# Have we reached the end of the Steam Gauge era?

Discussion in 'Instruments / Avionics / Electrical System' started by jwmflying14, Jan 20, 2017.

### Help Support HomeBuiltAirplanes Forum by donating:

1. Jan 22, 2017

### BBerson

#### Well-Known MemberHBA Supporter

Joined:
Dec 16, 2007
Messages:
12,025
2,340
Location:
Port Townsend WA
Yeah, I think watching an analog mechanical* tach needle spool up is way cooler than digital.

I won't call it "steam" guage. Seems inappropriate.

bmcj likes this.
2. Jan 22, 2017

### Toobuilder

Joined:
Jan 20, 2010
Messages:
4,435
3,234
Location:
Mojave, Ca
Like an EFIS, engine gauges are mission dependent. That said, trying to keep a $50,000 aircraft engine happy and efficient on a long cross country really takes a full boat EMS. This is an area where all those extra 1's and zeros added by the software guys really come into their own and actually pay dividends. gtae07 likes this. 3. Jan 22, 2017 ### bmcj ### bmcj #### Well-Known MemberHBA Supporter Joined: Apr 10, 2007 Messages: 12,911 Likes Received: 4,854 Location: Fresno, California I'm sticking with steam gauges so long as I have water and a reliable boiler available. Turd Ferguson likes this. 4. Jan 22, 2017 ### rtfm ### rtfm #### Well-Known Member Joined: Jan 3, 2008 Messages: 3,189 Likes Received: 571 Location: Brisbane, Australia I agree that digital readouts are a pain. They take time to read. Analogue guages, on the other hand, are instantly readable at a glance. That's why I'm going with the setup I mentioned. Digital by with analogue displays. And all for under$1000 (including the Android tablet).

Duncan

5. Jan 22, 2017

### dcstrng

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Oct 17, 2010
Messages:
912
322
Location:
VA or NoDak
Dale; actually it was a picture of your panel some months back that convinced me I was on the right track -- I also have a new LRI, but am undecided whether to use it in mine (long-metal-wing Cougar). With the enhanced performance of your bird, how do you like the LRI?

Oh, and I misspoke -- it's the MGL- F2 (Flight-2), not F1 -- whatever that is... I have the MGL fuel as well, but am going to try to make wing-root sight gauges work instead -- that's for next spring...

6. Jan 22, 2017

### Mark Z

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Aug 29, 2012
Messages:
544
256
Location:
Granbury, Texas USA 0TX0
This! I could care less about all the whiz bang glass; my engine monitor is sitting proud in the top of my stack and gets primary attention.

jwmflying14 likes this.
7. Jan 22, 2017

### Wayne

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Jan 15, 2013
Messages:
406
498
Location:
Chicago, IL
I'm doing both - Grumpy, my friend and tech adviser, is holding firm on backup Steam Gauge Altitude and ASI. I didn't need much convincing.

This panel is more complex power-wise because it is for a UL Power Motor, and the EFIS will do more than I need for sure. I'm doing the panel this way for a couple of reasons 1) Flexibility - I can scale to any VFR mission including autopilot if I want it, and ADS-B of course. 2) Resale - I'm gambling that if I sell the plane that the EFIS will be more attractive (I could be totally wrong about that too).

As some of you know I have been flying my friends 150 which is fully 1960's steam and no GPS. I could care less - I'm very happy to be flying and they are easy to use. I have the free product Avare on my Android tablet for moving maps, call out distances, and Foreflight on my iPhone for preflight planning (weather,Notams,etc.).

I'm a strictly VFR guy and could have cut the cost of the panel with earlier Dynon's and a used radio/transponder. I could also have done my own power/breakers and saved a lot.

8. Jan 22, 2017

### Kyle Boatright

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Nov 12, 2012
Messages:
792
430
Location:
Marietta, GA
I'll toss out the devil's advocacy here....

Why double up on instruments and the cost/weight? Are you building something that isn't flyable/landable using your sight picture and the feedback the airplane gives you? Even IFR aircraft don't typically have redundant ASI and Altimeters. And I've had a "steam" altimeter fail in flight.

jwmflying14 likes this.
9. Jan 22, 2017

### Wayne

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Jan 15, 2013
Messages:
406
498
Location:
Chicago, IL
Excellent points Kyle - there is probably about \$350 or so wrapped up in those gauges, and you are correct in there being a weight penalty. However, for me I like the idea that I have a totally non electric solution as a backup regardless of how much it makes sense. I have no doubt of my ability to fly the Cruzer without instruments but with this FADEC engine if I have a catastrophic electrical system failure I'm coming down and I feel good that I can just glance over and know I'm at best glide and at a certain altitude or perhaps am simply above stall. My testing will be with a brand new homebuilt plane, brand new engine, and me only having a few hours in type and I'll be in some quite congested airspace. It's a comfort call. I also have a persnal friend who had a total EFIS failure so it does happen even if it is rare.

10. Jan 22, 2017

### Kyle Boatright

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Nov 12, 2012
Messages:
792
430
Location:
Marietta, GA
I'm only debbil's advocating. I have a backup 2 1/4" ASI and Altimeter set aside for my current project, which will presumably have an EFIS. I'm still debating panel options. It is possible that I'll save the analog stuff for the Hatz, Headwind, Fly-Baby, or whatever my next windmill-tilt is...

11. Jan 22, 2017

### Wanttaja

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Sep 15, 2013
Messages:
1,261
1,446
Location:
Seattle, WA
My thought for the Fly Baby is, if I go digital, I won't add any analog backup. For my type of flying, it isn't really needed. On the severe clear sorts of days I fly, Mount Rainier is a perfectly adequate navigation tool. Altitude is a bit iffier, but I figure I can find pattern altitude easily enough, and can dodge the severer restrictions of the Seattle Class B enough to not violate it. Haven't needed an airspeed indicator in a Fly Baby for about 28 years.

Mind you, I certainly accept that some airplanes should have the backups.

Ron Wanttaja

12. Jan 22, 2017

### Kevin N

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Jan 23, 2015
Messages:
819
465
Location:
Steam gauges all the way for me. You guys should know already that a full electrical system is two magneto "P" leads, nothing more. I did enjoy the technology and flying the glass on the Boeings but that's over for me.

Little Scrapper likes this.
13. Jan 22, 2017

### Daleandee

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Sep 11, 2015
Messages:
895
560
Location:
SC
Don't want to get too far off the rails and turn this into an LRI discussion but I highly recommend using LRI for flight information. This is the second airplane that I've added an LRI (Lift Reserve Indicator) to as a back-up to an electronic ASI unit. This model gives consistant information and doesn't bounce around all over the place in turbulence. In reality I use it much more than the ASI. In this video you can see it working on take-off and landing.

Obviously this version isn't a precision TSO'd instrument but when set correcly full stall should read the second notch into the red zone. It has been suggested that when set as such the the break between the red and the white section is Vx and the break between the white and the green would be Vy.

Here is a video where you can see it working on take-off and landing (need full screen @ 1080HD to see it clearly):

I like to climb ~80 with 10º flaps until I clear the trees (all obstacles) and then suck up the flaps & lower the nose for better engine cooling. On landings I tend to stick the needle in the center of the white area until I float over the fence. I have come in steeper and slower but need a shot of power in the flare. There are a lot of different scenarios and profiles that can be flown with it. Takes a bit of testing to get the LRI set. IIRC mine is set to 51º from the wing chord.

Dunno if this helps ...

Dale Williams
N319WF @ 6J2
Myunn - "daughter of Cleanex"
120 HP - 3.0 Corvair
Tail Wheel - Center Stick
Signature Finish 2200 Paint Job
138.2 hours / Status - Flying

14. Jan 23, 2017

### jwmflying14

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Oct 9, 2014
Messages:
87
8
Location:
Tucson
I may be misinterpreting your comment, but what do you mean basically one off? There ar hundreds flying.

15. Jan 23, 2017

### ScaleBirdsScott

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Feb 10, 2015
Messages:
1,033
656
Location:
Uncasville, CT
I'm holding up hopes for digital gauges that look like classic 'steam' gizmos but carry the advantage of a glass panel while staying discrete and legible. Ideally it also means upgrades to the hardware can be mostly limited to swapping out the actual CPU/logic board or an individual gauge. No more throwing out the baby with the bathwater when your unit is 'obsolete'.

16. Jan 23, 2017

### rtfm

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Jan 3, 2008
Messages:
3,189
571
Location:
Brisbane, Australia
Hi,
Not sure I follow you. What you describe is available in a number of formats today.

Duncan

17. Jan 23, 2017

### ScaleBirdsScott

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Feb 10, 2015
Messages:
1,033
656
Location:
Uncasville, CT
IF you're responding to me, let me say that if there is such a thing as I am looking for out there, I'd love to hear of it. But so far I've found that while there are discrete digital gauges, there's two issues with them as far as I understand: they look digital in that they use LED displays or LCD screens or something else, which isn't as appealing (and for my specific warbird aesthetic especially) but is also not as intuitive as a dial for some. I've seen many that will espouse the benefits of a physical dial vs any sort of flat screen display. And the second issue is they are actual instruments with their own internal chipsets interpreting data. This makes them expensive and vital.

I'd want gauges that look and act exactly like analog steam gauges on the front side of the panel, such that you would not notice any difference between an aircraft with these and one that had actual steam gauges wired in the old way. But on the backside, you would only have short housings and a USB or SATA cable or something-else port, with the corresponding type of common data cables all tied to a central hub on an EFIS computer, so that each instrument is simply a dumb 'display'. It just outputs the dial positions it is told to by the computer that does all the actual work. The hope would be that by having zero logic in the instrument it could theoretically be fairly affordable and not as prone to obsolescence when better sensors or computing methods or whatever is available. Also if one craps out, you still have that data, you could use an iPad or other monitoring screen to reference the data the gauge is unable to render.

As far as I've found, there is no such system out there. Either the sexy EFIS which comes with a big glass display, digital gauges that individually replace individual steam gauges, or classic steam. If someone does make this, I havn't come across it yet!

18. Jan 23, 2017

### cluttonfred

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Feb 13, 2010
Messages:
6,362
2,230
Location:
World traveler
What ScaleBirdsScott is describing could be done with modular digital displays in standard instrument hole sizes based on the e-paper or e-ink technology as used in the Kindle reader and similar devices. It's not there yet in terms of response time and contrast but getting better all the time.

For me it's all about the aesthetics and the experience when it comes to analog vs. digital. If I were building a new design simple ultralight then I would want simple, light digital gauges, even something like what they paramotor guys use, because in the end they are lighter and cheaper than analog gauges.

If, on the other hand, I were building something with vintage appeal like a Pietenpol or Rube Goldberg retro charm like a FRED or Volksplane, then I'd want analog gauges as part of the experience. Similarly, I have looked into building a Pembleton Grasshopper, a three-wheel Morgan-style kit car using a Citroën 2CV donor car. Something like that would just look silly with digital gauges IMHO.

19. Jan 23, 2017

### ScaleBirdsScott

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Feb 10, 2015
Messages:
1,033
656
Location:
Uncasville, CT
Well, again not even e-ink, tho it's closer I guess. I'm talking make a traditional gauge but use some kind of servo, or microstepper motor to move your dial or indicators physically, in the real world. Like a CNC machine ya know? It's more work but the result is something that again should be indistinguishable from a real gauge. You should be able to outfit a P51 with these and someone would think "this looks original" and then you reveal the secret plot twist that they've been flying evil digital the whole time! Muwahahahahahaha *moustache twirl*

20. Jan 23, 2017

### BJC

#### Well-Known Member

Joined:
Oct 7, 2013
Messages:
9,527
6,307
Location:
97FL, Florida, USA
The easy way to do that is to install an AFS EFIS, select the analog display, and put a piece of cardboard with six holes in it over the EFIS.

BJC

jwmflying14 likes this.