Building the Instrument Panel
I put a lot of thought into the layout when
instrument panel. There were certain things on wanted on the
left and right sides. I spent a lot of time moving full-sized
cutouts around until I had it just right before I ever made the first
cut. I also made some key decisions on sub-panels and
consoles. Here's how I did it.
General Layout Ideas
First, a little on the
instruments. I am
right handed, so fly
with my right hand on the stick and my left on the throttle. I want to take my hand off
the stick as
little as I can. I
don’t mind taking my
hand off the throttle, but not off the stick.
I also don’t like swapping the stick to my
left hand to
throw a switch
with my right. With
this in mind, I
designed the layout of my cockpit.
I put switches and
only need to be thrown
before flight, or very seldom in flight on the right, and often used
Van’s electrical diagram
breakers on the right console. Here
the only place that I disagreed with his “lighter and simpler are
approach. I could
have put combination
switch/breakers on the left. I
don’t like the idea of turning things on and off with the circuit
breaker. I think
switches are for every day use, and
circuit breakers are for overload protection.
I think the added weight of separate switches
breakers is a
small price to pay to be able to put the switches on the left.
I put things that I don’t
on changing in the two
sub panels. On the
left, all I have is
the vent, and on the right, the ignition switch, Hobbs meter,
and trim indicators. This freed
up the main panel for my flight instruments.
By building the
instrument panel in this way, I am able
to update my panel
without structural changes to the airframe, or unsightly leftover holes. I can buy a new main panel
from Vans, cut and
fit everything, while I am still flying with the old panel. Then on a rainy weekend, I
can swap the two
started by making my layout on a full size poster
board. I knew I
wanted the EFIS in the
middle at the top, and the instruments that I had to touch a lot on the
(again, I wanted to use my left hand to do everything).
I also marked where the
F-802NPP L.G.box upper
braces was behind the panel. Most
instruments fit in front of them, but the Tierra radios are all too
deep. They either
had to go above or below the F-802T
I made full size pieces
that I could
move around on the
poster board until I was happy. Don’t forget to include the full size
of your instruments, including the attachment brackets and other parts
will be behind the panel.
I spent a lot of time
cutouts, trying different
layouts until I was happy. Don’t
this part. You will
be spending a lot of
time looking at your panel. Make
you are completely happy before building the instrument panel. My cutouts
the living room for a couple weeks while I played.
I figured I was about ready when the wife got
tired of seeing it.
The only bracing required
panel was for the
radios—everything else is small and light.
By placing my radios just above the F-802T
brace, I was
able to attach the back of the radio trays to the F-802NPP L.G.box
eliminating the need to build extra bracing.
Cutting Holes in Main Panel
cut the round holes with a circle cutter like this one
from Aircraft Spruce. You
can also use a
regular hole saw, if you have the right size.
Make sure you do this on a drill press.
It is almost impossible to keep the drill
vertical by hand,
and the blade digs in on one side, making a mess.
I set the cutter, then drilled a scrap to
ensure the hole was exactly the size I wanted.
I cut the squares with an
grinder and a cutoff
wheel. Then spent a
lot of time with a
file to clean up.
the main panel turned out:
the only comment
I have is to cut as many holes as you can before you install them. It is much easier to drill
and file at the
work bench than hunched over in the cockpit.
Left Sub Panel:
I followed the
instructions for building the instrument panel on this
one. My holes were
placed exactly as described in
the plans. If more
holes are needed, I
have seen multiple rows on other airplanes.
They look good, but I bet they were a bugger
to wire. It would
get pretty tight
By building my own
I had the space to put
switches for the lights, flaps, fuel pumps, etc. on the left, making
to access in flight.” Read
here for more details on my custom throttle quadrant.
I’m pretty happy with the
all worked out. But,
there are a few things I would have done
a little differently when building the instrument panel. Click
here to read
from Building the
Instrument Panel to Instrument
from Building the
Instrument Panel to Kit
Plane Advice Home