which had not yet been restored since the flood, as well as the struts for my main instrument panel. The instrument panel is now completely removeable using three techniques:
- Double sided tape is attatched to places where the panel touches the monitor. (Velcro works better though)
- Nails were protrodued from the rear of the EICAS stand so that the instrument panel simply "sits" in place over the screws
- A single piece of wood was cut 5" x 5" with a piece of double sided tape attatched to the top to support the edges of the panel without allowing it to slip.
I will upload photos of all of this, including the paint codes, as soon as I get a chance. In the meantime, I will be mounting my new christmas lights in my sim. I found some green christmas lights on eBay which make FANTASTIC backlighting! I don't like working with 120 volt devices, but I will figure something out to make these work safely.
While shopping recently, I also found a keyboard which has a built in two port USB HUB, so at least for now, my entire center pedestal is functional using only a single USB cable. Even the LEDs on the center pedestal are powered through the cable (using Go Flight's GF-T8/P8 units).
Oh, I almost forgot... I also painted a couple of Dzus and screws today to see how well the paint holds. The Dzus looked fantastic after being dipped in paint and allowed to dry. However, the sheet metal screws didn't seem to hold the paint too well. The screws did blend in better with the panel after being painted though since they were no longer shiney silver.
Time worked today: 10 hours
March 2, 2002
Now that I have my new backlit panels, it was necessary to convert my center pedestal mounting frame to work with my new hardware. This process proved very tedious since each screw hole had to be properly aligned such that each panel sat parallel to each other with the proper distance seperation. Hex screws were used since they resemble Dzus, especially when painted.
Time worked today: 8 hours
February 25-27, 2002
After years of putting it off, I finally painted my first pedestal. After three days of priming, painting, and waiting to dry, the lower EICAS stand is now completely painted. The results came out quite well after about two or three paint coats. It's amazing how much extra coats of paint can do for results. After the first coat (after priming), the paint looked uneven and had brush stripes across it. However, after the second coat, everything looked completely uniform and the brush stripes were virtually invisble.
Time worked today: 6 hours
Wednesday, February 21, 2002
I've spent the last two days drawing up plans for the electrical cabinet in my sim. It will contain electrical buses for four different voltages that will be frequent throughout the entire simulator: 3vdc, 5vdc, 12vdc, and 115vAC. Any components in the sim that requires any other voltages will feed off the next highest power supply and use resistors to properly lower the voltage. There is an SCR wired into the head of each of the buses that will connect to a GF-T8 unit and await instructions from MSFS. When the battery is turned on in MSFS, this will allow power to flow to each of the components in the simulator. Conversely, if there is an electrical fault in MSFS (via an IOS or general system failure), all the indicators and LEDs in the sim will shut off. However, there will most likely be a bypass switch that will allow power in the sim to be established without the need of starting up MSFS. Each bus is also wired to a fuse that will blow out if current gets too high. That will be my sign that too much current is going through the bus and maybe that another bus is needed.
It also looks like it may be necessary to have the power company feed another power line to our house. Whenever I start up the entire simulator, I have to turn just about everything else in the house off or the circuit breaker for that side of the house will trip!! I guess running 5 computers simultaneously would strain a power source! It is important to remember too that even if you have four power outlets in a single room, chances are that they are all connected to the same power supply, so cramming surge protectors into all of them doesn't prevent high current!
Time worked today: 4 hours
Saturday, February 16, 2002
I just received a second Audio Control Panel from the 757, and spent today preparing it for use. It didn't take nearly as long to prepare this one since I now knew what I was doing <g>, however one screw was stripped SO badly that it took nearly an hour to remove that single screw :-( After fighting it and trying different approaches to remove it, I was finally able to remove it by using a wide base Phillips screwdriver. The rest of the day was spent cleaning the removed hardware. Each rotary switch was individually rubbed down with alcohol and scrubbed with a toothbrush. After being cleaned, the switches turned from a frosted white color, to a clear glass color which looked MUCH better.
The first experiment with a USB keyboard was also conducted today. It seems there are a WHOLE lot more inputs available through the use of a USB keyboard. This particular keyboard even had a built in USB HUB!! As of now, my entire center pedestal connects to the flight simulator with only a single USB cable!
Time worked today: 5 hrs
Sunday, February 11, 2002
Now that I have received my new 777 Kit from Peter Cos, I set up my drill press and spent the entire day customizing the kit to fit actual aircraft parts. I was able to make significant progress on the Captain's Radio Management Panel and Audio Control Panel. Drilling through Acrylic plastic seems to require some concentration and finess <g>. I used Titanium drill bits and drilled VERY slowly through the panels. It seems that the larger the bit you are using, the slower you need to move.
It was also necessary to adjust the drill press to it lowest speed and even more importantly, a C-Clamp was MANDATORY. With the vibration caused by the spinning of the drill bit, it was virtually impossible to hold the panels steady without using the C-Clamp. However, that wasn't really a factor when drilling small screw holes.
I used Silicon glue (household caulk) to attatch the Miyama switches to the various mounting plates. I have been told that caulk is sturdy and fairly easy to remove if necessary. When it dries, it holds the switches perfectly! Plus certain types of that stuff dries clear and doesn't block your lighting.
Time worked today: 10 hrs
Thursday, January 10, 2002
Dismantling a 757 ACP
This refurbishing stuff can really become a tasking business <g>. I received an Audio Control Panel from a Boeing 757 today and spent the better half of the day dismantling and refurbishing it. It was in great condition with the exception of the edge-lighting which was slightly dim and off balance. The rotaries that panel uses are identical to the ones used on the 777, so I went through and removed and cleaned each switch one by one. Anyone who has "harvested" switches from an old aircraft panel knows that it can be quite tricky and time consuming to remove a single switch from a panel... try removing 17 switches!!!
The most tasking part was removing the switches from the mounting plate. The screws are quite small and require a nice amount of force to be removed. There were 2 screws for each of 17 buttons so it took quite a bit of struggling to get all 34 screws removed. Not to mention that about 10 of the screws were pretty badly stripped and almost couldn't be removed. Household rubbing alcohol was used to clean the buttons as well as the edge-lit plate itself. Everything cleaned up much better than I anticipated, so hopefully I can find more of these panels.
Monday, January 07, 2002
After receving a 3x fresnel lense from ebay (7" x 10") I used the included instructions to create a make-shift projector. Using the included directions, I was able to make a 6' wide image out of my 17" monitor. The clarity wasn't very good, but that will be tweaked over the next few weeks. Brightness was exceptable with the unit at night, but the system became useless during the day time.
I also received 2 panels from a 747 as well as a transponder panel from an L-1011. I purchased each of these panels because they contained hardware (switches, knobs, etc.) that I really need for my 777 simulator. It took some serious elbow grease to free the knobs from the panels, while the switches were much easier to remove. Unfortunately, 2 edge-lit panels had to be destroyed in order to harvest the contained switches, but they were from early models for which no one could probably use. I will spend tomorrow decoding the sequence for the concentric rotaries that I obtained. The knobs will need to be stripped an repainted, but that's minor.
Time worked today: 5 hrs
Sunday, January 06, 2002
With the captain's monitor supports in place, it was now necessary to do the same for the first officer's side. On yesterday, I cut the captain's monitor stand 1" too high, so I also had to dismantle and recut that. With both monitor stands level and in place, I now had to re-wire my entire room to compensate for all the new hardware. Although a "wire mess" looks cool <g>, it can be a pain when you are constantly moving components around. Man... that's over 20 hours of work in 2 days!!
Time worked today: 9 hrs
Saturday, January 05, 2002
Today I made a lot of progress on my sim. For that reason, I will break today's events down into sections:
Morning (10:00am - 2:00 pm):This morning I worked out some issues with the electrical system. I am VERY glad to say that my Korry switches are now functioning perfectly with the Go Flight GF-T8 boards. I also got the Miyama pushbuttons to work with the GF-P8! After testing everything with my new multimeter, I realized that many documented voltages are actually different when you check the circuit (for various reasons). Even my brand new 5 vdc power supply is actually putting out 5.12 vdc. Not sure how dangerous that is, but I will most likely add a resistor to prevent premateur burn-out (If that proves necessary). (Note: I later found that this excess voltage was caused by checking the output under no load. With a load added, more realistic values were seen.)
Afternoon (6:30pm - 8:00pm): This afternoon, I went to Radio Shack and Home Depot to purchase various materials for both the physical and electronic systems within the aircraft. I purchased wood, power adaptors, and some other basic materials. Now that my lightplate collection is slowly growing, I had to purchase hardware to make those work. Today was the first day I actually lit one up!!!! WHEW!!! Talk about an experience! They are so amazing to see in a dark room since they emit little or no light from the rear. Therefore, they just glow :)
Night-Next Morning (8:00pm - 4:45 am): I made some last minute changes to my working drawings for my instrument panels. Once I was satisfied with the shape and dimensions, I proceeded to cut the bases for the left side of the sim. Unlike most other sims, mine is cut in small weight-bearing sections, which increases transportability. The vertical struts themselves were tapered and the monitor bases layed flat on the struts, which are in two layers. This works really well, and makes the co-pilot's section completely removeable. I will definitely post diagrams once I get a chance. By around 5:00am the next morning, it was time to take a break :-)
Time worked today: 14hrs 15min
Tuesday, January 3, 2002
Over the past few months, I have been able to obtain a reasonable number of parts from actual airliners. Though some parts were from different airplanes, the switches and knobs were identical (or reasonably similar) to those used in the 777. I have been studying the Korry Chromalux pushbuttons and am now proficient with basic refurbishing. It looks like almost every pushbutton in my sim will now be Korry!!! Also, I have all the dual concentric rotaries in the arcraft and I need only learn how to read from a mechanically encoded rotary. It was important that I inventory everything because it's easy to forget what kind of switches and knobs you have <g>. That alone took the better part of the night.
First days of post-flood reconstruction
6 months after the devestating flood, I have finally begun reconstruction. Construction is SOOOOO much easier this time around. The sim looks 100 times better this time, and it only took 2 days to get back to the point that initially took a few months. Once the new panels are received from Peter Cos, and some painting is done, the realism should be quite impressive. I purchased a table saw, drill press, jigsaw, cordless drill and various other tools, and have been able to make significant progress in only a few days. Here's the break down on what was accomplished:
Construction: The center pedestal and Lower EICAS stand have both been re-cut. This time, every cut and every screw was planned on paper before cutting any wood. This made a huge difference in the finished product, and the bases look MUCH better this time. Operable floor lights have been installed, and this time, the Center pedestal is elevated just like in the real aircraft.
Hardware: A 1.5 GHz Sony Vaio was purchased along with a 15" KDS flat screen LCD monitor. The Vaio is absolutely fantastic and came at a very reasonable cost. After tinkering with the LCD on-screen monitor options, the monitor was able to produce a very crisp display as well.
Electronics: Experimentation with the Go Flight GF-T8 and GF-P8 boards was undergone. Both experiments were a complete success, and those units will be used to handle all toggle inputs and LED outputs throughout the aircraft. These experiments should lead to public availability in the near future. Miyama switches were purchased from Mouser this month as well, so the Go Flight boards have been tested with those as well.
Software: Pro MFD has been tested with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, and it actually works much better. A few memory addresses have changed, but there is SO much more available to programmers via FS2K2. Also my computer network is now operational which includes systems running Windows 98, Windows ME, AND Windows XP.. *whew* talk about issues.
Information: I ordered a 777 poster and a 1:200 scale model of a 777 as references and collectables to accent the simulator! I am very happy with both of them and they are now my reminders of where I am trying to get :-).
Saturday, July 7, 2001
Destruction of the 777 Project
Around 90% of the project was destroyed in a flash flood on this date. Click the picture below to see details.
This month, I have just about completed my instrument panel with all avionics now operational (except the stand by instruments. Careful planning was put not only into creating the bases to the proper scale, but also to make this whole thing transportable. With the finished product, the instrument panel and all applicable bases can be easily dissassembled and placed flat in the trunk of a small sedan, or pretty much the back seat of any car. 3/4" pine plywood was used for the bases since it supports quite a bit of weight. I will try to create a base diagram for my entire simulator to show how all my bases are constructed.
Installation of the MCP has also been an issue this month. The measured protrusion dimension for the MCP was 16" from the instrument panel, but when installed in the simulator, it looked way too big. Visual techniques will be used to approximate a reasonable size for this panel.
The hardware setup has changed due to the purchase of two more computers, including a dedicated computer for the F/O's PFD and ND. A laptop is currently being used for the Captain's OFD/ND, and a new 1GHz computer is being used to run FS2000.
Also, quadraphonic speakers were added, along with a small subwoofer. The sim is A LOT better with the surround sound, and ESPECIALLY with the subwoofer. You can hear every engine adjustment, and the sound of the engines is emensely better since the heart of the engine noise is in the low frequency rumble.
I have just received my kit from Peter Cos and have moved into full force construction of the entire aircraft. The center pedestal is nearing completion and now the only items remaining are painting and switches.
Sunday, January 28, 2001
With the array of new dimensions that I was able to obtain on yesterday, I made some updates to my Forward Center Pedestal. With the installation of the MFD frame and Display Control Panel, the sim actually looks a LOT better. There was a problem with the installation of screws and one of the buttons though, because of the thickness of the monitor. Some of the items on the Display Control Panel did not have space to be inserted, so I will have to find a way to compensate for the thickness of the display monitor.
Saturday, January 27, 2001
Thanks once again to the wonderful folks at Continental Airlines, I was able to board the 777. This time was special though since the aircraft was in the hangar and was undergoing daily maintanence. While they were checking EVERY function of the aircraft, I was watching and measuring! The one I was on is one of 12 777s that currently include a full-featured maintanence computer with hard drive and floppy drive.
Thursday, January 11, 2001
I have now added rails to my center pedestal. I didn't have measurements for them, but the end result looks very similar to the real one. Considering that the overall margin of error for the entire center pedestal was only 1/4" using visual measuring, I am certain the difference will be very small.
Tuesday, January 9, 2001
With my forward center pedestal cut, I was able to place my lower EICAS display. Luckily, one of my clients had given me a laptop with the left monitor support broken. I simply broke the other side and constructed a new wooden case for it so that the angle of the screen would be great enough to sit flush with the panel face.
The only problem was with the monitor overlapping the ports. It may be necessary to either place the laptop at a smaller angle, or remove the ports and attatch them to the back of the new encasement.
With the help of Mr. Brady Davis (master carpenter) of my old high school, I was able to complete the bases for the Forward Center Pedestal and throttle quadrant. Because the angles I needed cut were too large to be cut with a mitering saw, a band saw was used to make the desired cuts. Afterwards, a mechanical sander was used to smooth out the rough edges. I used #12 3/2" wood screws to attatch the bases and #8 3/2" screws to attatch the flaps of the throttle quadrant. On a whim, I decided to have my forward center pedestal cut today. After asking for a $400 table saw for Christmas, my mom laughed and said, why not have the hardware store cut it for you. Ahhh! What an ingenious idea indeed :) After giving one of the Home Depot employees the printed dimensions, and about 5 minutes of whistling Christmas tunes, the framework for my forward center pedestal was virtually complete. Within the next few days, I will get the angles and the openings cut in the face.
I disasembled a 14" monitor to see how it would fit inside the Forward Center Pedestal and ran into a fitting problem. It turns out that it was just as difficult to fit the monitor in the necessary space without the case as it was with the case. This is because the cathode extends the full distance of the case and prevents the proper angle from being produced. It will be necessary to trim the back of the Forward Center Pedestal so that a monitor will fit.
Sunday, December 17, 2000
There was one potential problem though, what size should the wood be cut to? If I cut every piece to exact measurements, the thickness of the wood itself would cause the sim to be slightly large, but undercuts or unproperly compensated cuts could prove undesireable for part mating. For now, every piece is cut to size and will be trimmed later if necessary.
Sunday, August 13, 2000
Flying a Class D simulator
Continental Airlines was extremely gracious to let me fly their 777 simulator today!!! Click the photo below for details:
I finally decided to cut one of my panels out of Plexiglass today. Though I cheated by having the overall panel cut with a table saw, it still took over 2 hours to cut the square holes alone. Practice was indeed the key to getting this panels properly completed. I ripped apart my share of scrap plexi, trying to gain the skills to cut the real one, and it worked out for the best. The panel doesn't look like much once it's finished, so I won't know if I really want to take this route until I engrave and paint it.
Tuesday, August 6, 2000
I found a new tool today that may be of some help though. It is called a Mortising bit. Aparently, this tool cuts square holes! I will definitely try to get one of those since square holes can be VERY time consuming to cut otherwise.
Though term papers are due tomorrow, and I've been fighting for time, I've still wedged in a nice little programming break. On today, I was able to virtually finish the first checklist module! It works great and runs almost flawlessly. All information, with the exception of the menu buttons, is dynamic, which allows pilots to freely create and edit checklists in a notepad environment without a need for any software re-compilations.
Monday, March 27, 2000
On Friday, March 25, I got the chance to represent The 777 Project at it's first national competition, which was hosted by NSBE. It was the first project to ever be presented in this new area of competition, and it was placed against other projects from around america. It came in first with an extra incentive. An individual from the Boeing Corporation informed me that I may be able to sign a "Signature Disclosure" agreement which means that I would probably have the same access to information as the 777 pilots if not more. The only thing is, I would not be able to share this information with anyone unless I can get a clause placed in there somehow allowing me to share some level of this information (though I may have to intentionally errorize some of the info they give me to remain compliant with the contract
Friday, March 17, 2000
CDU! That was the keyword today. After much anxiety and doubt, I decided to construct my center Control Display Unit (CDU) today. After finding and dissassemling a 4" x 3" viewable TV that I forgot we had, I consructed a wooden case for it using 1/4" hardwood which allowed the screen to protrodue throught the top of the case.
I learned quickly that it was necessary to take pictures of the inside because everytime I moved the unit, a wire fell off somewhere. Since wood is an insulator, I was able to set the TV board directly on the wood without having to build stand-offs so this saved a lot of time.
I also re-built my electronic brain (keyboard card) after the unfortunate accident which occured on the 12th of this month. The new keyboard card worked great and with the aid of a desoldering iron that good friend Warren Hough purchased for the project, it only took about 10 minutes to remove all the ports from the new card and remove the extension wires from the old card. This time, I will be extra careful by immediately building a case for the card as to prevent another shortage.
CDU display installed
By pure accident, I realized today that I've had a perfect CDU screen laying around the house for years. It is a 4" viewable black and white television that runs off 12 volts of power. The plan is to install a video card into one of my computers that has RCA output capability, which I'll connect to a TV signal transmitter. The TV will be tuned to channel 4 or 5 and will then receive the signal as if connected to the computer. This process may cost nearly $100, but I'm trying to figure a way to drop below this figure. Ironically, I just sold my Voodoo card to a friend at an electronic store, so I'll have to find another one.
The disection of the monitor itself went very well and a mounting bracket is currently in the works. I've been using Simply 3D to digitize the CDU to determine what switches will fit, but so far, all the switches have been too large. Luckily the great people from Advanced Graphic Technologies wrote to me yesterday and pointed out to me an expansion in available parts, along with a huge drop in prices. I may contract them to create my CDU, since they can mount all switches and make beautiful backlighting. Depending on how much they charge, I may just have them cut all my panels since their work is so spectacular!
Pro MFD is born
Today, I was able to create the first of what I hope to be many software screens which will supply more of the 20+ screens that are available to pilots in the real 777. Even if you combine MSFS and Enrico Schiratti's great external software based instrument series, only about 7 of the almost 30, 777 screens are available to sim pilots. Pending permission from the proper agencies, I will make many of these screens available to everyone via my web site.
Saturday March 11, 2000
I got a chance to present this project at a science competition today at our District wide fair. During this time, a fatal occurence took place. Somehow, my keyboard card made contact with either the ground or the computer chassis, and it shorted out. This means of course that my entire electrical system was instantly blown. Situationally, it wasn't too bad since there was so much more to explain, but I now have to replace the keyboard card in hopes that the signal definitions are the same.
Somehow, the short affected my computer by somehow causing it to redetect all the components in the system. It didn't change anything or mess anything up, but it was strange that something like that could actually happen because of a signal from the keyboard port. A plexiglass or wooden case will be built immediately to house the new card and prevent this from happening again.
I spent today correcting one more error in the simulator. Somehow, while I was working with a carpenter to get my center pedestal attached, an accidental miscut caused my base to be an inch too short. In order to correct this problem, I used a circular saw, and another piece of 3/4" wood. I cut the piece to be 1" thick and the same height as the rest of the pedestal. Then, I split the pedestal directly through the center of the back portion and connected the newly cut piece to that location using wood glue. Once the glue was dry, my panel had just the right dimensions and the panel face fit almost perfectly.
Since their are now two splits down the back of my panel, I will correct this problem by placing a piece of 1/4" wood over the back of the panel. Once this patch is properly chamfered, stained and painted, you won't be able to tell that there was an error at all.
I spent today recutting the center pedestal frame due to an unpredicted error. I was initially using 1/4" wood to cut my instrument panel frames, but it turned out to be highly inadequate due to stress loads. Using 1/4" inch wood, the panel would have broken if I lifted it up by the edges. This time I used 1/2" Plywood, which worked very well. The panel does not flex at all now even with all child panels mounted. 1/4" wood has continuously proven to be adequate and almost necessary for the child panels such as the Radio Tuning Panel and Audio Panel. Because of this, no child panels had to be re-cut.
The old panel was used as a template for the new panel, so making the markings was no problem. The entire process of re-cutting the frame and re-connecting all panels took approximately 1.5 hours so the entire ordeal wasn't very time consuming, but it was a VERY necessary step in construction.
I have also just obtained a digital camera which may be a semi-permanent addition to my collection, so I will be able to update pictures more often now. As soon as I get the camera software, I will be updating the Bill of Materials, along with a new section called Display System.
Contrary to other days, today was actually counter-productive. I made a mistake because of an assumption, and I felt that it was very necessary to mention here what happened.
For those of you who are planning to use fluorescent backlighting with splitters and adapters, BE CERTAIN to correctly line up the correct poles. Fluorescent bulbs seem to be VERY sensitive to reverse voltage and will blow out instantly if wired backwards. If your plug has a built in "K" type or similar lead, you have nothing to worry about, but if you are adding these adapters manually, be sure to align the proper poles together. Or else, you'll be out of $10 like me.
Backlight testing went better than anticipated today! After searching and searching for a way to make the sim "night-friendly" I accidentally found two great new aspects.
1. I have seen a couple of people use dummy panels in there sims by printing out images and placing lights behind them, and although they looked great, they left something to be desired. I found the secret to backlighting dummy instruments is to use a fluorescent light in the back and plexiglass in the front. When fluorescent light hits the back of typing paper, it causes it to look like a real CRT and still looks great for simulating LCD instruments such as the rudder trim indicator. The glass gives the instrument a realistic reflection and almost nullifies the "paper" apperance of the instrument, especially if the instrument was laser printed.
2. The square-white pushbuttons that were used for most of the center pedestal are hollow and allow light to shine through and softly illuminate the semi-translucent button-face. This means that a light, preffereably fluorescent, can be used to illuminate these buttons. I will place a photo on my site real soon of my night lit panel so that these new procedures can be seen in action.
I was able to complete my rudder trim indicator panel, and I must say that it is undoubtedly my favorite panel to date. I sat in awe looking at it while it was illuminated by the fluorescent light stick. The plexiglass and multi-layering really added a nice effect to the panel. Even though it is the only panel which uses multi-layering in my sim, it doesn't look strange as would be expected. I have created an image for use as a realistic rudder trim indicator for those who would like it. Just check the Rudder Trim Indicator page in the dimensions area.
As of today, I finally have an operable panel. I was able to activate almost every switch on the center pedestal succcessfully with the exception of those which are insignificant to the simulator itself (such as the Passenger Address button, and HF selector). I was very happy to see the nav IDENT selector kick right in as well which allows the user to select which stations they would like to ident. The switch uses a three pole, one wafer rotary switch, 3 SCRs (Silicon Controlled Rectifiers) and a pushbutton.
I was also happy that there was no problem with voltage drop. I expected this problem may occur with the aileron trim switches since the wires have such a far distance to travel to the card, but they worked like a charm. I did however have a small problem with position 3 on the nav ident selector. Two positions on the rotary were giving me the same signal, but after elimination, I determined that it was simply a crossed wire somewhere.
MAJOR! I was able to eliminate the need for multiple keypresses by switching important functions that use multiple keypresses, with insignificant functions that use single keypresses. Some of the functions I switched are "Land Me," "Save Flight," and all the numbers 3-9 and 0. This gave me enough signals to wire up every switch on the center pedestal without needing ANY multiple signals.
I also made a chart of every button on the keyboard, and it's corresponding signal on the keyboard. This made things a LOT faster since I didn't have to stop what I was doing to determine signals. I did the same thing for he center pedestal and ended up with a VERY helpful reference chart that looked like this:
Pin Function Key Keyboard Signal
Pin 1 - VHF select - c - 7s, 5l
Pin 2 - ADF select - a - 6s, 3l
Pin 3 - increment - = - 3s, 9l
Pin: The position on the 25 pin connector. The connector is just a passthrough which allows each panel to be instantly disconnected from the sim
Function: The function which the button will control
Key: The letter on the keyboard that controls the function
Keyboard Signal: The signal needed to create the letter needed in shorthand. s = short slot, l = long slot.
I spent this afternoon working on digital panels and web updates.
I just got word that I may be allowed to tour a 777 in maintenance, which would be FANTASTIC!!! There may be no time restriction, I may be allowed to mess with stuff, and who knows... they may have some spare parts laying around! I am waiting anxiously for word on this event and this time I will be certain to have a tape measure. Just a reminder, if you ever get the chance to tour and measure a 777 Don't try to use a yard stick. It was all I had on my last 777 visit, but I was better off with absolutely nothing.
Today, I cut the remaining two Audio Control Panels for the center pedestal. On one, I made a noticeable mistake. A friend was over and I wasn't focusing on my marks, so I accidentally cut two extra button holes! It doesn't look too bad since I got the cuts straight, but now I have two extra holes in one of my ACPs. This took the better part of the day to complete so I didn't get much else done. I did however order more switches for the center pedestal, even though I have yet to receieve about 2 or 3 other orders. These panels have proven to be VERY expensive. Using mostly $2 (£1.25) swithes and wood costing mere pennies, these panels still had a cost of over $50 each. This is because it uses around 25 switches (25 * 2 = 50 + the cost of rotaries). I can't imagine the cost if more expensive switches had been used.
I also found a way to backlight the panel. I noticed that when you hold the white faced Boeing-Style buttons I use in the sim, to the light, light shines through the small hole in the bottom of the switch lightly illuminating the button face.
After a couple hours of cutting, I was able to finally finish the majority of my first Audio Control Panel. It wouldn't have taken so long, but the buttons I am using have square bases. This means I had to draw each button frame on the back of the panel then drill a pilot hole in the panel, then complete the cut using a jigsaw. The panel was comparitively heavy once finished, but the ending result was great. I found that by drawing your swith frames on the back of the panel, then cutting them out, you get a MUCH higher level of precision.
I also picked up a few knobs today which will be used on the audio control panel and trim panel. They work great and they are sized perfectly. I will try and place pictures on my site soon.
Today, I re-cut all three of my radio tuning panels. I also had to re-wire them after obtaining some new info from my recent 777 tour. I was informed that the only way to manually tune the 777 navigational radios (with the exception of the ADF), is via the FMS. All functions on the Radio Tuning Panel are simply for voice communications. I inquired about the function of the HF swiches on this panel, and apparently they are used to communicate in areas where VHF communications are otherwise unavailable. Because of this, all switches on this panel, with the exception of the AM switch, will be wired to the regular Comm Radio.
I also got a chance to work on my Trim Panel, which I am very pleased with. The only problem I ran into while trying to build it was that the momentary toggle switches I used to build it have a very wide base. Therefore, I had to widen the frame opening to allow the switches to be inserted. The 777 Trim Panel switch shields are however a very nice addition to the panel once installed.
The position and layout of the emergency evacuation panel will also be altered soon. It turns out that this panel is located on the overhead panel in the 777-200 model. Also the Transponder and weather radar panels were quite a bit different in the -200 model, so diagrams and drawings on this site will be changed accordingly.
I would also like to announce the prospective photograph section on my site. As soon as I get my 777 tour photos developed and I get the digital camera back, I will try to add a lot more photos to the site. I have also completed the preliminary base for my center pedestal so I will add photos and dimensions for it as well.
First time on a real 777
I finally got a chance to tour a real 777 today. I can't say it was a let down, but it was indeed a strange feeling. Between the photos on Jerome Meriweather's site and Airliners.net, it was as if I had been in the cockpit a hundred times. Don't get me wrong though, it was absolutely fabulous, just seemed like deja vous. The nicest part was the walkway between the cabin and the flight deck. There was about a 10 foot area leading up to the flight deck which included a flight attendent station and sleeping quarters for the pilots <g>. I will post my photos here as soon as I get them developed.
I also FINALLY got OpenGL to accelerate PFD and goodness when I say it makes a difference. I found there is one major secret for getting it to work properly, the number of screen colors. I ran PFD in 32 bit, 24 bit, and 256 colors and got benchmark values around 72 (with the Voodoo 3 card installed), but once I switched to 16 bit colors, the benchmark value leaped to aroun 230! It wouldn't benchmark higher than 75 in any other color mode so if you have a graphic card and still get low benchmark values, try changing the color setting in the display control panel.
I spent today creating dimensioned cockpit drawings. I was able to complete drawings for the Audio Control Panel, Radio Tuning Panel, and Weather Radar Panel. The drawings were first done by hand using a drafting table, then I scanned them onto my computer and digitized the diagrams using Photoshop vectored text and graphics. I have projected the projected completion of my fully operational center pedestal to be within a 1.5 week period. I will spend some of that time creating and detailing diagrams. The current diagrams are simply dimensioned shells, but the detailed drawings will include buttone definitons.
After receiving some nearly perfect switches, I was able to cut out another radio tuning panel today. The momentary push buttons that I found at Radio Shack are actually very nice and they only cost $1.99 (£1.25) each. They are as close to Boeing style that you can get without spending $5.00 (£3) per switch. These switches look almost EXACTLY like those used on the Boeing 777 MCP.
I also performed tests using a TLC555 electronic timer IC today. Preliminary tests failed, but more tests will be performed in the near future. The test that was being performed was as follows:
Two signals can be created using one switch via the use of SCRs, but using SCRs alone won't allow you to control which signal is produced first. I was attempting to delay one signal for a few milliseconds after the first signal so that the order in which the signals are created can be controlled.
This could be easily remedied with a relay, but realys are very expensive. Once these tests prove positively conclusive, each dual signal switch will only cost a few dollars.
Today, as I have done for the past few days, I have been doing a massive amount of research. Throughout my indeavors, I have located a very nice innovation for use in my simulator. It is a Digit Display Controller from R & R Electronics. It allows you to control digital displays for things such as radio frequency selectors and possibly functions on the MCP. I have inquired with the question of weather it requires an EPIC card to work, but I am praying that it doesn’t need it.
Cutting my first panel base
I spent this evening wrestling with my new Circular Saw to cut the bases for my center pedestal. After practicing with the saw for about 5 minutes, I proceeded to begin cutting out the first base. I decided to use sheets of Hardwood Ply to cut my base since they are fairly light and easy to cut. I made sure to pick up an extra Plywood blade since it was recommended that it be used to cut ply.
I learned something pretty important today while using the circular saw. Spend a little extra money to get a more powerful saw. I found my self re-tightening the blade every time I got half way through a cut. The dangerous kickback phenomena was very prevelant as well considering the saw wanted to jump back at me everytime I extended a cut. Periodically give your circular saw a break too, because I found that the kickback and loosening problems were nearly non-existent after I let the saw cool down for a few hours.
I also tested a new connection interface today which was a complete success! It allows any panel in your sim to be instantly attatched to or removed from your simulator by using 25-pin D-Subminiture solder type connectors. I will try to draw up diagrams tomorrow and post them on the net.
For those of you who have been waiting for the long awaited answer to the question, "What about voltage drop?", as of today, I have nearly ruled voltage drop out as a factor. I have run signals through almost 10 feet of wire with no drop. If anyone experiences problems with voltage drop, notify me with the specifics on the type of wire used and the length of the wire.
Today, I did a little construction work, and was able to conjure up one important tip. Make sure to attatch the wires from the buttons to something removable in case you have to switch out the buttons. I made the mistake of soldering the wires directly from the keyboard card to the switches. This works fine granted you plan to rarely move your simulator. Remember that one of my goals is the build a transportable flight simulator so that you can take it with you when you buy that new mansion to celebrate! I will buy some tap-ins probably on tomorrow so that I can test their effect when used.
After all these months of research, I finally found it! A switch that looks almost identical to the Boeing style switches. It turns out that Radio Shack sales them, just not in stores - you have to order them. Though they looked almost perfect, there were two problems: 1. The switch was of type On - (On). 2. They cost $12.50 each! That is an insane price for a small momentary push button.
I also had problems finding 1/8" wood screws. Because of this, I am forced to use machine screws. It may have turned out for the best though on the center panel since there is only about a 1/32 of and inch error margin when adding screws to panels.
Though today was thanksgiving, I was still able to conduct a small yet major flight sim test. I was testing a voltage drop prevention method which would nullify the effects of electron dissapation. This interface would use SCRs and a 9v battery to shorten the gap between the two signal ports. The initial test failed, but with extra information.
Despite some beliefs, voltage drop is not quite as bad as it seems. I used semi-long wire during the test, and was able to produce direct signals with no problems. Direct signals being just one wire bridged between the two ports via a single switch. I will continue tests on tomorrow to determine the point at which voltage drop becomes a factor. I am considering just using transitors with the interface rather than the battery, so expect a report in the next day or so.
My Government teacher, Mr. Lawrence Seals, was nice enough to drop by and bring me a digital camera this morning, so now I will be able to show graphically, everything that I am doing. As of today, the web site will contain pictures on virtually everything, and I will also be creating a tutorial section today which will show anyone how to complete certain tasks such as "How to set-up a computer network," and "How to create an instrument panel."
I made a WHOLE LOT of changes to the web site today, so I didn't have much time for much else.
I am glad to say that I have finally completed the face of the center panel. I have all the panels cut and screwed down to the frame. I also went out to purchase more screws for the aircraft so I could screw the panel down. After shopping, I learned a valuable lesson. Don't just buy the screws that LOOK like they are the right size. I was kind of upset when I got home and the screws were about 1/32 of an inch too small. I was also advised by a carpenter to use wood screws. This prevents the screws from slowly rubbing loose.
Cutting my first panel face frame
Another great accomplishment was completed on my sim today. I guess it's not so great to just anyone, but it is when you've only known how to use a jig saw for about 4 days. I was able to successfully able to cut out the frame for the centre panel from a quarter inch sheet of wood. The most difficult part of this entire ordeal was the markings. The markings must have taken me hours to finish (allowing for distractions). This process would have been MUCH faster if I had a T-Square. most of my time was spent correcting directional errors and 1/16 inch mis-measurements <g>. 1/16 of an inch may not seem like much, but it will once you start placing the screws to mount your panels. The secret to a well fitted panel is the markings, so you can gauge the accuracy of your panel by the accuracy of your markings.
There is one MAJOR point that I must inform you of. That is excessive panel flapping. When using a high powered jigsaw on thin materials, the up and down motion causes the panel to flap. If this flapping becomes excessive, your panel may rip. My panel almost flapped out on my first cut, so I quickly learned to make multiple cuts to get closer and closer to the edge. Those who have a good saw horse have nothing to worry about, but for people like me who don't have all that fancy equipment, use a sturdy surface such as a table and be sure to hold both sides.
Installing the computer network
One of the first major achievements in this project was completed on today. That was the completion of the LAN network. After struggling across town during rush hour traffic on the busiest day of the week, I was able to make it to the computer store to stock up on goodies. My teacher informed me that my computer network was not working because Windows requires that each of the computers on your network have a network card, and if more than two computers are being networked, they must be connected to a hub. He was right, and once I plugged the computers into a HUB via the newly installed network cards, the network kicked in perfectly. Most people should be running Non-NT networks (Win98-Win98 or Win95-Win95 etc.) so the network should kick right in once all the components are installed and plugged in. Be advised though, from the tests I have run, it seems that Windows 95 cannot be networked with Windows 98. I could be wrong or I could have just had a bad NIC card in the Win95 machine, but I would recommend running a total Win95-Win95 or Win98 to Win98 network.
After struggling with my built in Compaq network card, I installed the new network card and the network kicked in immediately. I was very pleased with the results of running the small LAN using a 5 port 10Base-T HUB. After the network was set up, everything else was a breeze. The program WideFS is packaged with a file called "WideFS.txt" which gives very simple instructions on how to set up the two computers. The only problem I ran into was that WideFS runs off of IPX/SPX connections, so I had to simply add an IPX protocol to my system via Network preferences and it worked like a charm. Once WideFS said waiting for connection, I started up FS98 on the host computer and PFD on the client and it activated like a dream (I think this is the point where everyone celebrates!) I was also excited when I realized that I now have a LAN network in my room! Details are laid out in the construction area.
There was one major thing that I learned while shopping today. I have never set up a network from scratch before so those in the same situation be ware. There are about 3 different types of RJ-45 (network) cables, which all look almost identical. BE CERTAIN to buy the RJ-45s that say "Networking Cable". They are a couple of dollars more expensive, but the cheaper cables are almost totally different and probably will not work on your network.
Because of this recent unexpected achievment, the project is now way ahead of schedule and I will probably try to complete the Forward Instrument panel sometimes next week.
I also got a chance to experiment with some new button types. I am trying to invent a momentary push button that is slender and effective, so I have been disecting other switches to get some ideas. The resultant switch will be on this web site once it is complete.
The Simulator Control Panel came along quite a ways today. I was able to compile complete dimensions for the entire panel. I decided that I would design each and every panel individually on paper before cutting out the actual panel, to make sure that no spacing or dimensionsal errors are made.
One problem that I ran into during the design of this panel, was the size of the buttons. Since my simulator is almost totally based on the use of homemade buttons, size is a large concern. The width of my current buttons is too great, therefore, I will have to engineer a thinner button.
Today, I began the sizing and mechanics of the simulator control panel. This panel allows you to control the "Simulator -Only" functions such as Pausing, Slewing, and Sim Rate. Boeing has been nice enough to leave us a nice blank panel on the 777 Center Pedestal which provides a perfect location for this addition.
Later in the evening, I also received a box of lever switches and silicon controlled rectifiers so I will begin testing my theory for generating mutliple signals with any type of button. Once I am able to refine this technique, you will be able to generate multiple signals with any type of switch you want. I will also be altering the Keyboard Emulation section to reflect the new technique that I created to eliminate voltage drop.
I may be able to get my hads on a digital camera on tomorrow so that I can proceed to take pictures for the web site. Not even I like text-only pages:-)
777 Project Web Site Launched
On today, a web site was created to hold all information on my project. It will hold absolutely all information about my simulator so that others don't have to do any guess work.
All extension wires have been placed on the keyboad card as well. It proved to be fairly simple, but timely since ABSOLUTELY NO solder or wires can touch more than one pin. I used a desoldering gun to remove the old solder "blobs" from the card which proved INFINITELY easier, using a soldering iron with a built in vaccum bulb. I tried to desolder with a seperate soldering gun/desoldering vaccum combination, but I did nothing more than scar the board.
I was able to purchase a Jigsaw for the project today along with a 4x4 sheet of 1/4 inch wood. I've never used a jigsaw before so I just cut out some custom buttons as practice and for structural testing. I see that a saw horse would not be a bad investment for this company.
Today, Warren Hough assisted me with some software issues. In order to build this simulator, we need PFD (Professional Flight Displays) to work at an acceptable frame rate. Using an S3 Video card that I borrowed from my engineering teacher, Mr. Austin Hayward, we were able to get benchmark values of up to 66 where as this value dropped with my S3 card. I am still very upset that my compaq rejected this Voodoo 3 card. Guess I'll have to hold out for another compatible card.
We attempted to create a Win98 to Win98 network, but were unsuccessful.
We then left for Radio Shack to pick up a few electronic parts for the sim. Although they only had 2 lever switches and 3 Silicon controlled rectifiers in the store, we were able to place an order for more. We did however pick up an invaluable tool while there. It was a desoldering iron. I had previously tried to remove the signal ports from the keyboard, but was unsuccessful until we purchased this tool.
Today, it was also determined that an SCR (Silicon Controlled Rectifier) interface would be used in order to prevent voltage drop. This means though that external power will have to be used to activate the SCRs.
By the end of the evening, we had basically set up the keyboard card and installed both PFD and WideFS components on both computers.
After a year of research, today was the first official day of construction on my flight simulator. I completed a full scale paper drawing of a 777 center panel on monday, on paper, and I just transferred it to a sheet of stratocore. This will be the basic template for the face of my center panel. I am glad that I created the paper template first, because I made quite a few mistakes initially.
The portion of the center panel that I am currently building is the panel face. Stratocore is being used for the framework. I was also able to find some thin keyboard screws which allowed me to test mount two child panels on the parent panel.
I also searched the net for photos of the 777 cockpit today. I found some fantastic photos at Airliners.net which will be of great use in the cosmetic arena of construction. I also found a great night shot there which will help me place the lighting.
Prior to today, I have compiled a report on keyboard emulation, on Flightsim.com, which will be used as the primary electronic system within my simulator.
Friday, January 5, 2001