Panel Modules

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Pablo Edronkin

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The panel of any aircraft is usually full of interruptors, keys, selectors, buttons and so on that actuate mechanically different shorts of circuits and systems; any design for a cockpit simulator must reproduce these in some way or another, and we chose the USB modules manufactured by GoFlight Inc for that purpose.

In any sim cockpit you have essentially three different ways to solve this issue:

Use a computer keyboard: This is the least expensive solution but also the less realistic. In fact, if you ever want to have your cockpit sim evaluated for certification, this will be a big no-no. Inspectors do not like this sort of arrangement because it doesn't reproduce faithfully the workings of a true cockpit. Maybe yours will make it to the PCATD category, but not further and nobody will be able to actually log true flight hours with it.

Use standard modules: This is what we did because we were interested in building a generic category simulator for turboprops. We didn't intend to reproduce exactly any existing panel switch by switch but functionally so a variety of aircraft could be simulated GoFlight Inc is a company that manufactures such modules. You essentially screw them into a panel structure - they sell some ready made but we built our own, given the circumstances - connect each module to an USB port and assign the function for each key suing a software application provided by the company too. It is really easy but if you use many modules like we did, you will have to use some quality time of yours to think the layout that you will use. At the left side column of this page you will find links leading to descriptive pages of each GoFlight module that we used in the MLF project.

Use independent actuators: You can essentially work on each button, key, knob and so on and connect all these to a hub board, and then, in turn, connect the I/O board to a computer. This may lead to the most realistic kind of panel provided that you place each actuator where it belongs in reality and works like the original ones, but can get messy, it is a lot of work and in the event of failure it can be complicated and cumbersome to repair. This is, however, the only viable solution for anyone willing to build an exact replica of a panel, other than purchasing one ready made.

The use of modules or a computer keyboard rarely requires of any sort of intermediate I/O card but discrete actuators do unless they can all be connected to USB ports. I/O cards can be acquired in a variety of designs, with a variable number of analog and digital input and output ports. The price, of course, varies according to the number and taking into account this and some expansion projects that we have in mid for our LV-MLF simulator we can say that the most cost-effective solution would be to purchase or create a keyboard emulation card using a disassembled PC keyboard.

A view of the panel being built with some of our GoFlight modules already in place.
A view of the panel being built with some of our GoFlight modules already in place.

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