Sunday, December 14, 2008

First crack at the panel

Update - Here's take 2

I've been collecting some of the electronics that I'll be using in my RV-7A over the last few years to try to spread the cost out a bit. But since I'm planning the wiring for the airplane now, I needed to make a few big purchases, which I did yesterday.

When I say "big purchases," I mean big purchases for me. From what I can tell, most RV builders are putting at least $20,000 into their panels. And as Stein Bruch said yesterday, his firm rarely builds a panel for under $80,000.

It's easy to get sucked into the "keeping up with the Joneses" syndrome in this business and it's a good thing, I suppose, that the recession has snapped us -- or at least me -- back to reality. I'm a VFR "go up and look down" kind of pilot and that's about it. Yes, I intend to fly cross country back to New England or down south, but I have no intention of doing it in crappy weather or at night, so I don't really need bells and whistles. Besides, there's nothing that says I can't add equipment later.

So yesterday, I wrote a $6,400 check to Stein and added the Vertical Power 50, the Garmin 327 transponder, and the Dynon D-100 EFIS to the collection of boxes on the shelves here at home. Would I rather have an Advanced Flight System 3500? You bet. But I simply don't have the money for it and I'm not interesting in taking on debt. The next owner of N614EF can do that.

Anyway, I'm trying to mess around with a design for the panel and that's it above. I need comments. I've got the Garmin portable GPS in a little more prominent spot than a lot of people do, but I rely pretty heavily on that, given that I fly under the Twin Cities Class B. Really keeping a close eye on situational awareness with regards to airspace is really important.

I don't have an audio panel. I have a small intercom, so the audio stack (currently just the transponder and the ICOM A-210) is pretty small. I've left room in that general area, however, to add a PS Engineering audio panel at some future point.

Not shown is the ELT switch. I'm not sure where to put that. I also haven't investigated the Lightspeed system that's on the engine yet. I'm using half a system and I'm not sure what has to be on the panel to accomodate that. And I'm leaving room for a map box although I doubt I'll need one.

There are a few switches down there by the VP system. I figure I'll need to gang up a few things (strobe/nav/landing lights) on switches. I could be wrong. But this system eliminates the need for circuit breakers and fuses (mostly), which frees up panel space and also some space behind the panel.

I need your opinion on this initial sketch.


  1. Hello Bob,
    I think the Dynon is much to low in the panel and out of direct eye line.
    It will also be difficult to reach it's buttons for altimeter setting change for example.
    I would move the left panel rib a bit left, put the Dynon high and centered on the old rib's position, move the GPS and autopilot right of the Dynon, and have the standby instruments stacked vertically on the left of the Dynon. You could even have some space left to put the EIS or VP50 below the Dynon.
    Just my thoughts, happy planning.


  2. I agree with Pascal, plus I'd move the magneto/start key switch over to the far left. You'll want your right hand on or near the throttle when starting.

    I would also think about moving the GPS at least slightly more towards the center of the panel - your co-pilot will want to be able to see it too.

    I think the Dynon is a great choice, particularly since it will upgrade to an internal autopilot should you choose to. I'm 50-50 on APs - there are days when I wish I had one, but they are few enough that it's hard to justify the cost.

  3. Ooh, good points. I do need to actually go out to the hangar and put some cutouts up there. It's hard to envision where eye level is. I'll take another crack at it and move it up. Unfortunately, the subpanel is already riveted so I may be relatively committed to working within the Van's framework.

    The AP, by the way, is just a TruTrak wing leveler (single axis).

  4. Bob,

    Will the Dynon fit between the panel rib screws like my Enigma does?

    Could be another option...I just cut the front off the rib, but just the middle of it, leaving the screw holes...

  5. I see you moved the ignition to the left, but brought some of the switches along with it. Most of my switches are more towards the middle.

    I think the idea was to start the engine with the left hand on the starter switch and the right hand on the throttle. The other switches are positioned more for flight - left hand flying, right hand managing switches.

    The flaps switch in particular (assuming electric flaps) will need to be where you can use it without taking your hand off of the stick - at least in my -6 there is a pronounced pitch change when the flaps are extended/retracted.

  6. Yes, I noticed the switches wer ein the wrong spot right away and moved them back, Ijust didn't bother to post a new picture.

  7. Bob...

    A couple of thoughts -

    You should sit in the airplane approximately where the seat cushions will put you and, importantly, envision that your shoulder harness is going to restrict your reach a little. You can reach all the way across the panel, - it's just a little less easy. With that in mine, think about a "zone" where you can more easily tweak stuff (such as tuning radios, setting altimeter, operating the GRT system, etc.). Obviously, that stuff goes in the zone - the read only stuff goes somewhere else.

    I see you're going with a compass on the glareshield above the 3/496 and the Dynon. Think about getting a small sheet of "MuMetal" to soak up any magnetic disturbance. Put that on the glareshield under the compass.

    You'll be happy with the TruTrack wing leveler. It turns out these airplanes fly very well and are pretty stable in flight - you'll probably like what you have and feel it's plenty for what you need.