Thought For The Day: Mechanical Instruments

Mechanical instruments are Bad-Ass. On my workshop shelf I have a manifold pressure gauge that reads to seventy five inches of manifold pressure. (22 pounds of boost) It is from a Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune which had 3,700 hp turbo compound radials. It glows in the dark because the numbers are painted on with radioactive paint. There is a pretty good chance that this gauge flew in the cuban missile crisis or attacked the Ho Chi Minh trail. If it could talk, it would tell you that the cold war wasn’t always cold, and it would remind you to think about the people who fought it, but it can’t say anything. It just sits out there, night after night, its faint green glow quietly remembering thousands of hours aloft, in the company of men, men now mostly gone…. In another 15 years, many  of the glass cockpits of today, almost all the MGL stuff from South Africa, all the I-Pads built by virtual slave labor in China, all the garbage like Blue Mountain and Archangel will all be lining the bottoms of landfills accompanying used diapers and copies of People magazine featuring the Kardashians. 15 years from today, my MAP gauge will still be quietly glowing, trying to remind people that there was a time when being an aviator was about skill, reliability under pressure and courage.”-ww-2012




Stories like the previous one of Ken Pavlou’s flight to CC#31 highlight the capability of really well thought out glass cockpits in planes, matched with advanced pilot training and skills. His flight would have been much a more difficult pilot workload with traditional instrumentation.


Instrumentation is a personal choice and is situational. I wrote the stories: Inexpensive Panel……..part one. and Inexpensive panel…….part two. because I am partial to very simple instrumentation. I like to fly away from congested areas, not towards them. We live in a rural setting that requires no instrumentation to arrive nor depart from. Other people with the same plane may have different plans and needs. They should be carefully evaluated. Give some thought to my comments here: Thought for the Day: Obsession with electronics when coming to your own conclusion.


I have seen two KR2’s set up with 50-60 pound panels for hard IFR by pilots who have never even flown in IMC  in a light plane and have no idea of how demanding a skill set is required to do this safely, nor any understanding of what makes an airframe a good instrument platform. I have also seen many planes with very complex panels, who’s builders lacked the kind of basic flying skills described in the  Greatest Book on Flying Ever Written, (Is your life worth $16?) Many people are good at buying things but poor at learning new skills. In aviation this has proven the undoing of many flyers who mistook having the instrumentation for having an instrument rating. This is not just confined to experimentals, Bonanza’s, Malibu’s and Mooney’s have all had plenty of fatal accidents caused by VFR pilots with the hubris to think an auto pilot was just as good as an instrument rating.


If  a builder wants a glass panel, then I highly suggest building a clone of an existing trouble free panel. This means Dynon or Grand Rapids. Dynon’s have been behind Corvairs since Dr Ray flew one in his 601XL eight years ago, and many pilots have used them all the way through Ken Pavlou.  Today Grand Rapids newest panels are also popular because  Dan Weseman has one in the Panther, and he is a dealer for them and can advise Corvair builders how to set them up down to the last sending unit.  Read more about them at this link: You can also buy very compact panel mount flight line radios directly from them. I just bought one from them for our Wagabond. I am a hardliner about simplicity, but not a zealot.


While there are a number of Corvair powered planes flying with MGL avionics or I-pads, I would like to strongly discourage anyone one new from considering this. Please read: MGL vs Corvair ignition issue. Also note than we have had a person crash a plane because his I-pad misread his fuel sending units and he ran out of gas. There have been more than a dozen sending unit failures on Corvairs where the builders were fed false information. Note that Dan Weseman started out with a MGL panel in the Panther, but removed it after having issues with it. It should go without saying that instrumentation from start ups and things from defunct outfits like Blue Mountain should not even be considered, even if they were free.





Above, a 1963 photo of three famous maritime patrol planes. A P2V-7 with two 3,700 HP radials and two J-34 turbojets is in the foreground. Behind it is a Martin Marlin and in the back is a Short Sunderland. They are flying over Corregidor Island at the mouth of Manila bay in the Philippines. This was the location of the last stand of US forces in the western Pacific in 1942. Spend a few minutes reading about it at this link:


About William Wynne
I have been continuously building, testing and flying Corvair engines since 1989. Information, parts and components that we developed and tested are now flying on several hundred Corvair powered aircraft. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Professional Aeronautics and an A&P license from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and have a proven 20 year track record of effectively teaching homebuilders how to create and fly their own Corvair powered planes. Much of this is chronicled at and in more than 50 magazine articles.

3 Responses to Thought For The Day: Mechanical Instruments

  1. Terry Hand says:

    William, I have a very good friend who owns a Cirrus SR22. It has the full blown glass cockpit that exceeds the capabilities of the 757/767 I fly at work. But here is the thing – he does not have an instrument ticket nor does he really want one. He spent a boat load of money for the “cool and go fast factor” when a different aircraft would have done the same thing that his SR22 does for him, at a cheaper cost. He has the money, fortunately for him, but it sure seems a waste. At least it seems that way to me.Much like your example of the panel heavy KR-2.

  2. Terry Hand says:

    William, one more thing. You are absolutely right. Single engine, small airplane, hard IFR flying is not for the faint of heart. I did it 27 years ago as a Navy Flight School instructor with a very well-practiced scan. I would not think of doing that without a lot of CURRENT IFR time.

  3. CarlH says:

    I got my SP ticket in a glass cockpit plane. I would never think about flying it IFR. For me, having flown a couple of my initial training flights with a six pack, the glass scan for me was just more intuitive. I honestly think it is what you get used to when you initially start flying. I own a LSA with a total glass cockpit. Dynon D-180 and Garmin 796. I love it, but I look outside constantly. Funny enough when I went to attend a bush pilot class in Alaska and get my TW endorsement, I flew a very basic six pack in a Piper Tri-Pacer converted back to a tail dragger. It was awesome training and I learned a lot about using the analog instrument scan. After earning my PPL, I have taken lessons in 172’s, one with G1000 and one with a six pack. To be honest, I prefer the six pack in the 172. Having just attended my first CC, I am looking at building a Corvair and most likely a Panther. I like Dan’s single GRT in there. It seems that in the limited space and for a quick scan, that instrument makes sense to me. Again, I think it depends on what you learn in and are used to.

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