There are several vendors in the market which produce very realistic renditions of the A320 Main Instrument Panel or ‘MIP’. They range from a plug and play solutions to a skeleton MIP requiring you to install and wire each component separately.
It would be frustrating if you are using cockpit parts from different vendors and they do not assemble well together. It was essential the MIP could fit the CP Flight Flight Control Unit (FCU) and that the vendor also manufactured a cockpit shell and interior liners. Flight Deck Solution (FDS) came to mind – I had purchased some of their previous items (an MCDU and a SYS3 interface card) and was impressed with the quality.
I immediately reached out to Mr Peter Cos and Mr Steve Cos (Flight Deck Solutions). We discussed the available A320 MIP options – just like a vehicle, you can ‘spec’ out the MIP. The ADV version of the MIP offered a more realistic rendition of the MIP along with more tactile (but also more expensive) EM1 switches. Mr Steve Cos was also able to offer a personal MIP registration plate, flood lighting for the glareshield, and a custom frame to fit the CP Flight FCU.
The MIP and glareshield was immediately built on order. After 2 months the items were ready to be received. On reception I found the items securely packed and dressed with multiple layers of bubble wrap. The MIP itself was attached to a heavy cork board to reduced movement and prevent any bending or damage during shipment.
The MIP and glareshield were assembled within a week. Wiring the switches took a far longer time. The FDS SYS3 board had to be interfaced with the switches on the MIP. Setup was confusing at first – no manual was included with the purchase order. Fortunately my questions were quickly answered by step-by-step assembly photographs provided by Mr Peter Cos.
I had additional questions on the EM1 switches and the wiring which was also quickly answered by e-mail. Unfortunately I had made a serious mistake by not distinguishing the different push button (PB) switches. The Airbus flightdeck is furnished with either momentary, or on-off (latch) type switches. You cannot distinguish between momentary or on-off switches with a visual inspection, and can only do so by physically clicking on the PB. After discussing with Mr Steve Cos it was determined ten switches had to be rewired – this proved to be more difficult than expected. Lesson well learned!
The CP Flight FCU comfortably fits the FDS custom frame. The glareshield is constructed of metal and is sturdy. Automobile bulbs are facilitated for the glareshield flood light lighting; they sit on angled brackets to provide directed lighting.
Overall the FDS MIP and glareshield is manufactured with attention to detail. As a replica of the Airbus aircraft, it provides an excellent rendition.
The FDS Airbus solution is being faciliated in several flight simulator centres around the world. It can be integrated with certain software (ECA-FAROS is one such example) and be certified as a type-rating training device.
Video of the FDS Airbus in action —
+ Realistic MIP and Glareshield design with good attention to detail.
+ Sturdy aluminium frame
+ After sales support from FDS.
+ EM1 switches have a satisfying click and have a high quality feel.
+ Items protected and packaged well
– No setup manual; however personal support by e-mail and telephone is provided by Mr Peter and Steve Cos
– Non-functioning ISIS buttons/knobs, clock and (brake and accumulator) pressure triple indicator — replica provided with MIP (can be upgraded)
– Pricey EM1 switches (subjective)