Ian at Built for Fun has developed a very flexible and powerful solution. He has developed the integration software, the electronics and, a suggested mechanical design. As of the end of 2016 I have a rack mount chassis fitted out with the power supply and electronics and wired out to the three DC brushless motors needed. I have completed my preliminary bench testing and will be starting on the mechanical linkages over the winter and on an interface to my motorized elevator trim wheel for use with the Auto Pilot.
There are a variety of other hardware sources I used like Vantage Plain Plastics, McMaster Carr and Amazon Small Parts. Component sources like Adafruit, Spark Fun, Mouser Electronics, Digi Key Electronics, You Do It Electronics, Newark Element 14 and Pololu. And, numerous vendors I made one time purchases from through eBay as well as dozens of individuals on eBay. If you having trouble finding a source feel free to contact me and I'll try to help if possible.
Realism Cockpit Simulations formerly known as DIY Realism produces a variety of high quality replica cockpit switches, components and, panel assemblies. In my sim at present I am using their ELT Switch replica and will be adding some of the circuit breaker replica momentary buttons to bring some hidden sim functions into the cockpit.
To maximize realism but, balance that with the flexibility to emulate multiple GA aircraft I chose a mix of hardware and software based gauges. For gauges that are standard, regardless of aircraft type, such as Vertical Speed or VORs I am using hardware based gauges. For those that vary based on aircraft type I am using software based gauges displayed on masked LCD displays or rear projection panels. For budget reasons I am phasing in the hardware gauges over time. For details on the software based gauges you can look at the Sim Innovations Air Manager app detailed on the Software page of my web site.
For the hardware based gauges I chose Flight Illusion gauges. Their gauges look and function in a very realistic way. They have a low profile that minimizes interference with the adjecent rear projected gauges. And, they have a good reputation for a quality product. I also found their integration software easy to work with.
At this time I have the Artificial Horizon, Vertical Speed Indicator and, Turn Coordinator installed. The final build out will include the Altimeter, Heading Indicator, and both VORs. The Airspeed Indicator and all engine gauges will remain software based.
Using Arduino boards I had originally written written my own code for a full avionics stack and bread boarded all the electronics. I was trying to decide how best to fabricate the permanent hardware and circuit boards when I met the owner of Jayviator at the 2014 FlightSimCon. His avionics stack was developed using the same Arduino technology as I started with and with very similar functionality. I was very impressed with his design and the quality of his fabrication so I decided to forgo my own fabrication efforts and purchase a my avionics from Jayviator.
There was just one problem. The Jayviator stack is a desktop sim solution and was not designed to fit in an actual aircraft avionics bay. The face plates where a half inch too wide and the full stack was over an inch too tall. The circuit boards were smaller but still too large to fit. So, I did the only thing that seemed reasonable at the time. I put the circuit boards through a table saw and made my own face plates! Yes, you read that correctly... My band saw and scroll were both out of commission but I had a really new laminate blade for my table saw. So, I made jig to hold and protect the circuit boards and leave only the very edge of the boards exposed and carefully tan each through the table saw to trim down it's overall height and width.
With that done I proceeded to design and 3D print my own face plates, mounting frames and, a cage that would fit in the avionics bay. The picture to the left is the final result. You can see more detailed pic's in the photo album.
Starting in late 2016 I am adding force feedback to the flight controls. Initially to the yoke for the elevator and aileron axes and following that the rudder pedals. I evaluated a number of kit and packaged force feedback solutions and found that most would work well for a desktop sim where the the system only had to generate enough force to move a single yoke. However, only one that I found could produce enough force to handle the weight of the existing Dual Yoke Y-Bar system in
the fuselage. That solution is a kit form system created by Built For Fun Simulaton out of
To interface all the basic joystick axes and button functions I chose the Leo Bodnar BU0836X 12-Bit Joystick Board Leo Bodnar makes several different USB interface cards beyond this one and future expansions of the sims functionality may require their use. At this time though, the BU0836X 12 card provides everything I need. I can handle up to 8 analog axes inputs and 32 digital button inputs.
At present I have 4 of them installed in the sim. In addition to conventional button inputs they can also be configured to accept rotary encoder inputs. I am using that feature to care for the adjustment knobs on several of my LCD of Rear Projected gauges.
There are several good choices for complex I/O in the flight sim world. Some are very specialized while others are very generic. Some require extensive programming knowledge others not so much. Another consideration is the support available for your choice of I/O
For my needs I found that the Arduino Micro Controller boards best met my needs. They have a variety of communications, analog and digital I/O. There are also an extensive set of add on shields (daughter boards) that extend the capabilities of the Arduino boards to cover just about any I/O needs you might have for a sim build. They do require at least a basic understanding of C++ programming but there is more than enough online support and code examples on the net that even someone like myself who has had very little programming experience has been able to do a great deal with them.
At present I have a mix of Arduino Uno and Mega boards, 9 in total at this point with at least two more to be added with future upgrades. Both my annunciator panels (LED and LCD), my entire avionics stack, the servo functions like Flap position indicator, wet compass, outside air temp thermometer, and auto-pilot elevator trim motorization are controlled by Arduino cards. The airspeed sensitive ventilation system, a LUA code portal and flap switch are also controlled via Arduino cards. In the not too distant future I will be using another Arduino to implement an ambient light solution in the cockpit so that the screen color will control a low level color matched overhead ambient light source in the cockpit.
Please also take the time to read up on the interface software I use with the Arduinos, Link2FS Multi on the Software page of the website.
To maximize the illusion and the immersion, one of my design criteria was to use as much actual Cessna hardware or components from manufacturers that Cessna used in their aircraft as possible for the build. The fuselage is from a 1979 Cessna 172N series Skyhawk II that was in service from 1979 until 2008. It was a trainer and came out of service after a student pilot failed at short field landing and struck a light pole off the end of the runway damaging the left wing and torquing the airframe.
In addition to the fuselage I was also able to get original yokes and y-bar, rudder pedals and linkages, elevator trim wheel, lighting and power switches, throttle quadrant, cabin heat/air controls, magneto switch, and carb heat control. I also obtained a wet compass, map light, seats and seat rails, sun visors, seat belts, and a significant number of interior trim panels.