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Old 01-09-2015, 12:53 PM
humptybump humptybump is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 3,181
Default The importance of testing your panel design

I recently completed a panel upgrade. I came up with the basic design and I did the wiring, assembly, and paint; and I worked with a shop to get a CAD layout and a professionally cut panel. At every step of the process I was confident I had the best panel I could achieve.

When it came time for the initial test flights and training with the new panel, a fundamental flaw appeared. Prior to flight, it never appeared - even with initial sketches, a high fidelity mockup, multiple iterations in CAD, panel cut and review, two weeks on the bench during the wiring and tests & configuration, final paint, labeling, assembly, and installation.

The issue is not catastrophic. It is correctable if I want to pull the panel for a couple of days. However, my "day job" is user experience research and interface design. I realized, I had ignored one of the fundamental steps in design and user testing - build a prototype.

If you are curious, go ahead and read my blog post. See if you discover the mistake before you get to the 'reveal'.
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Old 01-09-2015, 01:27 PM
Tooch Tooch is offline
Join Date: Nov 2011
Location: Amelia, Va
Posts: 320
Default Angle

Good advice Glenn. I had a similar problem when I put in my new Trio Pro pilot auto pilot. It has a skid ball on it and that would be the only one in the plane. After I installed it and sat in the plane, I realized that the heading knob was blocking the ball because of the angle I was viewing it from.
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Old 01-09-2015, 02:32 PM
Ironflight's Avatar
Ironflight Ironflight is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Dayton, NV
Posts: 12,872

Yup - had the same problem years ago when I built my RV-8....had to chaneg the switch labels because they were hidden by the radio stack on the laft.
Paul F. Dye
Editor at Large - KITPLANES Magazine
RV-8 - N188PD - "Valkyrie"
RV-6 (By Marriage) - N164MS - "Mikey"
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Old 01-09-2015, 03:16 PM
Canadian_JOY Canadian_JOY is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Ontario, Canada
Posts: 2,486

I had a cardboard mockup of our panel sitting over our couch in the little-used living room for a couple of months. Every time I'd go by it, I'd admire it. I was totally in love.

Then, mere hours before I was about to start cutting metal, a friend popped in for an unannounced visit. He very casually asked "why not move the engine instruments and place them between the EFIS and moving map GPS?" I quickly realized the point he was trying to make, every so subtly. The bezel of the GPS would have partially obscured the view of the left side of the steam gauge engine instruments.

In a matter of minutes I had repositioned all the paper instrument mock-ups and found this new layout was MUCH better than the design I had come up with. The next morning I started cutting metal using this new layout. Eight years later I'm still happy happy happy with the layout.

While a prototype is a good idea, it's sometimes not fully practical, although 3-d models made from cereal box cardboard work well. As my experience taught me, having another set of eyes, or a few sets of eyes, look over your design will often find a flaw that we overlooked.

As sexist as it may sound, if you are a male (as so many on this forum are), get a female to give her feedback on the panel design. I've had some really good alternatives suggested by females, alternatives that no male had come up with. It's that 'left brain right brain' thing, I guess. My wife and daughter have both sat in front of the panel for our new airplane. Neither are pilots. Both have come up with ways to improve the design, and in doing so, they've made that little part of the airplane theirs. Win-win!
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Old 01-09-2015, 03:22 PM
Bavafa Bavafa is offline
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Sacramento, CA
Posts: 3,670

Originally Posted by Ironflight View Post
Yup - had the same problem years ago when I built my RV-8....had to chaneg the switch labels because they were hidden by the radio stack on the laft.
That is nothing as the labels are still there. In mine, part of the label is covered by the bezel of the switch as I had not accounted for that.
N825SM RV7A - IO360M1B - SOLD
N825MS RV14A - IO390 - SOLD
N258SM RV14A - IO390EXP119 - in progress
Dues paid
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Old 01-09-2015, 07:20 PM
BobTurner BobTurner is online now
Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Livermore, CA
Posts: 7,903

I mocked mine up in the plane, and realized that when I went from looking out to looking at the EFIS and back, I had to move my head up and down (I wear bifocals). Moving the EFIS down a few inches fixed it - a really customized panel!
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Old 01-09-2015, 09:49 PM
rightrudder rightrudder is offline
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: Laguna Hills, CA
Posts: 1,853

Your post prompted an immediate trip to the garage for another test-sit! It's very timely, as I expect to get some water-slide decals from SteinAir on Monday or Tuesday.

All sight lines check out!
RV-9A "slider"--sold in July 2021
Flew to Osh in 2017, 2018 & 2019!
Donation made for 2021
You haven't seen a tree until you've seen its shadow from the sky -- Amelia Earhart
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:08 PM
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cdeerinck cdeerinck is offline
Join Date: Mar 2014
Location: San Marcos, CA
Posts: 418
Question Another thing?

Another physical thing: Aren't you concerned that when you turn the PFD knob on the lower left, that you will bump your switches to the off position?

That seems much more significant than the labels. Although your point is well taken.

DG-800S Sailplane
QB RV-8 -- Working on final wiring and the engine
84CX Reserved
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Old 01-10-2015, 12:05 AM
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Snowflake Snowflake is offline
Join Date: Oct 2009
Location: Sidney, BC, Canada
Posts: 4,321

I did figure out the problem before the reveal, but I do see another...

Most of the content on the panel is right-justified on an airplane that's flown with the right hand... To adjust anything, you'll need either the autopilot engaged, or you'll have to switch hands, or you'll be constantly reaching across with your left. That would drive me nuts, personally.
Rob Prior
1996 RV-6 "Tweety" C-FRBP (formerly N196RV)
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Old 01-10-2015, 06:18 AM
humptybump humptybump is offline
Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 3,181

Hi Rob,

The mockup was a little deceiving. The stuff on the far right is rarely changed. The MGL V10 radio is a backup and the MGL Xtreme EFIS is in engine-monitor mode unless there is a system failure of the G3X.
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