Panel For A Gyrocopter

magni m 14 scout gyroplane

A peek inside a Magni M-14 Scout’s scratch-built panel Manfred Leuthard, EAA 465583


COURTESY: EAA Sport Aviation May 2002

manfred leuthard gyroplane pilot

LEFT: Manfred Leuthard
RIGHT: The painted panel sans instruments and switches.

Editor’s Note: To certificate an amateur-built experimental aircraft the builder must perform the majority of the fabrication and assembly, and builders typically document and sub­stantiate this with a builder’s log that shows and describes the construction tasks they performed.

Besides substantiating the requirements of the Federal Avi­ation Regulations, a builder’s log is a personal history of what will probably be one of the most fulfilling and challenging undertakings in the builder’s life.

Many builders now post their builder’s log on the web. In addition to leveraging this technol­ogy to assemble, organize, and preserve words and pictures, publishing a builder’s log on the web lets other builders share—and learn from—the builder’s trials and triumphs.

One such triumph is the scratch-built instrument panel de­scribed in Manfred Leuthard’s online journal (no longer available). To accommodate the depth and the number of instruments he planned to install in his Magni M-14 gyrocopter, Manfred needed to re-engineer his panel.

custom gyrocopter control panel

LEFT: The panel sanded and ready for paint with the overlays masked.
RIGHT: The work is complete; let the fun begin!

The kit-provided panel meets the windshield at a 50-degree angle and has room for very few instruments. Using a CAD (computer-aided design) program, Manfred drew and re-drew his modified panel until he came up with a design solution that reduced the an­gle between the instruments and the windshield to only 25 degrees.

By tilting his instruments in this way—in three stacked wedges—the instruments intercepted the windshield at a shallower angle, giving him essentially more real estate. Also, by fitting his Infinity control stick with no less than seven switches, Manfred was able to outfit his gyrocopter to his specifications—well beyond the simply equipped ultralight Magnis flying in Europe.

Manfred flew his Magni M-14 gyroplane for the first time shortly after he received its airworthiness certificate on July 8, 2001. An Italian design, Magni builds the M-14 for export, but Manfred’s was the first M-14 kit to be completed.

Even with his busy travel schedule as a software consultant to an over­ seas client base, Manfred completed his project in just nine months thanks to “truly fabulous factory support.” Except for the panel, Manfred’s Magni is stock. And it’s powered by a four stroke 115-hp Rotax 914 turbo.

Manfred says, “At its gross weight on a standard day, I get better than a 1,000 fpm climb rate.” To see any number of online builder’s logs, check in virtually any manufacturer’s website for builder’s links, or type the words “builder’s log” in your favorite search engine.

10/31/2000: FedEx just picked up the check for the down payment on my Magni M-14 gyro kit. Total progress up to now has been the creation of a project plan, a panel outline drawing, and a list of good­ies that I will have to buy. I also took on a lease for a new 44-by-33-by-13-foot hangar — the future home of my gyro.

11/3/2000: I gathered the forms, checklists, and advisory circulars that describe the process of getting an amateur-built aircraft certificated in the experimental category from EAA’s Aviation Information Services department and from the FAA’s web­ site. Although the airplane doesn’t exist yet, I have all the annunciators labeled and done. Feels good.

gyroplane control panel parts

LEFT: Auxiliary power box.
RIGHT: Panel overlays with legends.

11/5/2000: I or­dered a whole bunch of stuff from Annunciators are done. Wicks Aircraft Supply, Aircraft Spruce & Specialty, and Mouser Electronics. I purchased mostly tools and some items for the electrical system that will not be part of the kit, like circuit breakers for the strobe lights, relays for the strobe and position lights, and connectors for the avionics bus.

I found a de­signer who is willing to do an early sketch of the paint scheme. This may seem premature, but when the frame arrives, painting is the first thing I must do.

11/8/2000: Much has happened in the last few days. I designed and laid out the panel using QuickCAD.

I will create my own panel rather than use the one that comes with the kit because of the very limited panel space available. Based on the pilot’s viewing angle, the instruments will need to be tilted so the LCD displays can be read, and since the panel must not interfere with stick movement, the instruments will be recessed.

The gyroplane will be powered by a four-cylinder, four-cycle, tur­bocharged Rotax 914, so I decided to go with an EIS engine monitor. This will not only save a lot of space, but also monitor most of the vital signs of a fairly complex en­gine. The airspeed, altimeter, verti­cal speed, and tachometer will all be 2.25-inch analog instruments.

The very small sized radio and the transponder will come from Microair of Australia. Both of these will also fit into 2.25-inch instrument holes making for a neat, compact comm set.

11/20/2000: Getting tooled up is the order of the day. My office is be­ ginning to look like a warehouse, and in the cellar waits a brand new mill/drill from Grizzly Industrial. I’m also finding out that some of what I need or want will end up on back order, thus thinking ahead is clearly a good practice.

The mold for the panel is cut, and some intri­cately shaped pieces are waiting to be mounted on the panel. I am be­ ginning to realize that it is key to have a group of people accessible (like my EAA Chapter) who are sup­portive of such an endeavor and who have expertise in areas where I have none. It’s amazing how many talented friends are eagerly offering their skills and know-how.

11/30/2000: The panel mold is done. I used a sheet of particleboard and glued wooden wedges to it to create the desired shape of the panel. A removable strip of aluminum was bolted to the outside to give the mold an edge and to stiffen the panel.

Priming and sanding the mold seemed to take forever, but I had some advice and help from a fellow EAA Chapter member who had some experience in composite construction. Essentially all the instruments and electrical components have ar­rived.

I’m working on the design of the electrical system; it turns out to be pretty complex and intricate. I ordered the radio and the intercom. Because of the high noise I expect and the fact that pilot and passenger will wear helmets, I decided to use a Sigtronics SPA-400N intercom with separate push-to-talk switches for the intercom and the comm.

magni gyrocopter control stick wiring

LEFT: Infinity sick grip.
RIGHT: Manfred packed wiring for seven switches into his Infinity stick grip.

I milled the panel attach­ment brackets on my new Griz­zly mill. Works great. Now the fiberglass panel itself must be done. I am way behind my self-im­posed work schedule, but other builders have told me that I better get used to that.

The panel overlays with the engraved legends should arrive any day now. A company called Aircraft Engravers is doing the work on the overlays. I used its services once before when I re­ built a panel on a Cessna 421.

The process includes painting a thin, clear plastic sheet in beige (the color I spec­ified) and then engraving the letters from the rear in a mirror image. Finally, black paint is sprayed into the letter forms. The best part is that the lettering never comes off since it’s behind the overlay.

12/08/2000: The panel is being laid up in the mold and should be finished by the weekend. I read up on com­posite basics at the EAA website. Piece of cake. I also received the panel overlays for the switches and circuit breakers.

Very nicely engraved! I now have the instruments (still in their boxes), the circuit breakers, the cables, the connectors, the relays, the switches, and the an­nunciators ready to go into the panel. I’m building a secondary wiring harness for the relay and fuse box to be mounted next to the engine.

gyro control panel mold

The harness, as designed by the vendor, does not have enough spare wires to drive some of the add­-ons I am putting on the airplane like strobes, a fuel probe, navigation Auxiliary power box, lights, a manifold pressure gauge, and more.

So to avoid having to run the electrical power from the engine to the panel and back, I’m putting the required relays and fuses in a box. It seemed such a simple idea, but now I find I’ll need to use a 24-pin connector.

12/10/2000: The first attempt at making the panel did not turn out to be perfect, but perfect it must be, so I’ll use this first panel as a spare and to practice drilling holes. And I have many, many, MANY holes to drill.

12/18/2000: The plan to build a second panel has been scrapped. I de­cided instead to fill some of the flaws and clean up the sharp corners with epoxy and lots of sanding. The panel is ready for painting, all holes are drilled, and all edges are as smooth as a baby’s rear end.

magni gyro control panel molds

TOP: The front of the molded panel. The chips and edge imperfections are visible.
BOTTOM: The back of the molded panel.

On the other hand, the auxiliary power box I built needs to be redone — it’s just too crowded in there. My challenge is to understand the plans for the electrical system, as designed by the kit manufacturer, and then integrate the avionics and auxiliary electrical components, like the strobes.

12/21/2000: The paperwork for the FAA has been filed, and a special N number has been requested. The few remaining components, like the control stick grip, should arrive soon. The radios are on order, and I expect them in the first week of Jan­uary.

The transponder, a 2.25-inch round hole instrument, will not be available from the manufacturer until March. So I’ve decided to get the wiring done now, and then I’ll plug the hole since a transponder won’t be required until I have flown off the 40-hour restriction at my local airport.

01/9/2001: The stick grip has arrived! It’s beautiful! I was able to pay a visit to the Magni factory in Milan last week: The frame and the fuse­lage are ready, but some more work will have to be done before it’s scheduled to ship on February 5.

What a clean, profes­sional place, and what friendly and competent people! I can’t wait to get my hands on the airframe. Mean­ while, I have much work to do: The panel needs to be wired, the wiring harness needs to be completed, and a paint scheme needs to be devel­oped. The FAA has assigned the tail number as N71ML.

1/14/2001: The radios arrived; however, I wired the harness wrong, so I have more work to do. I also drew up an overview dia­gram showing the major con­nectors — all nine of them! The electrical system is going to be a challenge…

1/18/2001: The panel is now painted, and it looks nice. All the switches, circuit breakers, and annunciators are installed. The master and auxiliary bus are installed as well. I am waiting for the final wiring diagram from the factory so I can wire the panel.

gyrocopter control panel annunciators

LEFT: Annunciators and switches installed.
RIGHT: The rear of the panel after installation of the instruments and switches.

The radios and the instruments will go in at the end of the day. Everything always takes much longer than you’d think! Two a.m. is not an ideal time to go to bed.

1/19/2001: The panel is essentially done. Another all- night exercise. The radio and the intercom I work great, although the volume seems a lit­tle low.

1/25/2001: The stick is done! It involved some fairly tricky milling. What a hassle to get the wires in and the shell closed. It took an hour to do that one simple task. All the connectors now need to be wired into the back of the panel.

This weekend will proba­bly see all that completed. The truck is scheduled to arrive the weekend of March 3 with the airframe. In the meantime, I will finalize the paint scheme with the help of some friends.

custom gyrocopter panel

The finished panel installed in Manfred’s M-14 gyro.

2/17/2001: Travel has stopped me from making much progress, but I finalized the modifications and en­hancements to the wiring diagram, so the wiring is finally under way. I’m intentionally going slowly on this step because mistakes will be difficult to correct once the panel is installed.

The modifications I made deal primarily with the control stick-based switches, the E1S engine monitor, the radio equipment, and the strobe and navigation lights.

My challenge is to understand the plans for the electrical system, as designed by the kit manufacturer, and then integrate the avionics and auxiliary electrical components, like the strobes.

3/01/2001: Much progress to be reported. The kit has arrived in Missouri, and I expect that it will be delivered on March 10. The panel is fi­nally finished — just in time! The wiring was a nightmare because of the confined space. Especially tough was the connector to the EIS. Now I’m planning to test everything.

3/10/2001: The panel seems to work perfectly, and the kit has arrived in Missouri. I decided to go pick up two kits and drop one off on my way home for another builder in Philadelphia.

It’s a long, long way to drive a beat-up, 26-foot U-Haul truck from Connecticut to Missouri — 21 hours of driving. My rear end is now shaped to U-Haul specifications. Some friends from my EAA Chapter helped me unload the kit.

3/21/2001: I’ve performed the initial inventory of parts. The kit is of very high quality. The tank/seat has been primed and painted in a wild color scheme, using a DuPont product that changes color depend­ing on the angle at which you look at it. Awesome! Tomorrow I should finish the frame—and start putting things together.

About the Builder

manfred leuthard magni gyrocopter builder

While Manfred Leuthard has no formal education in aeronautical engineering, he does have an engineering background, is rea­sonably handy with tools, and is an “adequate” machinist. He has about 2,000 hours in single- and multi-engine land fixed-wing air­ craft; is commercial, instrument, and DC-3 type rated; and has about 20 dual hours in helicopters.

He received five hours of instruction in an Air Command gyro about 10 years ago. When he had the chance to fly a Magni M-16, he was hooked. He’s since obtained a solo endorsement for the gyro.

magni gyrocopter wiring diagram

Manfred’s Magni gyrocopter panel wiring diagram.

M-14 Magni Gyrocopter
Introduced in 1992, this partially enclosed, tandem two-seater is built with 4130 steel tubing with a fiberglass airframe, fairing, wheelpants, and instru­ ment panel. The U.S. distributor for Magni Gyro of Milan, Italy, is Magni USA, LLC, 17225 Pleasant View Dr., Genevieve, MO 63670; phone 573/883-3541.
Span (feet) 28
Aircraft height (feet) 8.2
Aircraft length (feet) 13
Gross weight (pounds) 1,212
Empty weight (pounds) 547
Payload weight (pounds) 593
Fuel (gallons) 12
Number of seats 2
Engine model (Rotax) 912 or 914
Horsepower range 30 to 115
Range (sm.) 130
Takeoff distance (feet) 230
Landing distance (feet) 100
Max speed (mph) 115
Vcr (mph) 85
Rate of climb (fpm) 1,000
Service ceiling (feet) 11,400
Cabin width (inches) 71
Horsepower 115
Build time (hours) 250

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