RV panels are terrible

Discussion in 'Home Builders and Sport Pilots' started by Tmpendergrass, Oct 27, 2013.

  1. fly4usa

    fly4usa Filing Flight Plan

    Aug 5, 2018
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    This is an old thread. My search of panel information about my current RV-7 project brought me here. I have something to add. I agree with all the post explaining experimental panels to OP. By title, OP says RV panels are terrible (and Glasair panels are better). OK I'll bite. I built a IFR RV-4, been around kit expermental planes, Glasair, RV's since late 80's, before they were as popular as they are now. Van had three models, now has 6 more models and 10,000 RV's flying. I lived in Seattle area where the original Glasair was, at Arlington WA airport. Van's Aircraft was just down the road at the time, near Hillsborough OR. One thing you must understand, Richard Vangrunsven the founder was frugal.

    Stoddard Hamilton Glasair I and II was a more expensive kits, designed for go fast cross country VFR or IFR, which would needed a more elaborate panel for that mission. BTW Glasair II and III kits have not been available for a long time, and assets sold off late last year to support the existing 2000 or so legacy Glasair's.

    RV's originally are about sport aerobatic, short field, fast casual fast cross country airplane with good payload and range, dictating a more simple panel. Vangrusnsven was not shy about saying KEEP IT LIGHT, SIMPLE and FLY MORE. His factory Demo planes had bare bones VFR and fixed wood props. Van's factory Demo planes today have basic VFR EFIS glass, many with constant speed props and elaborate interior upholstery. You see this reflected in newer build RV's.

    Complaining about RV's with a less than fancy panels is moot. There are over 10,000 RV's flying, and Van's has been in business over 40 years. With so many RV's flying, some built 20 or 30 years ago, by individuals, there are bound to be variation and outdated "Piper Cub" panels. There are far more RV's than Glasair, and RV's are still being made. Today from my recent trip to Oshkosh Airventure RV's have nothing to be ashamed of in panel overkill with full panel of IFR glass that shames some commercial airliners or business jets. Times change.

    If shopping for a RV, the fit and finish of air frame is good, powerplant/prop good, you can upgrade the panel as you like. Almost any Kit plane over 15-20 years is likely a good candidate for a panel upgrade, where you'd replace 80% to 100% of the panel. Many companies specialize in turn key pre-wired panels to your specs, especially RV's, since they are so popular. They can crank out a full panel in no time you can drop in.

    All older airplanes, including experimental aircraft, RV, Glasair, T18, Miget Mustang II, LongEZ are all likely going to need an expensive Mode S ADS-B in/out upgrade soon, and updated to some EFIS, replacing that "standard" panel or bare bones panel common in the day. An RV with a bare panel is moot, if you are going to upgrade it, and likely cheaper to purchase the an airplane with fully outfitted circa 1990's out dated all steam driven "6-pak" VOR panel. If you bought a newer built RV or Glasair with the latest EFIS panel, you will pay a premium. An RV with a dated or bare panel represents a possible great value.

    20 years ago you could pick up a simple RV-3, RV-4 or RV-6 with O-320 fixed pitch for $30,000. A newer RV now goes for $90K to $120K with constant speed props, full EFIS, IFR approved GPS. Which is better? I have flown both types of RV, simple VFR, full IFR. The super light simple RV is a hoot to fly and a fraction of the price to buy or build. Have your head out, looking through that wonderful bubble canopy, enjoying flying verses pushing buttons and staring at EFIS panel is priceless. As RV's get heavier (bigger engine, c/s prop, deluxe panel, heavy paint job and interior) they start to lose the feel and some "total performance". On the other hand having weather, traffic, charts, autopilot is nice for traveling, with less workload. The flying you will actually do should dictate the panel.

    Deluxe VFR EFIS fully integrated systems or suites (experimental), moving map touch screen, data bases, Com, ADS-B in/out, autopilot are expense $12K to $15K panels (add another $6K to $8K for IFR). Garmin is in the experimental game, with competitive prices to Dynon and GRT. All this happened in the last 5-10 years of so. Most kit planes older than 10 years with original panels will not have all these goodies. If you don't build the plane from scratch and buy a used RV or Glasair you get what you get.

    An viable alternative is still portable GPS or iPad based panel the OP referenced, for VFR, cheaper, flexible verses a panel mounted EFIS, with almost equivalent utility. $6K saving in new panel, putting that into engine or prop is an option. EFIS is getting better and cheaper, like PC computers, which are still getting better and/or cheaper.

    Everything becomes obsolete; my only concern is an EFIS company going out of business... The new crop of EFIS will be viable for decades, as long as the manufacture supports it with repair/spare parts (at resonable cost) if it goes poof. Sometimes electronic component suppliers to these EFIS manufactures (semi conductors, chips, screens) discontinue critical hardware, which makes support or continued production impossible. That would be a bummer years from now your fancy EFIS smokes and can't be fixed. AGAIN SIMPLE VFR MECHANICAL PANEL OR BASIC EFIS FLT DISPLAY, WITH PORTABLE
    GPS HAS CHARM HERE. The cost of portable GPS or iPad based flight software is low, which makes obsolescence less of a concern. iPad based is just update software. You know Apple will make iPads for a long time to come. The fun of experimental is experimenting and doing things certified plane owners can't do. In stead of forking out $20,000 you spend $8,000 and come up with a cool unique panel that does the same thing for all intents and purposes.

    Bottom line I used my RV-4's IFR capability about 10% of the time, including night VFR. My RV-7 will be deluxe VFR. With the new EFIS they have Instrument map overlays and coupled auto pilots, that can fly the approach. However you have to add a IFR approved TSO'ed GPS to fly them legally. Those TSO'ed IFR GPS's are still min of $6000 to $8000 alone, used. Then you have to update the data base at cost. With non IFR GPS you can NOT file IFR, but you can see the approaches and data.
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2018
    Ray Eaker likes this.
  2. Ray Eaker

    Ray Eaker Pre-Flight

    May 29, 2018
    Richmond Hill
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    VFR RV-7A panel in my plane.
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2018 at 2:54 PM