Instrument Panel - stock from kit or additional metal plate screwed/riveted to stock?

Hello all,

 I'm getting ready to install my instruments in my panel.  I'm using a GRT 8.4" efis and the small GRT mini.  I also have about 20 toggle switches.

  After I cut the rectangular holes for the efis/backkup and EIS I started wondering if the whole thing will be stiff enough once I install it in the plane.


 So the question is do I need a backer plate behind the panel or a good plate for the real face of the panel that will just be screwed or riveted to the stock panel?

This will be one solid panel - no sub panels - not hinged - just straight install.

I've looked through all the discussions and found great ideas on a lot of stuff but no on my above questions.

What have you all done?

Thanks - Jim

Views: 605

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The lightest approach, in my opinion, is to strategically reinforce the stock panel with L channels and/or vertical support for the largest heaviest boxes at the rear (relative to panel, front of the plane, closest to the firewall end of the electronic box) so that they will not flex the panel. If you layer on more metal it will be nice and ridged and pretty, but it will weigh more. The hardest thing to build into a plane is lightness, the easiest thing to build into a plane is weight.

That is an opinion only, and worth what you paid for it, but that is my suggestion. The less metal you add, the better.

 I backed up my panel by riveting a .050 6061 sheet to the backside of my panel because I installed a 10.4 Mgl in my 701. It didn't leave much space at the top and bottom. I also have other cutouts for my gauges and my switch / circuit breaker sub panels, the Idea was to be able to access every thing through the front without crawling under the panel. I reinforced the lower part of the panel with a piece of 1 inch square tubing because of all the metal I had to remove to make the big efis fit

Zenith will sell you a thicker panel face that's pre-cut.  That's what I went with, and then I simply cut everything except a 1-inch flange from the face of the stock panel.  Probably not the lightest thing, but it's solid.  The stock "panel" is pretty flimsy.

Thanks guys!
Check out what I did! I am very pleased with the results.

Bruce you didn't attach the pic

I originally did the stock .025 thick Zenith panel, but when I rebuilt my plane "instrument panel forward", I went with a 3 piece panel. 

Used .025 thick 6061 same as before, with some L-angles for reinforcement along the vertical edges.  Used the remnants of the old panel (mostly around the periphery) as reinforcement.

Also have a 1/8" thick by about 3/4" extrusion angle running along the bottom of the panel, between the upper longerons.  This supports the BRS handle, the BRS parachute itself (forward of the passenger side panel) and the passenger's grab-handle.  Note that I did not do a center section this time around (pressurized fuel routed external, under the cabin).

- Pat

Looks great Pat - thanks!

When I retrofit, I used 0.040 stock with L brackets riveted for rails and bracing.  I left a 1" flange  on the top and sides when I cut out the original flimsy instrument panel. I made a doubler and attached nut plates about every 2" of the upper circumference. The bottom edge I unriveted from the formed bottom U channel that is factory standard.  I then attached the new panel to the lower U channel using a long piano hinge (2 sections, pins pull out towards the middle).  Stainless screws hold the upper perimeter to the flange via the nutplates. I covered it all with carbon fiber vinyl wrap.  You can take the screws out quickly and it hinges out several inches to get to the connectors.  Then pull the 2 hinge pins and the whole panel comes out - all in about 15 minutes. I converted to dual sticks as I can't work all of the electronics while using the center stick.  I then installed all cable operated controls in a center sub panel which goes from the U channel down to a console that covers the rudder cables.  That way you don't have to unrig and remove all of the mechanical stuff to work on the electronic stuff.  

Thanks for all the input. Your panels are looking great! I went with the blank panel from Zenith. I already had the big holes cut in the original panel so I just riveted the thick aluminum blank on the original and then cut the big holes using a dremel - worked great. Then as I added switches I just drilled through both at the same time. Access to the back of the panel will be through the top. I made the whole forward top skin removable.
I'd post some picture but for some reason, on my computer right now, I can't see how?? It's only 9:40 in the morning so it's not because I've had too much to drink ;-)


New from Zenith:

Zenith Planes For Sale 

Classified listing for buying or selling your Zenith building or flying related stuff...

Custom Instrument Panels
for your Zenith

Custom instrument panels are now available directly from Zenith Aircraft Company exclusively for Zenith builders and owners. Pre-cut panel, Dynon and Garmin avionics, and more.

Custom Upholstery Kits for your Zenith Aircraft:

Zenith Vinyl Upholstery Kits

Zenith Apparel from EAA:

Zenair Floats

Flying On Your Own Wings:
A Complete Guide to Understanding Light Airplane Design, by Chris Heintz

Builder & Pilot Supplies:

How to videos from

Developed specifically for Zenith builders (by a builder) these videos on DVD are a great help in building your own kit plane by providing practical hands-on construction information. Visit for the latest DVD titles.

Aircraft Insurance:


West Coast USA:

Pro Builder Assistance:


Transition training:

Golden Eagle Aviation

Pianosa Flying Farm

Aircraft Spruce & Specialty for all your building and pilot supplies!

© 2022   Created by Zenith.Aero.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service