Instrument Panel

September 30 , 2015

Cutting the Panel! - 20.0 Hours

Well, I have finally been able to put a few more things in the panel, so it's time for another update! Recently, I bought all my switches and the switch panel plates from Advanced Flight Systems. I was also able to buy my Intercom unit. So I went to work installing all of these things, and here are some pictures! Here's what my panel looks like right now, partially populated. Some of the items below are just pictures, that I added for some realism and a bit of fun!

The EFIS screen, for example, is really just the temporary bezel seen last time, with a paper picture in place. I did this for motivation, and so I could sit in the seat and visualize all of this in my mind. The COM radio and the autopilot are also paper pictures. But the Intercom seen on top of the stack is the real deal. And I snapped in the Garmin Aera 500 GPS and turned it on, just for more realism. I am very happy, so far, to see all of this laid out and beginning to take shape. Here are some close-ups and more details:

I'll tell you, I just love these switches! Vans is now using them in the RV-12 and the RV-14's and you can buy the switches directly from Vans. But I'm glad I got them from Advanced Flight Systems. They were worth waiting for, and I'm glad Advanced developed these switch panel plates. The panel was easy to cut out for the switch plates, and they came nicely finished and already labeled. Just screw them in and you're ready to wire them up! I still need to drill the holes for the autopilot, but that's about it on the panel itself. Here's with and without the GPS snapped in place, and a better view of the center switch plate:

Some of these are single on/off switches, but the ones for the lights are off in the middle position, and on for the top or bottom function. They will light up when they're on. I do not have a heated pitot tube, if you have followed my wing construction pages, so I'm not sure what to do with that switch just yet. I may take it out until some day when I do have a heated pitot. Or maybe I'll just splurge and get a heated pitot. I don't know yet. I'm just anxious to get it flying and money remains an issue. You'll also notice the switch for "DEFROST" fans for the canopy. More on that in a minute. Advanced also makes a longer version of this switch plate, with one more switch for the flaps. But my flap switches are on my grips, so I don't need a panel switch for them, making it possible for me to have the shorter switch plate, leaving room for a future second screen. A lot of thought and planning went into this. You can also more clearly see the Garmin power/data cable installation, where my GPS snaps in place. This, instead of the big AirGizmos dock. It snaps solidly in place. Looks nice and clean. And one simple push on the upper right button, and it pops right out. I love it! This is important because the Aera 500 is a dual GPS system. You use the touch screen to go over into automotive mode. I use this GPS every day in my car, so having it go in and out so easily will be very nice. You can sit in a coffee shop or at the breakfast table and do your flight planning on it. And it will be nice to have an automotive GPS for unfamiliar towns and cities when we fly away and land somewhere.

Moving further to the right, I had my map box lid anodized recently when I had a batch of stuff to take in. I think when my panel is painted or powdercoated, this is really going to look good, and will match the interior nicely. To the right of the map box, I cut an opening and installed the remote for the ELT. Below that is a pair of 12-volt power plugs. These are simple cigarette-lighter style plugs, one of them has a USB adapter insterted in place. So I should have plenty of power in the cabin for accessories. One of these plugs is switched on/off with the Master, and the other one is "always hot", directly wired to the battery with an in-line fuse for safety. My thinking here is to make a battery tester/charger with a standard cigarette-lighter style plug, so I can test the battery and charge it if necessary, without turning on the master and leaving it on, and without having to take off the cowling to get to the battery terminals. I will label it accordingly, as a reminder not to leave things plugged in when I shut the plane down. And finally, you see another pair of switches! These are in a homemade plate and not labeled yet, but one switch is for an APRS tracking system I plan on installing, and the other one is the switch to turn on my Seat Heaters! I have individual switches between the seats below, for each seat heater, but this will serve as a master switch for both of them, making it easy to quickly shut it all off. Here's a close-up of my power plugs:

And here's a shot of the dual USB power adapter seen in the left plug above. I found this at Fry's Electronics, and it was cheap. I've been reading recently, and apparently there's more to these things than meets the eye. Not all of them are reported to work very well. I guess we'll see. It will be easy to replace if I need a better one. I do like the idea of the power plugs I'm using, with these type of adapters. I will have a lot more flexibility, and be able to change things out easily if needs or technology changes, as opposed to a dedicated hard-wired USB outlet of some kind.

Here's one more panoramic shot of the whole thing, in the plane! I'm really looking forward to getting the rest of the items installed, and the panel painted or powdercoated.

Now earlier, I mentioned defrost fans. In the picture above you can see the fans I installed in the glare shield. It will be simple wiring to the switch, and provide much-needed air to the canopy on those mornings when fogged windows are a problem. I've done a lot of reading about this, and it's not particularly a problem in every area. But it is here in the northwest. Once the plane is underway, it never seems to be a problem and you can shut them off. It's just during taxiing and the run-up that it can be a problem. This will be nice for those moments. Here's a closer look:

They're obviously not wired up yet. The bare wires can be seen. I also have to make a big confession about my installation. I made a HUGE mistake. In my haste, when I decided to do this, I simply measured the amount of room available on the underneath side of the glare shield. It was a perfect fit for typical 80mm fans used on computer cases. So I bought a pair, cut the holes, drilled the corner bolts, and installed the fans. It was a lot of work and I was really excited about how it all came out, until I put the canopy back on the plane and tried to lower it. It worked just fine, until later on when I put the panel in the plane. Then the canopy wouldn't shut! (any guesses why?) Hint... the fans you see above are NOT the original 80mm ones. These are smaller, 52mm fans installed later.

Well... long story short... the panel has a supporting angle stiffener riveted on across the top, to stiffen and strengthen the panel. It fits right under the canopy frame, right behind the round tube seen above these fans. You must leave room for it. There must be a gap there. The 80mm fans filled that space and when I lowered the canopy, they hit the top of the panels' angle. It was a shock, and a huge disappointment, as you can imagine. I was literally sick to my stomach. Here is the canopy that I spent so much time on, so much attention, months of work and effort on every detail. And in a brief moment I cut holes that are too big and installed fans that won't fit! How am I going to fix that? There's no going back.

Now I'm stuck and didn't know what to do. See the holes in the above picture? Those nice 80mm fans fit perfectly in there. But it won't work. You must allow a gap for the panel to clear the fans!

It took me a while to figure out a workable solution that still looks good. But I finally figured out a way to turn this lemon into lemonade. I did a lot of careful measuring and figuring, and I ended up buying another pair of fans. These are 52mm in size. There's just enough room for the panel's top angle to fit underneath them. So I cut these plates and painted the top ones flat black, and the underneath pair with my interior JetFlex paint. I cut smaller holes for the 52mm fans and mounted them to the bottom plates, as seen here:

The smaller 52mm fans turned out to be the perfect size. You can find endless fans and sizes by shopping online. Just google "computer fans". So I'm okay with this now. In fact, if I ever have to change them out, it may be even easier this way. So what about the top side, the screens or covers? Those big holes looked horrible from the top side. Well, look at these nice oval-shaped screens, or grates that will cover the fan blades in this picture. They are even angled a bit, toward the canopy. Nice! Where did I get them? Well, one morning in the bathroom with Jamie, I noticed one on the front of her hair blow-dryer. It was the perfect size and looked good, too. I begged her for it! But I needed two of them. So I got lucky and found another one, identical, used, at the local Good Will store, for just a few dollars. Haha! A shot of spray paint and they look brand new. And my wife has a spare backup hair dryer now, too! I put some small aluminum strips on her hair dryers, to replace this cover and hold her hair dryer together. How about that! So they go on the black plates, which go on the top side of the glare shield, right under the canopy. They cover up those big 80mm holes nicely, and look good for the smaller fans that are now underneath.

The glare shield is sandwiched in between a pair of these plates, fan on the bottom. Black plates on top with the screen or grate installed.

Here's a close-up of one of the fans, the bottom mounting plate that I made, and labels to explain it all. The black plate with the grate is on top on the other side. You can see the grate between the fan blades. The nuts and bolts on this plate just clear the panels' stiffener angle. Whew! I put the snake-skin and the heat-shrink tubing on the wiring, by the way. They did not come that way. If you're installing fans in your tip-up canopy, keep all this in mind and learn from my mistakes!

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