In real-world flight training, it’s easy to get overloaded. It’s easy to get distracted by cockpit electronics and the Garmin 430/530 can be challenging if you aren’t familiar with it. Although I read instructions for it and watched many Youtube videos about them, I had limited hands-on experience as my time in the aircraft is spent practicing maneuvers and looking out the window, rather than futzing around with programming the Garmin. The G430/530 interface is not exactly intuitive and there’s quite a few interesting ways of navigating the menus.
After spending alot of time using my mouse in X-Plane 11 to program a simulated 430, I wanted physical input. My goal is to reach over and adjust the menu items or radio/nav frequencies quickly and realistically to give me actual hands on experience with it at home, prior to flying. The X-Plane Garmins are not 100% like the real thing, but are close enough for my learning goals. I would love to upgrade at some point to the RealityXP versions though.
I found a few companies selling physical Garmin simulators, but didn’t want to spend the money on a full system at the time, so I found this unit on Ebay from a really nice guy who makes them. It’s really well made, but does not have come with a screen. I used it to have physical input to the virtual 430/530s, it’s pre-programmed to work the first Garmin 430 or 530 in the stack.
When I rebuilt my home sim to the latest version, I wanted to add a more realistic feel to the panel, using two GNS 530s with built in screens. I found a few versions out there from various hobbyists, but I chose Custom Sims units as they looked really nice and I liked their videos showing them in use. I ended up purchasing an audio panel and transponder as well from them, to complete the stack. It took over 3 months to get the units and nothing works with X-Plane 11. Looks really great in photos, but none of the buttons or inputs work.
I spent countless hours trying to figure out how to fix or reprogram these myself and just recently did it, using ArdsimX. I would not recommend these units. I have only received half of my order, since August. Half of the transponder buttons were broken. I ordered new surface mount buttons and replaced them, so they now work. The laser cut panels are slightly warped and the audio panel arrived with a large scratch. This has been an incredible waste of my time, as I could have built my own units during this time. Lesson learned on that, anyway.
I’m now ready to build my own unit, from a kit. I saw this one from Simwarekits.com from one of Russ Barlow’s Youtube videos recently and was also mentioned on the OTG blog. I signed up for it immediately and can’t wait to get started on it when it’s released. It looks great and works with ArdsimX, which I use extensively. The data file and all components are included with the kit, with 3D models to print. Looks like a winner to me, but I think I’ll try to laser cut the buttons. out of acrylic. We’ll see how that goes.
At some point, I’m sure I’ll build my own G1000 system when I advance my flight training to aircraft which use them. I’ve been playing around with the new C172 G1000 system in X-Plane, and I realized I have no idea what I’m doing with those yet. More to come!