Simpler, More Functional Pump Panel Layouts Urged

Simpler, More Functional Pump Panel Layouts Urged

Take a look at the pump panel of any new engine, especially one of the more expensive multi-gallon-per-minute jobs.

Pretty? Yes indeed. It is shiny and orderly, neatly laid out. But how does it work? It takes an enormous amount of instruction and training to become familiar with the multitude of gages and levers and their locations before proficiency is achieved.

Actually, despite lip service, very little competent attention is given to human engineering” in panel layouts. The gages are neatly aligned across the top, rather than alongside the valve levers with which they are associated. Seldom-used knobs share equal prominence with those used most often. In setting up new pumpers, the operator must look here and there, read this and that label in hodge podge arrangement.

Functional groupings

Perhaps the levers, knobs and gages can be placed in more functional groupings. Three possible ways suggest themselves:

  1. By groups. In this arrangement, the panel would be blocked out with the booster controls and gages in one place, the pre-connect 1 1/2’s in another, the 2 1/2’s in another, etc.
  2. In order of operation. By this is meant the first operation. For example, the suction gage would be in the upper left, then the computer (if the engine has one), then the main pressure gage and throttle, etc. in order of use in a normal setup.
  3. By schematic. This is a technique that paints a schematic of the pump and plumbing on the panel. The gages and valve operators are then placed on this panel at their location on the schematic.

Use of solenoids

I realize valve levers don’t lend themselves to easy manipulations as to locations and they are rather large. An answer is not to use levers. Use solenoids. Small switches could then be placed with considerable freedom and size reduction. A bonus could be indicator lights to show valve status and/ or lines pressurized. If solenoids and switches can be made reliable enough for our astronauts’ lives to depend upon them, surely they can be used on a fire pumper.

Let’s have more functional panel layouts.

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