The Matrox Parhelia video card has the capability to have
three 3D acceleration outside views. This card is a great addition to make a
surround scenery setup.
With the Matrox Parhelia in the AGP slot, you can add another video card
in a PCI slot. I used a cheap 32Mb ATI card. With the Parhelia in spanning
mode, Windows now sees 2 displays. When starting up FS2004, the scenery +
cockpit view comes up on the Parhelia screens. The cockpit can be undocked,
resized, and dragged to the ATI screen. Other screens like GPS and radio
stack can also be added, undocked, and dragged to the ATI screen.
The advantage of the Parhelia solution is that you can get by with one PC driving the whole system. Frame rates are still decent on my ASUS P4PE 2.4GHz 512Mb system. Not all sliders at max, but still a nice well filled scenery.
The Parhelia view makes doing traffic patterns much easier. Still I find the need to do some extra panning during a pattern. In cockpit view as well as virtual cockpit view, the HAT switch will simultaneously pan all three Parhelia screens. In most Piston aircraft, I find flying with virtual cockpit view the most convenient, as the freedom of panning left/right and up/down always lets me get a good view of the landing strip. I have set a dedicated joystick switch for resetting the view. As you already have the cockpit panel in good quality on a separate view, the virtual cockpit is not really needed anymore. It can be deleted by editing the aircraft file with a hex editor. See Software enhancements. In some freeware planes the virtual cockpit is of such good quality, that I keep it in, as it gives an extra feeling of flight, especially the smaller GA planes and gliders.
For an enhancement of this setup, see Parhelia with fresnel lens