Review of the CPflight MCP737EL: the must-have Mode Control Panel for your Boeing 737!

(video review is below!)

No need to mess around with your mouse in the virtual cockpit anymore to change your altitude, heading, vertical speed: you can do that by buying the CPflight MCP 737 EL! This 1:1 scale replica of the Boeing 737NG Honeywell MCP allows you to control the autopilot systems of your 737 and other aircraft.

Buying the product

You can buy the MCP over at cpflight.com. A new version will cost you around €609,- euros (incl EU tax), however you can also buy a second-handed version on websites like ebay to get it for a lower price. It is quite a large investment to buy a completely new one and although it is definitely worth the money, it’s good to safe some money by buying a second-handed version (if you can).

Personally, I got mine second-handed as well, but the original product should come with the MCP in a CPflight box including a USB power cable (you do not need an external power input if you are just using the MCP alone) that provides the power and connects the MCP to your computer. Additionally, firmware jumpers should be included that allow you to update the firmware of the internal hardware via your USB cable (read the manual for instructions)

Check out the lovely sounds of the knobs and switches!

Compatibility

This addon works with the following flight simulators:

  • FS2004
  • FSX
  • Prepar3d (V1/V2/V3)
  • Xplane (32-bit/64-bit)

And it works with the following aircraft:

  • Default Boeing 737
  • PMDG 777
  • Level-D 767
  • Project Magenta
  • PMDG 737 NGX
  • Flightdecksoftware
  • Sim-Avionics
  • PROSIM737
  • iFly 737NG
  • aeroSystem737
  • Aerowinx747
  • Opus FSX

Bear in mind though that aircraft such as the default 737 or the 747 do not actually have all the buttons you can find on the MCP 737 EL on their MCPs. For more info about compatibility, visit the CPflight website.

Will it work with other aircraft? Not really. This piece of hardware is quite advanced and uses its own internal program and communication program to communicate with FS2004/FSX through FSUIPC. It is not like a joystick though: you cannot assign the knobs and switches yourself via FSUIPC (although you probably can if you have a good knowledge in coding), that’s why the list of compatible aircraft is rather limited. You therefore need to rely on the developers of CPflight that they will support the product you want.

For example, if you use this product with the Feelthere Embraer ERJ series, some rotating knobs will work (like heading and speed), but the rest doesn’t: this product is really designed for the popular Boeing 737 addons on the flight simulator markets and some other aircraft.

Installation

You have to carefully read the manual to install the MCP properly. You basically connect the MCP to your computer and install a USB driver. Then you have to look up the port through which the MCP communicates and you have to set this port in the “FS_COM” program, the software that you have to download and install to let the MCP communicate with flight simulator through FSUIPC. Once all this is working, the MCP doesn’t require any further installation or configuration, it’s almost plug-and-play!

Positives

Nevertheless, the CPflight MCP 737 EL is a great hardware addon that will add a lot of realism to your home cockpit. Whether you are building a full home cockpit or whether you just want to use the MCP next to your joystick: it adds a great amount of realism to your flying experience, especially if you fly the 737 a lot! It looks sturdy, it is an almost exact replica of the real MCP, it has beautiful lighting and a lot more. Let’s take a look at some of the positive points:

  • Fully to scale according to the real Honeywell MCP on the 737NG (1:1)
  • Realistic coloring and lay-out of text and symbols
  • Sturdy knobs and switches. It does not feel like cheap plastic.
  • General sturdy design and light weight.
  • Great lightning: backlights and button lights
  • Programmibility: you can alter some of the settings through the internal hardware (read the manual for that)
  • Works with popular 737 addons currently available on the market
  • Relatively easy installation once you understand the manual
  • Product can be expanded with other CPflight modules

Negatives

There is not a lot you won’t like about this piece of hardware, but there are some small things to mention:

  • Manual is a bit hard to follow sometimes, the use of English is not always that good
  • All rotator knobs are the same: no difference in their shape as in a real MCP
  • No automatically moving switches: the autopilot disconnect bar or Autothrottle switch don’t move when you externally disengage them. The lights of the CMD buttons do go off when you disconnect externally, but the light of the A/T switch doesn’t turn off when you disconnect it externally

These points are only minor issues and maybe Virtual Avionics will fix some of them sometime!

Conclusion

So there are some minor points that might decrease the level of realism a bit, but hey, it’s just a home cockpit and I don’t think you can expect everything to be working the same way as in a real Boeing 737. Alternatively, the MCP 737 PRO (the newer version of the MCP on the 737) is more detailed than the MCP 737 EL version, for example: it contains different knob shapes, different digit colors, automatic A/T disconnect through a magnet etc. The PRO version is more expensive than the EL though!

It looks like it has been taken just like that from a real 737 cockpit, it feels and sounds realistic, and it adds a lot of realism to your home cockpit. If you are flying the Boeing 737 regularly and if you like flying the aircraft through the autopilot, this product is really something to take into consideration!

Watch the video review here and see the product in action!