Last December, a fellow by the name of Andre posted a neat idea for a PPG instrument panel on the Ontario Paragliding Group's website.
I never have quite found a good place for my in-flight electronics. So I set out to duplicate his creation. The first one I built was OK, but had some minor problems. So, I made a second unit with modifications to solve the problems I found in the first.
When I built the first one, I found that the speaker magnets of the radios interfered with the compass in my GPS. So I had to move them. Hence, the radio speakers are as far away from the GPS as possible. Six inches separation made all the difference.
On my paramotor, my throttle is held in my left hand. So, everything was designed to be operated with my right hand.
I also found that when flying, my lap was not horizontal.
The panel was tilted away from me. I could not easily see my GPS display. So I added a small, hinged, piece of board that would sit across my legs and tilt the panel towards me when it was hinged out.
I also wanted to be able to switch between radios in-flight. My helmet has two audio inputs, so I made a switch box that has main and auxiliary inputs. The Main channel switched headphone audio, microphone audio, and push-to-talk signals. The Sub channel just switched headphone audio. In this way, I can listen to two sources simultaneously.
The picture shows the jacks on the side of the box where I plug in the helmet.
Making the Panel
Instead of using a clipboard, I used a scrap piece of lauan that I had in my workshop. Lauan is a thin type of plywood that is usually used for the backs of cabinets. I just had a scrap left from a previous cabinetry project. Masonite could be used, or a clipboard could be used with the hardware stripped off. I cut it to the same size as a standard clipboard.
Next, I laid out all my gadgets on it and marked where connector and mounting holes were needed. After drilling and cutting, I mounted two small hinges to the top edge. I inlaid the nuts of the hinge hardware to make a smooth surface. Then I overlaid the wood with a cushioning vinyl surface. I had some scrap sheet vinyl that I used. Old mouse pads turned upside down work nicely too. I used spray adhesive to glue the vinyl to the board.
I made another smaller panel the same length as the first, but only 6 inches wide. This was attached to the hinges. A short string from the bottom of this second panel attaches to the bottom of the first panel. The string allows the panel to open only far enough to provide a support for the first panel.
After running the wires on the bottom of the panel, I taped everything down with clear packing tape.
I attached adhesive backed Velcro strips to the backs of all gadgets to fasten them securely to the panel. Lanyards from radios, GPS, and other gadgets were run through the panel and attached to the split rings on the bottom corners.
Switch box Construction
To make the switchbox, I went to Radio Shack and bought a small plastic box (# 270-1802), some rotary switches (2 ea. #275-1386), three jacks (2ea. #274-251, 1 ea #274-292), and a couple of knobs (#274-415). I also bought plugs suitable for my radios (2ea. #274-286, 2ea. #274-289). I wired them according to the schematic below. WARNING! This schematic may not work with all radios, and COULD burn out some radios. Some have different plug configurations, and some use the "hot" side of the battery for the audio return. But this DID work with my Motorola and Icom radios. Check your radio's manual or measure voltages with a voltmeter between the shield of the plug and the battery negative terminal.
Note that the switches have six positions. I only needed three. So there is room for expansion!
I then designed a label on my computer to fit the box. I printed it on bright white paper, which was laminated with adhesive backed clear plastic shelf paper. After cutting it to size, I sprayed some adhesive on the back and applied the label to the top of the box.
For connection to my harness, I used key chain split rings run through holes in the bottom sides and top center of my panel.
To these I connected swivel spring clips. All these I bought at the key duplication desk of our local Lowe's hardware store.
The bottom clips attach to my belt or belt loops. The top clip attaches to my harness' ground handling strap before launch and on landing. During flight, I detach it to allow the panel to fold out onto my lap.
Now when I decide to fly "heavy", I have everything I need held nicely in place on my lap!