Instrument Panel Arrived

I’ve been fiddling with the instrument panel layout for at least 2 years now, but finally arrived at the final design. And thanks to the awesome team at Midwest Panel Builders, I now have the real thing in my garage! Steve at MWPB did a great job with the design I sent. I opted for their “coal” powder coat finish with a few laser marked labels. I really like the color and texture of this finish, I will probably repaint the throttle quadrant to match.

Fresh from Michigan, a beautiful instrument panel!
Final panel render before I sent the CAD files to MWPB
Naked panel temporarily installed

The panel layout is asymmetric, biased towards the pilot-side. I know a LOT of other Sling builders opt for a symmetric dual PFD (pilot and co-pilot side) layout, but my experience from flying N135WT out in Torrance is that it’s pretty hard to see the right side screen from the left seat. To be fair, the bulged shape of the panel does strongly suggest a mirrored dual-PFD layout with a centered radio stack. With my asymmetric design I admit my OCD is a bit triggered with having things offset from the natural center of the panel, but ultimately function won out over form. My radio stack is nudged closer to the pilot side so that the 7” portrait MFD is within my secondary field of view. I may go further and tilt the MFD towards the left (kinda like some Mooneys), but that would be a mod later on, once I have some flight hours on the tach.

I have a full suite of Garmin G3X gear on this panel: a typical 10.6” PFD on the left, a less typical 7” MFD on the right, and in the center a GTN 650xi GPS/Nav/Com and GFC 507 autopilot controller. Right below the 650 are the flaps controller and prop controller; and below that are the bank of switches, laid out in the correct order following the TSi checklist. At the very bottom center are a TO/GA switch, parachute pull handle, and a dedicated Smart Glide switch. Smart Glide is a newer G3X feature designed to be used in an engine-out emergency — it will set up the autopilot to fly at best glide speed and then steer the plane towards the nearest suitable airport for landing. It’s a nice time saver that hopefully I’ll never have to use (same for the parachute!).

Another instrument I see on a lot of other panels is a G5 standby instrument. I had it on earlier versions of the panel, but it really interrupted the layout flow. Practically speaking, it didn’t offer any functionality for the real estate it consumed. Instead, I opted to get a second Garmin GSU 25 ADAHRS that will connect to the MFD, powered by a TCW IBBS backup battery – this provides all the redundancy needed in case the PFD fails.

I’ve done some fun things with the lighting and heater/fan controls, more on that in a later post.

On the right side of the panel is a glove box, which is where I’m hiding circuit breakers and fuses. I didn’t like the appearance of CBs directly on the panel, nor did I want to use the Vertical Power VP-X. I love the idea of the VP-X but the hardware is pretty pricey (especially the Pro version) and it comes with a big limitation: in their installation manual they recommend installing backup CBs and switches if you intend to operate IFR. So if I have to install a VP-X and circuit breakers, in my opinion the value proposition is diminished.

I am looking forward to building up the panel and getting everything wired up. I’ll be doing this in parallel with the engine installation. I guess I could use a second set of hands, so much work to do!


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.