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Pablo Edronkin

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When you want install a software simulation product in your PC the task ahead is relatively simple, but doing so in a full size cockpit simulator things can be a little more difficult, so there are various factors to consider.

In this brief article we will discuss what you should take into account regarding the main software simulation core or environment, that is, the software product that will act as the basis of the simulation and coordinate an give sense to the remaining constellation of hardware and software of your sim cockpit. There are several flight simulators in the market, and some are even free but we decided to go ahead with Microsoft's Flight Simulator for various reasons and even despite the fact that as a system analyst I don't particularly like the operating system sold by the corporation from Seattle.

I have been toying with MSFS since that version (II) that worked on a Commodore 64 or an IBM PC XT and it is indeed, the most popular fligh sim software around and for which there is the largest number of addons both in terms of software as well as hardware. It is a mature product that offers reasonable quality and scalability with relatively few problems when the time comes to integrate it in a home cockpit or sim.

In the case of most users, the installation and upgrade path of any simulation software provokes much less problems than in the case of a typical cockpit like our MLF project, so there are some items that you should remember if you pan to build your own in the future:

Upgrading software within a sim cockpit environment will be usually more complicated than doing the same thing on a desktop computer due to the higher hardware requirements that usually come as part of the new version package. I the case of a desktop PC you will have - maybe - to change your video card or a joystick, but in the case of a sim cockpit you will likely have many more hardware modules to care about. FS2000 is not the same as FSX, and those who built a FS2000 cockpit certainly had or will have more problems to upgrade than the typical sim flyer. These difficulties are inversely proportional to the popularity of the main software product. So, the most popular and widespread your software is, the easier will be to upgrade it. In the case of home cockpit design you should think conservatively at this level.

In-between versions of the same software product designers may introduce significant differences that may require recompiling and reinstalling software addons and even redesign of hardware components in some cases.

Cutting-edge versions of simulation products usually carry more bugs and cause more trouble than the versions that are already established in the market and have been around for a while. So going cutting-edge may not be advisable.

Thus we opted to develop our cockpit not for the latest FS version but the one that came before, and when we started, that meant installing FS2002. However, when FSX came into the market we upgraded our software and installed FS2004 in parallel to FS2002 that we kept as a backup of sorts. This change required little work in terms of hardware except reconfiguring our panel modules (tedious, but not difficult), but the reinstallation of all software addons like FSNAV, FSUIPC and so on.

MSFS provides a simulation of reasonable quality with the lesser hassles.
MSFS provides a simulation of reasonable quality with the lesser hassles.

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