The JetMax SKTQ is a Single Seat Training Device (SSTD) cockpit for flight simulation based on the Boeing 737NG. JetMax is a subsidiary of FlightDeck Solutions (FDS) based in Toronto, Canada and the product was shipped to the United States.
Other added-cost options were added to the order such as the overhead panel support stand, lower Display Unit (DU) LCD screen, Saitek Yoke Mount, and CPFlight EFIS/MCP brackets.
NOTE: JetMax incorrectly describes the Lower DU LCD monitor as the Lower EICAS LCD monitor. In truth, the 737 does not have EICAS, so you won’t see me refer to it that way in this article.
ORDERING / PRICE (in Canadian Dollars)
$7,996 CAD – JetMax SKTQ
$700 CAD – Overhead panel support stand (JetMax-OH1-STD)
$400 CAD – Lower DU LCD monitor (Lower-EICAS-LCD)
$200 CAD – Saitek Yoke Mount (JetMax-YKM-S)
$100 CAD – CPFlight EFIS/MCP Brackets (JetMax-CPB-1)
$9,396 CAD – TOTAL Retail Cost
It should be noted here that I was able to work out an arrangement with JetMax whereby I would not need their JetMax MCP/EFIS (as I already have a working MCP/EFIS from CPFlight) and a custom backlighting solution was added. This modified the final price quite a bit. After shipping costs to the US and the great USD-CAD exchange rate at the time, my out of pocket for the entire system was around $7,500 USD.
SHIPPING / PACKAGING
I placed my JetMax order via email in the middle of April. It arrived via DHL approximately six weeks later. FDS wraps the JetMax securely on a pallet and includes G-Shock indicators to let the customer know if the shipper handled it badly and to refuse shipment.
Once I got the box open, things were protected nicely as well. Each individual large piece was well protected in bubble wrap, while smaller pieces, fasteners, the LCDs, throttle quadrant, and the very expensive CDU were in various boxes with their own padding and arrived safely. Thank you JetMax for your care in the packaging!
DRIVERS / MANUALS
While my JetMax was being built, I was emailed the manuals in advance to give me a head start on planning the build. A USB key containing the same was also included inside of the throttle quadrant box itself when it arrived.
The manuals are in English and quite numerous. There are guides for assembly, wiring, dimensions, integration, and more. It is a lot to read through and understand, but not complicated. All of them include photos and graphical depictions of the device and its usage.
ASSEMBLY / INSTALLATION
The JetMax arrives in many, many pieces. For those of you who would rather not put it together, JetMax can do it for you and ship it fully built. There is an added cost, but I am not aware of what that cost is. I’m sure they would work out a perfect solution for you.
As I am pretty handy, and I was quite anxious to get this started, I identified all of the needed pieces and began the construction.
The JetMax is assembled using mostly small metric hex screws and nylon lock nuts. The CDU bay is built first, then used to attach the base, crossmember, and sides. These pieces, as is most of the JetMax, are all constructed from medium gauge pre-formed, pre-drilled, powder-coated aluminium.
This process was not entirely painless, though, as some holes did not line up perfectly. This is the joint at the base where there is simply metal on metal, it cannot be moved over any more to align them. I cannot see how any shipping damage would have moved a hole, so I ended up drilling them out myself quite easily.
The MIP face panel and landing gear lever were added next. The MIP face panel itself is a thinner piece of laser cut aluminium with holes already cut out for the various switches, knobs, gauges, and displays. I can tell it was laser cut as some of the slag was left on it and then painted right over. I just wish this was on the back side of the panel, and not up front where it can be visible.
NOTE: The assembly manual and the wiring manual conflict here on when to attach the landing gear lever to the MIP. I chose to find the correct switches on the wiring harness, disconnect them, attach them to the lever mechanism and then screw the lever to the MIP. JetMax smartly included two holes in the right side upright to get to the gear lever mounting screws if you ever need to remove it after the MIP is built.
This brings me to another hiccup. The tiny tangs on the micro switches for the landing gear lever need to be bent to touch the brass lever pins when they move. They do not come “pre-bent” like shown in the manuals.
Next up was the glareshield supports and the CDU bay center support (the one I somehow rescued from the damage above). The piece under the glarewing is formed plastic, and is the first sizable piece of non-metal in the construction so far.
Now, it was time to get some electronics built in. You have to put all of the annunciators together yourself. They consist of a pre-built LED circuit board, shell, diffuser, and a printed legend label cap. The LED boards screw to the body, then a small amount of super glue is needed to drop in the diffuser and seal it up with the label.
NOTE: There is no push button function to these annunciators. The real Korry annunicators in the plane have push buttons behind them to test the lamp (and in certain circumstances, activate a function such as inhibiting the BELOW G/S alert). However, they are extremely expensive and have no place in this product segment. Still , the JetMax annunicators are bright, easy to read, and the light distribution is very good.
I mounted the LED-based flaps gauge, switches, rotaries, potentiometers, display bezels, engraved panels, tiller wheel, and the pre-assembled AFDS. Then, I installed all the annunciators (they snap in quite snug with no real need for adhesive). Newer JetMax devices, like mine, also include the red CABIN ALTITUDE and TAKEOFF CONFIG annunicators.
NOTE: The typical SPEED BRAKE DO NOT ARM annunciator has been replaced with SPEEDBRAKES EXTENDED on the JetMax. The SPEEDBRAKES EXTENDED annunciator normally lives on the FO side of the MIP, so on the JetMax it wouldn’t exist. As this is a single seater, this was a smart move as it is a critical indicator.
Next, I began laying out the wiring harness. The JetMax wiring harness is pre-built by JetMax with each connection labeled and all connectors already attached. This saves a huge amount of time, guesswork, and no wire splicing or soldering is required.
To be honest and set correct expectations, it is worth a moment here to describe some of the measures taken by JetMax in regards to the electronics to reduce the price for all of us:
- The JetMax does not include panel backlighting.
- As mentioned before, the annunicators are not push button.
- The CHRONOMETER is a dummy and inoperative.
- The NOSE WHEEL STEERING switch is not connected.
- The STAB OUT OF TRIM light is a dummy and inoperative. I did have to use a bit of clear sticky sealant to attach this one.
- The LIGHTS TEST switch has no DIM position connected.
- The YAW DAMPER is a dummy and inoperative.
- The ISFD knob and switches are dummy and inoperative.
- The RMI knobs are dummy and inoperative.
- The FUEL FLOW switch is not the locking-type, but works correctly.
- The N1 SET and SPEED REF rotary switches exist, but are not connected and they use simple knobs, not concentric.
- The AUTOBRAKE rotary allows setting of MAX without pulling the knob out. This is not accurate, but also not a concern of mine.
- The FLAPS GAUGE is not a dual moving needle gauge, but eight static LEDs that indicate each flap position.
- The landing gear lever LOCK OVERRIDE trigger is a dummy and inoperative.
- All of the knee panel lighting/display dimming knobs and potentiometers are included, but most are not connected to anything.
In my opinion, almost all of these functions can not be, or are not, used by home simulation pilots, so all of them are acceptable and hardly affect normal flight sim operations.
UPDATE: I did later replace the flaps gauge and dummy yaw damper and chronometer with Flight Illusion Gauges.
As I continued on, I did run into a few issues with the electronics. The ATX power supply mounts under the CDU bay in a very nice pre-cut panel, however, the particular model of power supply they included had an AC plug housing that did not line up with the cutouts on either side. This kept the power supply from sitting flush with the panel. Since the power supply essentially “hangs” from this panel, I wanted a solid mounting here.
I had to use pliers to bend the tab up and away to allow room to attach the power supply against the panel.
The standard power supply harness is modified by JetMax in two ways:
- First, the green “power button” wire is grounded to cause the power supply to stay on at all times. You must use the power switch you see above to turn it on and off. I may attempt to run this “circuit” over through the unused Nose Wheel Steering switch to let me control it from the front of the MIP. The Nose Wheel Steering normal/alternate function is not modeled in FSX/Prepar3D (P3D) anyway.
- Second, the main ATX harness has a pigtail with red and black split spade connectors already attached.
These spade connectors attach to a supplied power distribution block. All power connections provided use the same red and black distinction. This is a nice touch and prevents reverse polarity from damaging things.
Next, the LCD screens needed to go in. They consist of a 19″ for PFD/ND, a 15″ for upper ECIAS, and come from JetMax with the cases already removed, which makes mounting them up simple. The tricky part is lining them up with the bezel windows and keeping the LCDs level. Who wants crooked instruments?
TIP: I did follow the recommendation in the manuals to line the LCD front edges with 3/8″ black foam tape to keep light bleed down. As this tape is not supplied, I found some at a local hardware store for cheap and I have absolutely no light bleed.
I also installed the glarewing, custom lower DU LCD screen, bezel, and set the FDS CDU in place. The FDS Pro-MX CDU supplied with the JetMax is an immaculate work of art and is the same unit used in the FDS professional-grade cockpits. It has a full color VGA LCD screen, machined and powder-coated metal bezel, metal carrying handle, real DZUS fasteners, heavy-duty tactile and backlit keys, operating dimmer (must be supported by your avionics software), USB interface, and can even be set up on a desk if you don’t have a CDU bay.
The right side CDU bay is filled with grey-painted acrylic blanks of various sizes. These allow for spacing if one wanted to use radios or transponders here such as the NAV-COMM1 and XPNDR panels from JetMax. I have the pedestal with radios already, so in the future, I plan to customize a solution and use this space to incorporate the FO EFIS and glarewing indicators.
I then tried to mount the included FDS/TekWorks main circuit board. JetMax supplied plastic standoffs and screws, but the screws were the wrong type and didn’t match. I needed to go back to the hardware store for new standoffs and screws/nuts. Once this was in place, attaching the harness is literally a snap. Each connection is numbered and snaps into right where it belongs. Couldn’t be easier!
The standard JetMax lighting is provided by three self-adhesive LED strips that end up under the glarewing, under the MCP mount, and above the MCP itself. All three are controlled by the included BACKGROUND potentiometer and dimmer circuit. They didn’t want to stick in place very well, so I used pieces of double-sided 3M tape to hold them more securely.
The custom backlighting I have is controlled by a small circuit board and the MAIN PANEL potentiometer. I cut off one of the spare hard drive power connectors from the power supply to feed 5VDC to this board using the red and black wires.
Up to this point, I had not fired up the system. I was curious, excited, and nervous to plug it all in. Even though I hadn’t installed the MCP/EFIS yet, nor set up the displays, I slid the throttle quadrant over into place and hit the power switch. “HOLY CRAP!” Those were the exact words that burst out of my mouth. It was such a shockingly beautiful sight, and sadly this picture doesn’t even do it justice!
After I calmed down a bit, I knew I had to bring my avionics PC out into the living room and hook it up. After a few trips to the local electronics store to buy HDMI to VGA adapters (all the JetMax monitors use VGA connectors), I got all of the ProSim737 displays aligned in place. And instantly, I could not help but get excited all over again!
It was truly alive! I couldn’t even fly it, yet I sat in front of it for quite a while just taking it in. JetMax really did something very special here.
While I was waiting for the missing CPFlight MCP/EFIS adapter brackets, I built the platform base. I then set the piece out in the room to see how the space would work.
Next, I built the Saitek Yoke Mount and attached the throttle quadrant to the CDU bay. This is required before building the JetMax overhead mount as it needs the increased footprint space to keep it all from tipping backwards onto you.
Speaking of the JetMax overhead mount, it is crafted from very thick aluminium and extremely robust. While it is made specifically for the JetMax overhead unit, I have the CPFlight Forward Overhead Panel, so I had to line up the overhead case on the JetMax mount “arms” and drill holes in the CPFlight case. Then I used spare bolts/nuts to attach the case to the mount.
There are two large holes in the JetMax mount arm to allow routing of wiring inside the support itself to keep it out of sight. Unfortunately, and no fault of JetMax, the CPFlight overhead power/USB cables are not long enough to run up inside the mount so I had to strap them to the FO side of the support. Once all tightened up, the overhead barely moves at all, which is very comforting.
The MCP brackets arrived a few days later, so I got the MCP/EFIS installed, lighting strip attached, and buttoned up the JetMax with the glareshield cover. The JetMax glareshield includes a simple thin plastic checklist pocket on top.
As the CPFlight MCP Pro and CPFlight EFIS Pro are a bit smaller than the real thing, there were noticeable gaps above and left of them where I could see through the glareshield. I easily filled these with black foam strips. I didn’t order them, but I’d imagine the JetMax MCP/EFIS fill up the space as expected.
That about wraps up the JetMax construction. It took about a week of evenings to complete and was not incredibly difficult. It does require some hand tools, hex bits, drill, wrenches, etc. but nothing too crazy. It was fun to build something I have wanted to own for a long time! And once everything is lit and configured, it is quite a treat to sit in the seat and touch and feel the actual switches, knobs, and levers instead of using a mouse.
JETMAX THROTTLE QUADRANT (JetMax-737TQ)
The JetMax 737 Throttle Quadrant (TQ) comes completely assembled and is packed quite well in its own box. Let me describe some of the notable features of this product:
- The TQ USB interface appears in Windows as a normal DirectInput Joystick. No scripts, no custom files, no drivers.
- The base and interior structure are all aluminium construction.
- All appropriate decals are in place.
- The throttle levers feel amazing, have a smooth travel, are just stiff enough, and are quite solid for being mostly plastic.
- Both reverser and all four individual TO/GA and A/T Disconnect switches work.
- The flaps lever has the correct detents and requires lifting action to operate. End guards keep the lever within the range.
- The speed brake lever also requires correct lifting action to operate and has a detent at the armed location.
- The fuel levers are gated and correctly require pulling out to move.
- The parking brake lever and red light work.
- Quality black laser engravings are found on the bits where they belong.
- If you have the JetMax tiller wheel, it attaches to a wire underneath the TQ and becomes part of the TQ’s USB interface.
However, to save costs, there were some design sacrifices that had to be made.
- The throttle quadrant is not motorized in anyway.
- The upper housing is molded plastic.
- The reverser levers are on/off switches (not variable), and do not incorporate an interlock.
- The flap/speedbrake levers are molded plastic and flex sideways enough that they feel as if they may snap off if not used correctly (I have had some friends come close to doing it and had to teach them the correct “lift” operation).
- The flaps lever does not have the gates at positions 1 and 15.
- The trim wheels and handles are just for show and do not move.
- There are no trim indicators at all, but the decal is there.
- The parking brake lever does not kick off upon brake application, nor requires the brakes to engage. It can be moved any time.
- There is no backlighting.
- The stab trim cutout switches do not have guards and are not connected.
Now, that being said and considering what you do get for the price, the JetMax Throttle Quadrant does an incredible job, adds a huge amount to the immersion factor, and I am completely satisfied with it!
INTEGRATION / OPERATION
The JetMax MIP, Throttle Quadrant, and CDU are all connected to the computer via supplied USB cables. It then comes time to configure your devices to work with your software.
NOTE: The JetMax does *not* include any avionics logic/displays software. There a few options out there, such as ProSim737, Sim-Avionics, and some others, but be prepared to spend an additional $600-1300 on one.
I chose to use the ProSim737 Avionics Suite (hereafter called PS737) avionics suite due to the ongoing development and the native support for most of the hardware I would be using, such as from FDS/JetMax, CPFlight, and Flight Illusion. Therefore, the rest of these section pertains the PS737 setup. If you use another avionics solution, your results may differ.
If you use PS737, there is a handy guide being put together by ThomasKarlsson over at the ProSim forums. I am sure he would share it with you if you ask. I used it and it helped quite a lot.
The highlights of his PS737-JetMax guide are as follows:
- Install the InterfaceIT Management Control System from TekWorx to collect some information from the JetMax. This software allows you to activate each LED/annunciator, note their number designation, and read the position states of all switches and rotaries. It is a good idea to write all of these down as you go, as you have to add them to the PS737 configuration later.
- Enable FDS SYS card support in PS737 and restart it.
- In PS737 configuration, under Indicators, select the FDS card and numbered LED output for each item the JetMax supports. PS737 also includes a wizard to locate LED outputs, but it can be a bit time-consuming. Use the list you created earlier to make this much easier and quicker.
- PS737 uses ‘ASA’ to describe the AFDS panel; the terms are interchangeable.
- The Flaps gauge uses the Gates section for each detent setting. No setting is required for Flaps Up.
- The MFD ENG and SYS backlighting LEDs also use the Gate names Overhead backlight master. (Of course, they are so dim on my JetMax, you can barely tell they are on anyway).
- Use the PS737 Switches tab to assign all of the switches and rotary positions. Most switches have one position that does not need to be configured as PS737 will consider “no input” as a condition as well.
- If you have the JetMax TQ, since it is treated just like a joystick interface, be sure to disable all FSX settings for it first. Then, in PS737, the buttons are all assigned under Switches. And under Levers, configure each lever using the following axis:
- Speedbrake = X
- Flaps = Z
- Left Throttle = Slider
- Right Throttle = Y
- It is recommended to enable the Throttle Position indicator feature in the PS737 Instructor Station so you know where the throttles are positioned settings so you can match them when disabling autothrottle.
TIP: I originally set up the JetMax Throttle Quadrant entirely via FSUIPC so I could use it with other aircraft. However, due to the way ProSim737 does internal timing, it is better to let PS737 manage everything but the throttles. The throttles are still on FSUIPC and work well with other aircraft.
- If you also have the JetMax Tiller, you need to configure it using FSUIPC as PS737 does not natively support it yet.
- The JetMax CDU is controlled by the ProSim737 CDU program and should be set to enable ‘FDS CDU’ and be on the same computer the CDU is connected to. I used the 800×600 display resolution and then took some time to align the various lines in the CDU display.
NOTE: With just PS737 running, you will not see landing gear status indications. FSX/Prepar3D must be running for these to display.
After configuration, I hit the Lights TEST switch and everything lit up as it should. I tested all the switches and rotaries, then fired up FSX and enjoyed my first flight without a virtual cockpit eating up screen space and memory. What an experience!
The setup and integration of the JetMax takes a little while the first time around, but once it is configured, it requires little to no further upkeep. Again, this is directly the result of sound engineering and design by the people at JetMax.
I had numerous email exchanges with Peter Cos at JetMax/FlightDeck Solutions before purchasing this product and even went so far as to visit the factory itself in Toronto beforehand. All communications were in perfect English (I’m sure they speak French Canadian as well), answered quickly, and were always very friendly.
When I had a few assembly questions about the product after delivery, I received clear and rapid responses from Steve Cos (his brother). I have had no support issues at all with the product or the service, and both have been exceptional all around.
When I first decided to make the step from a desk to a replica simulator, I intended to build a dual seat enclosed cockpit. My lack of wallet thickness, a full-time First Officer, and space limitations changed my mind rather quickly. I can always build the whole thing down the road if those things change.
The JetMax satisfied many of my rethought personal desires without compromising quality and function. It includes everything you need to fly solo and enjoy a full-scale instrument panel, if only two-thirds of it.
There is something to be able to interact with a physical object instead of clicking a mouse. I believe a lot of people like myself have a secret desire to flip switches and turn knobs. And now with the JetMax, I know what it is like to balance time between looking down at displays and keeping eyes out the window.
Procedures take on a whole new meaning, and completing checklists requires actual human interaction. There is no digital FO to do it for you, so programs like FS2Crew are no longer usable or required.
While the MIP itself does not have a huge amount of controls, the CDU and the throttle quadrant are used often throughout every step of a flight. I truly enjoy using the CDU as the “click” of the keys is quite satisfying and having to lean over to program it is a realistic effort I didn’t expect.
The JetMax throttle quadrant also adds a whole new dimension to my previous simulation. I had the Saitek Throttles before, but using an actual 737-type quadrant is a huge improvement. Feeling the flaps gates, keeping a hand on the fuel levers during startup, even just using an actual parking brake lever are all new experiences I truly cherish. And, having real working TO/GA and A/T disconnect buttons on the throttles make it that much more realistic.
I greatly appreciate that JetMax chose to create adapters for other manufacturer’s products, such as the CH and Saitek Yokes, and the CPFlight and GoFlight MCP/EFIS units. Many people already own bits of cockpit and this allows for some cost-savings and customization.
When it comes to the materials, JetMax did a fantastic job creating a reliable, sturdy, flight simulation product. Since the construction is mostly aluminium, it all has a hefty, expensive feel to it. Once it is completed, there is little flex or wobble in the entire MIP.
The large knobs are accurate and injection molded, the display bezels have tiny “look-right” details like the hinges and light sensors, and even the dummy chronometer and yaw damper give the “look” of the real thing. There are some 3D printed pieces, such as the round gauge bezels and fire warn/master caution button housings, but they are not really noticeable and do not detract from the product.
The panel engraving is spot on and the lettering is accurate. The annunciators are legible, bright, and the light is well diffused. The landing gear lever is strong, feels superb, and looks exactly like the real thing. I did add a bit of white lithium grease to the gear and tiller wheel mechanism to smooth them out a bit.
Wiring is the one thing I try to avoid at all costs, it just takes up so much time. Luckily, the JetMax wiring is quite simple and does not require any crazy electronics experience. The main harness is already assembled, everything is labeled and easy to connect by matching the numbered labels to each other. A real life saver!
The JetMax is in a class of its own, and even then, sitting at the very top. There is no other product like it in the market. There are desktop MIPs, there are full MIPs, and a lot of cheap plastic out there. The JetMax puts it all together in a working package that is backed by terrific support team. And that kind of service means I am a customer for life.
I am always worried with the limited number of sim cockpit companies that they will just disappear or go under. I do not fear this at all with FlightDeck Solutions and JetMax. While hobby simulation was the root of their beginnings, JetMax/FDS will be around for a long time due to their steady commercial and industrial work.
While this article covered some of the caveats and hurdles of the JetMax I needed to accept and/or overcome, none of them changed my mind about what I bought and why. I would do it again and highly recommend it to anyone. Is it perfect? No, but close. You simply cannot argue the price point, what you get for the money, and what JetMax has created for home simulation pilots around the world. For these reasons, I give the JetMax 737 SKTQ a final score of 9 out of 10.
UPDATE: As of October 2015, the JetMax 737 no longer includes the yaw damper gauge. Boeing started removing it in the real 737s also as it is an antiquated device. Peter Cos of JetMax tells me the RMI is about to go away next as Boeing is also removing them as well.
Some imagery by JetMax/FlightDeck Solutions. my737NG.com is not affiliated with, maintained, authorized, endorsed, or sponsored by JetMax/FlightDeck Solutions.