Instrument Panel

An airplane project named "Impossible Dreams" needs an improbable panel! Leading off is an admittedly fuzzy screendump of a Panel Planner mockup of original design of my panel. You can see the final product evolving throughout the pictures below. After I had received the 'final' bid for building the panel, I was told to add 10 percent 'because you'll add, subtract, tweak and refine' the original design. This proved absolutely dead on and may well be some sort of law of nature! Equipment includes PS Engineering PMA7000MS, Garmin GNS530, UPS SL30, Garmin GTX327, UPS MX20, Vision Microsystems VM100, EC100 and Fuel Level System, Sandel SN3308 HSI, Rocky Mountain Instruments microENCODER, Flightcom DVR300i and a S-Tec System 55X autopilot. The Radio/CD player was placed originally with intent to use a car system although with recent announcements at Sun and Fun 2001, I decided to go with a PS Engineering PMA7000MS-CD Audio Panel with Remote CD Player instead since FM capability may not be useful anyway and I would be just giving up being able to listen to ball games in transit.

After considering bids from various companies with differing views of how to go about building the panel and how they proposed to support the complex electronics involved, I decided to go with Martin Elshire and Gary Wirrell at Aerotronics, Inc. who have an outstanding reputation in the homebuiler's community and have created many Velocity and other high end aircraft panels. They will take a custom built carbon fiber instrument panel built by Malcolm Collier at Hangar 18 and put together the above avionics package. The series of photos detail the process of laying out, cutting, labelling, finishing and wiring the panel.

9/15/01 = The latest series of photos show not only the front of the panel with equipment installed, but also the back! The process of turning an amazing amount of wiring to a clean, neat and well-organized final product is seen below. Spending the time and effort making the back of the panel as neat and organized as the front will pay off in future ease of maintanence!

Click on thumbnails to view larger versions of the pics!

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Original concept for the hypothetical instrument panel. Final appearance and equipment to be determined ... Building the MicroEncoder from Rocky Mountain Instruments. A lot of fun, even for a novice! The custon carbon panel is made in two stages. First, the carbon fiberglass face is vacuum bagged on the instument panel mold with the fibers oriented carefully to 0 and 90 degrees. A clear resin is used to avoid discoloring. Second, the actual structure of the panel is laid down using the usual, brown colored resin as seen in the next photo. Backing laminates added and vacuum bagged. This builds the panel up to 1/8 inch thick.
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Standard kit panel jigged in place to build flanges to which new carbon panel will be attached. Finished panel. Capturing the actual appearance is fairly difficult. The final prep will be a clear polyurethane coating. This gives the panel the appearance of depth as light plays across its face. Another view of the freshly manufactured panel. This shot captures the appearance of the weave which will be visible over the entire panel.
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Ready to be shipped to Aerotronics for installation of the avionics. The white areas denote the locations of the engine control group and the mounting flanges. Custom-made Overhead Switch Panel (A Hangar 18 special!!) The aluminum plate seen below the carbon fiberglass plate was custom made for mounting RMQ16 series switches (from Moeller Electronics and obtained from Gary Semchik at Control Systems Manufacturing (770) 443-9555) by John Leder, another Velocity XL builder. We plan on constructing a similar panel using a carbon fiber plate to match the main instrument panel. Layout for overhead switch panel. The very near final layout for the ACTUAL instrument panel! I've been working closely with Don Coward and Ron Kalvig at Aerotronics to tweak the postionings just so.
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Left side of the panel. Glare shield switch (Aeroenhancements, Inc.) and dimmer switches across bottom, autopilot master switch at left. Center of panel layout. Output jacks for cameras, audio out and audio input jacks in center. Right side of panel. Adjustable eyeball vent with threaded collar and ring for mounting in panel obtained from Kit Components, Inc. (541-923-2244) who sell parts and accessories for Lancair kits. The panel is cut!
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Labeling for breaker panel. This will be computer generated and then clear coated permanently on the panel around the breakers. N Number in place above annunciator panel position. The surface of the carbon panel looks dull in the following pictures as the labels are placed. A layer of clear coat will seal the labels in position permanently and restore the panel's lustre. Left side of panel labels applied. Center of panel.
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Copilot side of panel. Note the neat labelling of the breaker panel using a single decal. Another view of right side of panel. Note passenger "warning" required by FAA built in. Closeup of center flange. The Instrument Panel with equipment installed!! (Missing only the annunciator lights at the moment) Engine/Prop controls and pilot side vent will be located in blank are at far left. Compare final appearance with Panel Planner mockup at top of page.
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Take a LOT of wires and turn them into ... this!! --->>>> Back of breaker panel. CD player and radio stack seen. Back of VM100 seen between breakers and stack. It's very thin!
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Rear of radio stack. Not the cant of the radio stack rack. This determined the position of the CD player as it has considerable depth limiting how close it could be placed to the center. Moving across back of panel. Note routing of cable bundles across the back of the stack above the autopilot. Rear of MX20 and "6-pack" instruemnts seen including Sandel HSI (with dedicated fan) . The Microencoder seen just to the left of it in this photo. Rear of flight instruments seen. Note connections to dimmer switches.
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Overview of panel wiring in progress. Detail of cabling fun past the center flange.
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Detail of cabling running along lower edge of panel across dimmer switches. Overhead switch panel!! Bundled cable will pass through the carbon beam conduit to a set of relays seen in the next photo. The harness is less than a 1/2" wide and 9.5 feet long. Relay bank controled by overhead switch panel.
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Overview of overhead panel. Back of overhead panel and RMQ16 switches. Overhead panel left ... center...
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and right. IT'S ALIVE!!! Panel powered up! Some overviews and then detail shots.
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Rocky Mountain MicroEncoder and Apollo CDI. Annunciators finally arrived!! Panel powered up with annunciators.
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Instrument panel finally in its new home! Left side, instrument panel installed with engine/prop controls in place.
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Installing overhead switch panel. It's a tight fit getting the wiring down the carbon beam conduits! Ground wires went to left, all others to right. Overhead switch panel mounted in place! RVR 300a map light attached to overhead plenum seen upper center of photo. Overhead switch panel in place. Relays seen installed under the copliot side of the panel.
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Instrument panel in positon, lit up like a Christmas tree!! Detail of the panel. Note that both NavComm units register being on the 284 degree radial from MLB VOR.

Comments, questions, and suggestions are welcome! email: rich@rguerra.com

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