The overhead is probably THE crown jewel in a 737 cockpit. While primarily used during startup preparations, shutdown and of course emergencies, it otherwise goes largely untouched. Still, you’ll probably agree it’s one of the coolest parts of the cockpit. Here is a photo from a real 737-800 I took while visiting a maintenance hangar.
Here are a couple of shots of my overhead as of November, 2017. It probably took around 6-8 weeks to get to this point from scratch.
A lot of time was spent on wiring. If you’re never used a soldering iron, or aren’t good at it, you better get good at it because you’ll be doing a LOT of soldering!
You’re going to have to do some advanced planning to decide how you want to route your wires and power, and which path you want to take to connect all your switches, rotaries, and LEDs. There are a lot of good interface boards out there by the likes of FlightDeck Solutions, Phidgets, PoKeys, and more.
Much of what you choose will depend on what avionics software you are using and how easy it will be to interface your hardware with that software. I use ProSim and find it is basically plug and play compatible with just about everything. with little to no headaches.
Here are the interface boards I used in my build:
- FlightDeck Solutions SYS4X – My primary switch and LED controller. Components are connected in groups of 8 with one common ground. Pretty straightforward and uses less Black ground wire. Dual brightness takes a little extra effort but is possible.
- Phidgets LED card – Used for all the blue dual brightness LEDs. Each indicator is individually wired with a positive and negative wire so more wire is used. But I love the no brainer dual brightness configuration.
- Phidgets Relay card – Used to operate the magnetic start switches I bought from Anders Sim Parts.
- PoKeys 57E – Ethernet card that handles 7 Segment displays as well as switches and LEDs. Very versatile.