Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Easy Star Video at Cascade, ID

I took some on board video from my EZ* on the ATC2K. Merry Christmas!

Winter Video

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Motor Problems

Well, I think I finally figured out what was wrong with my EZ* (which is currently at 26.5 oz flight weight with 2200mAh). It has been glitching and motor cutting out (along with the whole servos and everything). It was very intermittent and happened for only brief periods of time, but it was getting worse and when it made all the controls go unresponsive, it was very bad. So, I swapped ESC's out to the new Turnigy 40A Sentry ESC I have for putting into my difference. Swapped my Hitec Mini 6s out for the Neutron 6s dual conversion from my Typhoon (which has NOT been having any problems in the same flying area). That "seemed" liked it fixed it (at least no glitches in the quick test flight), but the motor also suddenly quit working too. Glided it in and checked it, and the motor was boiling hot. And the foam around it was melting, so now, it is very loose and sloppy in the mount. Pulled it all out and started looking, and one of the wires had melted through the insulation and it looked like it was shorting out to the case of the motor. It was also very rough on the motor shaft spin, so I put a little 3-in-1 oil in it. Seems a lot better now. On top of all of that, I have been running my prop blade backwards. It was pushing correctly, but I didn't have the right leading edge going the way I needed. Hope that hasn't been contributing to it getting super hot and not doing a super great job pushing (seemed like it should have a little more thrust).

Friday, December 5, 2008

Aerial Video Footage

Got my first aerial video footage with my ATC2K helmet cam from Oregon Scientific. Spent some time and edited the footage down to about half of what was there originally. I need to learn to fly smoother when taking video, because the erratic motion of large control surface movements really makes it tough to watch. It would be cool to find a way to integrate the on screen display with current, heading, GPS, altitude, speed and temp all into this on just the helmet cam, even without transmitting full FPV, but I guess that will have to wait.

I'm still having problems with the glitches, and I'm wondering if it is the BEC on the ESC not able to handle the current (it is only rated at 2A at 5v). I have a new 40A ESC that I'm going to use for my new out runner motor on my Typhoon, but not using right now that I may put on (it has 3A capability). If that doesn't fix it, then I'll have to start swapping out the receiver and stuff. I'm going to try it one component at a time.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Aileron Easy Star Modificaiton

Put some pictures up below of my aileron mod to my easy star. I put carbon fiber rods in the foam to help give it more stiffness. Also, just used simple packing tape for the hinges after cutting 45-degree slices out of the bottom of each mating surface. Then, used Hitec HS-55 micro servos in the wing. Had to use some extensions for the cords (should have probably put it in closer and might have been able to avoid having to use extensions). I only had 24" ones right now, but I think 6" ones would be just fine. I'll swap them out when I get the chance.

Typhoon 3D

Maidened my Park Zone Typhoon 3D yesterday (the original, not the Typhoon 2) that I got for $65 on close out from AirLand Hobbies. Holy !@$#, that was a handful. None of the surfaces were right, despite "looking" lined up ok. Thing jumped off the deck like I was use to from the simulator, but then it was pitching, rolling and diving. Even with lower rates it was full time panic, while I tried to gain some altitude and get the trims set.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Dual/Triple Rates and Expo

There is a pretty good web page that describes how exponential rates work (the negative vs. positive expo on JR vs. Futaba sort of messes me up too). I also put together a quick Control Rates XLS spread sheet to graphically demonstrate how the control surface should move with various rates and expo settings for a given stick movement and to help myself visualize how the response works for setting targets on my Futaba 7CAP. I am thinking about trying to even do a 3D plot to incorporate subtle p-mixing, but that is probably overkill. For now, this allows me to visualize what I want to do to moderate response around center, but still get full range response for 3D flight. The file currently has a setting for user settings, demonstrating how to limit the beginner's tendancy to "over control", but still deliver the same initial sensitivity/response with 65% rates and 70% positive expo.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Easy Star

I just built my Easy Star kit and got it all setup. Here are some pics with the HXT 2835 2700kV brushless motor installed, and a Turnigy Sentry 25A BESC with a Zippy 2200mAh 3S1P LiPo. I put the BESC on the outside to try to help keep the heat down. The HXT motor sure seems to run hot (hope it isn't a dud). I still have to pop the Hitec Neutron 6S Rx with HS81 servos in and get the push rod throws adjusted as well as make a final CG measurement. Hopefully I can maiden her tomorrow. Found a good EZ* Fan Site page too.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Wild Hawk

Just maidened my Wild Hawk. Got it from HF for $79, plus 20% off (they had to price match the web site and then do the 20% off coupon). Moved the battery forward and put packing tape around the rear fuse and nose. The thing still wants to really stall when under power (seems too tail heavy). I'm about 3.2" back from leading edge on CG. Without power, it is actually pretty balanced and this thing will soar/glide forever. I landed it 3 times and I did like 4 other low speed glide slopes past and then powered up and took it back up. It definately needs more rudder. I'm in the closest hole and there were times I thought the radio was spazzing out on me (maybe it was, actually, it doesn't seem to stay very stable) and turning the opposite way I wanted it to go. Still, just drop power and things get much more controllable. It loops very nice, especially if you get just a little down elevator and speed. I'm definately going to try to swap out the RX and servos out and pair it up with my Hitec mini 6s, HS-55's and Futaba 7CAP that is coming in the mail. Hopefully that cleans up the signal a little. Maybe even replace the motor and speed controller with the Turnigy 25A plush and HXT 2835-2700.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Cheaper...Wild Hawk

Of course, once Harbor Freight starts carrying these, you can begin considering them "disposable". The Wild Hawk is a knock off clone cheap version of the EPP foam Easy Star. Super forgiving, very cheap, and easy to to see if our local Harbor Freight has one.

Check out the Wild Hawk.


I went ahead and bought an Aerobird Xtreme from Hobby Zone off Ebay for $80. It was used, but only had a problem with the elevator control horns and a broken canopy (and that seems like it was all just shipping damage, everything was in new sealed containers and it didn't look wreaked or anything. Fixed all that, got a 7.2v 3800mAh NiMH pack off Amazon for longer flights (compared to the 1700mAh stock one). Also found that the prop was busted, so went to the local hobby store, Hobby Town USA and got two new ones as well as the sonic combat module to try to see if I could play with my friend and his older Aerobird Commander original.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Who needs a flight sim...

...when you have some of the cool new stuff they are doing with electric model R/C planes and full motion, light weight, hi-resolution video with GPS overlays and head tracking servo control. Wow.

The Fields - Easystar FPV Onboard Camera from Oliver Fietz on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer months coming to a close

We have been spending a lot of time up at our cabin in Cascade, so I haven't had any time to really do any development work on the hardware side of the cockpit. For now, I've just been flying as many different missions and planes as I can on my current mock setup to make sure it has everything I want to have addressed. I really need to install Descent 3 again and just try it out on the wide display too. Maybe even Mech Warrior II. But mostly, I'm just getting use to all the settings, getting familar with all the different GPS knobs and the amazing depth that the G1000 has (including runway approach information, elevation and everything info on almost every airport you can think of). I'm also trying to find optimal configurations for all the different planes and stuff to make sure that my current stack of monitors is going to be the best support. I'm pretty sure I'm going to have to get a lighted keyboard to mount up in the top front of the cockpit to just provide some sort of access, and I will probably have to have a wireless mouse somewhere. Beyond that, I have to figure out position and overall layout for all 6 of the monitors, the flight yoke, rudder pedals, 6 quad throttle stack, fighter flight stick and fighter throttle stick. It is all going to have to probably start with the chair and for that, I need to get some time to go to a junk yard and get a nice cloth seat...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Six Monitor Flight Sim Goodness

I finally got my second nVidia GeForce 8800 GT card in, so that I could run all 4 virtual monitors (two 15" touch screens, one 8" touch screen, and the three 19" monitors that make up the virtual TH2Go main display) in Vista. After multiple fatal crashes with just about every nVidia driver I could use when running FSX, I finally disabled DX10 preview in FSX and it all works just fine. Frame rates seem moderately stable with my medium high to high detail settings (no AA or anything fancy) in sparsely populated areas at 10-15fps...not great...but tolerable. I'll go work on tweaking and overclocking for performance later.

I've really been irritated fighting having to resetup all my flight panels on the auxilliary monitors each time after you crash (grin) or restart a flight. I've been running in full screen and saving the setup, but when you reload, all the panels popup onto the main display (????). I'd read a lot about trying it in "windowed" mode, but also a lot of cautions that this can hurt performance too (ESPECIALLY if you have a window even SLIGHTLY over lap from one monitor onto another), but that it seemed to fix the save issue (though you have to always launch the same flight, and then load new plane, location, time, flight plan, etc.). Still a little bit of a PITA, but not nearly as much as having to drag all the panel and resize them onto all the auxillary monitors. And performance doesn't seem too bad, and you can mostly hide the window top frame off the monitor edge and have the windows start bar "autohide" down to get 99% of the visual (yeah, there is a slight issue with the border all around that you can see, but it isn't bad).

And, OMFG, how much do I love having the DECM (Dual Engine Control Module) and AutoPilot on that 8" touch screen, and I wont even start in about how beautiful the 15" touch displays with all the interactive touch glory of the PFD/MFD is. For now, the Baron 58 Beachcraft is one of the BEST planes I've found with a full compliment of glass cockpit and all the other stacks. Many of the others default FSX planes, it seems, have skimped on the 2D panels available in favor of the virtual cockpit (which is ok for most setups on a single monitor, the VC is better). I'm sure a little work can drag most of the panels up to snuff on many/most of the planes, it just does suck to have to do it for planes that should have a pretty complete set already. I love tapping the AP vertical speed rate up and down and having it control my climb outs and everything. Even get to see the little trim wheels on the panels twirl. Becareful, though...grin, NAV autopilot will turn you right into a mountain if you aren't up at altitude yet (a problem when climing out on runway 30 in Cascade, ID U70).

Now, my biggest problem is not having monitor cables long enough and enough desktop realestate for all the monitors to be positioned appropriately. It is close to getting time to begin the garage prototyping of the cockpit, I think.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Touch Screen Goodness

I finally gave up (for now) getting twin video cards (of different vendor/chipsets) working in Vista (even with old XPDM drivers, as lots of stuff native to Vista quits working when you do that, if you can even get them installed). And I just focused on getting ONE of my flat panel 15" touch screens working. It frustrates me that I can't seem to save the position of the instruments on the second monitor, so I have to resize, move and orient the PFD onto the second panel every time (even if you crash, it is like quitting and reloading back in, and all the panels are reset). I haven't found anyone else able to size them and place them onto second monitors by default yet, but I'm playing with the SDK to look at the panel/guage config files to see if there is something I can do in there. So far, it is only sizing/moving initial location on the primary display.

But, the good news is, once you get them moved over there, the touch screen 15" display if flipping awesome with the PFD on there. The twin dials (inner/outter ring) sometimes can be a little touchy (no pun intended) to get exactly what you want, but it isn't too bad. And the soft menu keys and headding dial and everything else, including the nav/com tuner buttons all work flipping great! Also, I've begun to like putting the autopilot panel up at the top of the 15" as well as the toggle switch pannel (starters, mags, lights, de-icers, flap controls, etc.). It is so cool to just touch the toggle, and have it respond. And the auto pilot controls are excellent on a touch screen. I think these will ultimately reside perfectly on the 8" LCD touch screen, so I'll have the twin 15" touch screens with the PFD and MFD displays, then the 8" will have the Autopilot, toggle/ignition panel, and probably the fuel mixture/cowl controls (I'm even playing around with the XML gauges, to see if I can just make them all rolled into one custom panel). So far, I don't see a whole lot of down sides to running "virtual" instruments in my cockpit design, and ultimately, it seems the most flexible way to get different cockpit orientations (i.e. fighter jet, private twin prop, and commercial airliner).

I plan to just probably run XP and then I can run two video cards of non-homogonous manufacturer/chipset, which should support the TH2Go, twin 15" touch, and 8" touch very nicely. With the TrackIR, each touch screen, yoke, throttle quad, rudder pedals, jet TQS, and fighter stick each using a USB port, I think it is obvious I'm going to have to invest in a single 8 or 10-port powered USB hub too, just to simplify some of the cable routes and connections to the PC.

Also, I just got up a screenshots page of some of my in flight pictures.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Multi-graphic card support under Vista (or lack of)

I've been trying to get my ATI x1900 PCI-express adapter to work in the second PCIe slot along with my nVidia 8800 GT PCI-express card. Vista keeps disabling the ATI (secondary PCIe slot) and notes that an incompatible video card has been disabled. According to this article at Microsoft, it explains that WDDM drivers under Vista now require "homogonous" video card support due to the new simplified VGA stack. Basically, meaning regardless of if you have it in a PCI slot or anything else, all graphics adapters MUST RUN under the same display driver. Right down to it sounds like the exact same model (not sure about this, as it sounds like some of the unified driver settings from ATI and nVidia might work ok, as long as it can use the same driver). Anyway...that is a bummer. I might look into installing XPDM drivers, which sounds like it will make everything revert back to the more complex old XP vga driver stack..but that sort of sucks. I really don't need a complex, high end second card. I just want to use it to display auxillary display screens of the glass cockpit in FSX (I hope that even works).

Also, I got my two 15" TFT-LCD touch screens from Newegg tonight. WOW, is all I can say. These kick the crap out of the 8" lilliput touch display (funny, they can use the same vista driver for the touch display I found for the lilliput, though...good, because they didn't have any for vista on the install disk). Anyway, I went with the HyVision MV155 Megavision with a native 1024x768 display. Gotta run and try FSX with this new monitor. I now have 7 monitors on my desk I'm trying to play around with...sigh. I really need to move this into a dedicated cockpit...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Initial Cockpit design considerations

So, I've been going over what all I am going to need for an initial design plan for a cockpit. First, while a lot of folks in the full cockpit simulation experience are going for triple projectors for the wrap around 210-degree experience (sans virtual cockpit) and letting the ACTUAL cockpit obscure the view from there, I don't think I want it to be quite that big. With a 19" LCD monitor, that works out to about a 13.4" viewable x-direction, and typically, that represents about a 45-degree field of view at roughly 20" to your eye (that is with a 3" eye spacing, which puts you back from the center of the pivot about 3.6"). Left and right monitors pivot around that 16.3" focal point. But, if that is what I'm doing, then I really begin to question how the TrackIR (that I love so much in a virtual cockpit mode) becomes almost a liability. You don't want your FLIGHT view panning around behind your instruments. And, as I add MFD, PFD and possibly an 8" LCD touch screen radio stack, you really don't want your view jumping around.

So, I'm back to the following specs:

  • 3 main view displays using 19" LCD and TH2go on a 16.2" radius for a 135-degree wrap around display experience.
  • 1 15" MFD for artificial horizon and all the PM general aviation glass cockpit (I don't think this needs to be touch screen, and it will need to interface through a modest networked PC) via either PM or FSUIPC for display. Could also be used to display the analog gauges for older prop planes.
  • 1 15" display for a moving map/radar image. This may need to have touch screen support???
  • 1 8" LCD touch screen enabled display for the radio stacks. I think I've almost 100% decided this. I don't want to have to do all the panels and wiring for inputs into a hagstrom keyboard encoder or anything, and seems a lot easier to have differing setups and change things if it is a "virtual" glass stack. I really need to get a touch screen monitor to begin playing with this. As long as I can just touch the knob to tune it up/down, which PM seems to do from the limited demo's I've seen (need to do more on this via networked PC on my laptop, since the FSX blanks all other pgm windows (even on second monitor ports) when you are in full screen view.
  • Think it is already obvious I'm going to have to have a very modest second PC networked in here to handle some of the secondary instrument displays. Just need to begin playing around with which options work best.
  • I'm also going to need a modest 5.1 surround sound system, with focus on a good base with optical inputs. Need to make sure FSX supports that...hum...
  • I'm going to need a good chair (like from an old wrecked car or something).

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I flew from Cascade airport to Boise on a VFR route yesterday in a twin beachcraft. Pretty cool with Tile Proxy running. Buzzed our cabin and everything...grin. The boys evey did very well piloting the little ultralight around and were loving it.

I have to admit, the F/A-18 Hornet sure makes you appreciate how fast those military jets can fly. I barely get taken off and messing around with looking around (plus the exterior views are simply AMAZING in 3 monitors), and I'm already past Boise. Damn, those planes haul ass.

I got an F-14 Tomcat, but the quality of the instrument panel is crap. F-15 is a little better. I really want a couple jet trainers, and will probably try to find a good F-16. I've already decided this is going to need me to do some sort of a cockpit build. Just have to figure out details. I'm pretty serious about doing it with 2 PC's and 5 monitors. I just need to figure out specifics. It crowds my desk too much playing with it the way it is. I'll make sure it doubles as a race car pit too, since the flight yoke should work fine as a steering wheel, and the rudder pedals have two axis toe control for the brakes (they come with inserts to make them rigid on the rudder axis). I almost have too many inputs with the 6 axis quadrant on top of the 3 that are on the yoke, and I'm not real good at making mixture control changes, but it works out very well for a twin (like the beachcraft) to be able to control your taxi with just the throttles...then you have the prop levers and mixture controls. I'm using the ones on the flight yoke for flaps and gear...running out of assignable axis in FSX for any more. I'm sure a C130 or something would start making me short, with quad engines...grin.

One thing I've begun gaining an appreciation for (and I suspected it a little, but it is even more obvious as I get into this) is how you really almost need to specialize and begin to focus on a single plane. The more detailed you get on your cockpit, the more specific you have to get on what you are going for (had that same problem with the mame to do as much as possible, but all very well). If you try to cover too many bases, you do it all very poorly rather than simplify and do a few very well. I know I want fighter jet type setup, and if possible a twin commercial type. Unfortunately, that is about as diametrically opposite as you can get. But, maybe I can get the yoke/quadrant setup ok in there, and put the fighter stick and TQS in as well. Gauges may be a little interesting, but putting in something like a $169 Shuttle micro PC for dedicated additional displays may be ok.

Saturday, June 14, 2008


Got all my hardware in and sort of mocked it up on my desk last night. Was up until 3:30AM dinking around with it all. The HannsG monitors are pretty much what you'd expect for $170. Two have dead/stuck pixels on them (one has one stuck and a grid of 4 dead on it) and they all seem to get some very characteristic "sparklies" on them in certain places (it looks like it is obvious stuck/coupling row very near the stuck pixel). Also, the image isn't that crip or clear, maybe that is just a function of it going through the analog interface and the triplehead2go, but somehow, I don't think so.

But the visuals of playing with 3-wide monitor in I'm pretty sure I'm just going to have to try to find a better display (possibly get some higher cost 20" displays, I think, and maybe I'll keep one of these 19" for gauges/MFD's, because it really needs that).

I've bought a LOT of "gadgets" and strange input devices in my life, and I was skeptical about the TrackIR 4 motion monitor, but I can honestly say that it is possibly the best working input device I've ever seen. The head movement in the flight sim (all 6-axis) is almost FREAKY it is so realistic, even right down to leaning and looking around dashes and the 3D cock pit instrument panel. I'm not sure where I take it from here, but it almost certainly needs to move to a dedicated cockpit and a 5 monitor setup (triple wide main displays with two MFD's for the glass cockpit instrument panels to the lower left/right). Flying the F/A-18 Hornet up around Cascade is simply amazing. Need to try a winter date and see how it does, but it is very cool.

There are three different things that FSX does for rendering scenery.
  1. Is the terrain mesh data, which is all elevation information. There are quite a few different ones out there besides the default. One really good one for North America, is FSGenesis.
  2. The second is the actual texture map that FSX applies to the terrain height mesh data. The default one is not too bad, but it is pretty generic and you really don't get a good feel for being at the exact site, but it does all for autogeneration of houses, trees, buildings, etc. and for different times of the year for snow and stuff. If you get Tile Proxy, which is as sourceforge community project, you can have it hook into most of the major satellite mapping services out there and it will on the fly skin the scene with real mapping texture. This obviously has problems with seasonal changes and you get no "autogen" structures (the next topic). Here is a sample of default FSX vs. Tile Proxy.
  3. The last one is what is called "autogen". Normally, FSX will generate trees and buildings that actually stand out of the landscape. When you do photo realistic satellite skinning, like Tile Proxy, it is more difficult to support this reasonably, but it only affects really low level flight, and there is work to get some level of autogen back enabled.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Flight Sim Cockpit - Take 2

I just got back from visiting Washington DC last week, and we spent time at the Air and Space museum. While there, I had the chance to play around in a flight simulator (for $8) that tilts up and down and rolls 360', called SX-Interactive from Simworx. Looking online, they only run around $85k, new (grin). There is an even better one, called FS2000 from Maxflight that does both 360' pitch and roll. That is only $150k new (HA!). That was fun, and I got renewed interest in going back and trying to build my flight sim cockpit (sans-rotation and stuff for now...grin). Though, this motion cockpit video looks cool (and this one).

After searching for a little while, I turned up a bunch of YouTube videos showing multi-monitor flight sims and PC car driving games, mostly running Microsoft Flight Simulator X. A lot of them seem to use a couple products. First, the Matrox TripleHead2go, which is a product that takes 3 monitors with 1280x1024 native resolution (like a 19" LCD 4:3 display) and maps them all together to look to the video card like a 3840x1024 single display. Also, since most current generation gaming rigs can support 2 monitors/video card, and typically, you can run two video cards in a system, you can extend that to have up to 6 displays easily on one computer to show off wide view flight cockpit and dedicated map/instrument displays. So, I picked up 3 19" LCD normal 4:3 HannsG displays for $169 each to try with the Matrox TripleHead2go. We'll see if I get something better and use these for instrument/aux/map displays later. Also got a new nVidia 8800 GT PCI-X DX10 with 512MB GDDR3 video card and a new 3.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Wolfdale E8400 (45nm process).

Next, is getting all the input devices. I wanted the cool feature of the TrackIR 4 6 axis input that seems to be supported for looking around in FSX. I also wanted at least a good flight yoke and throttle mixture setup. I went with products from CH Products Flight controls. And I already had rudder controls from CH. That was good for commercial type flight, but I also wanted an updated USB input fighter stick and throttle control. Picked up one of each, also from CH Products Flight controls.

Hopefully everything gets here by the weekend for me to try to set up and play with it a little on Father's day, Sunday. Lots to learn and get worked out and figure out what works well and what is just gadetty and not great. I have high hopes for the TrackIR, but I think it is going to be weird to turn my head, but keep my vision focus on a static monitor. We'll see, and hopefully if I turn up the gain a little, it will not be too weird (slight turns of my head should move it quite a lot and not cause too much eye strain).

Next, I'm going to have to really go back and brush up on my private pilot ground school. Especially on the navigation part. There is a pretty good site, geared toward flight sim at Flight Sim Navigation. Also, my father-in-law is a long time private pilot, that maybe I can get interested in helping out with and playing around with flying different aircraft in a "sim" that he wouldn't normally be able to. I think it is really something that he would like.

Here are a couple links:

Home Built Cockpits
Mikes Flight Deck
Flight Sim Cost Proposal
FS2000 Commercial Model
Microsoft Flight Simulator X
CH Products Flight controls
Flight Sim Navigation