Instrument Panel

August 30 , 2014

Cutting the Panel! - 14.0 Hours

At long last, it's time to lay out the panel and begin cutting it! This has been a very exciting little project. Jeffrey at Advanced Flight Systems provided me with full-scale templates for the switch panels, and the EFIS, COM, and Intercom panels. All I had to do was cut them out, position them precisely, and mark the panel for cutting. I used a sharp needle-like scribe and a straight-edge ruler to scribe the lines precisely where I'll be cutting. You can get a glimpse here of the drawing for the switch panel that holds the 4 switches on the upper left of the panel. I have also marked the key ignition switch below that, and other items as well.

My die grinder and this cut-off wheel from Vans did the trick! Just stay inside the lines, and file down carefully to the line. The round hole for the key ignition switch required extra time and care. It has a little tab that sticks in a notch in the switch body, to keep it from rotating in use. So you have to drill the hole undersize, then carefully file it to full size, leaving the little tab in place. A bit tedious and time-consuming, but easy enough if you're careful. I didn't have trouble with it at all.

Careful filing and taking your time allows this to be done precisely, and it's not that hard. I used a set of files of various shapes and sizes. Round, triangle, flat files, needle files. They were all useful. I was thrilled to see the ignition switch in place for the first time. Here you can also see the scribed lines much better. See how the switch panel will be a single rectangular cut-out, with the corners left in for the hardware? Incidentally, Jeffrey also gave me some PEM nuts. These are amazing! You drill a precise-sized hole, and they squeeze in with your rivet squeezer. They make a permanent "nut" in place on the back side of the panel, for the machine screws that hold all this stuff in place. Kind of like a platenut without the rivets. No messing around trying to get washers and nuts on the hardware behind the panel... just screw the items into the panel and you're done! And if you need to remove anything in the future for maintenance, it's a piece of cake.

Most of the cut-outs are finished at this point. A friend loaned me a real Advanced Flight Systems bezel blank (without the EFIS screen, of course) for fitting purposes. This was extremely helpful to make sure I did the cuts accurately, and also to drill the corner holes for the machine screws that will hold it in place. Looking closely, you'll see the rectangular switch panel opening cut out on the left, the corners are drilled for the mounting hardware. Below that, you can see the ignition switch opening with the little anti-rotation tab left in place. To the right of the EFIS, the cut-outs for the Intercom and the COM can be seen, and below that for the autopilot (paper picture image in place). I still need to drill the 4 corner holes for the autopilot. Below that, I still need to cut out the switch panel that is marked with a black marker. I want to more precisely locate it, then use the scribe to make fine lines. Much more accurate than a black marker. Finally, to the right of that, the Garmin Power/Data cable for the GPS is already cut, drilled, and installed. The Aera 500 easily snaps in and out of this, and I'm extremely pleased with it. Further to the right, out of view, I cut the opening for the ELT remote panel, right next to the map box. I'll show a photo of it installed here soon.

Also seen in the picture above, I drilled the two holes in the panel for the support rib, also seen in the EFIS opening. It had previously been cut off at the sub-panel (you can clearly see where, right in the middle of the EFIS opening) because it had to be relocated to the right of the EFIS screen. Now that it's position is accurately defined, I drilled it to the sub-panel and riveted it in place. The panel now just drops right in, fits perfectly, and I couldn't be happier!

Here's a closer look at the relocated support rib. This is straightforward and pretty easy, really. It was cut off from it's original stock location, seen just to the left of the brown wire bundle. Now I'm excited about populating the panel with the real goodies. I'll be doing that as I'm able to buy things.

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