6.8.0 Instrument Panel

Another 3D puzzle! Assuming that the fuselage is level (which it is since I’m concurrently working on installing the canard) we can then start to install the panel. It looks easy, but it isn’t! Using a helper, we messed around for hours trying to get the panel reasonably close to level (left to right and vertically) and aligned properly with the “Luxury Keel”, also shown in the photo below. (In fact, the manual states that the panel can lean up to 5 degrees top side aft - towards the pilot. I’m leaning my panel 2 degrees since that provided for a better fit.) I had to do a lot of trimming and fitting of the keel overlay to get it in place as well as getting it all aligned properly with the instrument panel. At this point the panel is just clecoed into place. Eventually it gets epoxied into place. But in the meantime, I also have to place both of the side stick controlled, cut openings for them in the panel and paint the panel! (The factory recommends painting the panel before installation - of course, then the surface has to be protected!)

Fuselage - Instrument Panel - Initial Fitting

The panel must be level left to right, and vertical to within 5 degrees aft. I decided on 2 degrees which seems about perfect. It also needs to align with the keel overlay.

I’m slightly modifying the installation method for the instrument panel “shell”. Since this is the modified “new style” panel, the book isn’t very specific on how to mount it. The factory recommends that I glue it to the fuselage sidewall. Well, that’s all well and good except if I ever need to remove it for maintenance! (The original style panel was bolted to some flanges made out of Triax which was glued to the edge of the fuselage. That made it possible to remove the entire panel, if needed.) Because I’m also installing the side stick controllers I may need access to them for removal or if I ever need to get to the canard. Therefore, I decided to install some hard points and bolt the instrument panel to the fuselage. I see no reason why that shouldn’t work plus it gives me maintenance access when needed!

The photo below shows the beginning of that process. I dug out some fiberglass and foam at the hard point locations and used structural epoxy + flox to attach them. They are also getting covered with two layers of BID.

IMG 2159

Installing hard points inside the fuselage for mounting the instrument panel frame.

There are three pieces to this instrument panel puzzle. All are pre-made by the factory but still need to be trimmed and built. The white outer frame is the “new style” panel. It’s designed to better hold the typical EFIS-style electronics most builders install today. The original panel was better suited for the old round-gauge instruments. The photo below shows the mounting frame installed inside of the white frame. The mounting frame holds the actual panel itself. What you don’t see here are the nutplates that I installed which are used to hold the panel itself to the frame.

IMG 2183

This is the "new" style instrument panel. It incudes the frame (white part) and the insert which is used to hold the actual panel in place.

The entire panel is mounted in the fuselage. Earlier I mentioned the use of hard points which I embedded in the wall of the fuselage for mounting the panel. There are three screws on each side to hold the panel in place. I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be strong enough, but it is! this way, if needed, I can unbolt and remove the panel to get access to the side stick hardware buried way in the back. By the way, you can see the side stick controllers in this photo. At this point they aren’t totally hooked up yet, but eventually they will be.

You can also see the screws that surround the panel. These screw into nutplates which are mounted in the frame insert, as seen in the photo above.

IMG 2190

Here's the instrument panel mounted in the fuselage. In this photo the panel itself is mounted to the frame.

At this point the instrument panel is basically finished - at least its construction is. Obviously I still need to mount instruments, but that comes much later in the process! It also needs to be painted. I’m still trying to decide the colors! You can also see the luxury keel overlay which is now installed as well. It’s a tight fit, but it works. I had to do a bunch more tweaking (a.k.a. trimming) to get it to fit properly.

ui© John Trautschold 2018