The MCDU or Multifunction Control Display Unit is a critical piece of hardware found on Airbus airliners. It is an interface and display unit linked to the FMGC (Flight Management Guidance Computer) allowing the pilot to flight plan, look up performance data, navaid auto-tuning, generate profiles for the aircrafts climb and descent phase, and manage the complex FMGS data.
In this review we will be looking at the Flight Deck Solutions (FDS) PRO-MX MCDU. FDS, a Canadian company, is no stranger to the simulation and aviation industry. FDS provides solutions for flight simmers, aviation enthusiasts, educational bodies, and cooperations. One client has been Dresden University where they cooperated to integrate an FDS professional A320 dual trainer with an ecaFAROS system. The end result is a higher fidelity certified training device. Placing an order for the MCDU was straight forward — by going onto the FDS website you can place a direct order, with shipping to be calculated and quoted by e-mail. It is reassuring payment can be made securely by PayPal and by credit card.
I cannot stress the importance of communication in any business, especially when you are dealing with the exchange of currency overseas (this author lives in Australia). The whole experience, from the purchase of the item to delivery was swift with communication by Peter Cos (President, FDS), Corina (General Manager, FDS), and Mark (FDS).The shipping quote was received within 2 business days of placing the order.
The item was ready for delivery in Canada shortly after and was received in Sydney, Australia in eight business days (delivered by DHL). We usually have to wait for flight simulator parts as vendors have to manufacture on order, so I was very surprised and impressed with the logistics and how quickly everything progressed.
When received the shipping box was wrapped in FDS trademark black. Inside custom foam were fitted to reduce any movement. A short printed note provided links to the device drivers and to the online manual. There is no official documentation providing guiding users on how to setup the MCDU with Jeehell FMGS but prior to the ordering of the device, I had corresponded with Mr Steve Cos to confirm compatibility. Power supply with different adapter fittings (North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania) were all also included. FDS does not supply the mandatory VGA or USB cable to attach to the flight simulator computer.
The main chassis of the device itself is made out of metal and powder coated with Airbus grey paint. Buttons have an authentic click sound when pressed. The device can be used as a standalone module with placement on a desk or you can can mount it onto a OEM or replica pedestal with compatible DZUS screws. The MCDU is built with high quality materials and feels like it could take many years of use without any considerable wear.
Setup was straight forward. The device is plug and play and was recognised immediately with the Windows OS. I installed the FDS-CDU software to facilitate the use of the Test Module. The software allows you to confirm the device outputs and inputs are working and can also interface with the avionics software. Buttons presses were recognised immediately. I was initially frustrated that the LCD and buttons did not light up but finally realised there were output ‘LCD’ and ‘Backlighting’ tickboxes in the software – these had to be selected before the unit would come alive. After this realisation I was able to quickly set the unit up with Jeehell FMGS.
Left – MCDU running FMGS 38.3 and Christoph’s CPDLC plugin. Logged into IVAO with live ATIS review.
The FDS hardware was assigned as an MCDU using the IITcreator software included with Jeehell. I was pleasantly surprised to find the LCD only wakes up or turns on when the battery on the overhead of the Airbus is enabled, syncing appropriately with the aircraft electrical bus. The color LCD screen is brilliant, bright, and presents the fonts of the MCDU well with a good wide viewing angle. Backlighting is excellent…take a look at the photos and judge yourself!
Setup was straight forward (after the initial confusion) and the MCDU is beautifully crafted, sturdy and authentic with good attention to detail. It adds a strong sense of realism to the cockpit. Documentation could be improved, but the level of service by FDS is remarkable, and they have a proven track record to help you with your setup if you have any issues or concerns.