System Layout

Click a component for its description:

System Layout EICAS IOS and VSM Visuals xPC Target HIM and Controls Avionics FMC

xPC Target

The xPC Target is a piece of mathworks software which allows the Simulink and MATLAB designed control systems to be run in real time. This is housed in a separate computer which connects to all aspects of the VSFS as shown in the above diagram. The xPC Target communicates back and forth with the VSM which runs the actual Simulink models.
By executing the models in real time, with input and output, the physical hydraulic systems can be used or controlled from the PC. This also allows for all avionics, computers and displays in the cockpit to enter and display real time information. This in turn can affect the control system and travel back through the Target computer and produce results in the VSM for analysis later.

This feature effectively makes the xPC Target the core of the VSFS. Creating and prototyping control systems with ease and observing their real effects is only possible with this setup.

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Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS)

As part of the glass cockpit upgrade, an EICAS was installed in the centre console of the simulator. This screen displays engine information for all available engines (up to four at the present moment) similar to that of a Boeing 747. The EICAS runs to the xPC and receives information in real time, thus provides the pilots with useful information during the simulation, rather than having to wait for post-sim data.
Other engine instrumentation such as the electrics and hydraulic status are available in the EICAS, however, these have not been designed into the VSFS as yet.

The Crew Alerting System has been installed and is being designed to receive failure data from the newly created Failures module in the VSM. This will display failure information onto the EICAS as soon as a failure is initiated by the control system in the VSM, as is done by actual alerting systems. This means a failure can be discriminated against other possible control changes due to gusts, weather or stability changes invoked by the instructor.

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Instructor Operating Station (IOS) and Variable Stability Module (VSM)

The IOS is a computer station situated behind the two pilots seats which allows for the additional control of the simulation. This is due to the fact that it communicates both ways with the xPC. The IOS is capable of displaying all visuals as shown on the main cockpit window displays through X-Plane. These same X-Plane visuals are precisely what are sent to the xPC. Besides being the start point for the simulation and a monitor/control medium, the IOS contains the all important Variable Stability Module.

The VSM is the showpiece of the simulator and is constantly updated through various projects. This module in the Simulink model is operated through a series of Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) designed in MATLAB. These screens allow users to change stability characteristics such as pitch stiffness or yaw damping through a simple scroll bar or slider as on the side of this web page.

Other features include the ability to activate weather, failures engine and ground models; then, within these models, change their severity or type. In the specific case of engine models, any number of engines may be placed at any location on the aircraft through clicking locations on a picture of the aircraft in the VSM.
A similar feature is to be added to the ground model so that any aircraft can be assigned a landing gear at the click of a button.

The VSM is a very powerful tool and is invaluable to the functionality and value, both present and future, of the VSFS and its projects.

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Visuals and Display

The visuals displayed are output from X-Plane software. These display aircraft models in high detail (view can be zoomed out) and show highly detailed ground features in certain areas such as major cities and airports. X-Plane graphics are also subject to regular updates and can be user modified. Mainly, these updates improve the resolution of images, making the graphics more realistic.

Visuals offered by X-Plane also include those of the cockpit controls and instruments. These have been adapted, edited and incorporated into the pilot avionics LCD displays and include standard instrumentation such as the artificial horizon, airspeed and vertical speed indicators and turn and bank coordinator.

The primary display out the cockpit windows is supplied by two projectors mounted on the forward nose of the simulator structure. These are the original displays and have not been modified by the University. These are connected to a computer solely for visuals, which then communicates with the xPC Target.

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Hardware Interface Machine (HIM) and Controls

The HIM is a University addition to the simulator which allows the complete control of the computer based simulator from the physical cockpit. All controls are original and hence were connected to Analogue to Digital cards in order to receive inputs for simulation. Most of the major controls work using this method, however others use potentiometers or switches to record control movement directly.

The available controls include:

  • Original hydraulic yoke with trim control
  • Original hydraulic rudder pedals
  • Original Throttle levers (x4)
  • Manual Trim wheel
  • Flap control
  • Landing Gear lever
  • Autopilot controls
  • New Side stick control (for high speed/manoeuvrable aircraft like the F-111 or PC9)

After receiving control information, the HIM will then send this data to the xPC, which treats them as inputs for the real time model.

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The avionics are primarily a display of all aircraft instrumentation. They also act as a backup set of visuals. That is, in the same way a pilot can switch to instruments in adverse conditions, simulations can be run through the avionics without graphical representation on the main screens. The avionics displays are purely digital, replicating a Boeing 747 glass cockpit, with graphics from X-Plane. Instruments include the basic flight instrument (Altimeter, ASI, Compass) as well as extras such as a Directional Indicator and Artificial Horizon.

The avionics also include an autopilot directly connected to the xPC Target. Autopilot controllers can therefore be directly linked and controlled in real time from this manual box on the instrument panel.

Overall then, the avionics system in the VSFS is robust enough to be an efficient replacement to the dials and gauges present prior to the University's acquisition.

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Flight Management Computer (FMC)

The 3 FMC touch screen displays are located between the pilot and co-pilot seats as per the flight deck of a Boeing 747. These computers act as data entry points for navigation and other flight data, separate from the VSM. While not necessary for the operation of the VSFS, these are important avionics devices in industry, hence their inclusion.
The primary function of the FMC is to display various screens for entering flight data including flight path and altitude for segments of the flight. In addition, progress was being made in using the FMC as a complete guidance window. That is, a mock camera output would be fed from X-Plane directly to the FMC. Flight paths could then be entered and the output shown directly on the FMC screen in 3D. This visual system is applicable to IFR conditions where Infrared cameras could output visuals onto screens such as the FMC in the cockpit.

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