Cockpit: Ken (KFRG, USA) – New

Ken posted his cockpit images in April 2018.  After that, he added some new gears and the Diagma 530 GPS.  Since he found that there was no way to fix the GPS unit into the old panel, he built a new one.

Similarly, Ken attached a schematic layout of his new cockpit, which illustrates how he achieved the same self-contained cockpit system that doesn’t need of a mouse or keyboard for any inflight functions.

Builder: Ken
Location: Huntington, New York, USA
ICAO: KFRG, Farmingdale Republic Airport

Project Notes:
The pane itself is a 1/4 inch plywood, stiffened and reinforced with 1 x 2 and 1 x 3 lumber.  It is based on the Cessna Turbo Centurion 2, which, in the Carenado version, is my airplane of choice.

The various gauges and panels are arranged in a more logical and prototypical pattern, with the two annunciator panels on top, and the six pack below. Bottom row on the right has a combined VOR2/ADF gauge.

I’m using two CH yokes, Their handling and responsiveness is better than the Saitek, and the more expensive ones like the Yoko are out of my reach. Below the left hand yoke, in a more prototypical location, is the Saitek Switch Panel.

I’m contemplating replacing it with one from Desktop Aviator. In the center is my homebuilt Audio Panel, built with Cockpit PHD parts. Below that is the new Diagma GPS. Then the Saitek Multi Panel and the VRInsight Transponder.

To the left of the Transponder are controls operated through the Cockpit PHD interface. For the last eight months I have been flying the US west coast with PilotEdge. PilotEdge require a pilot to activate “Mode C” and be able to “Ident” when asked. This can be done on tabs on the PE login page, but that means minimizing the Flight Sim screen to access the PE one. Awkward and not realistic.

However, FSUIPC has commands for xpdr ident, and xpndr Mode C on. The Rotary Switch on the top controls the Mode C activation. It is a three position switch. Turning to the top “ALT” position activates Mode C. Turning it to the left to either of the other two positions, takes it out of Mode C into “Standby.” The other labels are to provide realism, but are non functional. The “Ident” button is also programed through FSUIPC. When not in PilotEdge territory I use VoxATC. That also requires the Ident button.

In the pedestal below the Transponder is the FSX Dual unit. This allows for the use of two aviation headsets. I have on Rugged headset, and one from Gulf Coast Avionics. Both retail for about US $100, and both are excellent for Flight Sim use, though I prefer the one from GCA.

Originally, next to the FSX Dual unit is the Parking Brake handle, by Desktop Aviator. Below that is the Speare Switch Panel that I won at the 2016 FlightSimCon. It controls simulator functions like calling up the FSX “Kneeboard”, adjusting eye point, etc. Below that is the Desktop Aviator Fuel Selector; important because like the Mooney, the Centurion only draws from one tank at a time, so fuel management is a constant task.

There is one change I made not showing in the first image.

However, in the new build I wanted to relocate the switch panel (the Saitek) to a more realistic location on the lower right, beneath the yoke. But in this place I found the landing gear lever to be impossible to see and very awkward to use.

I agonized for a while what path to take; did I want to replace it with both a new switch panel, and a new landing gear control? But I particularly like the heft and feel of the Saitek landing gear lever, much more than the one from Desktop Aviator.

What I opted for was to add a new switch panel from Desktop Aviator, and relocate the Saitek unit to a lower position, and move all the way to the right next to the center console. This leaves the landing gear lever in a very convenient place, and I have programmed three of the four switches on the right side of the unit for “De-ice,” “Alt-Air,” and “Standby Vac.” (I haven’t labeled them yet).

To the right of center, following the Centurion layout, are the three engine gauges:

  • Top- Amps, Oil Pressure and Temp, Cyl Head Temp, and fuel gauges
  • Middle -Manifold Pressure and Fuel Flow
  • Bottom – Tachometer (RPM)

To the right of that are the two Saitek Radio Panels. The top one is Comm 1 & 2, The bottom, Nav 1 & 2.

All of the FIPs run FSX Times Gauges.

Everything, with one frustrating exception, is controlled by appropriate switches on the instrument panel, so there is no need for mouse or keyboard in flight.

The one exception is the GPS panel.  Although there is a “GPS Power” button in FSUIPC, I could not find a way to program the “Power on/off” button on the Diagma GPS 530 to work.

What triggered the issue was a minor, but annoying degradation in performance.  However, I found that by programming the appropriate button on the Diagma unit to hide/show the panel (Panel 1 on the Centurion/Panel 3 on the Mooney) it solved the problem. There is no need to use the GPS below about 500 feet, so I leave the GPS panel “hidden” until then, then push the button to make it appear on the screen.

This works well with the default GPS in FSX.  But a way of using the power button to switch the unit on would be neat. I have the Reality XP program, and I tried it. I think it is excellent, but beyond my needs or capabilities at this point, so I uninstalled it for the time being.

All of this is powered by a Jetline Systems computer running FSX, AS16, and VoxATC 6.52. A networked computer running SPADneXt runs all the gauges, and most of the panels. This has not changed since my last system.

By the way, I use an “X-Grip” mount by Ram Mounts for my Amazon Fire Tablet. I use the table to reference airport information on Sky Vector, and VFR Maps while flying. Though a little pricey, the mount works very well, and can be customized with additional parts at a reasonable price. When rebuilding I found that my original mount was too high, and blocked some of the gauges, so I added additional parts so I could route the bracket below, rather than over the yoke. Problem solved; cost about US$30.00. Parts of this setup appear in the photos.

I should note that I borrowed an idea from Dean Carlton’s Cockpit, the use of pipe insulation for the top of the panel. I varied mine a little; I cut a strip of heavy black poster paper to make a glare shield. It protrudes 2″ over the panel. Then I edged it wit 1/2 inch foam pipe insulation. I like the effect.

In addition, I’ve installed a LED strip for the panel lighting under the glare shield.

Following is the schematic of the new cockpit and the list of equipment taken from my last cockpit post and updated.

  • 11 Saitek FIPs
    Standard “6 pack” with HSI
    Engine 1 & 2
    Tachometer (RPM)
    VOR 2 + ADF (From the default Beech Baron B58 set)
    Wet Compass
  • 1 Saitek BIP
  • 2 Saitek Radio Panels
    Com 1 & 2
    Nav 1 & 2, I use the knobs on the VOR2/ADF FIP to send the ADF frequency
  • 1 Saitek Multi Panel
  • 1 Saitek Switch Panel
    The default “Cowl Flap” switch is programmed for “Standby Vacuum”
  • 1 Saitek TPM (Throttle, Prop, Mixture unit)
    Currently only one Switch on this unit is programmed for “Alt Air”
  • 1 FSX Dual unit, with 1 “Rugged” and one “Gulf Coast Avionics” aviation Headset.   Allows normal realistic intercom communication and passenger/copilot to hear ATC.
  • 1 Desktop Aviator Parking Brake controller
  • 1 Goflight annunciator. Supplements the BIP, indicates low power, start power, fuel off, etc.
  • 1 Derek Speare Switch Panel.   (I won this as a door prize at FlightSimCon 2016).
    I use this for simulator events, eg. changing “point of view” opening/closing doors, request fuel truck, pause, etc.
  • 1 Desktop Aviator Fuel Selector (very useful since low wing aircraft, per FAA rules, only feed off one tank at a time, so switching tanks is a constant chore).
  • 1 Homebuilt (from Cockpit PHD parts) audio panel.
    This controls whether Com 1 or Com 2 is active, allows selecting to listen to both comms at once, and also the sound for Nav 1, Nav 2, ADF Idents, and the ILS Marker sounds.   All the functionality of real world and some prebuilt add-ons, except the Ident for the DME (the buttons come in sets of five, and I’d need six).
  • Diagma Garmin 530 GPS
  • 1 VRInsight Transponder unit with an added Ident Button through Cockpit PHD.   Using VoxATC need to be able to set the “Squawk” code and press “Ident” according to ATC instructions.  This Ident button is also programed with FSUIPC so it works on Pilot Edge. A three position rotary switch, also run through the Cockpit PHD board, is programed through FSUIPC to activate “Mode C” for Pilot Edge.
  • CH Yoke
    Button “1” = “Push to Talk” Other buttons control elevator and rudder trim, “Speed Brake” and “Cowl Flaps.”
  • CH Rudder pedals
  • Copilot side has another CH Yoke and Saitek Rudder Pedals., and allows for dual control.

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