Woodwork – Building the cockpit main blocks.

Translation by Christian Girardet


 

My goal was not to make an exact replica of the A320 nose section, mainly because of space limitations. The width of this cockpit is 2.45 meter, which is already quite large. This measurement includes the whole front panel and the two lateral stick consoles. Length is 1.8 meter. The projection screen is located 3 meters from the cockpit so that it would fit very well within the pilot’s vision field.

I decided against building the cockpit side windows, as it would have meant to flatten them as my cockpit design is at right angles from the stick consoles backward. The resulting windows shape would have been quite unrealistic and I decided not to build them. Likewise, the upper part of the fuselage, above the windshield, is not a developable surface and was left aside at least for now. It can be dealt with later, using foam blocks, epoxy and fiberglass fabric. For these reasons, my cockpit is quite realistic inside, but for now, the outside is somewhat bare bone.

 

This cockpit design is made of 8 independent blocks. The glareshield components are integral parts of the main panel. The whole overhead is made of one section, but the pedestal comprises 2 independent parts.


Assembly concept

Once built (more about that later), the 12 blocks are connected in a very simple way so that they can be put together or disassembled without difficulty. Each of the blocks can go through a 28” door.

 

First step: floor underlayment:

Five inexpensive particle boards (16 mm) are used to build the floor underlayment and are to be covered with blue or grey color carpet (if possible matching that of the pilots’ seats).

 

These are tongue and groove boards, but it is better to chisel off the tongue as we are not using this connecting method. Instead, the boards will be held together by additional wood parts which will be screwed in.

 

At this stage, the side view drawing is not too complicated; one can see the floorboards and the back wall.

Second step: If brakes/steering gear with connecting rods and is to be fitted in the cockpit, now is the time to put them in. On top one will put the 3 Main Panel blocks CPT, CEN and FO, as well as the corresponding Glareshield component: CPT-G, CEN-G and FO-G.

 

These blocks are held together with 6mm screws (1/4”). For simplification purposes, I used only 6mm screws to put the cockpit together.

 

 

 Third Step : The two sidestick blocks are installed (CPT-S and FO-S). The vertical

 

 

 

post attached to the sidestick blocks is optional and used only if you choose to install a windshield.

 

 

 Fourth Step:

 

A “ladder” is bolted against the wall on the left (in the side view drawing). It is made of 2 long pieces of wood connected by small horizontal wood pieces as we will see it later in detail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fifth Step: the overhead in installed between the ladder and the windshield center post.

 

 

 

 

Sixth Step: Windshield installation, a simple rectangular frame held by Velcro tape.

 

 

 

 

 

Seventh Step: the Pedestal is screwed in with 2 metal screws (European #6 size) onto the CEN block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight step: Seats installation

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ninth: pilot’s eye location.

 

 

 

 

 

Top view: from above, the cockpit layout is the following:

 

 

 

 

Please note that the CPT-S and FO-S blocks shape is triangular on the drawings (as they are in an actual A320 cockpit). If space is at a premium, they could be parallelepiped and used for storing the 2 computers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Here are the dimensions (in millimeters)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Note: For space constraints, some will choose a single-user cockpit including only three quarters of the main panel; the pedestal and the overhead are unmodified.

 

In my case, after moving houses, I had to modify the cockpit presented in this website and had to “retire the copilot”. My cockpit 2.0 version is now 1.6 meter wide. The rear overhead which contains only electronic boards has been moved again the back wall and is now vertical. The video projector gave way to a large flat screen TV with an equivalent vision field angle, bringing the length of the cockpit down to 1.9 meter. Additionally, the CEN and CPT blocks are now one: this simplified the wiring, reduced the number of connections and made it possible for 2 people to transport it.

 

 


Detail of carpentry


Main Panel Center Block (CEN)

 

The CEN block C side is the same as the CPT B side: cut them together by stacking them precisely and hold them with clamps. Drill the 3 holes “P” (6.2 mm) through both sides at the same time. These holes will receive the 6x40TH screws which will hold the 2 sides together. Use washers and nuts and tighten. Remove the clamps, cut the 20 degree angle section of the Main Panel. Make holes for the connecting rods and/or cables if you install brakes/rudder pedals and drill some 60mm holes for the wiring. Repeat the process for D and M parts. Finally, a large opening will be made on the E board for the wiring: that cut will be made at the same time on the P1 side of the Pedestal.

 

F side: made of 15 or 16mm thick particle board and includes a notch of the windshield center post. Take precise measurements (my 44mm post was actually 43mm). Draw the notch in the middle of F as accurately as you can: do not draw the outside line using the post piece with the intent of making the cut on the inside of the line: it never works! Draw it right, cut it right and the central post should fit without play, nudging it into place with a bit of pushing if necessary.

 

Painting phase: All particle boards will be dusted off and painted with white acrylic paint, including the side of the cut. It pays off to use a good quality acrylic paint: primers do not cover as well and often do not really provide a good foundation for a real satin finish of the final coats: you take the risk to end up with a flat finish instead, not very resistant and prone to getting dirty. Using a paint roll will expedite the task and all 27x27 and 44x44 wood pieces should be painted white at the same time. One everything is dry, do some light sanding.

Cut all wood rails needed for the CEN block. Paint everything RAL 7011 dark grey.

 

Assembly: Hold each rail into place with two clamps on the side boards. Drill the board (only the board!) with a 4.1mm drill bit, 10mm deep (thickness of the board). At this stage, 4x30 TF self-taping Pozidriv screws (or their equivalent) will save you a lot of time as there will be no need to predrill the rail or to taper the screw hole. Using an electric screwing drill will drive the screw into the rail without splitting it and the screw head will be flush with the board’s surface. No glue is used in the assembly of the CEN, CPT or FO blocks. Make sure that the vertical rails on the inner rear face of the CEN block are correctly positioned: they have to be offset by an amount equal to the thickness of the E side board. Also note that the E piece has a distinct top and a bottom as well as its counterpart on the pedestal side.

 

The large 43x43 horizontal railing at the base of the CEN block is not only screwed but also held into place by two 40mm steel brackets (found in Roofing/carpentry supply stores). F and G are screwed solidly into the 27x27 railing supporting them.

 

The only difficult part of the Main Panel blocks construction is the board supporting the monitors screens. The easiest is to install each monitor on a board, itself screwed onto 2 rails. All monitors screens have 4 standard screws in their back and these can be used for a strong and durable installation. The board will be 10 or 15mm particle board, which will help to adjust precisely the location and lining up of the 3 monitors. If you use large monitors, it is likely you will have to make some cuts into the sides of the blocks to accommodate the extra width of the screen (see picture)

 

The sides of the blocks have been cut to fit a 17” screen. The support board is offset backward by 50mm from the front face of the FO block.

 

 

The monitor has been set on the rear supporting board. The board has a hole to receive a Korry switch. Other components will fit easily in the 50mm space. Final step is to install the front panel. The screen expends 20mm into the FO block: the left side of the FO block as well as the right side of the CEN block have been cut off 50 mm deep to accommodate the extra width.

 

 

The ECAM monitor is set vertically. You can reverse the image on the screen using the control parameters of your video card. The rectangular hole on the support board is for the landing lever.

 

Note: I first installed the monitor as seen in the picture. This is the WRONG way: the vision angle for a monitor seen “from under” is null. In the setting on the picture the bottom of the monitor is turned clockwise: the FO can see the ECAM fairly well, whereas the pilot can’t see anything. As a result, the screen should be turned counter-clockwise (monitor control buttons toward the FO) or find yourself a monitor which could be set horizontally.

 

The front panel with the instruments cutouts is made of 3mm thick material. It does not need to be stiff as it is held into place by a U shape aluminum rail into which the top slides into. At the bottom, it rests on the end of the rails supporting the monitor support board. It should not be able to slide upward, and you could block it with 2 little “L” shape hooks, turned ¼ turn to avoid interfering with the front panel. This panel should be easily removable as removal will happen frequently… The PFD and ND have a 10 mm high tapered border on the upper side of the windows. These can be made of 10mm particle board pieces carefully rounded, smoothly sanded, painted first in white and then in RAL 7011 color.

 

These windows depends on the actual size of the monitors you select. In my case I have two 17” wide screens for the PFD and ND of the pilot and the co-pilot and one vertically installed 17” monitor for the CEN. I could have used a 19” instead.

 

There is no definitive plan available for these panels as the size of the monitors plays a large role on the dimensions. Use a cardboard template for trials and fitting: it will help you to avoid costly errors.

 

Theoretically, these panels should have the following dimensions, but beware that those vary depending on the Airbus type and again, on the size of your monitors. Please note that the plans here-under have rounded corners on the PFD and the ND (like in the earlier versions of the A320). This can hinder the display of data located in the corners, so adapt your windows according to the gauge type you select for your panel.

 

 

This plan is only indicative as the measurements are those of my own cockpit: adapt accordingly to yours.

Important note: these plans are difficult to read here. In order to be more comfortable, click on these images and "save under". You can then open them in any image reader, and print them if necessary.

CEN block, pedestal side
CEN block, pedestal side
CEN block, front. The screws holding it into the floor are actually more helpful for setting the alignment of the blocks than to actually secure them  into place. Once the Pedestal is screwed into the CEN block, it is impossible to knock it over.
CEN block, front. The screws holding it into the floor are actually more helpful for setting the alignment of the blocks than to actually secure them into place. Once the Pedestal is screwed into the CEN block, it is impossible to knock it over.
First dry fitting of the main blocks. The FO block has a board to tightly insert the screen. This system was dropped later on, and now the screen is secured from the back, as indicated on the plans here-under.
First dry fitting of the main blocks. The FO block has a board to tightly insert the screen. This system was dropped later on, and now the screen is secured from the back, as indicated on the plans here-under.

CPT and FO side blocks

The construction method is exactly the same as that of the CEN. Still these may look quite frail as they do not include a bottom board to hold them (Rudder pedals location), but once installed and screwed into place this ensemble is perfectly rigid. Before final assembly, do not forget to install some 200mm long ball-bearing sliding rails for the pilot’s tablet: it will be much more difficult once the assembly is completed.

 

The board P (Q on the FO block) is optional; its purpose is to support the wires coming from the side stick blocks and going to the central block.

 

J (same size) is a stiffener for the bottom part of the block. See variant lower.

 


CPT-S and FO-S blocks

 

These blocks dimensions have been modified to house a computer. The top is a simple 10mm thick board with a cutout whose size depends on your choice of stick and tiller. Not visible on the picture are 8cm wide trims running all around the block. These are painted dark blue, nearly black. The same trims can be found around the Pedestal.

 

As an improvement, one can glue some pieces of wood (10mm medium) around the stick housing to duplicate the inclination of the top of the block, like in the real A320.

 

These blocks are the only ones to have glued-on sides, all others are with screws. After having glued the parts (these are not right angles!), one can re-enforce the inside with fiberglass and epoxy.

 

 


Floors

 These are simply low cost particle boards normally used as carpeting underlayment.

 Floor widths:

 Block CPT-S: 427 mm

Block CPT: 529 mm

Block CEN: 537 mm

Block FO: 529 mm

Block FO-S: 427 mm

Cockpit total width: 2,45 m

 

It is advised to cut the angled sides of the floor (CPT-S and FO-S) only once you have assembled the windshield frame and the vertical side posts.

Variation:

In this case, the total length is 1,80 meter. As the particle boards are 2 meter long, one could use the extra 20cm as the computers location. If this is not sufficient for your computers, the P, Q (optionial), J and O boards can be located behind the vertical rail instead of in front. On this drawing, they are in the front of the rail, to provide space for homemade rudder pedals. In case you put the board behind the rail, you are left with 30cm for your pedals. In this case, the computers location is ideal as the wiring length will be reduced: no need for extensions to reach the monitors screens. Same thing for the audio input and the IOCard (most of them located in the central GEN block) which are now connected to the Overhead and the Pedestal with much a shorter wiring. All in all, it might be worth considering reducing the space allocated to the rudder pedals…

 

Offset J board: the available space for the computer is 23cm x 45 cm
Offset J board: the available space for the computer is 23cm x 45 cm

Paint

Blocks are painted with airbus grey (RAL 7031) satin acrylic paint. This paint can be mixed for you at your home improvement store. In France, at Leroy-Merlin, their computer has that paint references. The same color is used on all VU panels (at least theoretically…).

 

The underside of the blocks (as well as that of the pedals) is of a very dark grey/blue, nearly black RAL 5011. The upper side of the stick blocks, the cover of the glare-shield as well as its underside are made of leather like plastic fabric of an even darker tone (RAL 5004). Tablets under the Main Panel are painted in RAL 2011 but the rubber part (foot holders) is grey (RAL 7031). Loudspeakers panels are RAL 5011 (and not grey RAL 7011). Finally, the cockpit side walls as well as the windshield frame posts are RAL 7031 with some white mixed into it. Carpet is anthracite dark grey.

A good 3D view of a grey A380 cockpit is can be found at Gilles Vidal.

To make it simple, here is what is looks like:

 I used about ½ kg of RAL 7031, ½ kg of dark marine blue and as much white under coat.

 

This concludes this part on making the main cockpit blocks and we will move onto cutting the overhead panels.