• The Flight Simulator 2D Panel

    The Flight Simulator "2D" Panel

    By Klee C. Dobra

    Many of today's developers seem to be avoiding the traditional 2D panel in favor of increasingly elaborate 3D virtual panels. Technology has made it possible for those of us with the latest high-end hardware to easily look around, to locate knobs, switches and gadgets (GPS), all of which require adjustment in one way or the other.

    While improvements in simulation technology, for the most part, are a good thing, there are many who (for whatever reason) are unable to benefit from these advancements. As technology races forward, more and more of these simmers are either left behind, forced to adjust, or to upgrade and advance with it. I choose to adjust wherever possible, upgrading only when absolutely necessary.

    One example of where such an adjustment has become necessary is with the decline of the familiar 2D panel, once the de facto way to view your instruments. More and more aircraft models, both freeware and payware are produced without a 2D panel altogether. Sometimes, if one is included, it defaults to a panel not associated with that particular aircraft. Now I don't know about you, but a Beech Baron 2D panel in a Piper Navajo just doesn't seem right!

    The solution? Create your own 2D panel for the airplane.

    This was something I had to do a while back whilst reviewing an aircraft from Carenado. It was a long and tedious process, but a week after purchasing the aircraft, I had a working 2D panel that was easy to read, integrated seamlessly with the virtual cockpit, and looked like it was part of the original package. Shown below is the resulting 2D panel, plus the virtual panel that shipped with the product.


    2D Panel


    Virtual Panel

    As a pilot, I was a stickler for detail; everything had to be just right, everything in its place, and everything just so. I find that I'm somewhat the same about my flight simulator. I want an airplane to perform as the manufacturer intended, not at an arbitrary point where a software developer felt comfortable enough to release his product. Consequently, I am constantly tweaking various files in my search for the ultimate in realism. Don't get me wrong; I sincerely appreciate the work of developers, especially those who develop freeware, as they are the very backbone and lifeblood of the sim. They do an incredible job for all of us, and receive very little appreciation along the way! I commend them every chance I get, but I also realize that in addition to developing enjoyable freeware, they all have lives beyond creating airplanes for FS2004 and FSX. I have never had a developer upset with me for refining his work for my own enjoyment. In fact, a few have asked me how I did what I did to correct their plane's flight characteristics.

    To many an airplane modeller, a panel is something that needs to be there to hold dials and gauges so the thing will fly; to others it is as basic to an aircraft as its wing design, or fuselage shape. Some planes, especially payware, come with precise representations of the actual airplane's panel, while many others come with less than stellar examples of the real thing, or even borrow the panel of a default aircraft of the same general type. This is not good enough for me; I have to have an Arrow II panel in an Arrow II, a Baron B55 panel in a B55, a Cessna 404 panel in a C-404, and so on. Sometimes the only way to achieve that is to do it yourself. It's not that difficult once you have done it a couple of times.


    20 Comments
    1. eelb's Avatar
      eelb -
      I know 3D VC panels are the thing now, and I've tried using them. They're too much work for me with a single monitor. The only way I would use them would be with about 3 monitors, and those VR glasses, or whatever they're called. I don't want to invest the money, nor get involved with the learning curve on connecting all that stuff up and hoping it works.

      I've got a simple 2D panel for a Citation II, that encompasses what a modern retrofitted Citation would look like. Basically an old Citation II panel bitmap, with the electrical/engine start panel, and engine gauges. As pop-ups, I have a 2D Garmin G600 taken from a Carenado Seneca, and the Flight1 Garmin GTN-750. I have them as pop-ups, so they can be resized. The panel works great. FS Panel Studio makes it easy to put these things together.
    1. vry's Avatar
      vry -
      Hi Klee
      Panels are my obsession. I have had endless problems with trying to get a freeware panel to work. I have been known to have tried up to 8 panels per aircraft. For example, there are no good panels for the Britten Norman 2ND. Essentially, I have not succeeded in trying to make this work for many aircraft.

      Many Carenado and Nemeth Designs have only 2D panels, which I find strange. Would you consider making panels for customers? I think you could make bucks.
      Cheers
    1. sith's Avatar
      sith -
      with Active Camera or similar is way too easy to work in VC in single monitors..... I'd love to have classics like the AFG caravelle with VC but the 2d panels aren't that bad.... Also i've made panels for 737-200 and DC-8's using FSX payware layout screenshots from their VC's... almost as good as having a good VC and very rewarding!
    1. dbauder's Avatar
      dbauder -
      I've also done a couple 2D panels, courtesy of Adobe Photoshop Elements and Panel Studio, mostly simple examples, such as the Piper Tomahawk. I'm warming up to the 3D for takeoff and (especially) landing. Enroute, when I have things to take care of, I much prefer the 2D display. If I were still in my twenties, I might think otherwise
    1. TightGit's Avatar
      TightGit -
      Perhaps because of my age (and eyesight) I hate 3D panels and would never buy an aircraft without the 2D option.

      PMDG have already lost a sale (777) and I'll stick to my existing PMDG747 as I suspect the new version will be 3D only.
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      Interesting, I will not buy a panel unless it has a great 3d panel, the cockpit is where a plane is flown from, and I enjoy the real feel of 3D panels, I have a programmed throttle so that I can quickly press a button and snap a particular view. Works great. I have no interest in 2D anymore, old, doesn't allow me to pan around like I was in a real plane looking out the windows then back to gauges etc.
    1. KCD's Avatar
      KCD -
      "Snapping to views" is not done in the cockpit where a plane is flown! If you were to fly, you would quickly learn that the important stuff, the instruments used to fly the plane are directly in front of you, even the gear handle is within easy reach. You learn where they are and how they feel, you fly by instinct, memory and feel, not by switching views from here to there and popping up windows! A well made and properly laid out 2D panel will place all the required elements directly in front of the pilot, no "shifts-anything", it's all there.

      Thank you all for your comments, I have enjoyed reading them.
    1. mrzippy's Avatar
      mrzippy -
      Quote Originally Posted by KCD View Post
      front of the pilot, no "shifts-anything", it's all there.
      Uh, Klee...fix your word error! And if it's not an error...can I suggest some prune juice??
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      BTW snapping to views...means....as with a 2d panel...a button to click to raise and lower the seat, move the view in and out from 100% back to 70% or forward to 150%, and one to position your view so that you are lined up perfectly with the runway out the front window _these are complimentary to the NUM plus # pad moves. All the rest is by panning to look to the flaps switch or turning knobs to adjust things, just like in a real aircraft.

      A flat, non moving 2d panel environment in my view (pun) is quite boring, what happens when you look out the window with a 2d view is that it snaps to the view which is very unreal. A panning of the head to look sideway, up, down, around is a beautiful view, with 3D knobs, a feeling of three dimension.

      This is why, flight simulation programs have moved to 3D panels, to simulate real life inside the cockpit.

      Each to their own but folks who have invested in VR systems, three monitors some 40" or so all prefer 3D, some planes not even made with 2D anymore.
    1. TightGit's Avatar
      TightGit -
      With some people preferring 2D and some 3D, it's surely short-sighted of developers not to cater for both.

      As I said earlier, PMDG have already lost my money...
    1. KCD's Avatar
      KCD -
      To each his own... As I said earlier, the virtual panel is far to cumbersome for my tiered old eyes; I much prefer a well laid out 2D panel that places everything needed on the screen at once. I think the examples in the article provide ample proof that it can be done.

      As for the virtual panel, I just do not like them. You may, and that's OK, but do not try to lay a guilt trip on those of us who prefer the tried and true 2D!
    1. mrzippy's Avatar
      mrzippy -
      Quote Originally Posted by KCD View Post
      To each his own... As I said earlier, the virtual panel is far to cumbersome for my tiered old eyes; I much prefer a well laid out 2D panel that places everything needed on the screen at once. I think the examples in the article provide ample proof that it can be done.

      As for the virtual panel, I just do not like them. You may, and that's OK, but do not try to lay a guilt trip on those of us who prefer the tried and true 2D!
      +1 I also prefer the 2D panel for the same reasons. Although I do appreciate the C-47 V.2 and V.3 with the VC only. Just takes a little more effort and some Zippy modifications to make it more enjoyable.
    1. warlordatf's Avatar
      warlordatf -
      I completely agree with those who love the 2d panels. I have used cfgedit for years to either create panels or fix the dreaded missing gauges in some of the panel packages. While i don't always strive for 100% replicas, i at the very least need all the primary gauges displayed to enjoy an aircraft. I used both cfgedit and manual edits to the Panel.cfg file with notepad until i get something i am comfortable with.

      Like the author, i have a huge gauge collection, some going all the way back to fs5 that no longer work properly, but i keep them just the same. I even have my old Cessna 182RG from FS2002 in fs9 because i hated that they removed that aircraft from the sim.

      Don't get me wrong, i do enjoy the 3d panels also, but some of the gauges can be hard to read and sometimes i just perfer the cleaner look of a well designed 2d panel. I also usually edit my panel.cfg so it sets the views to .50 zoom. Its a personal preference, but to me it gives a better out the window view.

      To each their own and a thank you to the author for spreading this information about 2d panel design, I'm sure others also feel the same and can benefit from this article!
    1. pilotposer's Avatar
      pilotposer -
      I too am a 2D panel fan. I enjoy taking a 2D panel and editing in FS Panel Studio. I will add gauges from my vast collection of gauges and tailor it to my liking. It may not be correct but who cares, it's my creation and I am the only one who will ever use it.
    1. KCD's Avatar
      KCD -
      Thank you all for your comments; I have enjoyed reading them! After this article was written and published, I tried my first FSX 2B creation. Although eventually it worked out OK, I'm not totally satisfied, here's why...

      A great many of the gauges in my inventory will not work in FSX, so gauge selection (unless you stick to FSX fauges) is a serious problem. There is nothing worse than designing something, placing it in the aircraft, and having half the gauges fail to appear.

      I'm using FSX-SE and pointing various tools to it is tedious and even iffy. And, I think that the software wizards have finally found the jinx that puts CFGEDIT to rest once and for all.

      Anyway, I am pretty much an FS2004 guy. I have FSX but don't like it as much as my tried and true FS2004, so I should be able to make panels for as long as I care to. Thank you all for reading and commenting, and happy flying!
    1. oinkpig's Avatar
      oinkpig -
      G'day Klee
      I've been making 2d panels for ages. I don't use any panel suite but do it by hand, like for panel bitmap I use the freeware program Paintnet. As I'm using FSX also make xml gauges. If you're interested send me an email & I'll go through with you how to make your 2d panel photo-realistic, with shading etc. it's easy as.

      cheers Laurence
    1. welker's Avatar
      welker -
      I agree mostly with KCD. With my age my eyes are no more eagle eyes and it is more easy to read the gauges from a 2D panel than from a perfect looking virtual panel with tiny gauges. I prefer also to have all the very important flight gauges including flaps and gear to have visible on the 2D panel without opening extra windows. I agree also that FS2004 has a great advantage compared with FSX: If I fly FSX with the VC and change the view direction I spend too much time to return to the 0 degree view. In FS2004 I hit key 9 at the numpad and I have a 45 deg view. When I release the key I am back on the forward view. It is a pity that FSX did not keep that function.
      Anyway, to get a realistic impression of a cockpit there is nothing better than a perfect virtual panel. And for taxiing, doing take offs and landings I prefer the VC. Finally the best is a great 2D which is matching a great VC. That is my target, anyway if I try to design and configure my 2D panel regarding to the VC or if I try to reconfigure the VC regarding to my great 2D.
      It is a pity that many aircrafts are provided with panels which are not matching, neither in the style, not in the color, nor in the configuration of the gauges.
      From payware I expect both: A realistic VC and a great 2D for the older simmers.


      Erwin Welker
    1. welker's Avatar
      welker -
      welker

      I agree mostly with KCD. With my age my eyes are no more eagle eyes and it is more easy to read the gauges from a 2D panel than from a perfect looking virtual panel with tiny gauges. I prefer also to have all the very important flight gauges including flaps and gear to have visible on the 2D panel without opening extra windows. I agree also that FS2004 has a great advantage compared with FSX: If I fly FSX with the VC and change the view direction I spend too much time to return to the 0 degree view. In FS2004 I hit key 9 at the numpad and I have a 45 deg view. When I release the key I am back on the forward view. It is a pity that FSX did not keep that function.
      Anyway, to get a realistic impression of a cockpit there is nothing better than a perfect virtual panel. And for taxiing, doing take offs and landings I prefer the VC. Finally the best is a great 2D which is matching a great VC. That is my target, anyway if I try to design and configure my 2D panel regarding to the VC or if I try to reconfigure the VC regarding to my great 2D.
      It is a pity that many aircrafts are provided with panels which are not matching, neither in the style, not in the color, nor in the configuration of the gauges.
      From payware I expect both: A realistic VC and a great 2D for the older simmers.


      Erwin Welker


      Quote Originally Posted by KCD View Post
      Thank you all for your comments; I have enjoyed reading them! After this article was written and published, I tried my first FSX 2B creation. Although eventually it worked out OK, I'm not totally satisfied, here's why...

      A great many of the gauges in my inventory will not work in FSX, so gauge selection (unless you stick to FSX fauges) is a serious problem. There is nothing worse than designing something, placing it in the aircraft, and having half the gauges fail to appear.

      I'm using FSX-SE and pointing various tools to it is rwdious and even iffy. And, I think that the software wizards have finally found the jinx that puts CFGEDIT to rest once and for all.

      Anyway, I am pretty much an FS2004 guy. I have FSX but don't like it as much as my tried and true FS2004, so I should be able to make panels for as long as I care to. Thank you all for reading and commenting, and happy flying!
    1. fullflapper's Avatar
      fullflapper -
      Hi guys, this is a great discussion and its great to see people still talking about 2D panels as of 2016. I run a little website you may or may not know of called SimSamurai. I've always been very fond of 2D panels having been a simmer from the FS2000 days. I think they are great and are an obvious necessity for both home and commercial cockpit builders. And you simply never see a 3D virtual cockpit in an FAA simulator! Who knows how that could change in 10 years though with the advent of virtual reality.

      Personally, I love both types and think that they each serve a purpose. I often use the VC type for military fighter jets with TrackIR and sometimes with small GA planes too but I prefer to use 2D panels for larger jets and for any more formal IFR training and things like partial panel emergency work. I am also a real world pilot so in many cases I think the 2D is a true must have, especially for student training and flight currency. As Klee also said 2D panels are better for aging eyes (like my own) and I agree! And while it's really great to see developers making very highly detailed VC's these days, it's very unfortunate the 2D panel has completely gone the way of the dinosaur since 2010. It's truly a lost art.

      To help keep the spirit of the 2D alive I am starting to offer many free 2D panel sets on my website in 1:1 real world scale for 1920x1080 displays and larger. If any of you would be willing to add to the cause I want to make a free repository where people can get 2D panels in one place and am always happy to help take other peoples work to higher levels of complexity and usability.

      Ideally I'd like to be able to offer 50 or more 2D sets. I had made over 20 myself for FS2004 but they will have to be converted to Prepar3D and as you know it takes time to produce a good set so I really hope other people will be willing to share their work too and let me host them on my site for everyone to enjoy. There are hardly any available on the downloads sites these days or they are all really old. I hope those of us who want them can band together and share our efforts as I think it's important to keep the 2D alive. I can be reached at simsamurai at gmail and you can see my panel creations on my "2D-VIP" pages.
    1. captflyby's Avatar
      captflyby -
      Better late to the party than not at all. Over the years, I have built 7 full size, realistic flight sim cockpits. 737-800, five variants of the C182, 777, and now am working on fa-18 or F-35 not sure yet, as it is a work in progress. I have a friend that builds them for the military, and he taught me early on how to build modular systems, so a cockpit could be swapped out without the basic cabin and visual system, or sound, being affected. The point is, their visual system is 7 monitors. Four large screen 55" monitors for the visuals, 3 or more for cockpit instruments. For a real cockpit, you must have 2D panels. You cannot swing around with 3D and be realistic. In other words, if you have surround visual as in real life, there is no need, to swing around in 3D, and if you use 3D, all those monitors are worthless. I guess the best way to put it is : if you are trying to faithfully reproduce a cockpit for training the 2D is the way to go; if you are playing a flight sim game, and realism for motor memory practice is not needed or desired, the by all means, a single monitor with a swing around 3D is ok - not realistic at all, but gets the job done. Having said that, I tried the Oculus Rift, doing away with my visual system altogether. Here you need the 3D environment. Nothing to write home about. Fuzzy, lost tracking easily, was not glasses friendly, BUT I did like the depth of field. So, a year later I invested in the HTC Vive. Will see what happens with it, combined with the matured leap motion virtual hands. This will not be realistic, but will allow me to change out aircraft without the expense involved - as it is expensive to create a full size realistic cockpit, not to mention the room needed. All in all, game studio programmers are just programming games, most probably have never even flown. If they had, they'd know that 2D is used every day on every civilian and military flight that occurs. In the real world there is no spinning around through one window. 3D cockpits are for the gamers, not the pilots. My 2 cents.
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