Some of my Safety of Flight Issues concerning the switches in my aircraft are that Engine Start ( relay not required ), Fuel Pump, Flaps or Speed Brakes, Strobes, and Landing Light need to be in my hands, either on the Stick Grip (HOS), or on the Throttle Handle (HOT).
If you are going to have an auto pilot, FAA certified planes [ affectionately called Spam Cans, if you haven’t heard ? ] are supposed to have an auto pilot disconnect switch on the yoke or Stick Grip, but that’s because they usually have autopilot systems that allow the IFR pilot to fly hard-core IFR down to 500 feet AGL via the autopilot coupled to the ILS needles before the pilot takes over to fly down to minimums manually. Unless you’re going to fly that kind of hard core IFR, don’t waste a switch position on your Stick Grip, and use the position for some other Safety of Flight function, such as Strobes.
Let’s go through a worst case scenario WITHOUT a Stick Grip from INFINITY Aerospace :
You just took off, you forgot to turn the Electric Fuel Pump ON, and the mechanical engine driven fuel pump fails (this does happen) at 500+ ft. AGL — the prop’s a gonna stop. Most Sport Aircraft (I never use the terms Homebuilt, Amateur Built or Experimental — Joe and Jane Q. Public go nuts when they hear these terms. I just tell them “Yes, it’s certified, and built as good as, or better than, production planes” — squares their thinking away from the ‘get go’.) engine out glide performance capabilities is better than Spam Cans — in fact, many Sport Aircraft can even make a 180 and easily make it back to the field from 500 ft. AGL (done all the time at air show demonstrations). So, you immediately look down into the cockpit looking for the Fuel Pump Switch ’cause you’re probably gonna try and start the engine’ — you’ve got a little time. You let go of the throttle handle, cross your face while you hurriedly look for the Fuel Pump Switch with that loose throttle hand flailing around the cockpit — finally you turn the Electric Fuel Pump ON. Then you cross your face with your forearm, blocking your instruments probably causing vertigo with that loose arm creating a subconscious horizon, going for the Start Switch which is on the opposite side of the panel ’cause that’s where you thought would be a good place for it when you Start the plane sitting on the ground — and remember, the prop *did* stop for you just took off and you’re too slow to keep it windmilling, and you don’t have enough altitude for a windmill air-start. You turn the Engine Start Key, back to the throttle, turn the key, back to pump the throttle — get the picture – you’re looking down into the cockpit, crossing your face with your arm probably inducing vertigo — YOU ARE NOT FLYING THE PLANE! YOU ARE PROBABLY GONNA DIE!!
Now with the Engine Start and Fuel Pump on the Stick Grip and/or the Throttle Handle, not a problem — it’s simple: Fuel Pump – ON; Engine Start – ON; you never let go of the flight controls or throttle; YOU NEVER NEED TO LOOK DOWN INTO THE COCKPIT — YOU NEVER STOP FLYING THE PLANE!!!
NOTE: if you’re worried about bumping the Engine Start Button, you can’t — it should be mounted to the knuckle side of your hand in position #6 (to my knowledge, noone has bumped the Engine Start switch in position #6 since I first started making my Stick Grips in Oct. 1991. But if you did, it would be like engaging your starter on your car while it’s running — it just scares you. But if you’re still worried about bumping it, there are 2 ways to handle this. The ‘Low Tech’ way is to simply pull the switch colored cap OFF using pliers and shop rag, then you just dig your thumb into the switch. OR, install a RPM pulse counter between the Stick Grip (or Throttle Handle) Engine Start Switch and the Tach. When the RPM is running fast enough (500+ RPM), the Start button is disabled — the new cars do something like this, too. WARNING: DO NOT use oil pressure to kill the Engine Start switch! Oil pressure does not immediately go to 0 PSI when the engine stops. AND, do NOT use a separate Engine Start Arm switch! Finding this switch during an emergency is precious seconds lost when you need to hit the Engine Start switch and have it work.
AND, if you’re worried about your co-pilot / passenger playing with your Stick Grip Switches activating something when you don’t want them to, just install a Lever-Lock Toggle Switch in/on the panel (for side-by-side seating), or in the console in front of the pilots Throttle Handle and Quadrant (in tandem planes), to control arming and disarming of the Stick Grips depending on who is flying the plane. The pilot can then disable the copilot / passengers Stick Grip Switches at will by connecting the grounds from both grips to this Lever Lock Toggle Switch (you need to be able to do this for your ON/OFF pushbuttons anyway, too). And for you tandem builders, I suggest a 2nd Lever Lock Toggle Switch. Then you can use one to disarm switch positions #3, #4, #5 & #6, and the other Lever Lock Toggle Switch to disarm both the 4-Way Switch and the Trigger. An RV-8 builder told me at Oshkosh ’00 that he calls the 2nd Lever Lock Toggle Switch his ‘Grandson Switch’. See FAQ for discussion of needing 2 grips, and/or call JD if you need more details about ANYTHING.
Electric Flaps or Canard Speed Brake — you can put the flaps down or deploy the speed brake without coming into the cockpit to find the Flap or Speed Brake Switch. After a touch-and-go, flip the Flap or Speed Brake Switch on the Stick Grip and the Flaps or Speed Brake come UP without you needing to come into the cockpit, refocusing your eyes, to find and hold the switch. Not needing to come into the cockpit to find the Flap or Speed Brake Switch on the panel, particularly in high cross winds during a touch-and-go or go-around, is really handy — particularly if you’re flying a tail dragger! Note: on our Infinity 1, when you advance the throttle, the Speed Brake will automatically retract when adding near full power (just like my F-14 did).
Strobes — the Strobes can cause you vertigo: flying at night around clouds or rain; during landing at night, or even landing during the day if there’s an overcast and it’s raining; taxiing between buildings at night or a rainy day; taxiing by someone with the Strobes ON is rude for it blinds the pilot you’re passing or who’s passing you ruining their night vision for a time (just like on-coming drivers who don’t hit their low beams in their car). With the Strobe ON/OFF switch on the Stick Grip, you can easily shut it OFF, for glancing down during short final because you’re getting pounded by the Strobes to find the Strobe Switch on the panel to shut the Strobes OFF is not going to happen. By the time you roll out, you’ve got a headache and/or vertigo — some have crashed.
Landing Light — ever have a plane coming at you (day or night — over LAX in the haze, for example), you glance down to turn ON the Landing Light to show your position to the oncoming traffic who probably doesn’t have you in sight, and when you look back up, he’s gone (you lost sight!); but you *know* he’s coming right at you — now you’re in a slight panic to pick him up visually again. With the Landing Light Switch in your hands on the Stick Grip or Throttle Handle, you just turn it ON (you could even flash the Landing Light, saving $$$’s on a flasher) — you never need to look down and lose sight again.
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Typical (95+ %) Stick Grip Switch combinations / installations for (but we can make them ANY way you wish):
Aircraft WITH Electric Flaps or Electric Canard Speed Brake
Aircraft WITH Electric Flaps or Electric Canard Speed Brake AND Autopilot
Aircraft withOUT Electric Flaps or Electric Canard Speed Brake
Lancair IV / IV-P aircraft with 3 Axis Trim and Wing Spoilers
Lancair IV / IV-P aircraft with 2 Axis Trim and Wing Spoilers