Home | Articles | Dutch

Overhead panel

How I build my own cockpit ?

In the mean time you all have better look on how to connect switches to FS. In this article I want to talk about how I constructed the overhead panel.

Overhead panel:

The panels of older planes are not back lighted. They were simple panels from aluminum, painted and illuminated by either L shaped light holders, to prevent blinding the pilot, or by black light. That lit up all white text or indicators on the gauges.  The shape of the overhead panel in the DC3 changed over time. The basic functions stayed but the form and position of the different functions changed thorough. In the beginning it were two half circles in a V shape that followed the window shape. There was no noticeable arrangement between the varies groups of switches and instruments. The overhead panel I have chosen is a modernized version used in the cockpit of the DC3 from the DDA classic airline. This one has a clear structure and is adapted to the newest safety prescriptions.

The panel consist out of three parts.
On the left part are all the switches to control the lights, fan, pitot heat, no smoking, fasten seatbelt and the left propeller feathering.
In the center there are all the controls and gauges for the power management, like Battery or external power, generators, invertors together with 2 Amp meters and 1 Volt meter. This panel incorporates also the magnetos switches and 4 dimmers for the different panel lighting. The anti-icing and toilet smoke detection lights are also on this panel.
The right side consist only out of the engine management switches. Like there are energize, mesh, primer and booster pumps. Also the right propeller feathering button and a switch called VHF1 COMM1 ON PA. The last one is more a fantasy of the firm it only serves to put comm1 radio on the general speakers so you can here the ATC on the intercom of the airplane.

overhead1 overhead2 overhead3

How we all made this?

Very simple. I started by looking for three pieces of thin metal and cut them in to the write shape. I then made some fixation plates to mount the panels on in the cockpit. After checking that every piece could fit in the cabin I drilled the necessary wholes to fit the switches and gauges in. After that I painted the panels black piece by piece. The switches I used are simple toggle switches you can bay in any good electric store. I used Single pole Single throw and Double pole single throw toggle switches, depending on the function they had. For instance, it could be that one switch had two functions, one is a pulse of 5v to go to interface and the other is a 12V output to a lamp. This is the case for the fasten seatbelt and no smoking sine. All the switches were painted red in the middle, this to let the switches look like the real once, who have a red rubber coating in the middle. Besides it gives a nice touch of color to the panel. After the panels were dried out I hand painted the text after putting up the text in pencil. This took me a week to do so. But the result is fabulous although I say it myself. It seems to come out of the factory hall of Mcdonald Douglas in the 40's. After all this I put in the switches and meters very carefully and connected them with the necessary cables. On the end of the cables of every panel I put on a connector so the if the panels needs to be removed. You just need to plug out the connector and that's it. All the different wires come together in to one central cable who is connected to the different interfaces.
The magnetos switches were put in later. This is in fact a separate instrument. With one main on/off switch and two, four positions rotary switches. The four positions are off, left, right and both. The covers on the switches couldn't of course be found anywhere, therefore I decided to make them myself from a piece of aluminum. The only thing I still need to make and that makes it all look more like real is the panel lighting and dip illumination and here and there some warning light.


So far what concerns the overhead panel. Up to the next part, the instrument panel and its most important part the radio stack.


<< Previous | Index | Home | Next >>


© Verley Jan 2007-2017 original text from 2002 translation Jan Verley