The purpose of this blog is to describe what F-16 cockpit panels are and answer the following questions: (1) “Why refurbish them?” and (2) “When should they be refurbished?” Before answering these two questions, let me explain what a cockpit panel is.
F-16 cockpit panels are electric, switch boxes located in front of and around the pilot in an F-16 cockpit. They are composed of: (1) a sheet metal box, (2) one or more switches, (3) knobs, (4) wire and connectors, and (5) an edge lit panel overlay. (InterConnect calls these “edgelights”.) Figure 1 shows some edgelights.
F-16 cockpit panels are usually about 3 inches wide, 4 inches long, and 6 inches in depth. They typically weigh less than 5 pounds. F-16 cockpit panels control many operations of the F-16 including: (1) landing gear, (2) radios, (3) interior lights, (4) exterior lights, (5) fuel control and (6) air conditioning. Figure 2 shows an F-16 cockpit panel while Figure 3 displays a typical F-16 cockpit layout.
Now back to the first question at hand: ”Why should F-16 cockpit panels be refurbished?” As with any piece of equipment, with age, components within the equipment become old and can cause problems. Typical issues include: (1) switches malfunctioning, (2) knobs and edge lights getting scratched causing light to bleed through them, and (3) connectors and wires needing replacement. Figure 4 shows actual old, worn cockpit panels needing refurbishment.
Now for the second question, “When should cockpit panels be refurbished?” To answer to this question, you don’t need to look farther than the car that you drive. When you buy a new car everything works perfectly. It all looks, feels, and smells new. Your new car is something to be proud of. Unfortunately after a few years it no longer looks or feels the same. It has “wear and tear” on many of its components especially in the interior of the car. F-16’s have this same type of problem, especially in the cockpit. After many years of flipping cockpit panel switches or turning cockpit panel knobs, they start to be worn to the point that the switches may start to fail or allow light to bleed through the knobs. Just like the interior of a five-year-old car shows signs of wear, so too, does an F-16 cockpit. Granted the material used to make an F-16 is a much higher grade than a car, but still, cockpit panels show signs of wear.
Recently, I looked inside the cockpit of a 12-year-old F-16. The cockpit panels showed extreme signs of wear. They no longer looked new. In fact, there were scratches on every edgelight and knob. It was time for a cockpit panel refurbishment program for that F-16.
InterConnect repairs or refurbishes F-16 cockpit panels all the time. We repair F-16 cockpit panels when they are not working correctly. We refurbish them to bring them back to looking and operating as if brand new. Please consider InterConnect for repairing or refurbishing your F-16 cockpit panels. Please let us know for a price quote.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Although this was a longer blog than usual (mostly due to photos), we are offering a special, free of charge Bonus Blog. Read on to learn what a “Glass Cockpit” is.
The death of cockpit panels is rapidly approaching for almost all aircraft. Why are they dying? The answer lies in new technology. Instead of having lots of switches that will in-time fail, the new technology is to use displays made of “glass”. Switches are mechanical devices. Glass is not a mechanical device. So what does glass mean? This is an easy question to answer. When someone says a glass cockpit, think of your cell phone or your touch screen tablet. Instead of rotary or manual switches, your cell phone or tablet operates by touching the piece of glass on top of your device. You change screens, operations, or programs simply with the press of your finger.
A glass cockpit works similarly to your cell phone or tablet. A pilot changes screens as needed during flight using his finger. The glass cockpit replaces cockpit panels. So now you know what a “Glass Cockpit” is. See Figure 5 below of an Airbus A380 glass cockpit. As you can see, it has multiple large screens that do the same operations that cockpit panels used to do.
So, one final thought….
If this statement is true, “The death of cockpit panels is rapidly approaching for almost all aircraft.” why should F-16 Users refurbish their F-16 cockpit panels? As far as we know, there are no current plans to modify or upgrade the F-16 Fighting Falcon to a Glass Cockpit, therefore, refurbishment or replacement with new cockpit panels may be necessary for your fleet.