Archive for December, 2005

the magic of tasmania

Wow, another lesson in exactly why I love flight simulation. I took a break from the usual blowing stuff up tonight for a scenic flight in the Hovercontrol 412 around Hobart, Tasmania. The scenery was stunning, courtesy of a free Tasmania addon from Virtual VFR. Burnz said the colours look just right.
We departed Hobart International 090 and made for the coast. We had a brilliant surprise after Burnz decided to pop down to Maria Island to check out a small dirt strip he knew of – to our surprise it was in the sim! Not only that, but there was authentic personalised scenery – the hangar even having “Maria Island” written on the roof! We stopped for a romantic picnic before heading off.
{{popup bushPilotsCharter.jpg bushPilotsCharter 800×600}}Bush Pilots Charter on Maria Island
Around to the north of the bay, we headed inland to the tablelands before turning south to overfly Hobart and look for Burnzoire’s house. We found the general area and headed up the mountain to check out the antennas. It was a top spot, offering panoramic views of Hobart.
{{popup firefox.jpg firefox 800×600}}Ranger Burnzoire checking out the fire risk
{{popup flyby.jpg flyby 800×394}}The top of Mt Wellington
As the weather closed in, we dove down the side of the mountain and made for home.
{{popup dive.jpg dive 800×600}}Diving down the mountain out of the clouds
For a bit of a change of scenery, we landed at Hobart Cambridge instead of Hobart International, which turned out to be a charismatic little strip. Here we shut down and ended the flight – 2.6 hours of top flying.
{{popup home.jpg home 800×410}}home
Sincere thanks go out to Burnz for being my guide, and to the talented scenery and aircraft designers that made this sensational flight possible. Helos – the only way to take scenic flights!
{{popup hobarttrip.jpg hobarttrip 1000×808}}Google Earth map of the whole trip

spoke too soon?

It seems that my comment last night about F4AF not supporting discrete keystrokes might be a little premature. This post on seems to indicate that I just need to load a different keystroke file and map some keys. I’ll see how I go once I’ve fixed up the wiring.

photos from the almost-birth of the gear panel

I finally finished the Plasma wiring tonight. I packed everything up, installed in in the pit, hooked up a temporary PSU to the gear panel for light/relay power, powered up my PC and ran keyboard studio to map the keys.
The first thing I found was that my switches didn’t all trigger the correct pins. This was partly due to a faulty ethernet joiner, but also because I didn’t read the Plasma manual properly – a little bit of rewiring and she’ll be apples.
However, the biggest problem was when I started mapping to F4AF – there are no discretes!!! Every switch apart from the gear is a toggle! AAAAGGGHHHHH! For the 2-position switches it’s not such a big deal – all I need to do is make sure the sim is synced with the panel. However for the 3-position switches it’s a nightmare – there is no way I can configure say the AP switches to work for more than 1 or 2 switch position changes or it will get totally out of sync. It SUCKS! Lead Pursuit – PLEASE use discrete keypresses not toggles!!!
Along with the Stopworks debacle, just one more reason to go back to FF3 or SP4. BOLLOCKS!
Tomorrow night I’ll try it out in FS2004 and see if things work out better.
The Plasma – aaaalmost wired correctly as it turned out
pp_plasma (44k image)
the mess of wiring
pp_back (37k image)
the label panel – still needs some missing letters that I ran out of
pp_front (23k image)
in and working! (well, the gear lever works)
pp_in (23k image)

the gear panel label plate

The perspex label plate for the gear panel is now cut, painted and half-labelled. I wouldn’t say it looks great up close, but I certainly learned quite a few lessons about working perspex.

  • Registration of the aluminium backplate and the perspex front plate is important. I got lucky and everything fits, though some of the holes are slightly misaligned.
  • Perspex seems to like high-speed drilling – slow speed causes bits to catch and the hole to chip.
  • Be very careful near the edge, e.g. on the gear lever slot. Perspex cracks easily across narrow sections.
  • Make sure your fingers are squeaky clean when applying Letraset and don’t for any reason a) touch the back of the Letraset sheet (the transfer side), b) touch the surface to be lettered, or c) apply pressure to the Letraset sheet anywhere other than on the letter to be transferred. Use a blunt pencil, not a ballpoint.
  • You WILL run out of important letters! Get two sheets at least.

Photos to follow soon. The wiring behind the panel is totally finished for all switches, and I’m very close to finishing the wiring to the PlasmaV2. The eject handle will probably be inoperative for a little while whilst I figure out the strange wiring in the strobe/eject cable (it needs Power Over Ethernet set up) but it shouldn’t be too long.

gear lights!

So you’ve seen this before…
gearlights-off (33k image)
… but have you seen this? HAHAHAHA! It’s alive!
gearlights-on (32k image)
Yes, my gear lights work. Not only that, but the gear and flap levers now also send gear up/down and flap up/half/full signals to the PlasmaV2 as well!
The gear lever trips two microswitches – the little black things screwed to the wood either side of the handle – one each for gear up and gear down. Gear up is simple – it simply shorts orange (Plasma gear up Signal) to orange-white (Plasma GND). The gear down microswitch is a different story though. Because the Plasma signals are very low voltage/current, I can’t use them to drive lamps, but the micro is only SPST. So instead, the micro switches the lights AND a small relay coil (in parallel) powered by a separate 12VDC supply from a PC PSU. When the relay coil is energized (i.e. gear is down) the relay NO contact is shorted to the relay COMMON contact, which shorts the blue signal wire to blue-white thus sending gear down to the Plasma. You can see the small relay (Dick Smith P8008 “sugar cube”) deadbugged to the back of the panel between the gear lever and the lights.
Now of course it’s not totally realistic as it doesn’t allow for gear failure, but that would require a phidget card and some programming which I’m not in a position to do right now. Input first, output next.
The flap switch, being one of my funky eBay on-on-on mil-spec locking toggles, was simple to wire too once I figured out the weird toggle contacts in the 3 positions. It actually required some jumpers from pin to pin to make it work on-on-on (the short black wires in the photo below) but it goes fine now.
the magic behind the m4dn355
gearlights-back (51k image)
Next: plug it into the pit and wire it to the Plasma. The RJ45′s should make it easy to connect up and remove if necessary. From there it will be a simple matter of programming Keyboard Studio and it’ll be working!
Once they’re done it will be onto the 2 3-position autopilot switches, each of which will require a relay to make the middle position work. It’s a similar idea to the gear down switch, but instead I use the NC contact for the signal, so that if the switch is in either the up or down position, the relay is powered and the NC contact is open, but if the switch is in the middle position the relay is unenergized and the NC contact shorts to Plasma GND for a centre-position signal. Easy.

the Hovercontrol 412

Burnzoire and I had a play around with the Hovercontrol Bell 412. What an awesome aircraft. Jordan Moore has really done an outstanding job – and it’s free! Burnz and I spent an hour or so flying around Missoula, Hood River and Corpus Christi Naval Air Station, where we practiced some approaches and landings on the oil rig close to shore. Great fun!
another successful delivery of stinky, sweaty roughnecks
riglanding (39k image)

gear lever – skank

Seeing as there was nobody in the VAAF up for AF last night, I did a bit of work on the gear lever. I got a bit carried away and ended up finishing it after 1am :0
You can see from the photos that I just used a normal hinged latch (about $3 from the supermarket) which I cut to shape with a hacksaw. This formed the basis of the lever. the lever is screwed with a single screw and washers on either side so that it can rotate through the movement required – the hinge allows the lever to “lock” left at the gear down position, while the spring across the hinge keeps it in the locked left position unless right pressure is applied to raise the gear.
I also epoxied a short piece of aluminium right angle to the lever to both give it thickness and provide a channel for wiring if I need it in the future. Microswitches at the up and down positions sense the position and send signals to the PlasmaV2.
The knob is a masterpiece of skank. It’s actually a doorstop – one that you screw to the wall near the floor to prevent the door opening too far and banging the handle into the wall. I’ve just replaced the one in my son’s room and I had this skanky one left over. Perfect! Cut to size and screwed to the end of the handle, it makes a perfect knob.
detail of the lever assembly, mounted in the gear plate
gearlever (39k image)
closeup of the lever and microswitches
gearlever_detail (40k image)


Another one gets the bug – poor BigTonka has been bitten by the pitbuilding blog after relentless badgering (and not a little hedgehogging) by yours truly. Of course, Tonka’s Pit Blog is a pretty weak name, but I’m sure he’ll think of something better. It’s going to be an F-16. Wave goodbye to your available credit Tonk… and welcome!

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