Third times the charm for N1614J

There are some things I haven’t blogged about that I need to fill people in on. I didn’t write about them mostly because they weren’t done in the Garaggio and I didn’t really think too much about documenting them at the time, or they were part of a larger story I figured could be told at once. So here goes.

Earlier this year, I was away from home to train for my new job for weeks at a time. I wanted to be able to use some of my down time in hotels towards the Long Ez project. So I figured that I would work on registering the airplane. By early this year, there was nothing preventing me from doing so. Interestingly enough, it is $20 per year to reserve your N-number for your airplane, but it is only a one time fee of $10 to register it. 

So while I was away from home, I started the paperwork. There are many sources online and from the EAA to explain the process, but it is pretty straight forward. The key is to be precise with the paperwork, because the FAA requires all documents to exactly match when getting an airworthiness certificate for your project. In addition to the normal name, address, phone number, etc on the form, you have to give your airplane a make, model, serial number, and pick your N-Number.

For homebuilts, the make is typically the last name of the builder since you are the manufacturer of record for the airplane. The model is typically the model name that the designer gave the airplane. My airplane has so many modifications from Burt Rutan’s original design, that I wanted to differentiate it. It may not hold up in court, but my thought was that Rutan shouldn’t be held responsible for my airplane in any way shape or for since it is certainly not built according to plans. 


Coraggio Garaggio Ez, Serial Number 3


As such, my airplane is registered as a Coraggio (make)  Garaggio Ez (Model), named after my workshop. Then I had to pick the serial number. I was chatting with my friend Weasel while I was doing this process and I asked him what he thought about the serial number. His immediate response was 3. I asked, why 3. He said, you built 3 of every part before you were happy with it, so you have built 3 Garaggio Ezs. I laughed, and the serial number stuck. There you have the story behind it.

I chose my N-Number earlier than that, and simply wrote a note to the FAA to assign it to this airplane. The N-Number for the airplane is N1614J. I had a bunch of different numbers I wanted before that one, but each one was taken. The significance behind this one is as follows. One (1) – model (61) – for (4) – Joe (J). The N-Number is paying homage to Rutan’s Long Ez, the genesis of the Garaggio Ez. The Long EZ was Rutan’s 61st airplane design, model 61. UPDATE: It was pointed out that I must also give credit to Weasel for coming up the 61 part of the number. He pointed out that the Long Ez was model 61, and from there we worked on N-Numbers via Facebook Chat until we found one that was available and that we liked.

That was a lot of background, but since third time is the charm for N1614J, we have another piece which is in its third revision. The Instrument panel. The very first one was the stock fiberglass panel that was in the airplane. I was going to use it until I decided to put an aluminum one in, like many others have done. So we made the aluminum instrument panel and sometime last year, Dick Keyt and I planned it and cut it out for the latest state of the art technology at the time. 

Well it is more than a year since we did that, so the state of the art has changed, and I can’t very well build a panel around year old avionics, now can I? This year at the AirVenture Cup, I found out that one of our racers owns a company called Laser Logic, who makes beautiful instrument panels on their CNC machines. So I am having them make me a panel. The process is great.

You send them your instrument panel and they scan it. That way they can get the precise outline and fastener locations from the existing panel. What that gives them is a blank panel that exactly fits a one of a kind hand built airplane. Doing that by hand could take days in and of itself. Then via computer software, you can layout your panel and look at it on screen. Laser logic has all the data for switches, avionics, screens, radios, etc so they can lay out the required holes and mounting fastener locations so that you can simply drop the boxes into the panel and screw them down.

In addition, Laser logic will paint, engrave, and clear coat your panel any colors you choose. The end result will be a part custom made for the airplane that looks like a million bucks…. and fits. Its more costly than doing it myself, but I am happy to pay for the quality they are capable of. Not only that, but I am ready to get this thing in the air, and the time it will save me will be invaluable to keeping my interest in the project. 

Without further ado, after going back and forth on the design a few times, here is what I have decided on. 



It is a dual G3X Touch system with 7″ screens and a GTN 650 NAV/COMM/GPS for IFR navigation. A dual axis, digital autopilot is built into the G3X screens. The rest is pretty self explanatory. I have a VPX Pro system which will handle the power distribution. The panel was laid out keeping in mind that the stick is on the right side and throttle on the left. That is why any switches and the radio, which will be manipulated in flight, are on the left so that I don’t have to take my hand off the stick. The engine ignition and starter button is on the right so that I can have my left hand free for the throttle and mixture during start and ground operations. The landing gear switch, which has a green and red lighted handle to indicate gear status, as well as indicator lights are on the upper left, directly to the left of the airspeed tape. They are here so they are closely in view when cross checking airspeed on final approach. An audio panel will also be installed, but it will not be in the panel for reasons I won’t go into now. But it will be located between my legs above the fuel selector. 

Why all this background now? Well, I was telling you two days ago about a project Jon was working on. We received a plastic proof of the panel. Laser Logic cuts a plexiglass proof, and ships it out to verify that the panel fits, fastener holes are properly located, and that the position of all the switches and components are as they should be. The plexiglass allows you to look through the panel to see what potential interference you may have since each component has some depth to it. Eventually I plan to use a plastic proof while doing the initial install of the components in the airplane and a few other tasks so that I don’t risk scratching the final panel. There are many advantages to using Laser Logic.

Back to Jon’s work the other day. He had to file and grind on the panel to get it to fit. The fastener locations seem to be in the right place, but the panel was slightly larger, by about 1/16″ along the whole left side, along the bottom, and in the upper right corner. But he got it to fit, and here is what it looks like.


The proof also allows us to do two other things. One is to ensure that the top of the G3X screens are viewable under the glare shield in the seating position. As of right now, it looks as though they are. The other thing we had to check was clearance on the leg cutouts. In order to fit everything I wanted into the panel, we had to make the leg cutouts slightly smaller and add a bump-out for the GTN650. (For those of you unfamiliar, your legs extend through the large cutouts, forward of the instrument panel. Your knees end up about 1″ forward of the panel.) The main concerns here are ingress and egress, as well as comfort while seated. The plans leg holes are more than comfortable for me in the seated position, but I want to be sure it is still easy enough to get in and get out. Since I don’t have the upholstery done yet, I can’t say for 100% certainty on either of these items. Now you know why I am getting the upholstery done now. Once we are certain, we will get laser logic working on the final panel.

I should add that working on these details and personalizations are very exciting and adds quite a bit of motivation to the project. Lately, I have been doing little other than sanding, and filling, and priming, and sanding, and sanding, and well you get the picture. Even though I am very happy with the results of the sanding and parts end up looking like pieces of a flyable airplane, these little details like seats and instrumentation are adding a lot of satisfaction to the entire process. I can’t wait to get the exterior finishing done so we can start working on these other things in earnest. 

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