[September 15, 2008]

At long last, I finally have my panel designed and finalized. I agonized for the past three years over what my panel design would be. I went through designs with Dynon, Advanced Flight Systems, Blue Mountain Avionics and Grand Rapid Technologies. I probably had 100 different iterations to arrive at what you see before you.

My whole design philosophy in my panel was to make something capable for light IFR and keep the price reasonable. Redundancy (equipment and manufacturer) was also a major design criteria.

The easy part of my panel design was the "Center Stack" comprising of a PS Engineering 7000B audio panel, Garmin 430 WAAS NAV/COMM/GPS, ICOM A210 COMM and a Garmin 327 transponder. Those are all pretty much de facto airplane standards.

I had some designs that were all glass - no steam/traditional gauges. My problem with that design was for IFR redundancy, I wanted equipment from different manufacturers. Just because equipment is redundant, doesn't mean two units can't encounter the same software bug simultaneously. Another easy decision was my backup gauges - 2.25" Airspeed indicator, altimeter and TruTrak ADI (yeah, I know a gyro is shown, ePanelBuilder doesn't have the small ADI).

Without a doubt, the hardest decision came in choosing an EFIS system. Like I stated earlier, there are so many out there. In the end, I chose the Grand Rapid Sport EFIS, with the HiRes screens. One display will be the S200-HS (with AHRS), and the other will be the S100-HS (Multifunction Display, no AHRS). I disqualified Grand Rapids for the longest time because for some reason I always assumed they were out of my price range. When they came out with the HiRes screens, I took another look at them. Their EFIS's come with a lot of bang for the buck. Dual turn knobs, highway in the sky, synthetic approach to any runway, moving map, HSI, great interfacing to autopilots, angle of attack (fall 2008 release) etc.. The list went on and on. Plus they were the best bang for the buck - about $100 less than Dynon, and $3,000 less than Advanced Flight Systems. Once I saw their EFIS at Oshkosh, I knew that was it. On top of that, the staff at Grand Rapids is really great at answering questions on the phone.

I did decide to go with the Sport EFIS instead of the Horizon series because I couldn't justify the extra $2,400. The main differences between what I have and the dual Horizon EFIS's is the Horizons have 6 serial ports and analog input/outputs, where the Sport has 4 serial ports and no analog i/o. If I ever decide to upgrade my MFD to have an AHRS, it's only another $1000. There are of course other differences - The Horizons AHRS is a much more redundant solution and sophisticated AHRS than what the Sport unit has. However, one thing I don't like about the Horizon's AHRS is its a BIG box I need to install somewhere. The Sport's AHRS is integrated into the EFIS and makes for a nice installation. The other thing I lose with going with the Sport is the lack of analog inputs. The only downside for me is I can't display aileron, elevator and flap positions. I only have one space analog input on the EIS - for flaps. Aileron and elevator trims indicators will be the Ray Allen style that came with the servos.

Another limitation to the Sport over the Horizon is the lack of serial ports. A Horizon has 6 serial ports, while the Sport only has 4. However, because the units are interconnected with one set of serial ports, and they share all information between them, you really get 6 total serial ports to use between the two. This can give you a pretty good interface to everything you need. I figure I can have two GPS's (Garmin 430 and a handheld), SL30 NAV, Weather, Engine, ARINC for Autopilot and Garmin 430W, and altitude information for the transponder between two units. Not bad!

This panel is very powerful and will give me a great amount of flexibility with what my RV is capable of flying through. It won't look like this on day 1. I am going to wait to put in the TruTrak autopilot, ADI and the Garmin Handheld. I did however want to plan on down the road to accommodate everything I wanted. I am very happy with the price of this panel turned out to be for the function and redundancy I am achieving.


Last Modified: May 19, 2024