One thing I've decided already is that I want an electric panel. Vacuum sucks, and it's terribly unreliable. I think money is better spent introducing redundancy in the form of electric backups rather than a heavy vacuum system with moving parts that's essentially guaranteed to fail. I've experienced busted vacuum powered gauges in two planes, and this is before I even hit 80 hours.
I won't be buying instruments until the end. I want to let prices go down and technology improve as much as possible. It's amazing what's come out in the last couple years, who knows what's coming next?
I have a couple of thoughts on what kind of panel I might put together.
|I build a daytime VFR-only panel that has the bare minimums. GOOSE A CAT doesn't apply to experimentals, so I could put as little as I wanted on. I could use a handheld radio, scavenge an airspeed indicator and an altimeter. Add oil and water temperature gauges so I can figure out cooling, and an amp meter to detect alternator problems. Oh, and a tachometer of course.|
|Add a panel mounted com, whatever is available cheapest. Oil pressure, Position/anti-collision lights and an attitude indicator and I should be able to do limited night VFR.|
|Add a transponder. I really don't want to fly without a transponder, but I could probably go for a while without one if I didn't want to travel anywhere interesting. ...which I do.|
|Super Minimum IFR
|Add a slip indicator and I technically meet minimum IFR standards, I think. Of course, I'm guessing that to do anything good, I'd need to be able to file /R, and for that, I'd want to make sure that my panel com could drive a VOR, and I'd have to add the VOR display. This is uncertain territory for me, I'm sure I'll learn this all when I get my instrument ticket. As far as I can tell, having equipment above the minimums is all about reducing pilot workload (not to mention the added safety).|
|Instead of buying piecemeal instruments, I could instead buy something like the Blue Mountain Avionics EFIS/Sport or something from Dynon that serves as a gyro, (in the case of Blue Mountain) a moving map GPS, engine gauges, etc. Add a com and transponder, and I could have a good night VFR/minimum IFR setup.|
These are just some basic ranges, and it's possible I'm making excitingly improper assumptions about required equipment and prices. After this, I came up with another option for an IFR panel that could cost as little as $10,000 and provide good safety margins.
First IFR Panel Idea
Here's my first stab at a panel as of 1/22/06. We'll all laugh later when I actually build, but here we go. This is middle to upper range in cost, but seems to be a good way to get an IFR panel without spending more than the airframe cost me. I split the panel into three sections: Immediate flying, then navigation, then finally engine monitoring.
Here's the breakdown:
Manual airspeed and altimeter. I can get both of these functions in the EFIS, but if everything goes kablooey, these are the two most important instruments I need to land, so I've got them backed up.
Blue Mountain Avionics EFIS/Lite. This is a fantastic device that gives me horizon, airspeed, altimeter, can drive an autopilot, moving map... It's possible that it makes coffee too, it's really an amazing piece of electronics.
Gear retract. I want the nose gear control and indicator right in my face.
7" LCD VGA monitor, mounted vertically. I plan to have a PC onboard, as I do in my car. I'm sure the prices on these will come down even more so I'll be able to have a sunlight readable display for cheap by the time I'm ready to buy. The PC will monitor instruments, may provide additional flight planning/weather, and if I have a Mode S transponder, I can write a traffic display program for it to give me additional situational awareness. Also, I'm a member of a Glass Cockpit group that's working to develop flight safety software for aircraft, if it's evolved in the right direction, this would be a great place to run it. It'll be a touchscreen, plus I'll have a fold away keyboard stashed somewhere, as well as some sort of tactile interface (hat switch on my Infinity Aerospace stick, perhaps?)
On the top, I have a card compass and a power panel. I don't know if I'll use a premade power panel or build my own, only time will tell.
Garmin 430? GPS. The way things are developing, buying a Garmin 430/480 whatnot might be the smartest way to get my coms and nav taken care of. A combo unit that combines these two in addition to an IFR capable GPS can be cheaper to buy used than the individual components. Today, at the beginning of 2006, I'm seeing these sell for around $5,000. It's almost an IFR panel in a box, minus one or two things. Who knows where the prices will be on this a few years from now?
Garmin GTX 330/Some Mode S/Some ADS-B Transponder - I could go Mode C, but if the price is right, something that gives me traffic awareness would be a great feature and make cross country flight just a little safer.
A clock. Part 91 says I need a clock, and I can either build or buy something.
An engine EFIS. A Dynon EMS-D10 looks great today, I look forward to seeing what the future holds. If the software develops appropriately, I may be able to delete this outright and use the PC with an aggregator box as my engine instruments, adding a couple of basic backups if I did so.
Remote ELT control.
Somewhere, probably at the top, I'll also put a good ammeter and alternator warning light with a buzzer. I'm currently planning to do an auto-conversion for my engine, so knowing my alternator status is vital. Also not shown is some type of switch to go to possibly go to a backup alternator, not sure how this will work yet.
2006 blue sky prices
$3500ish for used altimeter, airspeed, the EFIS/Lite, card compass with remote sensor, VGA LCD.
$7000ish for the power panel, Garmin, audio panel, transponder, and clock.
$2000ish for engine EFIS
$500 for computer w/ DC-DC power supply
$13,000 for an IFR panel
If I can do the engine EFIS in the computer, then we're down to $11,000. I think traffic aware transponders will keep dropping, as well as the Garmin, so in the end, the panel might cost as little as $10,000.
Cozy Page - Ben Hallert -
firstname.lastname@example.org - Progress: 4 hours - 0% of
estimated 2700 hours construction. - Last updated 4/23/06
All text and original photographs copyright Ben Hallert except where otherwise noted. Cozy Mk IV is a registered design of Aircraft Spruce and the author makes no claim otherwise.