CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead Panel

CPFLIGHT AFT OVERHEAD PANEL

OVERVIEW

The CPFlight Aft Overhead Panel is a cockpit hardware device for flight simulation designed to replicate the aft overhead panel in the Boeing 737NG. CPFlight is based in Italy and the product was shipped to the United States.

NOTE: The CPFlight AFT overhead panel *requires* the matching CPFlight Forward Overhead Panel to operate.

TIP: If you are curious about the lengthy comparison process I put myself through when deciding which overheads to buy, check out how I got there in my related Overhead Overload article!

ORDERING / PRICE (in Euros, rounded up)

The aft overhead was ordered in early August via email with CPFlight.

€2,190 – CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead panel (OVH737AFT)

€220 – CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead cover (OVH737AFT_C)

€2,410 – TOTAL COST before shipping

SHIPPING / PACKAGING

Less than three weeks after ordering it, my CPFlight aft overhead panel arrived via DHL. It arrived in a tape-sealed cardboard box and in good condition.

Aft overhead shipping package from CPFlight.
Aft overhead shipping package from CPFlight.

Once opened, I found the overhead well packed within plastic wrap, corner protection and heavy duty foam padding blocks.

Inside the CPFlight aft overhead box, with good shipping protection.
Inside the CPFlight aft overhead box, with good shipping protection.

I removed the overhead from the box and found the actual panel packed face down inside the metal cover case.

The CPFlight aft overhead, wrapped up very nicely.
The CPFlight aft overhead, wrapped up very nicely.

After removing the plastic wrap and corner blocks, I pulled the panel free from the cover. I was extremely pleased to find thick, custom-cut polystyrene foam protecting all of the switches and knobs. They used this same protection method on the forward overhead panel as well.

The CPFlight overhead switches and knobs are quite safe during shipment.
The CPFlight overhead switches and knobs are quite safe during shipment.


The packaging was very comprehensive and the overhead arrived unscathed. Everything was clean and in great shape, so a big thanks go out to CPFlight!

DRIVERS / MANUALS

A single half sheet of wordless photos describe how to connect the panel to the cover and that’s it. Since this CPFlight aft overhead panel cannot operate on its own, I would suggest reading my article on the CPFlight Forward Overhead Panel for details on driver installation and the manual.

ASSEMBLY / INSTALLATION

CPFlight aft overhead panel.
CPFlight aft overhead panel.

The overhead panel itself is completely assembled right out of the box.

The CPFlight aft overhead panel consists of a one-piece aluminum frame, with holes laser cut where all of the switches and annunciators mount. Numerous replica DZUS fasteners adorn the face where expected. Some are functional, but most are cosmetic.

The CNC-milled, laser engraved, 5mm thick, acrylic light plate panels are then attached with location-accurate screws. All of the appropriate printed labels are also in place. Classy, painted, injection molded plastic knobs that allow the backlighting to show through correctly are then affixed on top.

The overhead and cover are painted/powder-coated in RAL 7011 “Boeing Grey” to hopefully match your existing equipment. The shapes, sizes, colors, fonts, and artwork used appear very accurate.

All of the panels are backed by printed circuit boards. No miles of separate wiring, interface boards, and backlighting strips. Just solid-state goodness with all of that embedded right in. This design was a cooperative effort between CPFlight and FlyEngravity and they dubbed it their Integrated Cockpit Solution (ICS).

The back of the CPFlight aft overhead is very clean and orderly.
The back of the CPFlight aft overhead is very clean and orderly.

Behind each column of panels is a connected ribbon cable and there is a single grounding wire. More on this shortly…

The CPFlight overhead includes a working Cockpit Oxygen gauge, LE DEVICES extension display matrix, and Audio Control Panel (ACP/ASP). The ACP works in ProSim737 and syncs with the ACPs in my CPFlight Complete Pedestal. The toggle switches used on the CPFlight overhead are from the world famous company, APEM, and are of very high quality.

Another big feature the CPFlight overhead panel has, which I didn’t find anywhere else, is push-to-test annunciators. Each one can be pressed in to test the lights behind it. This is exactly how the real 737 overhead works as well. All of the annunciators are lit by LEDs.

The black switch guards are functional, however, I did notice that none of the switch guards are drilled for use with copper safety wire. Also, the engine EEC switches are custom 3-D printed, dual-lighted push buttons that work correctly, but do not have the authentic hinged plastic safety covers over them.

The IRS System Display Unit  (ISDU) features a working keypad and alphanumeric dot-matrix display. Unfortunately, I don’t think the ENT and CLR keys have the two small cue lights behind them. Also, the DSPL SEL knob is not a dual-concentric knob, so the brightness function is not operable. This same knob does not have a black indicator line, nor does it spring back from the TEST position as the real thing does. I’m not sure if the knob label fell off during shipment or it doesn’t have one, but I filled it in with a black Sharpie marker anyway.

The IRS rotary switches themselves are sturdy with correct detents, but do not have the realistic “pull out” function when turning from ALIGN to OFF, or from NAV to ATT. Be sure not to bump them during a flight!

None of these issues are a big problem for me, but I like to be thorough for my readers.

Just like the CPFlight forward overhead cover, two bolts with nylon lock nuts are included to create “hinges” which hang the aft overhead panel within its cover. Once the overhead panel is on the hinges, there are two long metal standoffs that are used to secure the panel closed at the lower front edges. These standoffs are bolted inside the rear cover like so:

Long standoffs used to secure the CPFlight overhead panel when closed.
Long standoffs used to secure the CPFlight overhead panel when closed.

I had to get a little creative when it came to mounting the CPFlight aft overhead panel and cover in my cockpit. As I use the JetMax Overhead Support Stand with my JetMax SKTQ, it has no provision to carry an aft overhead panel. And, CPFlight does not offer any kind of brackets to connect the FWD and AFT covers together.

So, I dug out my micrometer/calipers, and started measuring the existing holes along the sides of the overhead covers. After a little time in SketchUp, I determined that if I could create two brackets roughly 13.5″ long and 2.25″ wide, with the correct 8.5 degree bend in the middle, that just might work.

Using SketchUp to design custom FWD/AFT connector brackets.
Using SketchUp to design custom FWD/AFT connector brackets.

I reached out to a few local machine shops, and eventually found a great place that works with laser and water-jet cutting. I told them what I needed and, within 24 hours, I had two custom 1/8″ thick aluminium brackets in my hands for $50. They even rounded the corners off for me. Next, I began lining things up and drilling holes in the right places.

Drilling my custom brackets with holes to match the CPFlight overhead covers.
Drilling my custom brackets with holes to match the CPFlight overhead covers.

I must have measured everything at least four times to make sure I didn’t have to make another set of brackets. And, like a small miracle, I got it right the first time. Time to do a test fitting!

aft10

I needed to be careful here as the brackets needed to clear the hinge bolt heads in both overhead covers and still allow for a small gap between them to let the forward overhead pivot down. After a successful test, I cleaned up the brackets, shot them with a coat of grey spray paint and mounted it all up.

The CPFlight aft overhead panel then needs to be connected to the forward panel. There are 5 square cutouts in the aft cover you feed the ribbon cables and ground wire through. Then, they slip between the rear pivot gap of the forward cover and attach to pre-existing sockets on the forward overhead boards. These connections are indexed and only fit one way. The ground wire connects to an existing labeled bolt header on the forward panel here as well.

aft11

That was it for the wiring/assembly, and another big reason I love the CPFlight products. They are just built with such simplicity. I closed up both panels and took this picture showing the finished brackets. The bracket color isn’t a perfect match, but finding Boeing Grey in a spray can is near impossible. I hope I won’t notice it in the dark anyhow.

aft12

Once this aft panel cover is mounted to the forward overhead cover, the rear edge of the aft overhead cover is about 70.5″ (1790mm) high above the “cockpit floor”. As my platform base is 6.5 feet long, this is still within the footprint and does not extend past it.

INTEGRATION / OPERATION

I already had the CPFlight forward overhead set up and configured, so when I fired it up, the aft overhead panel immediately came alive. I put the Lights switch on MIP in TEST and it all lit up.

CPFlight aft overhead panel lights test in ambient lighting.
CPFlight aft overhead panel lights test in ambient lighting.
CPFlight aft overhead panel lights test in no lighting.
CPFlight aft overhead panel lights test in no lighting.

The LE DEVICES lights are red/green LEDs and work correctly. The ISDU display is amber in color and very clear and easy to read. Just like the pedestal ACPs from CPFlight, the volume push knobs work for selecting receive audio channels, but do not control volume by rotation (a limitation of FSX, not the product).

CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead Panel connected to Forward Overhead.
CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead Panel connected to Forward Overhead.

The backlighting is warm white, has abundant coverage, and matches my other CPFlight devices perfectly. The light plates even have the correct + marks. In the real plane, these marks indicate where the backlighting bulb/connection is located behind each plate. The PANEL dimmer knob on the forward overhead controls the backlighting of both panels and is turned on and off by the correct aircraft condition as expected.

CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead Panel and Forward Overhead Panel together.
CPFlight 737 Aft Overhead Panel and Forward Overhead Panel together during Pre-Flight.

I did notice a lot more light bleed on the aft overhead than there is on the forward overhead. You can see this especially around the annunciators. I feel this is due to a few of the aft overhead panel circuit boards being pretty far away from the panel face, causing the entire inside of the cover to light up quite a bit. If you have your overhead inside a cockpit shell, you probably won’t notice this. While it does cause a “glow” on the ceiling of my particular cockpit room, it is no more than the HDTV itself creates.

I use the ProSim737 Avionics Suite exclusively now, and I had already enabled the “CPFlight/FlyEngravity ICS Overhead Panel Support” option for the forward overhead, so the new aft overhead panel was already activated.

NOTE: If you are using the default 737 FSX or PMDG-type add-on aircraft, I cannot say if all functions are supported. Please read my CPFlight Forward Overhead Panel article for more information on drivers and configurations.

There is a known bug in ProSim737 (as of version 1.43) where the VHF-1 and VHF-2 receiver selection knobs on the aft overhead’s ACP are reversed from the ACPs in the Pedestal. I’m hoping this gets fixed soon, but it is not critical.

SUPPORT

Claudio is the sales side of CPFlight. He communicated well, answered quickly, and was always friendly even through a barrage of my questions.

Paolo is the support side of CPFlight. When I ran into issues, he spent as much time as I needed to get to the bottom of it.

Both of them speak English well enough and are very good at customer support and service!

SUMMARY

I will be honest here and say I didn’t really need the aft overhead. The biggest reason I ordered it was the fact that ProSim737 “Cold & Dark” mode always sets the IRS switches to OFF, so I had to pull up the on-screen software 2D panel before every flight. Now, not only can I use the physical IRS rotary switches, but have quick access to the other bits of the overhead in case of simulated failures.

The operation of the CPFlight aft overhead has been satisfactory so far and, as usual with CPFlight, the quality is very good. The hardware is detailed and accurate, true plug-and-play, gorgeous to look at, and it doesn’t require a lengthy, complicated setup. And, both overhead panels still only take up a single USB port on my PC.

Like my other CPFlight hardware, this is another wonderful addition to my cockpit building adventure. If you have (or will have) the CPFlight Forward Overhead Panel, this should be on your short list as well. However, I am a little disappointed with a few minor things: the lack of safety covers on the EEC switches, no concentric/marked knob on the ISDU panel, and the lack of consistent backlight containment. These items are especially tough to accept when all of them exist in other CPFlight products already. For these reasons, I give the CPflight Aft Overhead Panel a just shy of perfect 9 out of 10.

3 thoughts on “CPFLIGHT AFT OVERHEAD PANEL”

  1. You have truly done it all !!! A great job and great set up !
    I hope to get here one day !

    Thanks for positng, your information has been invaluable as I try to navigate the process.

    All the best
    Frank

  2. HI,

    I’m a very happy owner of FWD and AFT overhead from CPFlight.
    I read with great interrest your great review of it.
    May I ask you if you could send me your SketchUp file for the bracket between the AFT and FWD OH ?
    It woul dbe very usefull for me .

    Thaks a lot if you agree to share it.

    Best regards.

    JJ SCOHY

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