And now with ‘Vector’ Graphics

Another evening of fiddling around with the Macchi paint, and with the help of some really useful documents I now have correct stencils for the cockpit sides.

With the paint and stencil documents in hand I can now accurately paint all the small details which will make the skin look more real. I am very pleased how it is looking so far!

Tonight, while testing the paint in DCS I played around with target marking using Mk76 practice bombs, which give off a puff of white smoke… the bombs modelled on the Macchi smoke for a long time, which I think will be quite useful for JTAC/AFAC ops online. Once the paint is published I will get some missions together to see if I can make it work. Possibly even look at modding the weapon system script to add some marking rockets to really make the Macchi into a FAC tool.

Joining on a Skyhawk after the successful target marking ‘test’ mission

Another ‘cool’ feature of the Macchi is the ‘back seat’ view. I really enjoy flying from the back, it makes me feel like I achieved my dream of being a strike instructor πŸ˜‰

Formation join on a 40 Sqn Herk

The ‘useful’ documents I referred to earlier came to me courtesy of an ex RNZAF guy who was my original contact to get me into the SKyhawk cockpit back in 2000…..

Download the Docs here:
RNZAF Macchi Paint Diagram
RNZAF Macchi Stencil Points


After a bit of fiddling around, I have made strides in converting some of my RNZAF_AI repaints to their DCS counterparts. The latest project is the MB339 Macchi. I am using the excellent MB339A model from the ‘Frecce Tricolori Virtuali’ as my ‘MB339CB’ stand-in.

14 Sqn Macchi soars over Georgia

First pass, which involved morphing the FS9 repaint onto the DCS template, is complete, and looks pretty good.

Coming along well, still need to finalise the tip tanks

Next stage is to tidy the textures up a little and finalise the tip tank and weapon textures, and finally to replace the insignia and stencils with higher resolution details.

Meanwhile, as a fill-in for my own Huey paint I found an old DCS paint, which was not compatible with the current version. I have modified it, as an interim, to work in 2.5.4

‘Temporary’ paint on the Huey
C-130 and 727 ready to depart

40 Squadron is also coming along well, with the 727 complete, and the C-130 just needing a little tidying up..

Next on the agenda is the Sioux. A new addition to the virtual fleet, and just needs a simple paint ‘modification’. Good fun to fly too πŸ˜‰

Bell 47G, or ‘Sioux’ in military service, in ‘UN’ colours. Needs a lick of paint πŸ˜‰

Once these are completed my 1991 era RNZAF will be looking pretty healthy:
– A-4K Skyhawk (Pre Kahu)
– MB339CB Macchi
– C-130H Hercules
– Boeing 727
– UH-1H Iroquois
– Bell 47G Sioux

Exciting times in DCS are ahead! Once the paints are done I will be able to put some missions together with a pretty good representation of the RNZAF of the early 90’s.

737 Radio Interfacing

Some time ago after an in-depth discussion with an avionics guru, I started to figure out how I would interface my 737 ‘Gables’ radios, by using their OEM connectors.
Understanding the pinout, interpreting the “ARINC 410: 2 of 5 code” and converting it to a valid frequency.

While I was on holiday I spent a bit of time and buzzed out all the required signal wires and connected them to a Leo Bodnar BBI32, to see if I could get valid data off the device. The good news was that I could see data pins changing, the bad news was that without a +5V signal I was not getting reliable data. Next step is to get the +5V working, and see if I can get some stable data out!

Gables Radio, 28V PSU and a Leo Bodnar. Stage 2 of the project is a (partial) sucess!

737 Gear Lever

I’ve had the gear lever in the 737 panel for a while, but haven’t gotten around to wiring up till tonight. Part of the reason for taking so long was that the lever “ground lock” meant having to pull the override trigger every time you wanted to raise the gear; not very satisfactory. Today at work the guys pulling a cockpit apart discovered that removing the solenoid on the lever mechanism was really easy, and made the lever move freely up and down… so tonight I removed the front panel, striped out the solenoid, and secured the actuator so that it wont inadvertently move and lock the mechanism. Next, I grabbed a spare gear lever (yes it IS a disease!) and pinned out the micro-switch on the back of the lever mechanism and figured out a strategy for interfacing it.

OEM Gear Lever and Ruscool break-out board

As an easy connection between aircraft components and my IO interface I am using some old RJ45 to Screw Terminal break-out boards made by Ruscool over 10 years ago, which I am recycling from our prototype 737 at work. The gear lever switch is connected to the screw terminals on the board, then a CAT5 cable runs from the RJ45 socket of the board to a Leo Bodnar BBI32 USB Input Controller.

All 8 wires of the CAT5 cable are utilised, giving me 7 inputs and a common from each cable. The BBI32 is a great board for momentary, on/off, rotary switches and even rotary encoders. I’ve used a bunch of these over the years, both in my own projects and at work.. I absolutely love them!
This sim build will be using at least 2 of these, probably more… depending on how well my OEM Radio interfacing goes!

So far I’ve used 1 of the 32 inputs, next up I hope to interface the auto-brake panel, then move across the MIP wiring up everything, even if I don’t have a use for it at the moment… much easier to wire it now than try and add more in later!

As I mentioned earlier; we are stripping another 737 Classic cockpit at work, so I got a couple of new bits to fill in some more gaps, and even started filling the overhead πŸ™‚

Flight Deck Door Panel… needs a clean!

As well as the Flight Deck Door panel, there is a “Terrain” control panel, which will go between the CDU’s, and the Cabin Temp panel for the overhead. With any sort of luck there could be some nice overhead panels coming in the next shipment…. watch this space!

DCS Development

The more I explore DCS the more excited I am getting about integrating it into the Skyhawk sim.
I have been looking into the options for panel software for DCS, and had some good experiments with Ikarus using the F-15c as my test bed. I need to work more on exporting data from the A-4, then I can move on to building a working panel.

A little ‘hotel room experiment’ running Ikarus on a tablet, with DCS on my laptop

One of the real attractions of using DCS in the sim is how pretty it looks. As I’ve been experimenting and testing I’ve grabbed a few screenshots, and you have to admit; they do look good!

A-4, loaded for bear, heading out on another ‘development’ flight

The learning curve for DCS interfacing/moding is quite steep, but I am starting to get the hang of it. There are so many different aspects to this sim, which is of course true of FS9, it’s just that I’ve had 15 years to learn FS9!

B737-400 Sim Visit

Today I had the opportunity for a very quick visit to a Level-D certified 737-400 simulator.
This sim is getting old, but is maintained in an immaculate condition, but sadly will be decommissioned soon as the airline who owns it is moving to NG’s
The best part of the visit was that I was able to get good photographs of the next couple of items on my ‘build’ list for my 737 Simulator.

EFIS Panel – I have started making mine, but it was nice to see, and ‘touch’ a real one. I am pretty happy with my design after seeing the real thing!
Engine Displays – This is my next major project, and it was really useful to be able to see, close up and in 3D, how it was constructed.

ManCave Inspiration

During a recent visit to the Air Force Museum at Wigram, Nathan and I looked at the ‘mock’ C-130 they have as an interactive display, and talked about things which would be cool to incorporate into the upstairs part of the ManCave.

‘Dummy’ Door, and cool non-slip floor
Very simple window frame, but very effective

The interior of the C-130 was pretty simple, grey vinyl material, with suitable stencils and very basic window frames made for a really cool effect. This may be the theme for the area at the top of the stairs where the 737 passenger seat is located. The plan for the seat was to have a window with a side-view from the 737 sim…. maybe an austere ‘military’ interior will fit in well…

While we were wandering around the museum we had a wee look at the Mosquito sim. Despite it being quite simple, it looks impressive, and works well… more motivation to switch the Skyhawk to a combat sim…

Change of Sim Philosophy

After the developments in DCS over the past couple of months I have had a significant change in thinking on how I will operate my sims. Up till now I have been working on a single, standardized software install across all my sims, but with the recent DCS developments, and some recent experiences with Orbx scenery in our sims at work, I have had a major rethink on my plan.

With my recent experience in DCS I realized that work I had been doing on my ‘TACOPS’ application was basically trying to replicate what DCS has bulit in.

So. Big decision, but now my 3 main sims will be running *different* software as their primary platform:

  • The Skyhawk will be running DCS:World with the A-4 Community Mod installed as it’s primary Platform.
  • The Arrow will switch to FSX:SE with Orbx NZ:NI and NZ:SI scenery
  • The 737 will continue using FS9, with my mature scenery build.
  • The current F421/Termserver PC will switch over to running DCS:Combined Arms as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Air Controller) for the Skyhawk, while retaining FS9 and FSX to run alongside any of the other sims.

DCS:Combined Arms has been a bit of a revelation; I bought it for the JTAC role, but once I had it installed and running I discovered that I had unwittingly bought the Tank simulator which I have been looking for since the days of ‘Armored Fist’ from Novalogic.

DSC:Combined Arms

Combined Arms allows you to control ground forces in the DCS Digital world, and to assume control of individual vehicles. This means that I can free-roam around the map in a Humvee, driving wherever I like, sight-seeing or designating targets for pilots in the mission.

The tank sim I’ve been looking for…. bought ‘by accident’
The operational possibilities are almost endless…..

This new philosophy means that each sim will be working to it’s own strengths, rather than focusing on interoperability. This does mean that I wont be trying to make the Arrow or 737 be anything other than what they are, and I wont be trying to turn FS9 into a pseudo-combat sim.
The switch to DCS allows me to leverage of a true combat sim, with robust multiplayer, a complex mission scripting system, giving me the ability to build realistic missions for the Skyhawk, and with the former-F421 PC running DCS as well, the mission options are pretty wide ranging.

The Skyhawk will be running both VR and 2D, using the Community A-4 mod, and one of the DCS ‘Panel’ utilities to render a 2d panel on the lower screen in-cockpit.

An example of the A-10C Panel in Icarus

The switch to DCS will finally allow me to have systems operating which have been merely a dream before now. A good example is the RWR display, which Icarus can render on a small monitor which I can mount behind the RWR display in the main panel.

December and Distractions

Well, since the Skyhawk appeared for DCS last month almost nothing has happened in the ManCave at all, apart from many *many* VR flights in the DCS Skyhawk!
First Don (that’s Mr. Skyhawk to you) came to visit and trialed the A-4 in VR

This is what Don had to say about the experience:
“This afternoon I got to experience flying the latest A-4 flight sim in VR (virtual reality). All I can say is WOW! So real. The cockpit detail is incredible and very accurate for a pre Kahu cockpit. The outside visuals are equally amazing, as is the flight model. I flew in formation with two other Skyhawks flown by some other Christchurch flight sim guys sitting at their home computers. Isn’t technology amazing. Thanks so much Sean. I WANT ONE!”

Don totally immersed in the experience!