Home > VansAirForceForums

-Advertise in here!
- Today's Posts | Insert Pics

Keep VAF Going
Donate methods

Point your
camera app here
to donate fast.

Old 12-31-2019, 01:27 PM
N546RV's Avatar
N546RV N546RV is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Brookshire, TX
Posts: 1,160
Default Panel layout feedback

OK folks, I think I’ve finally firmed up this panel design to the point where I want to get some feedback. Intended use case will be primarily day/night VFR. The aircraft will be IFR capable, even though the pilot probably won’t be for another couple years.

Broad strokes of the setup are pretty self-explanatory: two 10” Skyview HDX displays, plus a Garmin GPS175 to fulfill the TSO’d GPS role. After much thought, I decided against a second COM radio; it’s not depicted on this image, but there will be provision for connecting a handheld transceiver into the ship’s antenna, and that’ll be my backup COM solution. Other redundancy will be provided by the Skyview backup batteries and dual ADAHRS. Also seen here is a controller for the SDS CPI2 ignition, which will also be equipped with its own backup battery.

Generally speaking, I’ve biased controls to the left since that will be my “free” hand in-flight, though with the -8 panel I can really reach any part of it with either hand. As far as EFIS functions go, this is also a pretty minor point, since anything I’d do with the dedicated COM/AP panels, I can also do on either of the touchscreens. The GPS175 and intercom are the only real exceptions to the left-hand bias; I figure the intercom isn’t going to be an in-flight critical thing to operate, and if I’m using the GPS175 I’m probably IFR and therefore probably using the autopilot.

“Switchology” is generally grouped by function, and also positioned with regard to importance of function. All main power-related switches are in the top left group (more on the main power setup later). At bottom left, close to my left hand, are what I’m considering “in-flight administrative” functions that might have some urgency attached. The starter arm switch in this position will be guarded. Lighting controls aren’t depicted here; they’ll be located on the right-side console. Colored dots are the beginning of an attempt to color-code switches by function; that scheme is still not quite complete (suggestions welcome).

I’m installing a Tosten MS grip up front, which will control fairly usual things: trim, flaps, PTT, AP disconnect/CWS, and engine start (which will work in concert with the aforementioned starter arm switch). The panel placard for stick functions is still a work in progress (and also notably depicts an Infinity grip right now); it may not end up there in the end, as I think fitting it in the small available space will be challenging.

Now, back to the “main power” switch group. Electrical layout is loosely based on Nuckolls Z-13, mainly modified to use a conventional vacuum-pad standby alternator rather than an SD-8. Intent is to normally have the fields on for both alternators, with the standby’s regular set a bit low so it comes online automatically if the primary fails. The switch is set up as OFF-STANDBY-BOTH, and would normally be on BOTH. The middle position allows for verifying standby alternator functionality during the runup. ESS BUS ALT FEED allows the always-hot battery bus to feed the essential bus in the case of a major failure (up to and including the master contactor).

The two CPI2 power switches are required to properly isolate that system when the aircraft is shut down; AP MASTER just switches power the servos.

With that all out of the way, here are the thoughts/questions still on my mind:
  • Is the alternator switch setup reasonable? Is the inability to only kill the standby alternator a potential issue? One solution here could be to add field CBs, say, just above this row of switches.
  • Originally I had the starter arm switch all by itself, mounted higher on the left “wing.” My thought process was to really isolate it, but I ended up preferring the idea of limiting different switch groups, and having it a bit closer my left hand could be a benefit on the slim chance I need the starter in-flight. I don’t have a super strong opinion either way, so I’m curious what others think.
  • Originally I had the CPI2 controller on the far left, in accordance with my “put stuff on the left” guidance, and I was going to have the air vent on the right, but that would require routing the scat tube all the way across behind the panel. I figure the CPI2 doesn’t need to be at hand; I’ll interact with it during my runup checks, but in-flight the only normal interaction would be engaging LOP mode when needed.
  • Is there anything obvious that I’m omitting here? Are the little ELT control panels ubiquitous, or is that a per-model thing? That’s the only thing I think I might be missing here.

That’s about all the thoughts I have on this, I believe. Looking forward to buckets of feedback - thanks!

And now for the actual mockup - click the image to view larger/fullsize:
-8 fuselage in progress (remember when I thought the wing kit had a lot of parts? HAHAHAHAHA)
Reply With Quote
Old 12-31-2019, 01:45 PM
gmcjetpilot's Avatar
gmcjetpilot gmcjetpilot is offline
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 4,576

It is great except for that control stick grip embedded into the right side of the panel...

Assume you have throttle quadrant in left hand and stick in right. So radios on left makes sense. Switches high in panel, is good keep from hitting them accidentally, but consider a guard on critical switches, like battery and ignition.

Suggest cutting poster board out as full scale panel, paste/draw photos of instruments/switches, sit in a chair in front of it. Go through pre-start, start, taxi, run-up, takeoff, level off, climb, cruise, descent, pattern, approach, landing, taxi, shutdown..... Revisit it from time to time.

It looks like you are going IFR with full autopilot. Nice. Happy New Years.
Raleigh, NC Area
RV-4, RV-7, ATP, CFII, MEI, 737/757/767

2021 Dues Paid

Last edited by gmcjetpilot : 01-01-2020 at 02:29 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 12-31-2019, 02:16 PM
sailvi767 sailvi767 is offline
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Charlotte NC
Posts: 1,388

New Rocket panel.

Last edited by sailvi767 : 12-31-2019 at 08:41 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 12-31-2019, 06:12 PM
Ed_Wischmeyer's Avatar
Ed_Wischmeyer Ed_Wischmeyer is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Savannah, GA
Posts: 1,574

I just sold my VFR only RV-8 but still fly the RV-9A with full glass, rarely flown VFR. I?ve found stylistic differences in what works for cockpit layout, VFR or IFR;

Panels and checklists should be designed together. Write out all of your checklist functions as well as other flight operations (turning on lights for visibility approaching the pattern, or leaving the patter; going in and out of clouds); and of course, all your emergency procedures. See what works, what needs to be adjusted.

* IFR, it?s all about the avionics. You want the avionics placed where they are easy to use and when you reach the knob, your hand doesn?t cover the avionics. This means right hand on the GPS, for example;
* You?re smart in allocation of stick functions. Too many folks overload the stick for no real reason. Good show!
* VFR in the -8, I found that there was plenty of time to reach all the switches. The only thing I wanted on the stick and didn?t have was a flap dump function, which you?ve got;
* Fuel pump will be used a bunch, so put it in a more conspicuous place;
* Consider what switches are used for startup, shutdown, and in emergencies. On the panel is prime space, by your knee is not. You?ve got plenty of space in the corners of the panel for switches;
* Autopilot power is more of a safety of flight switch than a power switch, so don?t put it with the power switches just because;
* Don?t see any light switches, presumably those are on the side by your knee. For IFR, strobes should go next to pitot heat because going in and out of clouds, one is on, the other off. Those could go on the main panel so you don?t have to look down to find them;
* In fact, lots of light switches could go where you don?t have to look down at them, especially if you fly at night;
* Maybe put the starter arm switch with the other power switches. Also, put it where you can reach it immediately without looking for it, just in case;
* Consider head impact with anything on the panel. That?s tough to implement in the real world;
* Intercom does not need prime space. And there are at least two vendors with excellent auto-squelch intercoms. Strongly suggest one of those;
* No idea what the device is in the lower right column;

An excellent start! But I?m not sure any panel design is ever totally perfect...
RV-9A at KSAV (Savannah, GA; dual G3X Touch with autopilot, GTN650, GTX330ES, GDL52 ADSB-In)
Previously RV-4, RV-8, RV-8A, AirCam, Cessna 175
ATP CFII PhD, so I have no excuses when I screw up
Vaccines kept me out of the hospital but COVID still cost me a month of living, all told...
Reply With Quote
Old 12-31-2019, 07:45 PM
Carl Froehlich's Avatar
Carl Froehlich Carl Froehlich is online now
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Dogwood Airpark (VA42)
Posts: 3,264

Some thoughts:
- Fitting two 10? Skyview displays in an RV-8 works as you know, but creates placement issues. For example I?d put your display higher.
- You are missing the must have SkyView Knob Panel - this is the most used item on my panels.
- I offer that you might look at how you designed the panel to come out for updates, mods and maintenance.

This photo is from first power up on my RV-8 project panel. When I made this panel I made two, one for the new owner of my RV-8A. I flew cross country IFR in his plane and found the panel to be very functional and intuitive.

There is logic to the four breakers on the panel vs the side wings- this is a center element to easy panel removal. All non-vital loads are on the right side panel.

Reply With Quote
Old 12-31-2019, 10:18 PM
N546RV's Avatar
N546RV N546RV is offline
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: Brookshire, TX
Posts: 1,160

Good stuff. I've already been doing some test-sits and chair-flying in the airplane (sometime, as seen here, with assistance from Cleco the cat). And those sessions already led to moving some things around - my taped-up version here doesn't match the latest mock I have. Definitely going to keep doing more of this before I finalize everything.

Originally Posted by Ed_Wischmeyer View Post
* Autopilot power is more of a safety of flight switch than a power switch, so don’t put it with the power switches just because;
Good point, relocating that could give me a little more flexibility in the main panel.

* Maybe put the starter arm switch with the other power switches. Also, put it where you can reach it immediately without looking for it, just in case;
This was actually my motivation for moving it to its current location, immediately adjacent to the throttle quadrant, for quicker access. I haven't chair-flown this yet, so it remains to be seen if it survives that crucible.

* No idea what the device is in the lower right column;
SDS CPI2 electronic ignition controller.

Originally Posted by Carl Froehlich View Post
Some thoughts:
- Fitting two 10” Skyview displays in an RV-8 works as you know, but creates placement issues. For example I’d put your display higher.
This is a thought I had before. In fact, my earliest panel designs tried really hard to center around two 7" Skyview displays stacked vertically, but I never could lay out the rest of the panel in a way that I liked. I think this layout work be even less optimal with HDX displays, thanks to the angled bezel at the bottom, especially given how the RV-8 panel is kind of low in my sightline.

Unfortunately, if we start with two 10" displays, it doesn't leave a lot of room for movement. About the best I could do is maybe an inch higher than what I have mocked up here, which I don't necessarily feel is much of an improvement. I could still move around the items above the displays and get them a bit higher, though. Something to tinker with. Maybe I need to temper my strong desire for symmetry a bit...

- You are missing the must have SkyView Knob Panel - this is the most used item on my panels.
Thanks, this is exactly the kind of real-world feedback that's helpful. I used to have the knob panel mocked up, but canned it to make room for other things, having convinced myself that I could perform the knob functions just as well using the knobs on the displays. So your contrary experience is food for thought.
-8 fuselage in progress (remember when I thought the wing kit had a lot of parts? HAHAHAHAHA)

Last edited by N546RV : 12-31-2019 at 10:35 PM.
Reply With Quote
Old 01-01-2020, 03:07 AM
Capt Capt is offline
Join Date: Feb 2017
Location: Australia
Posts: 711

That all looks pretty flash there Better than some heavy metal panels.
Funny thing having now retired after flying glass I bought my 8 with traditional steam guages set up like the military, love it, back to real flying like the good old days
Reply With Quote
Old 01-01-2020, 05:14 AM
Northernliving Northernliving is offline
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Boston, MA
Posts: 591
Default It's YOUR stink'n panel!

I’ve been flying my VFR Dynon glass -8 for 2.5 years and now in the process of laying out a new panel and adding a IFD440. I’ve concluded that I would prefer to have my engine and power related switches on the right (master, avionics power, ignition) and my lighting control and boost pump on the left. I assume that if I’m in an emergency and want the boost on, I would be flying with my right (I’m right-handed) and want the boost on the far right close to the throttle. Other than that, I find the entire -8 panel very easy to get to with either hand. My current Dynon radio is on the right, and I’m often turning it while I’m on auto pilot either in a hand-off to another controller or well ahead of the airport that I’m landing at. Reaching over to toggle from approach to tower if I’m hand flying isn’t a big deal. I'm putting that button on my stick, too.

Bill at Up North Aviation who has been a saint to put up with my many changes is who is helping me cut my panel. In the end, I’m using the over-sized panel and he is cutting it to fit. This will give me the desperately needed 1/2 -3/4 inches at the bottom to fit my switches. I’ve asked a lot of people for panel input and you will get all kinds of answers, but in the end, it’s YOUR panel. Do what you want. If you haven’t flown behind one, my best advice is to get a full scale printout and tape in the plane and sit behind it. See what you like or down like. I’m glad that I flew behind one for a couple of years. What I would have laid out two years ago would be different than where I’m at today.

Brian J.
Boston, MA
RV8 Based at ORH - Purchased
RV8 - The Project #83313 - Under Construction
Reply With Quote
Old 01-01-2020, 05:20 AM
F1 Rocket F1 Rocket is offline
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Melboring, FL
Posts: 226

I suggest you add some simulated 3D knobs and switches to your paper mockups and try working them. I went through a number of layout changes on my recent panel upgrade. Most changes were driven by knob and or switch interferences.
F1 Rocket #25
N14ZM "Dreamer"
Melboring, FL
Reply With Quote
Old 01-01-2020, 05:21 AM
Walt's Avatar
Walt Walt is offline
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,345

I always try to place screens as high in the panel as physically possible to keep it closer to eye level.

Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

EXP Aircraft Services LLC
Specializing in RV Condition Inspections, Maintenance, Avionics Upgrades
Dynamic Prop Balancing, Pitot-Static Altmeter/Transponder Certification
FAA Certified Repair Station, AP/IA/FCC GROL, EAA Technical Counselor
Authorized Garmin G3X Dealer/Installer
RV7A built 2004, 2000+ hrs, New Titan IO-370, Bendix Mags
Website:, Email:, Cell: 972-746-5154
Reply With Quote

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 01:10 PM.

The VAFForums come to you courtesy Delta Romeo, LLC. By viewing and participating in them you agree to build your plane using standardized methods and practices and to fly it safely and in accordance with the laws governing the country you are located in.