Howto:Build your own procedure trainer

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Revision as of 20:26, 2 November 2009 by T3r (talk | contribs) (Added the component list)
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A first version of the PMPT - functional!


This page is about building your own procedure trainer device using basically FlightGear, other OpenSource software and home brew hardware. It is probably far from being a FNPT Flight Navigation Procedure Trainer , so I'd like to call it a PMPT for Poor Man's Procedure Trainer. The goal is to have most of the components, "real" FNPT have:

  • A realistic flight dynamics model
  • An instrument panel with realistic looking instruments and controls with realistic behaviour.
  • An outside 3d-view rendering the world scenery (but not our own aircraft)
  • As many controls as affordable (yoke, rudder, switches, buttons, radios)
  • Aircraft is completely flyable without keyboard and/or mouse

The Components

General Schematic of the PMPT

Bearing the first 'P' of the acronym in mind, most of the hardware is non-state-of-the-art, either from the attic (to bad to be used but to good to be thrown away) or bought second/third hand. The main components are:

  • A PC with a 2GHz Athlon, 1.5GB RAM, 100GB HD and a nVidia 7950 graphics card. This is the work horse and the main FlightGear computer.
  • A second PC, a former diskless "thin client". It has a 1GHz Athlon CPU, 512MB RAM and I replaced the builtin 256MB compact flash memory with an old 4GB microdrive from my old iPod mini which was unusable due to it's dead battery. The only new item is a nVidia 6xxx graphics card which sits now it the PC's only PCI slot. This PC drives the panel displays.
  • Two 15" TFT 1280x1024 displays (for a few EURO at ebay) were stripped from their chassis and serve as the panel displays.
  • Two 19" TFT 1280x1024 displays (for a few EURO at ebay) sit on top for the outside view.
  • A ELITE ProPanel II - this is the most expensive part of the entire PMPT. Also from eBay, came together with the rudder pedals from FlightLink.
  • A tiny PC with a touchscreen display, running a Pentium at 600MHz and 256MB RAM is for the moving map application Atlas.
  • The homemade USB controller are based on ATMEL microcontroller for less than 10 EURO.
  • Ethernet HUP, Cables

Flight Dynamics Model

This is no sweat at all! FlightGear comes with usable, good and even excellent flight dynamics models out of the box. This HOWTO focuses on a Seneca procedure trainer and uses the SenecaII from the FlightGear base package but can be adapted to other aircraft. One computer running a FlightGear instance computes the FDM, renders the scenery and receives all the input from various controls. Hey that's basic FlightGear operation? Yes, read on for the goodies!

Instrument Panel

Outside View

Yoke and Switch Panel

Rudder Pedals

Radio Panel

The Basic Hardware Interface

The Almighty USB HID Controller

Circuit Board


Panel Controller

Yoke Controller