Now I live in the US. Most flight sim vendors are in Europe. I'm sure most of us Americans have some trepidation about buying this stuff on line, especially at the prices they're asking and with the dollar exchange rate as it is. I think you can learn a lot about a vendor's commitment to their customers by checking out their support forums and by reading other enthusiast's accounts of service. My dealings with Engravity have been nothing short of 100% positive. You have no need to worry about them.
I opted for the desktop MIP, captain's side and center console. Also purchased from Engravity the CP Flight MCP (autopilot controller) and EFIS. These units are of exceptional quality, look and feel. Sorry Go Flight, but when I compared the operation of my new units with theirs, it's a quantum leap in quality, realism, and operation. It even has an electronically operated auto throttle disconnect. All tests so far have been flawless.
As for the software, yes I went with Project Magenta. So pleased I did although again not a purchase to be made lightly. So what else is out there that comes close? I did purchase some software from Ellie Avionics. It comes close to Project Magenta but has some pros and cons for you to consider:
- Similar to Project Magenta, it utilizes FSUIPC to network multiple computers together. Why is this important? FSX puts tremendous stress on your computer's processing power. If you can off load some of the demands (for example, the cockpit instrument panel display) to another computer, you can greatly increase performance of the external visuals in FSX. Ellie Avionics provides this capability - you can use a secondary computer for the primary flight display and the navigation display
- They will eventually ship (although it seems like they've been in beta forever) an EICAS display. This provides status on engines, hydraulics etc.
- Flight planning. It doesn't recognize the flight plan within FSX so you need to build your own. This requires separate software that you need to buy and I found it to be a pain. Plus there is no obvious way to share this flight plan across networked computers, unlike Project Magenta...
- Limited (really I should say no apparent) support from hardware vendors
- Did I mention their EICAS display is in Beta? I signed up for an offer they had, buy the standby gauges and get the EICAS free when available. I'm still waiting and there is no indication of when or if it will be released. Their web site says "fall 2009" but the pictures posted are from February. So with only 12 days of fall left - I'm not holding my breath
We did have a couple of little slip ups with the seat and I'll spare Nick by not sharing the details. He did though thoroughly understand my situation and kindly made it up to me by shipping some replacement parts at no charge. Thanks Nick, you are indeed a gentleman of the first order.
The seat is in good condition and came with the inertial reel shoulder harnesses and 4 point release (you can imagine that got a laugh out of the wife when I tried it on for the first time). For weeks later I obsessed about how I would attach the seat to the base of the sim. In a real 737 the seat is mounted on J-rails to move it back and to the side. I have a plan for fabricating a set (Nick couldn't provide them and thinks I'm possibly nuts for trying to make some), details of their development will appear in a future post.
How obsessed on the J-rails? I can't find drawings or dimensions for them anywhere. A friend of mine's brother flies for Southwest. I left a rambling voicemail on the poor captain's cell phone, asking if he could take a tape measure to the cockpit seat and rails. He did leave a message for me - I'm just too embarrassed to call back...
Finally, I need a base for the MIP to stand on. It's semi finished in the workshop beneath my feet. Drawn up partly from plans I stole from our man in Belgium. Photos in due course - I've got to stop blogging and actually build something...
Next up - construction of the MIP