Thoughts on panel design and installation

Update March 2010 - First Test Fit of Completed Panel.

Seems like I have been working on the panel design for a very long time. I guess now that its cut, powder coated and installed, the design stage is over. Yes, I have a smilie on my face today. I got to see what the panel looks like in the plane. I was very excited! However, I have not yet started any of the wiring runs.... so there is more work ahead of me.

  1. -TruTrak EFIS with Auto Pilot Level 3 (Wing Level, Altitude Hold, Vertical Speed Climb to set Altitude, Follows Garmin GPS 696 Flight Plans, and shows Track for course)

  2. -GPS Map 696 (WAY COOL!)

  3. -Lift Reserve Indicator

  4. -Indicator lights for Precision Eagle EMS electronic ignition and fuel injection system

  5. -Indicator light for Primary Alternator going out (round yellow top right of EFIS)

  6. -Indicator light for back up alternator turning on (B&C SD20). It will flash if drawing more then the 20amps its rated to deliver (square light to left of yellow circle on top of EFIS).

  7. -PS Engineering PMA9000EX Audio Panel

  8. -SL30 Nav/Com (Comm1)

  9. -iCom A210 (Comm2)

  10. -GTX330 Transponder (Mode S with TIS traffic, will display traffic on 696)

  11. -TruTrak EFIS, full back up EFIS screen on passenger side

  12. -Andair Throttle quadrant with flap switch on handle

  13. -Switches are simple bat handled toggles.

  14. -Switch labels are name plates engraved from a pdf file I created. The name plate material is only .020” thick.


Update 9/7/2009 - This version is just about ready to cut...

I priced out the Aveo Rock Rack switches in the last version of the panel. Wow, they wanted about $500 dollars for the switches. I don’t think so. The current version of the panel is back to basics on the panel switches. Yes, the old stand by, batt handled toggles. These little guys come in at about $5.00 each. Ok, so that’s comes out to much less money then the old Aveo design.


Update 7/12/2009 - This version may be close

If I had a nickel for every time I changed out the panel design, maybe I could afford to buy the last remaining components. One thing I can say, is this is the first panel that I laid out in a graphical program at 100% of size. Each element was placed in position at full scale. If I needed extra space behind an item, like the Eagle EMS Annunciator, that was accounted for with a dashed line. This panel could be used as a cutting template.

If you have been following my progress, the radio stack has not changed much. I did make a decision NOT to include the Vertical Power system I mentioned in the last update. I kept wanting that unit to manage my dual alternator installation. As it turns out, the primary alternator has a warning circuit that will light the red light above the EFIS if it goes out. The standby alternator, B&C SD20, is managed by a regulator that is monitoring the primary power bus. If it detects a problem with output of the primary alternator, it turns itself ON, and   the yellow light above the EFIS indicating I am running on the standby alternator. This also has a current sensor that will flash the yellow light if I am pulling more then the 20 amps it is rated to deliver. I can manually load level by turning off individual elements on the panel. If both alternators were to fail, heaven forbid, I also have an emergency bus switch that will drop power to everything but the primary EFIS screen and the SL30 com1 radio, the Garmin 696 has internal battery back up so it would stay on as well. Of course it will still be providing power to the Electronic ignition. Speaking of which, the electronic ignition has it’s own dedicated 9 amp/hour battery. As the ECU only draws 1.5 amps, that battery should keep the engine running for quite some time, even if all three other electrical components were to fail. In essence, I would have to loose both alternators and both batteries before the ECU would fail. You can bet I would have pushed the ‘Nearest’ button on the Garmin 696 long before that happens. The design here is to keep the engine running as long as possible when a potential electrical problems might occur.

So back to the panel. You might notice I have included the Trutrak EFIS and EMS BU in this design. I really like the idea of velocity vector flying. The Trutrak system shows track not compass heading. It also shows vertical speed on the horizon line, instead of nose attitude. Yes, it responds to a nose up indication as a gyro would, but if you hold that, it settles back to a VSI reading.

I have also included the Aveo Rock Rack switches. These little beauties have internal LED’s, so I will not have to make very many panel labels, or worry to much about lighting the panel. Everything but the Lift Reserve Indicator will have internal lighting. I can mount a single side wall (dome) light on the RV, and be happy with my night lighting. I will be able to see all the instruments, radios and switches. The switches are arranged in three groups. The engine group is on the left with; Battery Master, Electronic Ignition Master, Primary Alt, Stdby Alt, Avionics Master, Emergency Power Bus, Pitot Heat and Auto Pilot Master. The center switch under the radio stack is for the boost fuel pump. I can reach this switch while my hand stays on the single lever throttle quadrant. Speaking of which, the throttle lever also has the switch for raising and lowering the flaps. Under the Copilot EMS BU I have switches for the lighting; Nav, Strobe, Taxi, Landing, WigWag, Cockpit, Panel.

As for warning lights. As mentioned earlier, the two lights above the EFIS are for the primary alternator going OFF, and the standby alternator going ON. Below the garmin 696 I have two green lights for Fuel Pump ON and Auto Pilot Master ON. One additional yellow light is mounted there for the starter. It will let me know that the starter motor has turned off, after starting the engine.

As for circuit breakers and fuses... the panel will have 5 circuit breakers. One for the field wire on each alternator, the starter and one for the left and right side of the engine ECU. Everything else will be done with fuse blocks mounted under the panel. I plane to install them on piano hinges, so they have easy ground access.

The last item to mention is the mixture potentiometer. The Precision Eagle EMS system manages the engine mixture. However, in cruise flight, I have access to an electronic potentiometer to lean out the engine further if desired. With the Eagle EMS, fixed pitch Catto three bladed prop and a fuel injected engine, my only cockpit control lever is for throttle. I don’t need extra lever for carb heat or mixture. Push in the throttle... go fast. Pull back on the throttle... slow down. Simple.


Update 1/29/2009 - Version??? to many to count at this point, but hey, it’s getting closer....

It appears its been almost two years since I last took at stab at updating my thoughts on panel design. Well here goes. Equipment purchased to date;

  1. -PS Engineering PMA9000EX Audio Panel

  2. -SL30 Nav/Com (Comm1)

  3. -iCom A210 (Comm2)

  4. -GTX330 Transponder (Mode S with TIS traffic, will display traffic on 696)

  5. -GPS Map 696 (WAY COOL!)

  6. -LRI

  7. -Ignition switch

As you can see, the panel design is really starting to take shape. The radio stack is basically all purchased. I still have to decide if I am going to use the Vertical Power VP-50, and of course the big one.... which EFIS screen to buy. This layout above has the next generation Dynon featured. At this point, I think this is a pretty solid design.


Deciding how to layout the  panel...

I signed up for an account with, so I could start sketching out what my panel might look like. This is proving to be one of the more difficult decisions on my RV project. I want to put as many useful items in my panel as I possibly can, but with each new component, the price tag keeps rising. So it comes down to making trade offs for the things I just can’t live without based on how much money is in the budget (seems like the budget keeps rising as I continue my panel research).

I am planning a panel based on flying cross country VFR. I only have about 100  hours of flight time, and my IFR ticket is probably not going to come until several years after the completion of my RV9. With that in mind, I don’t want a full IFR panel now, as I am sure the technologies will continue to improve over time. As I continue to refine my thoughts on what my panel will look like, I will post updates to this part of the web site.

Current thoughts on what’s important to me... 3/5/2007

Version#1 of my panel has the Grand Rapids Technologies EFIS Horizon Series 1 as the  primary source of flight data. I am leaning this direction based on a couple of factors. First, I really like their ‘Highway-in-the-sky’ technology. Seeing a path to fly that guides you down to the end of the runway is not an option on any of the other EFIS systems. Second is their ability to display the traffic information (TIS) coming from the Garmin GTX330 transponder. I live in southern California. We have lots of planes in the air down here! I feel the TIS information is a must have. Of course that also helped push me in the direction of the more expensive transponder that can display Mode S communication links from ATC. My third reason is the integration of the GPS moving map display. Having this built into the system and the ability for that to drive the auto pilot is appealing to me. My last reason is the ability to display a VOR signal. I have been planning on GPS being my primary means of navigation. I plan to use the internal WAAS enabled GPS options from GRT ($450). So why bother with VOR? Good question, and one that I really haven’t fully decided on. If the GPS goes out, it kind of makes sense to back it up with a different technology. That’s where the VOR signal comes in. But to get VOR, I had to upgrade the comm stack to include a Nav/Comm system. Maybe I should just skip VOR, and replace the Nav/Comm with a second GPS mounted in the panel. I was looking at the Garmin GPS Map 496 in an AirGizmo panel dock as an option for the back up GPS. But I have not decided on that path yet. So here we are with a very nice dual screen glass cockpit. The problem with all of this great stuff is the cost. At $10k (with options) for a dual display with a single AHRS computer, it is quite expensive. Buying the EFIS from either Dynon or Advanced Flight Systems would be less money... but I don’t think they have as many features that I am looking for.

Enough about the EFIS, lets think about the Auto Pilot. I have been planning on a lateral control auto pilot from the very beginning of this project. After reading several posting from builders who have completed other RV’s, I am now looking at pitch control as well. In my research I have found a couple of system that look pretty good in the experimental market. My current favorite is the TruTrak ADI Pilot II. I like this based on positive recommendations and the ability for the instrument to act as a back up display for my EFIS. This system has bank angle, pitch and direction indicators, which are the basic back ups to my primary flight avionics. I am also planning on a separate airspeed indicator to back up the EFIS system.

On the communication stack I currently have a Garmin set; SL40 Comm, SL30 Nav/Comm, GMA340 Audio, GTX330 Transponder. This is nice, but it’s also very expensive. I am not sure that I can afford to include the SL30 Nav/Comm. By adding the second comm device, I am spending money on both that and the audio switching box. If I decide to go with a complete GPS system, I might drop the SL30 and the GMA340 and put in the GPS Map496. Choices, choices, choices...

At this point who knows what the panel will look like in the end. I seem to change my mind on what avionics need to be included on a daily basis... stay tuned as this will be refined over time.

As always, any input would be appreciated. If you have an idea or suggestion on how the panel should be assembled, send me and email.

Pete’s RV-9A Panel - Test Fitting Installed 3/3/2010