Time to face the next challenge – the construction of the gear lever!
As you might know, I bought a complete set of MIP-Panels without any mechanical parts. So my challenge is now, to fill the MIP with all working components like in the real Airbus A320. So let’s get started!
Like with every part you’re planning to build, the first step should be to research the internet on any knowledge. Use Forums like flightx.net or look for in-flight Videos on Youtube! You can find very good pictures of the original lever on Ben’s soarbywire.com Blog!
The mechanism of the Airbus A320 Family Gear Lever is working as follows: The Lever locks in two positions, the Gear Up and the Gear Down position. To move it up or downwards, you have to pull it out for about two centimeters. After moving to another position, the lever snaps in again. Two microswitches will detect, in which position the lever is and send the signal via an interface card to the simulator.
Regarding the mechanism, I found very helpful advice on the following websites, even if those aren’t related to Airbus Homecockpits:
Thanks a lot to Burkhard and Julian for their work!
Time to get to work!
Inspired by those reports, I began to create my own gear lever. My starting point was just a small gear lever panel, I got from my MIP.
For the lever itself, I decided to use two aluminium pipes that will slide in one another to ensure a smooth and stable travel when the lever is pulled out. Then I drilled a long hole of about 2 to 3 cm into the bigger pipe, following a 4mm hole into the thinner pipe. When you put a 4mm (M4) screw through the small hole, you can imagine how the mechanism will work.
The next step is very important, as this will decide, if the lever is going to move smooth and with the correct distance within your panel. So now you need two carrier plates with absolutely even edges on that side, that will later contact your Main Instrument Panel. Drill a M4 hole in it and mount the aluminium pipes on it. Now you can hold your Gear Lever Panel in front of it and simulate the movement of the lever. Draw the movement onto your carrier plate to get the template for the cuts. This step is really complex and you might need four hands 🙂
Now you can mount all parts and simulate the movement and pull-out mechanism of the lever. I had to rework it several times, as the lever sometimes stuck because of uneven edges. Instead of a M4 screw, I decided to use an aluminium bar and (great idea of Burkhard!!) fixed it with rubber washers. The movement now got much smoother and quieter.
When your lever is moving quiet and smooth, you can face the next step: Mounting the microswitches and constructing the backlight. Regarding the backlight, there is something to know: In the real Airbus A320 Family, the arrow on the gear lever panel is illuminated red or green in some conditions. For example, when the landing gear isn’t locked down and the aircraft is in landing configuration, it is illuminated in red. To read more, look here at the smartcockpit.com document on page 23.
Nevertheless, I decided not to implement any red or green backlight, as this seemed too complex to me. Remember, that you would need to query all the conditions from the simulator and then create a backlight with several colors like red, green and amber for the regular panel backlight. So my backlight is just amber in any case. Future modifications not impossible 😉
Now it was time to mount the gear lever behind the MIP. It took quite some time to find the best solution, because there isn’t much space behind the MIP. In the end, I decided to use two strong wood pales. They’re holding the lever stable in place and I can fix them with screws, so the lever can be disassembled if needed. Pictures are telling more than words 🙂
The final challenge was then, to find a suitable handle for the gear lever. It was really a coincidence that I found two parts, left from the baby fence of my daughter that looked pretty true to the original handle. After mounting them, they don’t look quite bad, but they are a bit too big. Not the best solution for sure, but better than no handle at all 🙂
Let me know your thoughts about this! How did you realize your gear lever? Best regards! 🙂