One of my long term projects is to build a home cockpit. Initially, it was to build a cockpit for a Piaggio Avanti, and my first module, a throttle unit, was intended to reflect this. The following pictures show the first incarnation of the throttle (one axis only with a potentiometer sellotaped to a crossbeam), some buttons, and the same throttle unit with a second axis (for the props/spoilers). The controls for the throttle and these basic buttons were connected using the OpenCockpits USBaxis module (essentially creates a USB joystick interface).

Throttle v1 Buttons v1Throttle v2

As you can see from the pictures above, the unit was cumbersome and badly built. I had connected up four axes for the throttles, but the wood axle and linkages were not efficient enough. I decided to start again, and build a smaller unit using more metal and some remote-control model linkages. This was more successful and I was able to include two throttles, a joint prop/spoiler lever, and a flap lever. I also bought an off-cut of perspex and started to make my first few panels.

Throttle v2

It wasn’t long after this that I bought the Master Card from OpenCockpits, but I had a very slow time building my other panels because I couldn’t get this card to work on my PC. Eventually, I bought the USB extender and a new MC and started to build an FMC. Whilst researching the panels it became obvious that I was going to have difficulty with the Avanti, not least because of the number of analog gauges needed. I had also been using vasFMC as my navigation and with their latest version 2 software had introduced a very sophisticated and free Flight Management Computer which was built mainly for the A320. So, I decided to change the project and go for this or an A330, both very similar in terms of the cockpit design. First on order were the panels from hispapanels:


They also sent me the MCDU by accident! This won’t be programmed in until the MDCU is finished, I need a screen for it but I have a USBkeys card for it when I’m ready.(And, yes I know the buttons are in the wrong place, I only placed them for the photo.)


So I started to construct the FCU. At the moment, the LED displays aren’t connected but I have added the button LEDs. The switches are simple pushbutton switches but the rotary encoders are proper gray type. I have a problem that my stripboard is flexing meaning the buttons in the middle are not being held forward enough to remain in place.

FCUButton problemFlexFCU

On 8th August 2009 I had a trip up to see a couple of sims in the Hull area. These provided me with a fantastic opportunity to see two very well advanced A320 home cockpit constructions. Both are very different, one by Barry Kensett having more of an infrastructure, and one by Darren Sugden being more functional. Both have Opencockpits cards and SIOC (the programming system for them, which reassures my decision to go with these cards.

Barry Kensett's FCU

August 20th 2009: Over the last week or so I have been trying to improve the FCU and have now added some backlighting and the LCD displays. As you can see, neither is perfect, I need to put more LEDs behind the panel, put in a screen to stop light leaking around the LCDs, and to secure the LCD displays to the PCB. I am still not sure how to strengthen the stripboard as it is too bendy, and I also need to rewire some of the LEDs I have removed which sit between the LCDs. Software-wise I need the displays to start acting like Airbus – so getting them to change to dashes at the right times, there are also a couple of loose connections as you can see from the VS digits, and my altitude is a foot out. I may also need to put a bigger resistor on the green LEDs as they look a bit too bright. I have however found some 45 degree rotary switches for the EFIS and am working on some “new” PCs to run the software for VasFMC.


The Instructor/Controlling Station during a flight from Bangkok to Singapore.


View my real flight log or my Vatsim flight log.