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The cockpit — that environment unlike any other where you, the pilot in command, take care of business. Also known as "the office", is there any place a pilot would rather be? Just like the rest of you, I want my cockpit to be as efficient and comfortable as possible. "Cockpit resource management", or CRM, is of course a discipline that commercial and military aviators, and those who design their aircraft, spend much time on. Well, us lowly homebuilders can certainly consider CRM issues also, in fact I think it's important that we do -- an efficiently managed workload simply increases the safety factor.

Perhaps I have a hyperactive gene when it comes to efficiency, but I try to be efficient at most things I do in life, and something as important as flying is certainly up there on my list. Building one's own aircraft provides the opportunity to really give some thought to an efficient cockpit layout, and having flown nearly 400 hours in my RV-8 I have that much more data on what the right solutions are, at least for me and the type of flying I do.

With the RV-3 I will necessarily always be in a single pilot situation with no one to delegate workload to.

Therefore I want to make managing the workload as efficient as possible. Add to that the fact that I plan to do quite a bit of formation flying, and when flying lead you have LOTS to do being responsible for the entire flight, and you can see that it's an important issue. So, following are some of my thoughts and resulting design solutions...

Side & center console design & CRM
Goals for my cockpit:
• Controls readily at hand and intuitively grouped
• Adequate and accessible storage for in-flight supplies
• Items laid out with checklists in mind and vice versa

I sat in a few RV-3s before starting my fuselage and determined that any side consoles I put in needed to be at least 8-9" down from the longerons in order to clear my elbows. With the above goals in mind, and knowing the vertical limit of any structures, I came up with the designs depicted. The left console is built around an RV-8 throttle quadrant, I just ordered the standard parts from Van's which can be found on RV-8 drawing 30. The right side houses all my lighting bus and switches. Both sides feature storage, which was a real concern as I considered what I need to carry in the way of pilot supplies. In addition to the glovebox in the center console, I am now comfortable that with these side consoles, combined with the storage compartment in the center console, I'll have enough storage.

Seating
Once you've experienced Oregon Aero seats you'll never want anything else. When initially contacted them they did have a pattern for the RV-3 but it wasn't fully developed. Since I live within a hour's drive of their factory we worked together to get a correct pattern done — it took three tries. We waited to fully lock in the final design until I got my canopy on and could sit on the temporary cushions to gauge seat height... you want to be as high as possible for best forward visibility. Having previously experienced the comfort of sheepskin I had it covered in the same sheepskin that I used in my RV-8, and the same material they use in most of their military aircraft. Bottom line: it's so comfortable I usually don't want to get out of the plane once I'm done flying!

 

Heating & ventilation
Effectively getting fresh air into the cockpit of an RV-3 is actually tougher than it might seem. Several options that work on later model RVs simply won't work on the RV-3 due to space restrictions. I'm therefore planning on bringing in fresh air from the aft edge of the engine baffle. I may or may not extend the scat tube forward to the cowl inlets. This fresh air path will terminate in an aluminum vent in my center console. There is some chance the air will pick up a couple of degrees on its path through the fwf area, there are mixed reports on this from other builders who have used this method. Heating will be via a convential triangular style heat box (stainless steel version) which will vent into the cabin from my center console as well. Now that I'm flying I can report that both fresh air and heated air systems work well.

Cockpit lighting
I will have two light circuits for use at night, both wired hot whenever the nav lights are on, and each on their own dimmer circuit. I've installed a (dimmer info here) 4-channel dimmer and will be using two of the channels in this installation. The dimmer box is located on the "brain shelf" and the two control pots are at the aft end of my switch panel. The first circuit controls six Whelen post lights placed to illuminate the panel, switches, and center console, and the second will control two eyeball LED lights mounted on the bottom edge of the panel for map reading in my lap.

 

Baggage management
The RV-3 has a surprisingly large baggage compartment. I lost a bit of space when I located the battery at the forward edge but there still should be plenty of room. I fabricated stout crossbars as mounts for my aux fuel tank and they function well in stopping baggage from sliding around and as places to secure bungee cords/nets. Correctly sized rubber-backed bathroom mats make good pads to prevent scratching and items from sliding around. Bungee nets can be purchased at most motorcycle shops. I'll likely locate some additional d-rings to accomodate different sized bags.

 

The result
Here's how it came together...

 

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