From the beginning, I knew my plane would be a VFR-only aircraft. When it came time to design the instrument panel, I couldn't see the need for the huge panel that the Glasair was designed with. Some of you would love to have all that space, but I felt it was not needed in my particular situation. Making a smaller panel based on the original panel looked terrible. So I set out to find something better.
After seeing the inside of the new Cirrus and Lancair certified aircraft, I decided I liked the automotive inspired look. It seemed much cozier than the standard flat panel designs. I measured the dashes of vehicles that I came into contact with on a daily basis. Running a car service facility let me get my hands on a lot of different vehicles. I finally decided the panel that would be the easiest to modify for my design was the 1988-1989 Acura Integra. I especially liked this dash because of it's straight lines that crossed from one side to the other just below the instrument visor and because of the little round push buttons for lighting. The center vent area could make a nice radio mounting bezel capable of holding up to three radios.
I started my hunt for a clean specimen to dissect. I found one in a local U-pull-it yard. I paid a whopping $25 for the complete assembly including switches and instrument cluster.
Of course, my measly Glasair I interior was just under 39 inches wide and this dash was at least fifty inches. I found a local metal fabricating company that owned a large band saw that the entire dash would fit on. I marked the two sections I wanted cut and they didn't charge me a thing to run the blade through my perfect dash.
The next step was to cut the bottom off at the straight line I mentioned below the instrument visor. Removing this made the entire dash about 10" high at the instrument bezel.
Now it was time to make the panel fit under the windscreen. The Glasair tapers inward under the windscreen. I wanted the dash to mount flush up against the windscreen. This proved to be impossible. I was going to have to leave a gap of about one inch just below the center of the windscreen to allow the sides of the dash to stay below the rear corners of the windscreen. The solution was to take the dash over to my belt sander and round the corners as best possible to fit the inside contour of the Glasair. I ended up removed almost eight inches of the back of the the dash on each side before the contour matched and kept the front gap and one inch.
Once fit into place, I rigged the severely chopped up dash part into place in the aircraft. Then I laminated a four-layer angle laminate along the left and right side of the dash onto the fuselage sides. These became my dash attach points. After these cured I found that the center of the dash still needed some support. The dash, as it comes from the car, has a center attach point just between the defrost vents. I used this hole to line up a center dash attach point and fabricated it in place to the back of the header tank. This gave my dash solid support all around.
As in the car, I wanted the dash to be a simple cover over all the wiring and instruments, not actually holding anything in place. So I fabricated a sub-structure consisting of two full-width three-quarter inch by three-quarter inch pieces of angle aluminum supported in the middle by a battery tray that attaches to the floor of the fuselage and a switch panel below the radio opening that attaches to the center console and wing. The EFIS, radios, electrical busses and engine computer all mount to this sub-structure. When the five bolts attaching the dash pad to the fuselage and the dash pad are removed, I get full access to the components.
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