Panel Planning

  I plan to equip my Sonex with basic VRF instruments. I haven't yet decided whether I really want to install lights and certify for Night VFR. I have been flying for years and have only a handful of night flights in my logbook. But, as with many other things, it seems like a shame to limit myself from night flying right from the start. Wingtip lights and cockpit lighting can be installed for around $700 or so, making the cost fairly reasonable. So, I will continue to think about this issue while I build.

So far, I plan to install the following in my panel:

  • Airspeed Indicator
  • Altimeter
  • EIS for RPM and Engine Temps
  • Compass
  • Slip Indicator
  • Fuel Sight Tube
  • Comm Radio (MicroAir, XCOM, or Handheld)
  • Transponder (undecided, maybe MicroAir)
  • Handheld GPS (undecided)

Basic systems will include:

  • Dual Throttles (one on right, one center)
  • Mixture (center)
  • Carb Heat
  • Cabin Heat
  • Avionics Master Switch (toggle)
  • Switches for Lighting (cockpit and strobes)
  • Eyeball Fresh Air Vents

Using these requirements, and shamelessly stealing every Sonex panel I could find for ideas, these panels were worked up in Experimental Panel Builder:

Panel #1: This is my favorite so far. I need to get a hold of the eyeball vents and make sure they can actually fit in the panel itself with out taking up too much real estate. The center console will be much smaller than shown in the picture, however.

Panel #2: Same as #1 but with vents moved to the center console. This leaves enough room to mount the GPS on the panel. Need to make a mockup of this and see if the larger center console cuts into leg room.

Panel #3: Vents moved to area between the pilot and passenger's legs. This may improve leg room compared to Panel #2.

Panel #4: Built-in comm removed in favor of handheld radio. If used with GPS, compass is moved next to the EIS and the GPS on the glare shield. The vents can also be moved to the center console.

Panel #5: Microair comm replaced by an ICOM A-200 and a panel mounted intercom. The more I struggle with poor radio performance in my current plane, the more I want GOOD audio.

Panel #6: ICOM A-200 comm replaced by a used NARCO 11A I got off eBay ($100). Going with the cheap panel, I will also use my Sigtronics portable intercom rather than a panel mounted one. I can always go back and upgrade the panel at some point down the road. I am also toying with the idea of using a throttle quadrant instead of a friction throttle cable. It would be located on the fuselage sidewall below the mixture control. Other changes include no fuel sight tube (EIS fuel probe only), no cabin heat knobs, and no strobe switches.

Dual Throttles: (I am now re-thinking this option in favor of a simpler panel.)

First off, let me say I am building a dual stick Sonex. There has been a lot of talk about where to place the throttle lever in the Sonex. The plans show it located on the far left side of the panel. This is a simple, straight forward setup that is proven. Nearly everyone agrees that it is not a problem for the passenger to reach across the pilot to the throttle, even though this seems a little weird at first. Some dual stick builders move the throttle to a center console where both occupants can reach it. This is the configuration that Cessna uses, and most of us are familiar with it. Personally though, I like to fly with my right hand and control the throttle with my left. When the throttle is in the center, the pilot must do "The Pattern Shuffle" at an already busy time (takeoff and landing) when adjusting the flaps and brakes (located on the left cockpit sidewall).

The Pattern Shuffle

Here is how the Pattern Shuffle goes: right hand is on throttle, left hand on stick under normal flying. To adjust flaps, shift right hand to stick, left hand to flaps (or reach across your body with the right hand to the flaps). This leaves no hand on the throttle. Done with the flaps? Shift hands back to throttle and stick. I am sure this can become second nature with a little practice, but my method eliminates this, and provide options to suit everyone's flying preferences.

Dual throttles means no "Pattern Shuffle", no passenger reaching across the pilot for the throttle, and maximum flexibility to the pilot.

The down side to this, however, is:

  • Added cost (approx. $40)
  • Added complexity of two throttle cables
  • Additional failure point

All things considered, I think the negatives are out-weighed by the positive aspects of the dual throttle system.


NOTE: If you do not see a menu frame on the left, click here to reload the full page.
Updated: 2 July 05