Instrument Panel Removal

by Stephan Wilkinson

This article appeared in the March 1994 Falco Builders Letter

Having removed and replaced my instrument panel a good dozen times since I first flew the airplane, I've gotten pretty good at it. This morning, I took it out in little more than 30 minutes and carted it over to the next-door avionics shop to have a #2 comm transmit failure repaired. (With my tools carefully laid out in sequence on the wing and everything perfectly organized, I could probably do it in 20, but I prefer to lope back and forth between cockpit and workbench, gathering first one tool, then another, working out the kinks in my back, petting the neighbor's dog, having another beer, whatever.)

Replacing the panel takes a little longer, since it never seems to slide back into place quite as easily as it slides out, and making connections is always harder than loosening them. But in either case, I've found that a proper checklist is crucial, so you don't end up with the panel in your lap, the MP gauge still in place, and the neighbor's dog playing fetch with your Phillips screwdriver.

Yours might be different, particularly if you have the new glass-cockpit, turbocharged, swing-wing version of the Falco, but here's my checklist:

1. Remove all radios from their racks, since it would take Schwarzenegger to bench-press the panel singlehandedly with them still in place.

2. Unscrew the combination manifold-pressure/fuel-pressure gauge from the panel, with its connections intact, so that it will dangle free when you remove the panel. (Careful when you do finally remove the panel, since it can fall and hit the power pedestal.)

3. Unscrew the EGT/CHT gauge, if you have one, from the panel as well, so it too will dangle free when you remove the panel.

4. Disconnect the three cannon plugs-P1, P2 and P3.

5. Reach up behind the panel and disconnect the tachometer cable. (It's a good idea, when you first install the panel, to make this connection only finger-tight, since there's really no room to get pliers of any sort onto the knurled collar of the connector.)

6. Cut the ty-rap securing your avionics-antenna coax bundle to the bottom flange of the instrument panel.

7. Disconnect the antenna coaxs from their behind-panel connections.

8. Disconnect the two vacuum hoses from the vacuum regulator atop the nosegear bay.

9. Disconnect pitot and static lines behind the panel. (This job is made infinitely easier if you put connectors somewhere in the lines midway between the instruments and the "garbage bracket," where you can easily reach them. Trying to remove and replace these lines from the instruments themself is extremely difficult; with an autopilot installation in fact impossible.)

10. Remove the 3/16" bolts securing the panel bottom flange to the power pedestal.

11. Remove the plastic handles from the power levers.

12. Remove the 3/16" nuts and Phillips machine screws securing the fiberglass power-pedestal cover, and remove cover.

13. Remove the 3/16" nuts securing the panel to frame No. 3.

14. Loosen glareshield. You don't have to remove it, just pull out the screws and lift it a bit, but this is critical; one builder I know who epoxied his glareshield into place permanently has found that panel removal is extremely difficult.

15. Remove the panel.

The panel replacement is roughly the reverse of the above sequence, with one extremely important revision: Your first step must be to replace the manifold-pressure/fuel-pressure gauge while you're in the cockpit with the panel perched loose in your lap or atop the power pedestal. It's extremely difficult to replace that gauge from behind the panel once it's fastened into place. The EGT/CHT doesn't create such a problem-at least not in my airplane-and can easily be jockeyed into position with the panel in place.