Thales MCDU Conversion

Thales Multi-Function Control & Display Unit (MCDU)

The OEM Thales Multi-Function Control and Display Unit has now been converted with the assistance of Simulator Solutions, a local (Sydney) Australian based company. 

Previously a FDS MCDU (reviewed here) was installed in the simulator – as a plug and play device this was a good substitute, but could never fully replace the keypad and build quality of an original MCDU.

Simulator Solution removes all internals of the MCDU (including the CRT) and replaces it with a modern LCD and glass, interfaced to SimStack boards. Simstack is an ethernet modular board and is able to connect to Prosim using a TCP layer. In addition the Open Cockpit programming language SIOC is used in the MCDU frontend – this allows for flexibility and potential compatibility with other avionics suites such as Jeehell FMGS, AST, Project Magenta and Flight Sim Labs A320 Professional. Four connections are required for the MCDU – the ethernet cable, a 4 pin molex connector (found on computer PSUs), 5 VDC for the backlight and a VGA connection for the LCD. The MCDU failure lights have also been interfaced and can be simulated for pilot training. 

MCDU Annunciators with Light Test

Using the Thales MCDU is a completely different experience from the FDS MCDU. The Thales model has a different tactile feel and a satisfying click. The backlight is diffused evenly with no hotspots. The MCDU is built structurally well; as one of the most frequently used equipment on the aircraft (with the exception of the flight controls), it needs to be. 

OEM Thales MCDU on the left, FDS MCDU on the right

There is a switch at the back of the unit which allows you to sync the LCD screen with the state of the aircraft (no power = LCD turns off) however I am unable to get this to work, along with the dimming screen knob; this is most likely a software bug and will just require an update from Simulator Solutions. 

The internal boards of the MCDU, removed from operation

Some purists may one to keep all equipment in its original form. An OEM MCDU without conversion will require 115 VAC, ARINC429 and complex programming – this might be a possibility in the future – we have several Sim builders currently attempting native  interfacing. In the mean time The Simulator Solution MCDU should be seriously considered – it eliminates the use of AC voltage and ARINC, full proofs it for the different avionics suites available in the market and allows you to use an original MCDU as intended. 

Advantages

  • Tactile and durable 
  • Feels like it could last a million years
  • Backlight is diffused evenly 
  • Potential to interface the MCDU with a variety of  avionics software 
  • Requires 12 and 5 VDC to operate; no 115 VAC
  • Ethernet Simstack Interface 
  • SIOC Programming language 

Disadvantages

  • Internals are stripped
  • Bypasses the original ARINC 429 interface
  • Requires sourcing an original MCDU and converting which may drive up cost 
  • SIOC Programming language  

2 thoughts on “Thales MCDU Conversion

    • Hopefully we can get a software or firmware patch because this seems like the logic may be integrated into the sketch file – as a last resort a relay could be used but that would already add more wiring then necessary

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