From idea to reality

2 years ago I made a new instrument pod and panel for my Dragonfly ultralight plane, the original one was from 1994 and was falling apart after many modifications. I bought a ready made fiberglass pod, and did some rough cutouts to make a panel for the existing instruments. Originally I thought I had to replace both the EMS, altimeter, and VSI, as they had started to fail, so I planned to get a digital EFIS to replace everything but the radio. But I took the altimiter and VSI apart, cleaned them, and they worked fine again, so I only needed to replace the EMS. (Engine monitoring system) This saved me around $3000 so it was well worth it. I flew 2 years with it, but it was ugly with the rough temporary panel, and the EMS was failing all the time.

I finally got around to ordering a new MGL Avionics EMS-1, which was just released to the marked this winter, I like the light weight and bright screen. I think it will be a good solution.

I designed the new panel in a CAD program, and had it produced in Germany. The design process took some time as I’ve never done any CAD work before, but it turned out OK in the end. The panel was cut perfectly, and I just had 1 minute of light dremel work to round the edges around the extra cutout for the altimeter where it was a little tight.

The final installed panel was cut from black anodized 2mm aluminium, total cost including shipping of around €100. I glued the new panel over the old fibreglass panel after cutting away the overlap. I am just waiting for new M3 titanium plated screws for the radio, the old ones were made of Chinesium that started to rust instantly.

I enjoyed the process of making the parts in CAD, trying to visualize the end result and how to avoid interference behind the panel, with all the instruments having different sizes and the extra space needed for power cables, pitot-tubes, signal-cables, and so on. In the end it was only one tight area between the fuse and radio that I had to insulate a bit extra to avoid unwanted contact, everything else fit tightly and as I had planned.

Now we just need spring to get started so I can get the plane back in the air and towing hanggliders again.