Sorry for the short pause between posts – real life called and I had to answer. Since this blog has (of this date) had a grand total of about 10 views, it’s not really likely to worry you, dear reader. By the time I start actively promoting links here on flight sim sites, this will be but a distant memory…
Anyway, last time I was describing the basic assembly of the console shell for Phase 1 of my cockpit project. Immediately thereafter, I turned my attention to the construction of the glareshield (see Glossary Part 1 for a less-concise definition of what a glareshield comprises), the ‘bit that sticks out over the top’.
Almost every aircraft has a glareshield of some description, since glare is a constant problem for daytime flying. In many cases this is a simple as a slightly extended lip of the console top. In many heavier aircraft, however, the glareshield is host to a number of instruments and controls; most notably the master control panel for the autopilot and nav systems and the EFIS (which controls the mode that the glass systems operate in) for pilot and co-pilot.
So, the basic description of a typical airliner glareshield is that it sticks out over the main panel a bit and looks like two triangles and a rectangle squashed together. In a real aircraft, and in many sims, the glareshield is part of the top of the console itself. Many builders build their console on a down-angle to form the necessary angle for the main panel, and then the glareshield simply fits on top and adopts the right angle automatically. My console top is flat (because it has to act as a standing surface for a large LCD display) and hence things were not quite so easy; I also needed to foreshorten the length of the glareshield quite a bit to allow it all to fit where I needed. Here’s a picture of my earliest hack at the problem:
This is a dead-simple trapezoidal shape, extending out from the console dash line 100mm or so, angled at a right-angle to the slope of the front console which is 15 degrees. At this point the various MDF panels making up the structure are raw-edged and abutting. Later on I sanded down edges and angles to blend together as best I could (a fair degree of wood filler was still required to make it all go). For various reasons I was unhappy with this approach. Most glareshields I had seen blended in nicely with the cockpit mounting of the main console – this one would not do so. But in the end, with a simple MDF front panel bolted on, it was just a bit… plain.
I decided that I wanted some kind of protruding lip over the top of the shield, similar to what you’d see on most real-world versions. I also decided that some kind of fabric / leather detailing would be useful, as the top cover of most consoles is either covered with some form of padded fabric / leather / vinyl or is made from a moulded soft plastic (not least because, should you happen to bump your head on it, it gives way and prevents major injury). A quick trip to B&Q bought me some 18mm softwood shelving which could be repurposed to serve as the top lip /cover, and searching for leatherette covering I came upon a vinyl wallpaper with a leather effect that looked quite suitable, and bought a roll of that.
The new lip was designed to stick out over the ends of the frame, and a new detail was added to the front at each end (this is supposed to resemble the moulded baffles you find on various aircraft glareshields, but it didn’t really come out that well – I’m going to live with it for this phase and maybe think again in phase 2). This then gave me an opportunity to put in angled ends (detail below).
I’m still unhappy with the glareshield structure in general, but it’s consumed far too many weekends for me to consider rebuilding it from scratch now. When and if I move to an enclosed structure with projected displays and the requirement for a flat top to the console disappears, I may re-engineer it completely. For now, it’ll do.
Next steps for the glareshield are the panels of which there will be three: an MCP and twin EFIS. I’m going to mount some telltales / indicators on the baffle structures and possibly put built-in speakers for external sound in there too. LED lamps will be mounted in the glareshield base to optionally illuminate the panels below. The MCP build will be the most challenging electronic part of the project, using several USB-driven two-line LCD displays and a host of switches and rotary controls. I considered buying an Airbus-style MCP off the shelf, but ultimately I want all the panels on the sim to share a common look and I wasn’t planning to slavishly follow either Airbus or Boeing style on the rest of the panels. Besides, building it yourself is much more fun…