Unlocking The Mystery Of An Aircraft ADI

If you’ve ever seen the cockpit of an airplane, you’ve probably noticed the round ball that shows your attitude, and if you are like us, you’ve wondered exactly how the Attitude Direction Indicator (ADI) works. Well, [msylvain59] is tearing one apart in the video below, so you can satisfy your curiosity in less than 30 minutes.

Like most things on an airplane, it is built solidly and compactly. With the lid open, it reminded us of a tiny CRT oscilloscope, except the CRT is really the ball display. It also has gears, which is something we don’t expect to see in a scope.

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Put More Korry In Your Flight Sim Switches

Never underestimate how far some flight simulator aficionados will go with their builds. No detail is too small, and every aspect of the look and feel has to accurately reflect the real cockpit. As a case in point, check out these very realistic Korry buttons that [Santi Luib III] built for an Airbus A320 simulator.

Now, you might never have heard of a “Korry button” before, but chances are you’ve seen them, at least in photos of commercial or military aircraft cockpits. Korry is a manufacturer of switches and annunciators for the avionics industry, and the name has become shorthand for similar switches. They’ve got a very particular look and feel and are built to extremely high standards, as one hopes that anything going into a plane would be. That makes the real switches very expensive, far more so than even the most dedicated homebrew sim builder would be comfortable with.

That’s where [Santi] comes in. His replica Korry buttons are built from off-the-shelf parts like LEDs and switches mounted to custom PCBs. The PCB was designed for either momentary or latching switches, and can support multiple LEDs in different colors. The assembled PCBs snap into 3D printed enclosures with dividers to keep light from bleeding through from one legend to the other.

The lenses are laser-cut translucent acrylic painted with urethane paint before the legends are engraved with a laser. The attention to detail on the labels is impressive. [Santi]’s process, which includes multiple coats of sealers, gets them looking just right. Even the LEDs are carefully selected: blue LEDs are too bright and aren’t quite the proper shade, so [Santi] uses white LEDs that are dimmed down with a bigger resistor and a light blue photographic gel to get the tint just right.

These buttons are just beautiful, and seeing a panel full of them with the proper back-lighting must be pretty thrilling. If civil aviation isn’t your thing, check out this A-10 “Warthog” cockpit sim, and the cool switches needed to make it just right.

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Cockpit Instrument Respectfully Retasked As A Clock

How do you convert an old cockpit instrument into a clock? Easy: just build a circuit that convinces it it’s in the air, and the rest will take care of itself.

Now obviously, little about [porkfreezer]’s conversion of King KI 266 DME into a clock was actually easy; working with avionics rarely is. DME stands for “Distance Measuring Equipment,” an instrument that’s part of the radio navigation suite of many aircraft. DME measures the line-of-sight distance of a plane to a ground station by measuring the time it takes for a signal to return after the plane interrogates it. The plane-mounted equipment includes a UHF transceiver and a display for the cockpit instrument panel, which accepts an analog voltage signal from the transceiver and translates it into a readout on the nice Panaplex digital display.

Rather than gutting the thing and just driving the display directly, [porkfreezer] decided to build a circuit to generate the proper signals for the DME. The board uses a PIC16 and an MCP47C dual 10-bit digital-to-analog converter to generate the voltages needed, while a USB-powered DC-DC converter provides the ±15 volt supply the DME display expects.

Everything lives on a PCB that fits right on the back of the instrument. Sadly, the connector needed to mate up to the one on the instrument was outlandishly expensive — again, avionics — so [porkfreezer] had to solder the board directly to the DME’s pins. Otherwise, this would have been a completely reversible hack.

Still, it’s an interesting reuse of an unusual piece of gear, and one that respects the original design as much as possible. That counts as a win in our book.

Life-Sized Colonial Viper Touches Down In Australia

Don’t worry, this 8.4 meter (27 foot) Australian Viper won’t bite, but it’s likely to do a number on any Cylon Raiders that wander too close to Canberra. As recently reported by Riotact, creator [Baz Am] has been painstakingly piecing together this 1:1 scale replica of a Colonial Viper Mark II from the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series in his shed for several years now, and at this point things are really starting to come together.

On his personal site, [Baz] has been maintaining a build log for the fictional spacecraft since 2017 that covers everything from the electronics that power the cockpit displays to the surprisingly intricate woodworking that went into the lathe-turned 30 mm cannons. He’s even documented interviews he conducted with members of the show’s special effects team in his quest to get his version of the Viper to be as screen-accurate as possible.

Plywood bulkheads are mounted to an internal metal frame.

No matter how you look at this build, it’s impressive. But one thing we especially appreciated was the skill with which [Baz] manages to repurpose what would otherwise be junk. For example, the main cockpit display is actually an in-dash navigation system pulled from a car, and the engine’s turbine blades are cut out of aluminum road signs. He’s even managed to outfit the Viper with an array of real aircraft instruments by collecting broken or uncalibrated units from local pilots.

While the Viper might look like it’s ready to leap into action at a moment’s notice, there’s still quite a bit of work to be done. The craft’s fuselage, made of metal, wood, and foam, needs to be coated with fiberglass, sanded, and then painted to match its televised counterpart. [Baz] says that process will take at least another year, but also mentions off-hand that he’s thinking of adding a functional reaction-control system with cold gas thrusters — so we’re going to go out on a limb and say this is probably one of those projects that’s never quite finished. Not that we’re complaining, mind you. Especially when you consider the shaky track record the Battlestar Galactica franchise has when it comes to neatly wrapping things up in the finale. Continue reading “Life-Sized Colonial Viper Touches Down In Australia”

magnetic toggle swtches

Modified Toggle Switches Grace Hyper-Detailed Cockpit Simulator Panels

In the world of the cockpit simulator hobby, no detail is too small to obsess over. Getting the look and feel of each and every cockpit control just right is important, and often means shelling out for cockpit-accurate parts. But not always, as these DIY magnetically captured toggle switches show.

Chances are good you’ve seen [The Warthog Project]’s fantastically detailed A-10 Thunderbolt II cockpit simulator before; we’ve featured it recently, and videos from the ongoing build pop up regularly in our feeds. The sim addresses the tiniest of details, including the use of special toggle switches that lock into place automatically using electromagnets. They’re commercially available, but only for those with very deep pockets — depending on the supplier, up to several thousand dollars per unit!

The homebrew substitute is mercifully cheap and easy to build, though — a momentary DPST toggle switch is partially gutted, with a length of nail substituted for one of its poles. The nail sticks out of the back of the switch, where a bracket holds a small electromagnet. When energized, the electromagnet holds the nail firmly when the switch is toggled on; the simulated pilot can still manually toggle the switch off, or it can be released automatically by de-energizing the coil. Each switch cost less than $20 to make, including the MOSFETs needed to drive the coils and the Arduino to provide the logic. The panels they adorn look fantastic, and the switches add a level of functional detail that’s just right for the whole build.

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The Ultimate BRRRT Simulator: Fully Featured A-10 Warthog Cockpit

The Fairchild Republic A-10 “Warthog” with its 30 mm rotary cannon has captured the imagination of friendly soldiers and military aviation enthusiasts on the ground for as long as it’s been flying. One such enthusiast created the Warthog Project, a fully functional A-10 cockpit for Digital Combat Simulator, that’s almost an exact copy of the real thing.

It started as a four monitor gaming cockpit, with a Thrustmaster Warthog H.O.T.A.S. The first physical instrument panels were fuel and electrical panels bought through eBay, and over time more and more panels were added and eventually moved to dedicated left and right side units. All the panels communicate with the main PC over USB, either using Arduinos or purpose-made gaming interface boards. The Arduinos take input from switches and control knobs, but also run 7-segment displays and analog dials driven by servos. The panels were all laser-cut using MDF or perspex and backlit using LEDs.

The main instrument panel is a normal monitor masked with laser-cut MDF and Thrustmaster multi-function display bezels. The cockpit is run by the open source Helios Cockpit Simulator for DCS. The main monitors were replaced by a large custom-built curved projection panel lit up by a pair of projectors. It seems this is one of those projects that is never quite finished, and small details like a compass get added from time to time. Everything is documented in detail, and all the design files are available for free if you want to build your own.

We’ve seen a few impressive simulator cockpit builds from hardcore enthusiasts over the years, including a Boeing 737, P-51 Mustang, and even a Mech cockpit for Steel Battalion. Continue reading “The Ultimate BRRRT Simulator: Fully Featured A-10 Warthog Cockpit”

Vintage Aircraft Controls Turned USB Button Box

The Gables Engineering G-2789 audio selector panels aren’t good for much outside of the aircraft they were installed in, that is, until [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced most of the internals with a Teensy 3.2. Now they are multi-functional USB input devices for…well, whatever it is you’d do with a bunch of toggle switches and momentary push buttons hanging off your computer.

Tracing wires from the panel switches.

With the Teensy going its best impression of a USB game controller, the host operating system has access to seven momentary buttons, twelve toggles, and one rotary axis for the volume knob.

Right now [MelkorsGreatestHits] says the code is set up so the computer sees a button press on each state change; in other words, the button assigned to the toggle switch will get “pressed” once when it goes up and again when it’s flicked back down. But of course that could be modified depending on what sort of software you wanted to interface the device with.

As we’ve seen with other pieces of vintage aircraft instrumentation, lighting on the G-2789 was provided by a series of incandescent bulbs that shine through the opaque front panel material. [MelkorsGreatestHits] replaced those lamps with white LEDs, but unfortunately the resulting light was a bit too harsh. As a quick fix, the LEDs received a few coats of yellow and orange paint until the light was more of an amber color. Using RGB LEDs would have been a nice touch, but you work with what you’ve got.

This isn’t the first time that [MelkorsGreatestHits] has turned an old aircraft cockpit module into a USB input device, and we’re certainly interested in seeing what the next project will look like. Though we’re perhaps more interested in finding out where all all these old school airplane parts are coming from…