CHAPTER 61 – Panel Preparation/Forward Structure

In order for the company that will be building my panel (more on them later) to do a good job without interfering with my subpanel structure, I had to send them the structure along with the panel.  So, I set about completing it as much as possible, including the hinge points for the tip-up canopy.  Having already roughly fitted the forward structure, I added the side rails that tie in the panel and subpanel to the longerons. Then I positioned the forward tip-up weldment using wooden block spacers and yardsticks to simulate the skin lines as shown in the first picture.  I notched the subpanel for the hinges and then drilled and clecoed the weldment once I was satisfied with its position.

The next step was to make up the hinge points and quick-release mechanism, as shown in the next few photos.  I only intend the quick-release to make maintenance easier, so I will not be notching the top skins.  Besides, the canopy will have the optional lift struts which will prevent it from being quickly jettisoned in any case.

The fifth picture shows the stringer that will support the canopy weatherseal being added.  To insure the setback distance of 1/8”, I clamped a piece of 1/8” bar stock to a ¼” piece so that clamping the ¼” piece to the subpanel flange (with the center sidegrip cleco in the picture) positioned the 1/8” piece properly. Then the stringer could be pushed against the bar stock and drilled, leaving a perfect 1/8” setback.  I also installed and shaped the panel so that it would fit under the canopy structure and added its support flange around the top side.

I removed the whole front structure, disconnected the canopy part, and rolled up the pertinent plans.  You can see the package in the sixth photo, along with a plastic container holding attachment hardware.  The whole thing was sent to Aerotronics, Inc. in Billings, Montana.  They have done many RV panels and were easy to talk with while I planned my panel.  Obviously, I’ve abandoned the steam gauge format I originally sketched out in order to take advantage of advances in avionics since I started the project.  The panel they proposed includes a Blue Mountain EFIS and autopilot, redundant instruments, and all the electrical wiring I was afraid to design for myself.  The drawing shows a panel for a slider and so there will be some differences in the final design.  The remote EFIS controls (right of the map box) are no longer an option and not really necessary anyway, as it is an easy reach from the right seat.  At this point it looks like the map box will be going as well, to allow some repositioning to accommodate the tip-up structure.  You’ll get to see the finished product and hear more about the gang at Aerotronics once I receive the completed panel sometime in the summer.