Monday, January 19, 2015

This Bird Will Fly Again...

Getting ready to complete the mechanical work on the control columns and the obvious problem slowing me down is I only have 1 control column. And it is one of my own design with a replica yoke from Routech.

Thinking of the cost of a first officer yoke, shipping from Europe and the associated metal work, I figured it would be cheaper to buy a real one. Over the Christmas break I found a beauty on eBay but was outbid ($676 for a control column and yoke? Madness). In the New Year I spotted another that looked a little tatty but good enough for my purposes. I was the only bidder and snagged the devil for $500. And here it is:
Once it is all hooked up I'll strip down the old paint and get it in the same shape as the captain's side. Before taking it all apart I set it up in the test frame I've been working on to see if the control arms will pull the weight of the column back to center. It does. Won't know for sure if it has enough umph until I get both in situ but for now I'm happy with the result.

Inspecting the column there's the obvious problem of the pivot point. Looks like the bees knees but won't work with my simple design. Take a look at the business end to see what I mean:

The "torque paddle" (if that is its name) must fit into the cross-member that connects to the captain's side. Instead of going industrial strength, I'm going to be using bevel gears and 1/4 inch steel rods. Bottom line, the green bit has to come off.

I wanted to do it in such a way that wouldn't damage or deform the control column. For this reason I couldn't simply cut it off. Instead I removed the paddle then drilled out the 8 aluminum rivets (yes 8 - they build these things to last) that holds the piece to the bottom of the column:

Even with all the rivets out I had to "persuade" the cast aluminum piece off with a hammer. Taking it all apart I was surprised to discover the vintage of the kit. Check this out - the thing is almost as old as I am:

Which means this rig probably came out of a 727 and not a 737, since the first 737 didn't fly until 1967. No matter to me. Very curious though as to the airplane it came off of, where it flew and when it stopped flying. It will get to fly again, albeit virtually...

And here is the dis-assembly complete:
The mustard looking shaft twists as you turn the yoke. I'll keep the upper assembly since it works fine. The trick will be attaching this bevel gear to the bottom of the shaft and aligning it with the cross connector to the captain's side:

Good news is the aluminum shroud that fits in the floor is in great condition. I can use it as a model for one I'll make (probably out of fiberglass) for the other side. It looks like it has the 10 degree forward tilt on it - interesting:

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back in the Workshop

Alrighty then, Christmas and New Year out of the way, back to work.

I've been rethinking the design of the control column mechanism, specifically the self centering . It's overly complicated for something that it is relatively straightforward. Taking cues from what others have done, I'm now experimenting with a simple "pull me, push you" approach.

First step was to saw off the end of the screen door closing mechanism and to put a thread on the rod:

The thread allows ease of adjustment to get the control column center just where I want it. Next I made a simple bracket out of HDPE (High-density polyethylene, the stuff quality chopping boards are made of) to anchor the other end of the closer to the frame. HDPE machines very easily on my table saw and offers up a low friction surface:

With the closer attached to the swinging arm I tested the resistance. Feels about right but I won't know until I have it loaded with the control columns, yokes etc. The idea of this design is that when the arm swings towards the closer, the rod passes through the opening in the swing arm. When it goes in the other direction, the end of the rod engages and pulls the arm back to center:
I'll make up an HDPE bracket for where the closer rod ends meets the swing arm. At this point just testing the concept. So far so good. Next I'll mount the control columns and yoke for a fuller test.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm still here, no really, I mean it this time

Time to dust off the blog. Sim news later in this post, first though check these photos out:

Taken at Cambridge airport UK, a 737 cargo plane was unloading and loading racehorses, returning from and heading back to Dublin. I was there with a buddy of mine. We had just taken off from his field in a Piper Arrow (a first for me, take off from a grass strip that is) and dropped in to Cambridge for fuel. Shortly after the 737 landed and I was able to snap these shots.

Now what makes this so remarkable is that I took these photos on December 20th. ONE YEAR AGO! 

Reason I've been so quiet, I started a new job in January 2014. Less travel but more work. A lot more work. So much so I didn't get a weekend off until March.. Plus there was the "honey do" list to complete. Remember this drawing from a prior post (as in August 2011?):
Had to complete this project before getting back to the sim. Also since the cabinets are so big they were in the way of any other progress in the workshop. Got it finished this year, a photo of the finished product for you:
And so dear reader, enough of the excuses. Back to the topic. Now where were we?

Unable to put any build time in, I have however been collecting parts. I scrapped the original LCD screens I had in the MIP and have replaced them with some brighter, LED lit units. I needed to get a second monitor for the first officer side and I wanted them both to match. Snagged a couple of these Dell 19" models:

And a couple of 10" open frame units off of eBay:

Since you can now get single video cards that can drive multiple monitors, got a new unit for the external displays:
And another for the secondary system to drive the 4 MIP displays:
Unable to test it out since a power outage in the middle of a Windows update fried the secondary system... Will need to get that fixed but what a pain Microsoft - can you write some software that will self correct in the event of an incomplete update? Looks like I'll need to do a complete OS re-install.

All parts from Engravity are sitting around gathering dust for the first officer side of the cockpit. The MIP cabinets will get a complete rebuild to accommodate all the extra gear. 

Which brings me to what I've actually built of late. A couple of years back a colleague from Germany was visiting. He took one look at the wiring mess behind the MIP and wagged a finger at me, "Germans would not be happy with such a sloppy job". Shamed to rethink my handiwork and planning ahead for a similar mess on the FO side, I came up with the following board for the MIP control card:

Why you ask? Well, I had to send the board back to CP Flight for tests (it stopped working) and un-wiring what I did have hooked up was a pain. This way if the card does fail, all of the lights and switches will be connected to the terminal blocks and not the card. Also, I don't have tiny hands nor eyes capable of reading 3 point font. The terminal blocks give me more room and an easier view of what I'm hooking up. Once the new MIP cabinets are complete, I'll rewire all of the lights and switches to this board with ribbon cable. One day Frank will be proud of me...

In bits sitting around my workshop is a partially built control column mechanism. Will get back to that in due course. And of course, the wrap around screen awaits design and build

All for now folks, wishing you a happy new year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

More anorak adventures

Worth watching the whole clip to see the anoraks at the end:

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

How to fly a real 737 with only 1 month of training

Happened upon this video today while testing out some new AV gear I was installing. From a Belgian tv show (don't worry, there are English subtitles). Follow Tom has he tries his hand at flying a real 737-800. Admit it, you've always dreamed of doing it yourself should the pilots on your flight become incapacitated

And I'll be back to my build real soon - already took delivery of the 1st officer MIP screen.

More from me in the long, dark, Californian winter months (ok, it might rain for a few days...)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rim Fire

Another off topic post for you. As you may have heard there's a huge wildfire burning in California, close to Yosemite. A friend sent me a link to this video that gives you a co-pilot's view of what it looks like from a water bomber. Fascinating. Stick with it - they make the drop then avoid traffic on the way out.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

I'm Still Here

Hard to believe that it has been more than 6 months since my last post. All work on the sim has stopped due to a higher than usual business travel load. As it happens, I was at KSFO yesterday when Asiana 214 came down. You can just make out the charred top of the plane from the photo I snagged - just to the left of the American elevator

Fire extinguished by the time I got to this vantage point. Very sad day.

More soon.