GPS Mount Above an Aircraft Instrument Panel

About: I miss the days when magazines like Popular Mechanics had all sorts of DIY projects for making and repairing just about everything. I am enjoying posting things I have learned and done since I got my first ...

A friend has a Piper Cherokee (four place) made in 1964. He is in the brown jacket. I am wearing the blue jacket.

(Many of the photos in this Instructable are from Google Images. I do not have access to the airport and to his airplane. During this project we did not have a lot of time for making photos.)

Step 1: His New GPS

He also has a new GPS unit for his airplane. It is quite large compared to a GPS for an automobile--almost 6 inches across.

Step 2: Cherokee Cockpit and Instrument Panel

This is a newer Cherokee cockpit and instrument panel. It is already rather crowded. Finding a place for a large GPS and still maintaining good visibility is not easy.

Step 3: The Factory Mount

Garmin provides an attachment for mounting the GPS on the pilot's yoke. My friend wants his mounted on the top of the instrument panel. Sometimes he has me fly the plane while he attends to other things. Mounted at the top center of the instrument panel, the GPS is visible to both of us and I can check to make certain we remain on course.

Step 4: Hand Hold

My friend's Cherokee has a Hand Hold to give the pilot some leverage for pulling himself in an out of the airplane. It is a piece of extruded aluminum 3.5 inches long. It mounts to the top of the instrument panel with two screws.

Step 5: Location of the Hand Hold

In my friend's airplane, the Hand Hold is located where you see the yellow box. It is just forward of the rounded black plastic edge of the instrument panel that surrounds the instruments. My friend's airplane does not have a compass mounted on the windscreen brace, as in this graphic.

Step 6: Make a Paper Pattern

My friend and I were returning from a Sunday afternoon church service I conduct 100 miles away one Sunday a month when we began talking about a good mount for his GPS. I needed some angles and dimensions, so, after we landed, I made a paper pattern on the only thing I had available, which was some of the pages from the Sunday church bulletin.

The blue line highlights the edge of the paper. The green arrow points to the location of the mounting screws for the Hand Hold. The pen line at 27 degrees marks the angle of the window brace off of the instrument panel's top surface.

Step 7: How to Mount the Mount

The space between the windscreen and the top of the instrument panel does not allow room for a drill to make holes for a mount. I decided to use the existing Hand Hold device as part of the mount. In addition, I would not need to remove it from the airplane for my friend to store indefinitely in a safe place. If I did it might become lost by the time my friend eventually sells the airplane after he no longer flies. I did remove the Hand Hold so I could fit it on my workbench.

This is a view of the Hand Hold from its end. Notice the rounded top edge. I used a caliper to determine its diameter and matched it to one of my drill bits.

Step 8: A Piece of Pine

I chose a piece of 3/4 inch pine 1 1/4 inches wide and about 4 to 5 inches long. About 1/2 inch from the end I held the Hand Hold over the wood and marked the center for the rounded edge at the top of the Hand Hold. I drilled a hole that is just a little on the small side for a firm fit.

Step 9: Cut a Slot for the Hand Hold

The Hand Hold will slide into an opening cut for its profile. I marked the wood with a square to match the end view of the Hand Hold and cut a slot with my bandsaw.

Step 10: Trim the Slot for Rounded Areas

The actual extruded Hand Hold has some rounded areas in the corners. I expanded the slot where you see the yellow arrows to accommodate the rounded areas on the extrusion.

Step 11: Trim for the Window Brace Angle

I used my paper pattern to trim the end of the wood at 27 degrees to match the angle of the window brace. The wood will rest under the window brace so it will not pivot or move from the weight of the GPS when the mount is finished.

Step 12: Slide the Hand Hold Into the Slot

This graphic shows the Hand Hold inserted into the slot cut for it. The fit should be a little on the tight side, but not so tight that you cannot move the Hand Hold without a hammer. Paint the wood any color that suits you.

Step 13: Add Sheet Metal

Add a piece of sheet metal about 3 inches wide and 6 inches long. It can be aluminum or steel. Attach it with screws as shown. Put the Hand Hold back into the airplane and screw it down.

You are now ready to use double stick foam to mount the GPS base to the sheet metal. One corner is clipped in the graphic because I did not allow enough room when making the graphic. Run the GPS cable from a power source. Snap the GPS into its base. Connect the power cable and you are ready to fly.

Step 14: The GPS Mounted

This photo was taken while the plane is still in the hangar. The GPS is mounted and ready to fly. You can see how the piece of pine rests under and against the window brace. Under one corner of the sheet metal you can also see the end of the Hand Hold. The GPS rests in a space that is almost made for it. It is visible for both seats, no matter who is flying. That is not possible with a mount on the pilot's yoke. Being close to the plexiglass, the GPS's antenna also has good access to all available satellites. The mount is plenty sturdy, too.



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    7 Discussions


    7 years ago on Step 14

    Mounting electronics near (or covering) the magnetic compass could cause all kinds of problems - did you have to re-swing the compass? Also the compass is on the plane's MEL - shouldn't be flying if it's inop.

    1 reply
    Phil BMadScott

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My friend is the pilot. This is his second aircraft GPS. The first was smaller and he mounted it in the same place with Velchro. He has been using an aircraft GPS mounted in this location above his instrument panel for around ten years. The newer GPS is too heavy to stay in place with only Velchro. He has never mentioned any affect on his compass readings. I think he pretty much relies on his GPS for getting him where he wants to go rather than on his compass. He also flies VFR only.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Good work, as always, Phil. Now you must do an instructable for mounting a GPS on my Mountain Bike... ;)

    2 replies
    Phil Brimar2000

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, Rimar. I saw a photo of your mountain bike in one of your Instructables. The handlebar has no empty space on your bike. Could you remove the long bolt that tightens the gooseneck and attach a fitting for a GPS under the bolthead before putting it back in place?

    rimar2000Phil B

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Phil, It was a joke. 1) I have not GPS; 2) My bike trips are 30 minutes average, near my house, then I don't need a GPS. Anyway, thanks for your kindness.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    . Another great iBle from Phil B! If your Member page is correct, this is number 81. You need an "Outstanding Contributor" patch. . The only step that might need a pic and didn't have one was mounting the GPS to the sheet metal. But, if someone can fly a plane, they should be able to figure it out. ;)

    1 reply
    Phil BNachoMahma

    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you. There is a base for the GPS, and the GPS snaps in and out of it for safe storage at home. The base's bottom has a smooth surface. A sticky piece of very soft rubber-like stuff attaches to the bottom of the base and then to the surface on which the base mounts. That comes with the GPS. But, my friend first tried to mount his GPS to the curved surface above the instrument panel. The sticky stuff was pretty well destroyed when we pulled the base off of the instrument panel console. The GPS really did not attach well there, anyway. We went to the hardware store and bought a roll of double stick mounting foam tape for mounting to the sheet metal. It is a common item from Scotch - 3M. Just peel off the waxed paper backing and cover the bottom surface of the base with strips of foam mount tape. Trim it to fit the contours of the base. Peel off the waxed paper backing from the other side and plant the base onto the sheet metal. You get one chance to do it right because it holds like there is no tomorrow. Yes, I now have 81 Instructables. Someone, please stop me before I post again! ;-) I do also have a life outside of Instructables. But, being in my early 60's means I have things I did in the past and have things from the present. I keep on thinking I will run out of things to post, but I also have a list of about 50 I would still like to submit. This one came to mind suddenly when there was a need. My friend thought this would be useful to Cherokee owners, and owners of any other plane with a Hand Hold like his Piper has.