Tanya & Bryan Duke's RV-6 Panel Rebuild
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20 May 05: We've started our first big project for our RV-6, a new instrument panel. We decided to modernize the panel & do all required to make the plane IFR capable. Things we want to do are install an EFIS, engine monitor and new autopilot. These new instruments we picked are the latest in avionics for homebuilts. In just barely more space than one old style airpeed or attitude indicator would take, these new computer based instruments display what would take an entire panel's worth of data. Using these new displays the number of total instruments in the panel can be reduced. Removing old heavy gyros & other instruments and replacing them with new lighter computer driven instruments will reduce the overall weight of the plane. Besides, having new computerized stuff draws a crowd wherever you stop...and that's cool.

Our plan is to remove quite a few of the old instruments and lay out the new & re-used instruments in a way such that you can easily fly the airplane from either seat in or out of the weather. Tanya enjoys flying, but with the current instrument layout she lacks much real info as to what's going on with the plane.

When we bought the airplane, the panel looked like this:

It's a very nice panel, well thought out & laid out. The panel actually has every instrument you need for IFR flight as-is. Our new, hopefully improved layout will look something like this:

We've been deciding on what the layout of the new panel will be & what switches & circuit breakers we're going to use for about a month now. It still changes daily, but the final version should look something remotely like that. We're removing the loran (not usable for IFR), the tachometer, manifold/fuel pressure gauge, Electronics International CHT/EGT, voltmeter, the old Cessna-style engine & fuel gauges (rectangle on the right side of the panel), directional gyro, vertical speed, and old autopilot. After much debate, we decided to keep the underlying design of the electrical busses the same. So, the switch & circuit breaker layout will remain mostly untouched. We are replacing all the switches with new toggle switches and the breakers with new versions. Since the master & avionics busses are partially built onto the circuit breakers, I'll have to rebuild all that. We thought about going with a new power design, or possibly solid state circuit breakers, but the simplicity and frankly good design that Jack did on the electricity side of things made sense to keep. We'll see what I say about that after rewiring the whole thing.

The first new piece of equipment we bought was a Blue Mountain Avionics EFIS/Lite. It's one of the new Generation 3 units. We actually ordered it before any of the G3's had shipped. About a month ago we received the EFIS & did a temporary installation to play with it until we built the new panel. It's a little more expensive than the similar Dynon Avionics EFIS, but the EFIS/Lite also has a built in GPS & has an HSI and moving map page. So far, we LOVE the EFIS/Lite. Here's what it looks like installed:

From here, Tanya really had the reigns for the new instrumentation. She did some serious spy work to figure out that I wanted the Advanced Flight Systems AF2500 engine monitor. She worked with our friend Paul Rosales & the builder Jack to get all the info she needed to order the engine monitor. She told Rob at Advanced Flight Systems that she was surprising me for my birthday & he got her the AF2500 without me even getting a hint of it. Nice!

The last piece of new equipment was an autopilot. Our Navaid autopilot works great, but we figured if we didn't update it now, we probably never would. The Trio Avionics EZ Pilot II won our search for a new autopilot. Greg at Blue Mountain Avionics is adding the exact output for this autopilot to the EFIS/Lite - seeing that news sealed the deal. The autopilot also functions as a turn & bank indicator. Here it is:

So, what's next? I ordered the wiring, switches & breakers to get the job going. It should be here on the 24th. The big hurdle in getting started is cutting the new panel. Instead of using saws & files to make the instruments fit, I'm going to have the new panel laser cut. The benefit if this is I get perfect cuts exactly where I want them. The down side, is I have to generate a CAD file for every cut that the laser needs to make. To make room for the engine monitor, I'm going to modify the canopy release mechanism - yet another project.

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