There are several vendors in the market which produce very realistic renditions of the A320 main instrument panel or ‘MIP’. The available range of MIP range from plug and play solutions to basic MIPS requiring self-setup and wiring.
I was in search of a vendor which was both reliable, had good support, and also one which
was provided a one-stop solution to fulfill all the home cockpit requirements. It is frustrating when you have different home cockpit parts different vendors and they don’t fit or play nicely together. It was critical that the MIP I would purchase could fit my CP Flight Flight Control Unit (FCU) and the vendor had compatible shell and interior liner to furnish the remaining cockpit. Flight Deck Solution (FDS) was the first vendor to come to mind – I purchased some of their previous items – their MCDU and their SYS3 interface card and was impressed with the quality.
experience of the parts first hand. Fortunately I came across SimFlightKL, a flight simulator centre recently launched in Kuala Lumpur (a city I frequently visit) using exclusive FDS parts. When I visited the centre I was astounded with the level of detail and any fears or uncertainty with the quality of the MIP was unfounded.
Communication was done by e-mail to the Mr Peter and Steve Cos (Flight Deck Solutions). We discussed the available A320 MIP options – yes, just like a vehicle, you can ‘spec’ out the MIP, and expected shipping time. The ADV version of the MIP which has a more realistic rendition of the MIP was on offer along with the more ‘tactile’ (but also more expensive) EM1 switches. With previous experience with the PRO and the alternative K2 switches, I jumped to the opportunity to obtain higher quality components. As an additional gesture,
Mr Steve Cos was also able to offer a personal registration plate, glareshield flood lights and a frame to fit my CP Flight FCU along with my purchase.The MIP was built to order, along with the glareshield. An initial deposit was first with the order, with full payment to be made when the items were ready to ship. Within 2 months I received the phone call the items were ready to be picked up at a DHL warehouse.The items were individually well packed (each layered with multiple layers of bubble wrap).
In addition, the MIP itself was secured to a heavy cork board to reduced movement and prevent any bending or damage during shipment. The items looked immaculate without any damage when received. FDS did an excellent job in the shipment and handling.
The MIP and glareshield was setup within a week (a few hours was spent each day). Wiring the switches took a longer time – up to 2 months. The FDS SYS3 interface board was used to communicate with the flight simulator computer and the switches on the MIP. Setup was confusing at first – no manual was included with the purchase order, but my questions were quickly answered by Mr Peter Cos who e-mailed me step by step walk through photos. I am confused why no manual is included with their higher end products (their Jetmax series, MCDU, and I/O boards all come with appropriate documentation). In my opinion it would save FDS a lot of their time spent answering customer e-mails.
I had additional questions on the EM1 switches (schematics, and how to set it up), which was also quickly answered by e-mail. Unfortunately I had made a serious mistake with the wiring by not distinguishing the different push button (PB) switches. The airbus has either momentary or on-off (latch) switches. You cannot distinguish between momentary or on-off switches with visual inspection of the EM1 switch, and can only do so by physically clicking on the PB. After confirmation with Mr Steve Cos I had to rewire ten PBs – this proved to be more difficult than expected, especially when all the wires had already been shortened and soldered. Lesson well learned!
The glareshield itself sits perfectly on the FDS MIP. The CP Flight FCU fits well with the included FDS custom frame. Constructed out of metal, it is sturdy and even has the corrected angles with on the wings of the glareshield. Automobile bulbs are used for the overhead lighting, and there are even metal attachments they sit on to provide accurate directed lighting. Speaker grills were also included with the MIP and are highly detailed.
Overall the FDS MIP and glareshield impresses, especially with the attention to detail. As a replicate part of the real aircraft, it provides a good rendition for simulation fans out there.
The FDS Airbus solution is being faciliated in several flight simulator centres around the world and even integrated with certain software (ECA-FAROS is one such example) that can be certified as a type-rating training device. Using it with Jeehell FMGS software was effortless, and also recommended.
Video of the Airbus in action —
+ Realistic MIP and Glareshield design with good attention to detail.
+ Sturdy aluminium frame
+ Excellent after sales support from FDS.
+ EM1 switches have a satisfying click and have a high quality feel.
+ Items protected and packaged well on receipt.
– 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)
– Expensive EM1 switches (subjective)