Current progress

One of the cool things about this stage of the project is that after a few hours of wiring I can turn on some part of the RV’s avionics and see it work.

For instance, I’ve had these Oplite 6 LED lights for several years now and finally got them wired up to the Garmin GAD-27 as instrument panel lights, so they’re controllable by a dimmer on the panel. These lights are really rugged and when driven by one of the GAD-27’s PWM lighting controllers, they’re dead quiet too – no hash on the radio like I’ve encountered with some other dimmers. Very cool.

Panel lights

I’ve also had Whelen LED nav/strobe lights sitting around for a few years, waiting for installation. The tail nav/strobe is finally wired through to the cockpit, and here’s some video to show how damn bright they are…low current draw too, and no need for a heavy strobe pack like older nav/strobe lighting systems.

Next on the list was wiring the flap motor, but I need some hardware to fabricate a mounting bracket. So, I jumped ahead to wiring the Advanced Flight Systems Angle-of-Attack (AoA) system.┬áThis is the only “legacy” avionics system on the airplane, as Advanced doesn’t sell it anymore. I hope it doesn’t fail.

For those of you who aren’t into aerodynamics, AoA is the angle at which the wing meets oncoming air, thus generating lift. If AoA exceeds a certain value, the wing stalls and lift is drastically reduced – so you can see why knowing AoA might be important for staying in the air. If you’re really into the concept, watch this video.

AoA is alive!

Everything lights up, and the self-test lady says the system is working…

Of course with all the gee-whiz stuff lit up, I had to take a picture. Enjoy!

A thing of beauty

It’s alive…

Sometimes all those little individual tasks you’re churning on, come together in a moment of progress. Tonight was one of those nights – the battery contactor and avionics relay switches are now active, and the main and avionics busses are connected. It’s time to flip a few switches…

Lots more wiring to do, but motivation is high.

Right side subpanel wiring

Left side sub panel wiring

More wiring in the tail

Even more fun with wiring…working my way forward from the tail I routed serial data and power wires to the ELT and assembled the autopilot pitch servo DSub connector.

AP pitch servo and ELT wiring

I also ran coax to the GTN-650 GPS and G3x GPS/XM antennae.

GPS/XM and light wiring

Assembling coax connectors is fun, at least for me…

GPS/XM antenna connectors

More to follow as I work my way forward to the cockpit.

The nervous system arrives

Back from Thanksgiving with family at Bear Ass Cove on Newfound Lake, New Hampshire and guess what UPS delivered? That’s right – the avionics harness!

Unboxing the avionics harness

I’m almost ready to install the harness – just a couple of empennage things left to finish – but I couldn’t resist stretching it out. This is, essentially, the Mighty RV’s nervous system and having it fabricated by the neurosurgeons at Approach Fast Stack is saving me a *ton* of build time. Cool!

The whole nervous system

The light at the end of the tunnel…

…is getting brighter – it’s time to start installing and wiring avionics. I’ve been plotting and planning how to mount the Garmin G3x Touch system, radios and transponders and I’ve settled on building a tray which will hold all the remote-mounted LRUs, Comm 2 and transponder.

Here’s a cardboard mockup.

Avionics tray mockup…and the tray with avionics temporarily attached.

Avionics tray fitting 1The GAD 27 and GAD 29 are on the right side. Most of the airframe power interfaces will be through the right firewall passthrough so having these boxes on the right should make wiring a little more straightforward.

GAD 27 and GAD 29The GEA 24 engine interface is on the left side as most of the engine sensor wires will come through the left firewall passthrough. Guess where the AoA CPU is going?

GEA 24More pics? Sure, I’m glad you asked.

The avionics tray from overhead

The tool that got away

Sometimes you see a really cool tool that you think about buying, but you don’t need it at the time – and when you do need it, it’s no longer available. Such is the case with the Terminal Tool.

The Terminal Tool

I had originally bought a hydraulic crimping tool from Harbor Freight, but the dies that came with it weren’t compatible with quality Amp terminals.

HF crimper result

Fortunately, a friend and fellow RV builder at KASH had a Terminal Tool. It’s easy to use, and makes first-rate crimps on large cables.

Terminal Tool

Terminal Tool crimp

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…