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Which Software?

Last Update: 11/JUL/2023

The Different Types of Software

 

To operate an aviation sim, it is typically necessary to have three distinct software types:

MSFS.jpg
p3d.png
XP12.png

The Simulation Environment

 

This software manages the visual aspects and basic flight mechanics of aircraft in the program. The primary software options are X-plane (XP), MSFS, and P3D, with much debate on which is best. It's important to research and choose the software that suits your needs. I've been enamoured with MSFS since its release, thanks to its stunning exterior visuals and the freedom to fly anywhere worldwide. It continues to amaze me to this day.

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The Aircraft

 

This software determines an aircraft's flight operations and cockpit system logic within the simulator. PROSIM 737/ 737MAX & A320 for MSFS/P3D is the most sophisticated version of aircraft replication, equipped with the logic of all switches and systems. It can simulate the failure of specific components, accurately replicating the results that a pilot would experience in a real aircraft. It is a highly realistic training tool at a significant expense, intended for those with substantial financial resources and a strong commitment to aviation.

I purchased Prosim in 2015 for a price ranging from 400 to 600 euros. I continue to use it today as it offers unique capabilities that no other platform can match. With features like interfacing, pop-out screens, and the ability to remove the cockpit from the simulation for a more immersive experience, Prosim is my go-to choice. Additionally, this setup increases FPS by not simulating the internal cockpit within MSFS. However, I advise against purchasing Prosim solely based on my recommendation, as the current price is around 1500 euros.  If you are interested, I suggest trying the trial version first.

If I were to start my journey now in the world of cockpit building, I wouldn't be able to afford to buy Prosim. This would rule it straight out of the equation!

There is an option that is more affordable but may have fewer features available - PMDG 737 for MSFS & P3D. For those utilizing XP, the Zibo737 is an available version of the 737.

The Interface Software

 

This software serves as a communication bridge between the external hardware components and the sim software, allowing for transferring all hardware inputs and outputs. It lets users flick switches, turn lights on, and use servos for gauges. This software also translates the hardware states back and forth to the sim. 

 

Among the many software options available, my personal favourite is Mobiflight. It is simplistic and becoming even more user-friendly while expanding

Mobiflight.jpg

its capabilities. Best of all, it is free and boasts a massive community. It is compatible with various sim platforms, including P3d, MSFS, and XP. Another option available for Xp is SimVim. 

 

Although there are many other interfacing software options available, the ones stated above are still the preferred choice for most home builders.

Additional Software to mention

One highly favoured app is Air Manager, which enables users to design personalized flight simulator panels and automatically syncs with their X-Plane, FS2020, FSX, or Prepar3D flight simulator. Another software option, FSUIPC, grants access to various internal variables not addressed by other programs like Mobiflight, serving as a mediator between the Simulator and external apps or hardware controls.

FSUIPC includes FSWIDE, a program that enables all computers on a local network to access flight simulation data. This feature distributes the workload across multiple computers and permits several graphics cards to process data for individual screens.

fsuipc7.jpeg
Air Manager.png

Which Interface Cards?

Mega_2020-Apr-25_06-24-59AM-000_Customiz

I like this particular interface card, which comes in two different sizes. The larger one, called the Arduino Mega, is perfect for use with prototype shields that are easy to find. On the other hand, the smaller version, the Arduino Mega Pro, is great when you're working in a tight space and still need all 67 pins.

 

These cards are versatile and affordable, starting at

around 6 Euros in 2015 (although now more expensive,

ranging from 12-22 euros). They allow you to connect various

components, making them ideal for beginners like me.

With 67 input/output connections or I/Os, you can use the card

until it's full, and add another one.

 

Over the years, Mobiflight has undergone significant development.

Integrating multiplexers and shift registers has enabled each device to establish hundreds of additional connections. However, based on my experience, overloading a single unit with too many devices may decrease speed and responsiveness.

 

I currently have 26 Arduinos Mega cards connected to my simulation through

various USB-powered hubs, which shows just how useful and reliable they are.

They allow for the connection of the following items:
 

  • Buttons/Switches/Rotary Switches

  • Led's/Lights

  • Relays

  • Servo's

  • LCD's

  • Stepper Motors

  • Encoders

Ardunio Mega & Mega Pro

Arduino mega Pro.jpg

My preferred way to connect with the Arduino Mega is through the KeyStudio Prototype shield. It serves as a large, singular connector and provides a sturdy platform for soldering all necessary connections. I also choose to mount my resistors on this board for added convenience.

Arduino Mega Prototype Shield

Many people may feel intimidated by the idea of having to learn the Ardunio programming language in order to use these devices. However, thanks to Mobiflight software, this is no longer necessary. The user simply inputs the details of which device is connected to which pin, and then the software takes care of the rest, interfacing with the sim and providing a list of switches and lights to choose from. It's a straightforward process that can be easily handled by anyone. That being said, if you do have programming knowledge, the Arduino can be a powerful tool for converting real aircraft components by coding and programming the microprocessor to read and write the correct signals on the ARINC Databus.

Interface Cards

These are essential to help bring the sim out of the computer and into the real world. They allow your electrical components such as switches and LED's to interface between the computer and your constructed devices.

LeoBodnar Cards

LeoBodnar Bu0836X

I have to say, the onboard terminal connectors leave much to be desired, but this interface card is definitely one of my top picks. It's exceptional when it comes to replicating joystick controls, making it perfect for analog controls such as potentiometers in control systems and throttle quadrants. In my simulator, I use it to adjust the brightness of display panels and monitors on the MIP through Prosim. If you're looking to add 32 programmable switches/buttons for added realism and 6-axis control, then this card is an excellent choice. Setting it up is a breeze - just plug it in and inform the computer of the desired action for each switch or button.

When compared to Arduino boards, these devices have some limitations. Their ability to connect with electrical gadgets is limited, and they can be quite expensive. In fact, a minimum of 4-5 devices are required for a fully immersive simulation experience, which can add up in cost.

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