For a while the Arrow’s Sim PC has been giving trouble, mostly when trying to start it. Last week I was flying the sim home to Wigram from Whenuapai when it crashed a couple of times en-route. That was the motivation I needed to finally fix the problem! Tonight’s mission, therefore was to get the PC working properly, and finish my flight.
As I suspected the problem to be related to the graphics card, I had a wee rummage around in my spares stash to see what options I had without having to buy something…
After a little surgery, a new card and drivers installed and the sim is running sweetly again. I finished my flight with a lovely IFR approach into Christchurch just after the fog rolled in 🙂
Expect more ‘Arrow’ adventures in the near future.
In my normal fashion I have again reversed a decision in my projects. Some time ago I was working on a Tactical Ops program, trying to make MSFS into a pseudo-military sim, which was quite clunky, and requires a PC running a bunch of apps to air it all happen. I called ‘time’ on the project when I decided to focus on DCS for my military sim needs.
Fast forward to this year, and some random internet surfing and I stumbled on an idea for using some existing tools to achieve what I wanted for my TACOPS program.
For this new version of TACOPS I needed to learn ho to work with MySQL I my VB.NET console application. So now I have a simple client app on each sim machine which takes to a Database hosted on Camalus, which is my main server connecting all my sims together. Another small application, this time on Camalus, takes the data from the MySQL database, massages it into the right format then publishes it to my web server. Al this means that anyone, anywhere can run a compatible viewer and see where my sims are. I am using the whazzup.txt format, used by VATSIM and IVAO for displaying their online clients. Viewers such as DOLOYNUM and Qutescoop are my favourites.
Last week’s Sim Work Night turned into a CAD exercise on the 3d Model of Canterbury.. so not much to show! This week is a different matter. I started the process of swapping out the flight controls in the Skyhawk a couple of weeks ago, and this week I made some serious progress!
The mechanic’s of the stick were all stripped down and cleaned, then I ripped apart an old Logitech ‘Attack 3’ joystick and salvaged the circuit boards inside it. Now I have the stick extended, and interfaced with the Logitech boards. For now I have wired only the switches I intend using, as the stick has more buttons than the Skyhawk grip anyway!
The stick shaft has been extended 100mm, which give a travel which feels about right, and now has a nice offset to make it fit in your hand nicely.
With the Throttle and Stick Rewired I tested the various axes and switches, and all worked fine! The next step in the build is to design a pedestal to support the stick at it’s right height, incorporating an enclosure for the various boards cables and connectors, then make a suitable mounting structure for the Throttle. Part of the mount will include adding a Flap switch to the structure so that it is located correctly (finally) For now the Throttle doesn’t have any buttons interfaced, that is for a later time!
COVID-19 has bitten hard, with NZ going in to lock-down tomorrow. So tonight’s Sim Work Night was pretty quiet. After spending the afternoon converting the ManCave into a temporary work office, I decided that I still needed to do something on my sim. So tonight I did some messing around with displays in the Skyhawk, and a cool tool for ‘storing’ and ‘restoring’ panel positions. This means that I can fine tune the positions of all of my undocked panels, an recall them whenever I need. This application has changed my plans for how I will “build” the virtual panel for the sim. Instead of building a single panel, with all my gauges on it, I will make individual panels for each gauge which I can then move and size to fit the panel. Then I can use these cool apps to store the positions. I also *temporarily* pointed the projector lower to align with the HUD. This is until I design and build new legs to bring the height up to where I now want it.
On tonight’s blog; I remove a joystick, I destroy a joystick, and I re-make a joystick!
The Skyhawk has been without flight controls now for quite some time, and that is a bit of a hindrance when it comes to flying. I have thrown around a couple of ideas for curing this, from re-instating the old Saitek stick, through up-cycling my Cougar HOTAS to the extreme of building a representation of the real A-4 stick mechanism. Tonight I had another good idea, which is a sort-of half-way solution; I would modify my Suncom F-15E stick and throttle. The ‘Talon’ as it’s known is a reasonable match for the Skyhawk stick, and a pretty good facsimile of the Kahu throttle, despite being a twin-lever setup. First step was to remove the Cougar, and return it to it’s former use as my joystick of choice for flying VR, then it was time to pull apart the Talon, rip out all the bits I wouldn’t need, and modify the stick base to fit into the cramped space of the ‘pit.
De-construction of the stick went well, with all the circuit boards and wiring removed and the gimbal mechanism and stick grip isolated. Next it was out time for gratuitous use of power tools to cut the base body down to size, then re-assemble the new base and try it out for size.
With the stick base in place I measured up for a mount and a shaft extension to bring the grip to the right height. Up next in the workshop of horrors was the throttle. This didn’t need any where near as much work, as it was pretty close to what I needed anyway. Once again I removed all of the existing wiring and circuit boards then test-fitted it in the sim. The throttle is pretty close to the right shape and size as the Kahu throttle needing just a couple of switches changed to make it a fairly good replica.
The final part of the nights work was to clean up the quite considerable mess I’d managed to make, and dispose of the evidence of a night of simulator carnage!
For this week’s ‘Sim Work Night’ it was time to give the Arrow a little love. She has been sitting in the corner not doing very much for a while with a non-working pilot seat stopping anyone from going for a fly. So with power tools at the ready I embarked on a quick and dirty mod to the seat base to get her flyable again.
The base I used was from one of the seats rescued from the original 767 home cockpit at work. It was built from MDF, and had re-purposed car seat rails mounted to the bottom of the structure. I simply modified the fixing points of the old base to match the mounting points on my new ex-737 passenger seat frame, then fabricated a pair of aluminium brackets to secure the two parts together. Since the base uses car seat rails, they are not designed to attach to a flat floor I then made spacers and special over-sized washers to allow the rails to be secured to the floor of the sim. During the modification process I found that the years, and use that the base has had have not been kind, so I had to add screws and glue to strengthen the structure.
Securing the seat to the floor turned out to be a much tougher job than I had expected, with the spacing and alignment of the rails being super-critical to how the seat moves. After much sweat, possibly some bad language and much much more time than it should have taken, the seat is finally in place.
With everything in place I fired up the sim for the first time in ages and went for a quick test flight around Tauranga, where I’d obviously left it last time… The good news is that the seat height is about right, the bad news is that I am now back to the drawing board on the seat base. The rails are not working effectively, and the structure is still a bit wobbly, despite my strengthening efforts… So the next night I spent sketching up ideas for a much more solid base/rail assembly which will hopefully make for a far better seat setup!