Heatblur released their sublime F-14 a few weeks ago and I’m totally amazed by the RIO role. Coming from rotary-wings, I learnt a great deal of things about how fixed-wing are operated and about a (fairly recent?) radar works. Obviously, I couldn’t just rely on my mouse and current setup to handle the amount of new controls therefore I ended up planning a new ad hoc control box (actually, I planned two). This is a good chance to write another step-by-step tutorial about how to plan and build a control box. For this purpose I will use the same structure I have used for my step-by-step guide; I will not go into the detail as much though.
Step I: Planning
This step took me a few weeks. For real. Since the release of the manual, I thought about how new boxes would fit into my tetris-like setup.
In primis I identified which functions are used more often: the DDD panel, alt/elev knobs plus bars and azimuth, TID, HCU and countermeasures are definitely the one that are used more often (I did not consider Radio and Tacan because I use my usual boxes for those). If you are not sure about which functions are more used in a particular airframe the answer is always the same: fly it! After a while you will have an idea decent enough to start planning.
Once I had a good understanding of which functions I wanted, I drew a 1:1 scale of the boxes with LibreOffice Draw.
Eventually I added the sketches to diagram of my setup.
None of the boxes were set in stone yet but having a full picture is very important before ordering buttons, switches, resistors and whatever else is needed in order to avoid wasting money.
Step II: Drilling
I find this step the most boring sans the soldering.. Anyway, thanks to the 1:1-scaled diagrams, this part is quite easy. A quick tip: place your switches on the box itself before drilling. Having real items in your hands is different than planning on a monitor. Pay also attention to factors such as the thickness of the box or the size of the blog where the screw rests.
..and, a couple hours later, the first glimpse at how the final panel will look like.