Many of us dream of having a flight simulation cockpit in our home. Seeing all the lights, physically flipping switches, and turning knobs adds a massive layer of realism to your flight sim experience. But bringing this to a reality can have its challenges. Often times one may not know where to begin when it comes to building the panels with correct dimensions – and not to mention the difficulty in affording the tools and materials to make this happen. This is where a company known as Flight Velocity saves the day.
Flight Velocity is located in the USA where they manufacture affordable cockpit panels that are completely compatible with Saitek/Logitech G instruments. These panels are strong, lightweight, and made from high-strength Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastics. There are currently three models available with more on the way – two include room for RealGear’s GNS-530 and 430, and the other supports the G-1000. It is important to understand that these panels do not come with the Saitek/Logitech hardware. They are simply ready to use panels that the flight instruments can easily be mounted to. The compatible instruments can be purchased from various stores, but most conveniently on the Flight Velocity product page.
Legacy Cockpit Panel
The FV1 Legacy Panel is the most stacked model costing $199 USD. I found this to be my favorite panel of the three because it has the most options, and I prefer the yoke mounted on the left. This model is also the tallest of the three, sitting at 22 inches high, with a width of 31 inches, and 6 inches of depth. The FV1 allows for the input of nine gauges, four instrument panels, yoke, throttle, trim wheel, and iPad mount. Because of the height, you will need to make sure your work surface is low enough to achieve the proper eye level above the glare shield. I went with a surface 21 inches in height. I’ve calculated that a fully configured Legacy panel will run you about $2500 USD. But this does not mean you need to have all nine gauges and panels. For example, you might only want six gauges and two panels. You can also add on to the panel as you go if your budget does not immediately allow for the components you want.
Mid-Profile Cockpit Panel
The FV3 Mid-Profile panel costs $189 USD and might be more suitable for most flight simmers. This panel is a little shorter in height and wider in width over the Legacy panel. The dimensions are 38 1/4 wide, 18 3/8 in height, and six inches of depth. It allows for a standard six-pack of gauges, four panels, yoke, throttle, iPad mount, and trim wheel if you are using the standard six button throttle. On this model, the yoke is mounted in the center of the panel. A fully configured Mid-Profile panel will cost around $2000 USD.
Low Profile Cockpit Panel
The FV2 Low-Profile cockpit panel is their most basic and affordable model costing $179 USD. It shares nearly the same dimensions as the Mid-Profile, only that it sits four inches lower, 38 1/4 wide, 14 inches high and six inches of depth. This model does not allow for any gauges but you can add three instrument panels, yoke, throttle, and trim wheel. Fully configured, it will cost around $800 USD.
If you need a place to view your charts, make sure you check out the Flight Velocity iPad Mount. This mount is compatible with the legacy and Mid panels and has been designed to work with the 9.7′ iPad, iPad Air 2, or iPad Pro. The mount is made from the same ABS plastics making it fit in perfectly with the panel style.
When the panel arrives you will find them in a Flight Velocity labeled box. The panels come nicely packaged, and they are very easy to remove. Included in the box is a brief instruction manual to get you going. For a more detailed manual, you can visit the Flight Velocity Installation Guide on their website.
The panels are black with texture throughout the face and smooth on the back. You will notice the panels have cutouts for the various instruments. To remove these, I used a pair of scissors to cut each piece holding it to the main panel. If you want the six pack cutouts smooth, you can sand down the left over plastic or trim it away with a utility knife. However, this is not necessary because the instruments will cover the edges. When installing the instruments like a radio stack, you will need to cut the excess plastic with a utility knife or you can sand it to fit. I used a low-grade sandpaper and it sanded the edge very nicely. About 10 seconds of sanding smoothed the edge allowing for a snug fit of the panel.
The first thing you should do is establish a surface to attach the panel to. Because each panel is a different height, you will need to find a desk or surface with the appropriate eye level height to fasten the panel to. I determined this by sitting in my chair and figuring out where the top of the glare shield should sit. It’s also a good idea to consider where the yoke will be in relation to your lap; too low or high can become uncomfortable. Had this been a permanent cockpit build, I might have built a surface specifically for this. But for review purposes, I was able to use two IKEA nightstands. They were the proper height and I had the option to hollow out the left and right side for the yoke mount.
I began by mounting the yoke to the Legacy Panel. The yoke is the main part that will attach the panel to the surface, along with another bracket on the right of the panel. Remove the screws from the top of your yoke and use them to attach the yoke to the bracket on the panel. Finally, use the desk mount provided by Saitek to clamp the yoke to your surface.
Each instrument requires four screws that are fastened from the back of the panel with a nut. Each hole on the panel is perfectly square with the Saitek instrument holes. I had no problem lining up the instruments on the panels. After installing the remaining instruments you are ready to plug everything in. You will have plenty of room on the back of the panel for cable management. I also added a strip of LED lights on the inside lip of the top of the panel. It looks really good and adds to the experience when you fly at night.
With the preflight checklist complete, it was time to take the panels on their first flight. From the moment I first rotated and put the landing gear up, I could tell I was in for a fun time. The yoke and right side mount really hold the panels in place nicely. I experienced no movement during my rotation, or any other pressure put on the yoke. Tuning the radios and pushing buttons felt like I was operating an actual aircraft.
I found incredible value in these panels by Flight Velocity. These strong, lightweight and fairly priced panels are an excellent solution if you are someone that already has instruments by Saitek, someone who wants to build a cockpit or even someone in the flight simulator business.