Flight and Racing Sim

Quick review from Don H., our customer who uses the sim for BOTH flight and driving proficiency. Hope this can be of value for some of you that are contemplating building a dual-purpose flight and racing sim.

Don writes,

The Volair Sim as configured is very easy to switch between flying and driving. The flying pedals simply sit on the plate. Control pressures do not require any attachments. Four pins have attached to the driving pedals, and that unit sits on the footplate with the pins slipping into preexisting slots/holes. Loosening one knurled knob allows the plate with the attached stick to be removed, and set aside. No cables need to be connected or disconnected. The steering wheel does not need to be removed. The changeover is quite simple.

The primary use of the flight simulator is for instrument proficiency. Xplane 11 is very sophisticated, and I would be lost without the tutorial from Pilot Workshop. It has guided me every step of the way, which includes the selection of Xplane 11 and the hardware. The tutorial is Sim Essentials.

The driving simulator is for fun and for whatever cognitive benefit it provides. A single study purports to show that 60 year olds who play a racing car video game are better at multitasking than untrained 20-year-olds. One can always hope. Forza 7 brings a level of sophistication to the driving simulator that Xplane 11 does to the flight simulator. The learning curve is a little steep.



FlightSimCon and Father’s Day

Couple of important announcements:

First, we hope to see you all at FlightSimCon in Dallas TX in couple of weeks (June 22-24).

We are proud to announce our partnership with Thrustmaster and will be demoing some of their brand-new products, just announced at the E3 at our booth.

Lastly, wanted to wish all father’s Happy Father’s day. We are offering 10% off during the week of the 11th only for these last-minute father’s day gifts.

Customer Example

Here is an interesting example from Danny, one of our customers. Danny has not only equipped his Avionics Panel with dual iPads but also he has added 4th display attached to separate computer that is “talking” over the local network with the computer running the triple displays.


Danny writes,

Here is the picture of my sim set up!! The wall mounted  Samsung TV is driven by my iMac running xplane 11 and is scenery only locked to my windows flight computer. I am at the gate a Indianapolis international.

Hope you enjoy my VolAir sim I know I certainly do!!!”


Shipping Update and Triple Display Stand


I hope you all have a nice Christmas break. Good news to report. We began shipping the backorders today and you will start to get your tracking numbers on Wednesday (27th) and Thursday (28th). We should be able to ship orders entered after Christmas later this week. Thank you all for your patience.

Also, if you have not placed an order for our Large Display Stand, you can do so now as we have these available for immediate shipment. The Large Display Stand allows you to mount three TVs up-to 46″ in diagonal and vary the angle of the side monitors for a total customizable set-up. Below is an example with three 40″ TVs.

Flight Sims and Multiple Monitors – Part II

Part II – Configuring Multi-Monitor Set-Ups

In Part II, let’s spend some time discussing monitor hook-up and configuration. For a typical flight sim installation, a single gaming graphic card with multiple monitor outputs is the best solution. What kind of a card is best? In short, as of this writing NVIDIA 1060 series and above is a good choice. Here is a link to the current NVIDIA graphic card line-up. Note, for multiple monitor configuration, video memory is important with 4GB a minimum to achieve smooth frame rates.

A typical modern graphics card supports from three to six monitors. For example, an nVidia GeForce GTX 1070 (a popular choice) supports up-to four monitors. See the connections on the back of the card below:

NVIDIA Graphic Card Ports

The card features one DVI port, three HDMI ports and one DisplayPort. The DVI and HDMI port are shared so you can have a maximum of four independent connections.

To configure the system in a multi-monitor set-up, install the drivers that came with the graphics card and then simply plug the monitors or TVs individually to the corresponding ports on the back of the graphic card. You may have to buy adapters that go from the DisplayPort to HDMI as they DisplayPort and HDMI are physically slightly different plugs. Alternatively, you can also purchase DisplayPort to HDMI cables and connect your monitors or TVs directly:


After connecting the monitors, it is time to configure the monitors. First, open the NVIDIA Control Panel. You can do this from the pop-up menu when you right-click on the desktop.

First, under the Display category, select “Set-up multiple displays.” Next, Check the box next to the inactive display you wish to activate as a secondary display and click apply. Note, if your display is not shown, click “My display is not shown…” to force display detection. You can drag the green boxes around to match the physical arrangement of your displays, and choose which one is primary by right-clicking on it and selecting “Make Primary.” The primary display will have a “*” in the top right corner on the display as shown below:

Step 1

Now that we have the displays enabled and organized in the right order, we can work on getting the Surround mode enabled so that the entire multi-monitor set-up will function as one large desktop. In the Surround mode, the resolutions of monitors get added together to form a single virtual monitor or desktop. Therefore, three 1920×1080 monitors in the surround mode will have a 5760×1080 resolution.

Next, under 3D Settings, select “Configure Surround, PhysX”. Select “Span displays with Surround” and click “Configure”

Before Bezel Compensation

You will now be able to confirm the display layout and order and perform a very important step called “bezel compensation.” Bezel compensation, as the name suggests, allows you to virtually “remove” the bezels of the adjacent monitors. The bezel correction is performed via adjusting the two “roads” as shown below so that they seamlessly flow from one display to the other. Use the up/down buttons on the bezel correction window until the road lines up perfectly from one monitor to the next. You can link the bezel correction to have the same factor for both monitors or adjust these individually.


After Bezel Compensation

In the example above, the bezel compensation for each monitor is 80 pixels and the resulting horizontal resolution is 5760 + 2×80 = 5920 pixels. This will be the resolution you will set in the flight sim so that you will achieve a seamless view across all three monitors. Below are the corresponding display settings for Prepar3D and X-Plane 11.

Prepar3D Settings


X-Plane 11 Settings

Note: X-Plane allows use to set-up each of the three monitors individually which is a great option for cockpit builders (e.g. for an enclosed cockpit with physical windows) where a dedicated monitor will show a view from a window. In the simple GA installation where an external view is comprised of a joined set of monitors, this option did not seem as flexible as the Surround option above as any small adjustment to forward view made the side monitors lose their location with the forward view one.




Flight Sims and Multiple Monitors – Part I

Single TV vs Multiple Monitors. Does size Matter? Purchase Considerations

One of the more frequently-asked questions posed by prospective flight sim users is about multiple displays. New flight simulator users are often overwhelmed (and perhaps confused) by the plethora of options available with respect to optimal quantity, sizes, placement, and configuration of monitors or TVs to use with a flight simulator. Therefore, it is appropriate to devote some time discussing various hardware aspects of the visuals used with a flight sim set-up. We will try to present the reader with substantiated justifications for opinions shared here. The following recommendations assume a single-person simulator as opposed a dual student/instruction station and is focused on a reasonable simple and cost-effective general-aviation set-up vs. elaborate jetliner cockpit.

The question that is asked most often is, “Are multiple (smaller) displays better than one large one?” The following may be a highly biased answer but in our opinion (supported by feedback from hundreds of customers) multiple displays, irrespective of the cost and space considerations, are always a better bet than a single (even very large) display. There are several reasons for this. First, and you have to trust our word on this one, multiple displays offer a much better sense of immersion vs single monitor or even a large TV. By having the external view span most of the user’s visual field, the sense of flight and being inside the cockpit is greatly enhanced. Even with a triple monitor set-up arranged in an angled “U” shape, a good portion of flight simulator user’s peripheral vision is covered by the left and right monitors. Interestingly, while larger monitors are better than smaller ones, a good level of immersion can be achieved with just three 27” monitors. Correspondingly, based on our research, going much beyond 40”-42” in size for a triple installation offers little additional benefit from the immersion perspective although undoubtedly increases the “wow” factor from the onlookers.

The more pragmatic (pilot-specific) aspect of triple monitor set-up is the ability to look through the left (or right) “windows” while making turns from a downwind leg to base leg and from base to final. During a standard traffic pattern, pilot glances through the left (if in the left or standard traffic pattern) or a right window (for the right traffic pattern) periodically so that he or she can appropriately start the turn. Having the left and right monitors and setting up the cockpit view appropriately, allows the user to see the runway over the shoulder just like in the real aircraft. This is very useful during primary instruction when a student is learning to fly a proper traffic pattern as well as in advanced instruction where students are practicing, for instance, circling approaches.

Of course, users with single monitors set-ups will be quick to point out that using a hat switch or a Track-IR system allows user to quickly change views and that is of course true. The problem is that every time a view is changed, in our opinion, the sense of immersion is instantly lost and therefore, the flight sim experience is compromised. Lastly, the switched view approach does not prepare the flight simulator user for the expected view when flying physical aircraft.

The next logical questions that comes up is, “How many displays should one have?” We found that triple displays (we are discussing external views only) are often sufficient to provide an excellent immersion while keeping cost and space considerations to minimum. Of course, having five external monitors would be better but we are reaching, to borrow an economic term, a law or increasingly marginal returns.

Some may ask, “What about curved displays?” We think that they are a nice and modern, albeit costly, upgrade. Again, triple “traditional” display set-up will offer more immersion than a single curved one, at least at current level of the curved technology where the level of curvature/wrap-around is pretty minimal.

Lastly, let’s discuss the VR as an alternative to conventional displays. VR as a technology for gaming and an alternative to traditional displays is definitely here to stay and probably will have a very significant impact on the future of flight simulators. The immersion factor is obviously unparalleled, the space and cost savings can be significant. Why isn’t everyone abandoning monitors or TVs and jumping onto VR platform then?

Irrespective of the biological factors (nausea), there are few obstacles that remain to be solved for VR to be a serious alternative for flight simulation. First, the graphical resolution of today’s VR hardware does not quite match a high-quality monitor or TV set-up. Second, the virtual-physical interface in an aircraft cockpit needs improvement. Currently, the support for interaction with physical switches or controls is still in its infancy. A glove-like or (even better) glove-less controller that would allow the user to naturally interact with the physical world is a research subject to every VR hardware manufacturer. However, the implementation seems, as of today, a lot more difficult than anticipated. While for general-purpose gaming the VR hand-held controller is probably sufficient, it is a deal-breaker for achieving sense of realism in the flight sim. In sum, flight simulation needs a “merged-reality” solution. Otherwise we are back to the mouse-clicking solution from the legacy flight sim days.


Now that we’ve explained the benefits of multiple displays, let’s offer few practical words of advice on physical monitor or TV selection. In short, try to find monitors or TVs with as thin of a bezel as possible to achieve the optimal “wraparound” effect. Second, if you are planning to mount your monitors or TVs, you need to ensure that the monitor has a VESA mount which is a standardized four-hole pattern on the back of the monitor and TV. TVs, especially large ones, all have the VESA pattern on the back since they are meant to be hung on a wall but the monitors do not always have the VESA pattern so you must check prior to purchase.


Lastly, let us address the question, “Should I buy a TVs or computer monitor?” Given dropping TV prices, many of the flight sim users are tempted to buy a TV in-lieu-of a monitor especially that one can often purchase larger TV for the same price of a smaller monitor. The answer is, it depends. If all of your sim usage is going to be dedicated for flight simulation, TVs are probably fine but keep in mind that TVs typically have lower refresh rates and input lag times as compared to monitors so playing fast-paced games on a TV will not yield the same quality and smoothness as on a gaming monitor. Also keep in mind that a pixel density of a comparable resolution monitor is much higher than on TV (ever wondered why text does not appear as clear on a large high-definition TV as compared on your monitor) so if you opt for some really large TVs and position them close to you, you may be disappointed. To sum up, either stick with quality monitors or keep the TV size reasonable (again 40”-43” seems like a sweet-spot for high-definition TVs for simulator use).