Several years have passed since our last update. Although the simulator reached operational status around 2012, we always had massive software problems and therefore could use the system to a limited extent only.
From about 2016 on we tried more and more to get these problems under control with different approaches, but everything only got worse. After a phase in which we almost didn’t use the simulator anymore, we came to an all-or-nothing decision at the end of 2017. The question was whether to end the project or migrate to a completely new software package, which would entail a comprehensive adaptation and reprogramming of the entire electronics and computer hardware. We opted for the latter option. From spring 2018 to spring 2019, we replaced all the hardware, software and programmed a variety of tools ourselves.
Our simulator now is based on X-Plane 11 and the FlightFactor Airbus A320 Ultimate – probably the most extensive virtual implementation of this aircraft on the simulator market at the moment.
We use only 4 Win10-Computers anymore (previously there were 9 WinXP-ones), which greatly simplifies all maintenance and servicing.
While in the past we had to rely on multiple different tools which connected the old FSX with our hardware (the cockpit itself) and which often worked quite unreliably in their interaction, we now use a self-developed software suite consisting of a native plug-in (C++) for the FlightFactor A320 and two programs (C#) for the integration of Simbrief, the EFB and to simulate air traffic control.
(Please note: This so called “X-Suite” is not freely or commercially available because it is too much tailored to our cockpit and our needs. It would be a huge effort to bring it to a level where it could be used by anyone. In addition, we would not be able to support it due to lack of time.)
The challenges now have shifted: in the past, while the old FSX was “frozen” in its software state, our main problem was to cope with the faulty software at all levels and to be able to USE the simulator at all. Today our main problem is to keep up with the fast-moving nature of current software development (for example X-Plane or the FF A320). There are permanent updates, everything is changing constantly and therefore we always have to stay on the ball to keep the software and our in-house-developed stuff up to date.
A brief overview about the combination of our hard- and software:
- Main computer with XPlane 11, FlightFactor A320 with X-Com-plugin (in-house development) to connect the simulated Airbus to our flightdeck-hardware
- Visual computer with XPlane 11, responsible for the graphical representation (3 projectors, 160-degree-canvas), supported by Immersive Display Pro
- MCDU-1-computer, representation of the left MCDU as well as the left electronic flight bag on a touch screen as well as ATC (X-MCDU and X-EFB)
- MCDU-2-computer, representation of the right MCDU as well as the right electronic flight bag on a touch screen as well as ATC (X-MCDU and X-EFB)
Our in-house developed software package “X-Suite” consists of:
- X-Com (connects FF A320 to our flightdeck hardware)
- X-MCDU (graphical representation of left/right MCDU on separate computers)
- X-EFB (graphical representation of left/right EFB, flightplanning-tools, interactive checklists, air traffic control)
If everything continues to go so well, we will consider offering Youtube videos from time to time in the near future. However, we are still very limited in time (real life!), so no promises.
Jörg Lange, 30.04.2019