This blog is for entertainment purposes only, and is not meant to teach you how to build anything. The author is not responsible for any accident, injury, or loss that occurs as a result of reading this blog. Read this blog at your own risk.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Ch 22 - Electrical/Avionics - Part 9

Cutting into the plane and panel #3

At this point I have done as much possible to better the odds that once at the airport I will have the least amount of surprises, but with Rough River only two weeks away nothing is for sure. 

So, this is it! The airplane is going to be "down" until this process has taken its course.

"Look Ma'... no canopy!"

Elevator rod separates easily

"There goes the canard!"

EZ builder and tunnel engineer Walter Grantz assisted me with the canard removal

Once you get started things disappear quickly

Small sample of the things I removed

I also removed half a pound of wires that started and/or went nowhere

End of day one

A few more items, and pretty soon she was bare for all to see.

When you really look at it, there can't be a lot of strength there.

With nothing left to remove it was time to start cutting…

The first cut is always the hardest...

...but it gets easier quickly

Next, with Chris Cleaver’s help, I started closing up holes and rebuilding the panel using the same foam I used to build the panel on my project.

Patching holes

Pretty soon we ran into a myriad of small problems trying to fit the new panel into the old instrument panel. I went back home and shortened all the standoffs by half inch (1.3 cm). That made a small improvement, but I still had so many issues left that the only obvious solution became to make a whole new panel.

Crap! That was the last thing I needed to hear. This would set me back at least three more days, but it had to be done.

A lot of little changes

Work in progress

Old paper template vs new panel

New panel (in back) vs old

Old panel (left) vs new

I designed and 3D printed a holder for the annunciator lights that would conform to the top of the panel.

ABS warning lights holder

Alright, we should be back in business now!

New panel ready to go to the hangar

Note the PTT box is now at the bottom (orange box), and the square Trio autopilot.

Awaiting trial installation

I decided to position the new panel slightly lower than I had originally planned for a better fit with the canopy. This extended the plate below the leg holes very slightly, not good.

Reducing leg space by a quarter inch (6 mm)

Chris and I added more foam, then trimmed it back as much as possible to keep the leg holes usable.

Adding foam to the bottom of the panel

After curing and trimming

The next day, after a very long sanding session, I glassed the panel with two plies BID front and back.

Your glassing is only as good as your masking.

Talking about glassing...

Back home for the night, while the panel cured under the heat lamps, I took care of a bothersome design issue with the engine monitor.

You see the VM1000 has a lot of features that help you do all kinds of cool things, and you access them through the use of five buttons. Problem is those buttons were sized for a sheetmetal panel, and do not stick out of the thick fiberglass panel, rendering them unusable.

I have never been able to use any of these buttons before

So, I took some measurements and turned some longer ones on my CNC mini-lathe out of white Delrin.

New button vs old buttons

New Delrin extended buttons

The result was outstanding!

Now you are talking!

I can already see myself using the heck out of it in the future.

Back to the plane the next morning, I trimmed the extra glass, and looked at what I had accomplished.

This is going to work for me

I approved, then moved on to cutting the autopilot square hole.

Autopilot in position

Autopilot attached to the panel


But that’s when I ran into a snag, there was just not enough panel remaining on the left side after cutting the hole, to put some bolts through and expect it to be solid.

Black dots are future bolt holes

So, with much regret, I decided to close the autopilot hole back up, and fly without it for the time being, until I can install the GRT servos after Rough River.

We’ll take a look at that next time.


  1. Beautiful work Marco. Your work is awesome--can't wait to see it first hand at Rough River!

    1. Thanks BizMan, I've been working all out every day to make sure that happens.