The last really big check

…I hope.

I wrote it to Tim Hass and the folks at Approach Fast Stack for a Garmin 10.3″ G3X Touch EFIS system with Sirius XM, GTN-650 GPS/Nav/Comm, GTX-45R ADS-B In/Out transponder, GMA-245 audio panel, GMC-307 autopilot mode controller, two GSU-28 autopilot servos, and all the associated Garmin boxes that go into a G3X installation.

All these gadgets will be connected to one of Tim’s Fast Stack Pro-X hubs, which will make wiring significantly easier and neater.

ProX hub

It’s worth the (relatively) few extra dollars to speed up avionics installation, and the resulting product will be a lot easier to upgrade should I ever want to.

Two really expensive boxes…

Two really expensive boxes

…and their contents.

The contents of two really expensive boxes

Jumping ahead to the instrument panel

One of my side projects over the last several years has been designing and re-designing the instrument panel. This is one area that every new builder likes to jump into right at the beginning of their build, and it’s probably one of the last areas we should worry about because the experimental avionics market changes so quickly.

But I’m at the point now where I must make provisions on the instrument panel fo specific avionics, so it’s time to commit to avionics equipage and cut the panel. You can tell by the picture below that I’ve chosen Garmin avionics for just about everything except the Advanced Flight Systems AoA indicator.

I decided early on that I’d have the panel professionally cut so I needed to find a shop that could do the CAD layout and also had the ability to do CNC milling. There are lots of panel design and cutting providers on VAF, but I’d heard good things about Bill Morelli at Up North Aviation in Swanton, Vermont and decided to give him a try. I’m glad I did.

I already had a basic idea of what I wanted in the panel, so I gave my ideas to Bill and he came right back with full-size CAD layout PDFs based on my inputs. For most iterations I’d have Kinkos print out the PDF at full size, cut out the panel from the print, overlay it on the blank aluminum panel, then make adjustments that I sent back to Bill for a new CAD layout. Bill and I went through this cycle many times, and he was extremely patient with all the little tweaks I requested.

The above picture is Bill’s CAD rendering of my final design, and the picture below is the end result after Bill cut my panel.

I’m extremely pleased with how it came out!

Here’s one example of the quality of Bill’s work. I pulled out the Advanced AoA display head and temporarily attached it to the panel. The fit is practically perfect!

With the panel cut, I’m warming up my frequent-flier rewards card in preparation for big avionics buys at Oshkosh…

Firewall prep, engine mount and gear reinstallation

The remainder of canopy work, mostly laying up the fiberglass front fairing, is on hold until warmer weather. So for the last two weeks I’ve been working on laying out and installing everything that needs to be on the firewall before the engine mount is permanently reattached.

Firewall hole layout

Throttle, mixture and prop cable penetrations laid out on firewall.

Cheap hole punches at work

Cabin heat control box mounting holes cut, using my inexpensive Lowe’s knockout punch to cut the throttle cable penetration.

Deconflicting the throttle and fuel bulkhead passthrough

Not a super clean hole, but better than I could have done otherwise.

Modified fuel reinforcement

Fitting the fuel line penetration doubler.

Firewall progress shot

The oil filter cutout and battery box are in temporarily installed so I can begin laying out battery and starter contractor locations.

Fitting starter/battery contractor doubler

Fitting the starter/battery contactor doubler.

Battery and starter conductors temp fitted

Battery and starter temp fitted, laying out location of ANL fuse holder and current-measuring shunt. The relative locations of the battery (top, silver) and starter (black, bottom) contactors was as close as I could get to Van’s plans locations while still accommodating the different style of starter contactor sold by B&C.

Doubler laid out for ANL holder and shunt

Doubler outline laid out, ready for fabrication.

Delayed by physical fitness

Mid-April – a running misstep led to a fractured ankle. No airplane work for a couple of weeks…this sucks.

Riveting things to the firewall

Back to work in early May despite the booted ankle.  With Ellen’s help, we got the contactor/fuse/shunt doublers and nutplates riveted to the firewall.

Electrical component doublers

The result of an evening’s work – battery and starter contractor doublers and nutplates riveted to the firewall.

Everything riveted to the firewall

Everything (almost) is now riveted to the firewall, ready to install electrical components, battery box and control cable passthroughs.

A mostly populated firewall

I was able to sneak away for a few hours and get most everything installed on the firewall. A few minutes of work for a nice little bit of visual progress.

2016-05-14 14.46.50

Fast forward a few days to finishing firewall prep and permanently reinstalling the engine mount. Ellen joined me at the hangar to help with fitting, bolting, torquing, hoisting and gear reinstallation. No more ankle boot, so moving around the airplane was a lot easier.

Fuse on the hoist for landing gear install

With the engine mount firmly and permanently attached, we hauled out the engine hoist and tow strap to get the fuselage high enough for the landing gear to be reinstalled.

Back on the gear for good

…and the fuselage is back on the gear for good. It’s engine hangin’ time!