Setting up a 3-Monitor Flight Simulator Cockpit

Updated: 6th December 2016

The most common setup in a flight simulator cockpit is to have three monitors displaying the front outside view. To look at the virtual cockpit instruments, the view is then panned down with a joystick or yoke button. But how do we achieve this?  It’s easier than you think.

Pic of image across 3 monitors
Image stitched across three monitors forms the external cockpit view. It is reasonably un-distorted except at the extreme ends.

Three monitors can be set up as one very wide screen if your graphics card is powerful enough. The image is not stretched (as in distorted) but rather stitched together ( without too much distortion).

  • If you have an AMD/ATI card, then first check whether it will support “eyefinity”. If you aren’t sure, just Google it.
  • Similarly, if you have an nVidia card, check that it supports “nVidia Surround”.

If it doesn’t support these technologies, your graphics card is not powerful enough for a flight simulator cockpit. The higher-end Radeon R9 or RX400 series cards or any of the nVidia 900 or 1000 series cards should work fine.

A flight simulator cockpit is not the same as a single PC with graphics card, so be aware that you will need to spend some money on a decent card which can power an effective display of 5760px wide by 1200px high or thereabouts.

It’s a fairly simple procedure to set it up. Either:

  • Download the latest Catalyst driver if you have an AMD Radeon card and install. Run the Catalyst Control center and choose “Create Eyefinity Display Group” and follow the wizard. 
  • Download the latest GeForce driver if you have an nVidia card and install. Choose “Configure Surround PhysX”. Follow the wizard.

Once windows has been set up to display a long thin image across 3 monitors, all three simulators will support this view once you tell it that you have a wide 5760px wide by 1200px high monitor via the simulator settings controls. Now just assign the panning of the view to a joystick or yoke button or use the keyboard keys assigned to panning.

For better Performance…

Many high-end cards have at least 4 ports (for example two DVI ports, one display port and one HDMI port). It is therefore tempting to configure three of the ports for a wide cockpit window display and use 4th for the virtual cockpit instruments.  Don’t do this – it will work, but the performance will disappoint you. Rather use two PCs with separate graphics cards. Network them together via a small inexpensive ethernet switch/hub. Configure a “slave” PC with a high-end graphics card (fitted with at least 4GB VRAM) to show the 3-monitor outside view only, and slave it to a “master” PC which shows the virtual cockpit, fitted with a powerful CPU but  with a slightly less powerful graphics card (since just instruments and internal cockpit stuff will be shown).

X-Plane and P3D have built-in software to set up a “Master” and “Slave” PC while you will need a program like Wideview if you use FSX or FS2004 .