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  • Writer's pictureOkan Saçlı

Flight Simulation Software Venture

As mentioned in various previous blog entries, my decision to build a home cockpit dates back to 2003 when I was working and living in Zürich - Switzerland. Those were the early days of home simming when resources in terms of electronic interfacing, simming software and hardware vendors were very very very limited. The only true and reliable panel provider was flightdecktsolutions from Canada ( back than. I still use the NOVA panels from FDS in my setup (which has excellent back lighting capabilities). I had the chance to meet and discuss many issues with Peter Cos in an Amsterdam "EHAM FDS Builders Meeting" which took place in "NH Amsterdam Schiphol Airport" in summer of 2003 (wow 17 years ago!!!!) . Below are some moments from the builders meeting which took place in summer of 2003.

We attended the meeting together with one of the simming legends from Switzerland Peter Dickenmann whose A340 was a true inspiration was me. (Front row second guy from the left). We used to meet up with Peter once every couple months to discuss simulation related issues, in a fine Dübendorf Pizza Restaurant named il Faro.

That's the young version of me (from the past!!) with Peter Cos from Flightdecksolutions of Canada.

Here's Robert Fischer , the developer or FS Communicator in heavy discussions with other builders (or wanna be builders!)

Here's Stephan Herberg from Home Cockpit software development team ready to present their Airbus logics software. This event was the announcement of the first ever Airbus Overhead and ECAM logics software available on the market.

The initial release versions of HCDST airbus EWD (engine warning display), SD (systems display) and overhead.

The first commercialy available Airbus ECAM control, engine start and auto brake panels (from HCSDT)

The only electronics interfacing available was the famous EPIC systems from R&R Electronics (Mr.Ralph Robinson) , for which you needed additional interfacing software between the EPIC software and the flight simulator, well FSUIPC itself. EPIC was producing nqw's (buttons presses etc) and storing data in piegonholes (leds and/or displays) which needed to be translated/transferred to FSUIPC offsets for functionality. For this purpose, i used FSCommunicator from Impromatic Systems, from an Austrian guy named Robert Fischer who also contributed a lot to our community, had also a chance to meet him in the EHAM event in 2003 and discuss many sim related itenaries with him. His software even implemented a unique!!!! FBW (fly-by-wire) module where you could program various control loops the airbus has, which can be seen in the photo below. I did many many experiments with his software in the past, which is obsolete now (like some of the other softwares). The screen shot below is one from the many available from FS Communicator.

In the same EHAM event, two very cool german software engineers launched / introduced their Airbus systems software under the name HCSDT, home cockpit software development team (which was later renamed to AST, Airsimtech) , their software was very promising in terms of ECAM and Overhead systems simulations. It was truely the first fully available Airbus overhead and ECAM simulation with FSUIPC support for home cockpit builders. Below is a screenshot from the past , nothing visually pleasing but with most of the overhead functions from Airbus was integrated. This software is obslete now.

In october 2003 I purchased the full set of projectmagenta ( software suit from Enrico Schiratti. Project magenta was the only true glass cockpit software available on the market back then, was visually very pleasing (OpenGL) , but missed many many functionalities. The projectmagenta software evolved with time.

I used project magenta together with HCSDT's airbus logic software, trying to interface electronics over EPIC via FS Communicator (many software components interacting with each other.. many errors... many issues...) I somehow couldn't not correctly interact project magenta and the HCSDT's airbus logic software to work together correctly. Then came project magenta systems simulations software which made me put HCDST stuff a side... However the development of project magenta and the support slowed down with time.. The website of projectmagenta is still active, I can still see that updates are being published.

Most of these software lacked the true interaction with the air file, the flight dynamics itself and needed heavy user input in programming and configuration. It was like all flights were test flights to find out if something was working correctly.

I am thankfull to all the above mentioned guys / developers for making this hobby possible for the most of us. All of them are true piooners in the home cockpit development area both hardwarewise and softwarewise.

In the later years i discovered and used the freeware JeeHell software from Jean Luc, a French developer whose contibution to simming is also highly appreciated. It has its ups and down, failure simulation and ecam actions are missing (at least from the freeware version of it), but the rest of the software is functioning as it should be, it interacts with the backend of the simulator which is very cool, very realistic flight dynamics. The frequency of software updates (updates for bugs and/or new features) can be improved, but one can not ask more from a freeware software.

Having personaly experienced the true evolution of various simming softwares from the year 2003 till to date (in Turkish we have a saying "bir işin mutfağından gelmek" meaning to be raised / to grow up in the environment itself ) , taking part in setting up all aspects of various different software and hardware vendors, I knew what I was really looking for in a simming software. I need exact modelling of an airbus ECAM systems, I need to be able to simulate failures (minor or major ones) and see how I can handle them, I need a compatible IOS (Instructor Station), the simming software should be able to talk / communicate with widely available electronics interfacing vendors (there are many out there now) , the setup and especially the updates of the software should be simple without any issues (software maintenance should be easy) , since I am well aware of programming environments, bugs etc. there should be a continous developement of the software for more features, optimized cpu usage, better functionality and reliabilty. And the support of the software should be according to my needs. I recently discovered PROSIM-AR'a Airbus A320 software solution, an Amsterdam based company. I am evaluating their piece of artwork , migrating my current setup to theirs. The first impression is fantastic piece of work!! Currently I am running 1.44b1 version of their software.

Please note that I won't be compairing various softwares with tables of pros and cons, rather I will provide honest feelings of how things move on for me.

So please keep an eye on my upcoming blog entries during my trial journey to PROSIM-AR, my experiences in setting up the software, migrating my hardware, hardware codes and setups, difficulties I had during the migration, tips and tricks... a road map.. for Prepar3D and FS2020 ...

Let this the first blog entry for the year 2021 !! I wish the simming community and the world a better, safer and healthier 2021.

May the force be with us all !

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