Today's AOPA ePILOT newsletter had a short paragraph half way down the page titled “Rare but Dangerous – in flight electrical fires” it also had a link to an informative PDF.
This topic is significant to me as it I how I was branded with the call “Smoke Boy” back in my primary flight training. Short story is I had a significant in-flight electrical fire on my first solo cross country flight.
My RV-8 panel is not hugely different from that primary trainer. It has basic instruments. On that day that the pungent smoke plumed in my cockpit, it was a fraction of a second until I had the master switch in the off position. It was a reaction of my training and barely a conscious decision. I recall a funny thought crossing my mind – “geeh, this plane really does fly without the electrical system on”. (Technically it still had the self contained electrical aspects of the magnetos but to this student pilot, flying with 'the switch' off was little more than book-theory up until that moment.)
I have read many posts over on the VAF forums of wonderful glass panels and electronic ignition systems with detailed descriptions of battery backups, diode isolation circuits, etc. Done correctly, these systems will tolerate different degrees of electrical fires.
I write this as a reminder, that those of us with glass panels and modern electronics need to be instinctively familiar with what works and what doesn't work when you throw 'the switch'. It only takes a fraction of a second for things to change in a very dramatic way.