Category Archives: Flight Training

Virtual Cockpit Upgrades: Monitor Mount and Saitek Radio and Multi Panels

I’ve upgraded my cockpit a little bit.  I installed a 4 Monitor mounting bracket from amazon for $88. I cleared up my desk so I can fit more on it. I used a board to screw the yoke, throttle, trim and Radio and Multi panel to it.  This make it easily to remove the yoke without needing to clamp everything down.  I put a few rubber feet on the bottom of the board to keep it from sliding around.


I also got a Saitek PRO Flight Multi Panel and Radio Panel





Flight Simulator Monitor layouts

My Windows 7 machine has a Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 2GB, which can handle 4 monitors.

My first configuration was 3+1, here it is with X-Plane 10


And with FSX, FSX lets you put other views on other monitors. X-Plane does not.IMG_2883

Here I put the 4th monitor above, which is less ok, but not the best.IMG_2893

And with 3 above and 4th below.  I like this one better.  Also notice the iPhone and iPad mini running Air Nav Pro.   The 4th Monitor on the bottom is running on my Mac Mini (X-Plane 10 on OSX), while the 3 monitors are on the Win7 GTX 660 machine, connected via the network.IMG_1089

Here I’m using my Mac Book Air and a 42″ LCD TV together, which the gauges on the laptop, and Air Nav Pro on the iPad mini.  This was a test but could work if setup better on a desk.  I like the TV being a little bit further back and gauges closer, seems closer to the real thing.IMG_3084

I found this software by with a G1000 cockpit for Cessna 172.  I’m running the cockpit on my PC’s 4th monitor, with the 3 other monitors running X-Plane 10.  I put monitors behind the 4th monitor, so it looks like looking over the hood of the plane.  Focusing close for controlls, and further away for outside the cockpit.



I’m conisdering getting a touch screen, since the FTS cockpit was designed to use it.


Air Nav Pro – iPhone/iPad App for real and simulated flight


I decided to purchase Air Nav Pro for $49.99, and also got the 3D Data for EFIS “USA – California 3D data” pack for $29.99 so I can see the 3D view, as well as the 2012 Sectional and TAC charts for the entire USA for $3.99 each, totaling $87.96.

The version used on this review is Air Nav Pro 5.4.1.

Here are the reasons that got me to buy this app over ForeFlight, Garmin, or WingX:

  • Works with X-Plane and FSX with a small AirNav plugin (ForeFlight is too, to use FSX requires buying a $5 FSXFlight program to get it to work)
  • 3D EFIS system for seeing altitude of surrounding terrain. Great for navigating around the terrain.
  • Airspace outlines on Elevation graph
  • Can install on all iPads and iPhones on my account, for the 1 fee.
  • my iPad (with wifi only) can use the iPhones GPS when in a real flight (by enabling “Share GPS via bluetooth” on my iPhone).
  • LogBook of all flights, with sync to the site, which can export as GPX and KML: Here is my logged flights

Features I wish Air Nav Pro had:

  • Easy download of FAA Documents – with auto update (ForeFlight)
  • Airport Plates with Geo-referenced and AF/D info (like in ForeFlight)
  • DUATS filing (with (ForeFlight)
  • IFR High and Low route charts
  • Map Overlays (Like ForeFlight): Flight rule icons for VFR, IFR), Dewpoint, Temp, Visibility, Wind, Ceiling, Sky Coverage, PIREPs, Lightning, Obstacles, Fuel Costs, Satellite (clouds), and Radar (for rain).

Here is what the map looks like when the 3D data is installed, and you are flying below the surrounding terrain.  Also, note the elevation window, and the different colored boxes outlining the different Airspaces.  This will be very useful for knowing when I’m entering an airspace, and knowing if I’m flying above or below it.




X-Plane 10 vs Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) for Cessna 172 Private Pilot Training

I’m trying to get really comfortable with the cockpit of a Cessna 172 before I do real flight training.

The 2 most popular products are: X-Plane 10 and Microsoft Flight Simulator X (aka FSX). I own both and have been going back and forth between them.

X-Plane 10:


  • Visuals: Better visualizations and scenery, and graphics engine
  • OS Compatibility: Works on Windows, OSX and Linux
  • Flight Characteristics: More realistic flight controls and flight models
  • Networking: networking computers is integrated into X-Plane – can use 2nd computer as an instructor or display for other gauges or scenery (though a separate license is required per computer)


  • GPS: Garmin 430 only – with limited, “direct to” functionality
  • Lessons: Lack of flight training material integrated within X-Plane, though they have a website with lessons
  • Start Up time: Slow start up –  usually 90 seconds or so.
  • ATC: VFR ATC doesnt work very well, IFR is suppsed to be OK.
  • WideScreen – Multi Monitors: Multiple monitor layout is limited – requires more separate computers other monitors in most cases
  • Price: More pricey ($69 per computer license)

Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX):


  • Lessons: Included flight lessons for VFR, IFR and Commercial pilot are decent and a good way to get familiar with flying
  • GPS: Both a Garmin 530 or G1000 equipped Cessna’s are included, Though they both have limited functionality. Flight Plan is entered via  menus, not manual on the GPS, unless it is a “Direct to” point.
  • Addons: Many more addons are available for FSX, since it have been around since 2006.
  • Price: Cheap ($18 on
  • Widescreen – multi monitor: Much easier to move around instruments and scenery to other screens attached to same computer, though 2D panel disappears when with triple monitor widescreen.
  • Automated ATC: ATC works for both VFR and IFR, and gives you some exposure to the phraseology.
  • ATC Addon: VATSIM seems to work better – via squawkbox


  • Software Improvements: Microsoft has discontinued the product, so no more patches or updates
  • More Addons Requires: FSUIPC4 required to connector most other apps, like Plan-G3, ForeFlight, etc.

Here is another persons comparison discussion:X-Plane 9 and 10 vs. Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX) Comparison Video



Garmin 400/500 – Aviation GPS Trainer – Free

Garmin 430 and 530

It seems that most GPS equipped Cessna’s use the Garmin 430 or 530, or none at all. There are of course the full glass cockpit Cessna’s with the G1000, but those are a bit more expensive and rare to find for training, so it’s probably best to get used to the 430/530 for cross country flights.

I found this free stand-alone windows application from Garmin for simulating the Garmin 400/500 (includes all the 400 models too, 430, etc.) You can download it for free at: Garmin’s site

Here is what it looks like:

It includes the pdf manuals and has the full database of airports already loaded.

Thanks to for putting together 2 introduction videos at:

Garmin 430: Basic VFR Familiarization (VFR)

Garmin 430: Intro to Flight Plan (FPL) Function

I’d recommend downloading the simulator and clicking around as he does in the videos, so you get familiar with the GPS. Then do some practice data entry.

Once I get use to this, I see how well the Garmin 430 in X-Plane 10 and Garmin 530 in FSX compare.