We have a great fleet of planes with good modern GPS technology. We are however always planning the next move to keep current. One thought is to start integrating the 430 technology into the C-152s. Many people train here and it is time to upgrade the navigators here. There are several ways to do this; buy used and install of trade down as we upgrade the Skyhawks. By way of starting this dialog here are some options. Take a look at the Avidyne 440 “plug and play” replacement for the Garmin 430s in the C-172s…cute!

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 3.28.24 PM

Avidyne has a good product here, cleverly designed as a slide in replacement for the 430. The touch screen yields a larger form factor for displaying and interacting with data. The current sale at $9K is available through the end of the year and quite a savings (anyone want to buy a Christmas present for East Hill?) The other sensible move is to continue upgrading N97266 to include the Aspen MFD and perhaps even access the “connected panel” technology. This allows the uploading of flight plans to the panel through a bluetooth interface and the future ability to download trip and engine data is also part of this package. This is an open source API available to all manufacturers.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 3.31.38 PM

    Please chime in with your opinion! What is on your wish list?


8 thoughts on “Great Avionics Upgrades Available: What’s On Your Wish List?

  1. My wish list: an autopilot in the Mooney (perhaps the same two-axis STEC model as in 266?), and an Aspen PFD to go with 53045’s shiny new paint!

  2. Interesting question and many good options to consider.

    One suggestion would be to think through all the uses that our planes have, and think about what makes sense for each one.

    I don’t know much about the Mooney as I don’t fly it (yet), but the primary uses of the Skyhawks seem to be: some primary VFR training, all IFR training, shorter VFR and IFR cross-countries (Boston, NY, etc), and some longer VFR and IFR cross countries (e.g. Florida, etc). All of these may be associated with slightly different avionics needs. I can’t speak to all the scenarios above, but I have a few thoughts on the ones I am familiar with.

    For VFR training and shorter VFR cross countries I think we’re doing OK in the 172’s, though I agree that the 152s could be upgraded. I will say that the 430 user interface is a pain to work with sometimes, particularly when you find yourself in a busy/”interesting” situation in the air and you need to find some information or input a route quickly. So something with a better UI (as the Avidyne units seem to have) would be a benefit, but not – I think – strictly necessary.

    For IFR training, that’s a separate issue. In the discussion that got started on FB, Jim suggested an Aspen PFD for 045, and my response was that I personally am glad we have two Skyhawks with a six-pack setup because I feel that made my IFR training easier (my limited experience flying IFR in 266 is chronicled elsewhere on the blog and was overwhelming even before we got anywhere near Teterboro). My individual experience may not be representative of course, but this is still something to think about if we were to go to two Skyhawks with an Aspen. Would most people prefer to learn IFR in one system or the other? Is the transition in one direction harder than in the other? I honestly don’t know, but it’s something to consider.

    For shorter IFR cross-countries, I haven’t done any of these solo yet – obviously, since I’m not instrument rated – so my ability to talk about that is more limited. Based on the training dual cross-countries I’ve done, I can say the 430s have some annoying limitations – in addition to the UI issues I mentioned above, the fact that you can’t enter Victor airways into the flight plan is a major problem (if I’m missing something and there *is* in fact a way to do this, please let me know). So, assuming the Avidyne unit can handle Victor airway routing without forcing you to enter any intermediate VORs manually, I think this would be very helpful.

    As for the longer cross-countries, I haven’t done any of these yet, so I can’t really talk about what the needs might be. Hopefully someone with more experience can provide input on this. I’m sure this scenario is where fancier features, autopilots, etc, really come in handy.

    In summary, based on the scenarios I am familiar with, my preference would be to prioritize replacing the 430s in all the Skyhawks with something better, and then consider more upgrades based on what we think we need. Of course this is just my two cents and I am missing a lot of information due to limited experience (as I said above). I will be very interested to see what everyone else’s thoughts are.

  3. One question ahead: Do new avionics in any way affect decisions of which planes to keep or whether to acquire an other one? If so, it appears that this question needs to be settled first before deciding on any new avionics. I’m not quite convinced that new avionics are worth delaying a new plane, especially as it seems to me that there might be the need for another complex aircraft that is efficient for trips.

    I agree with Lucja’s approach considering all uses separately.

    For VFR training I don’t see why anything beyond a very basic GPS is necessary. As I recall, the main focus of VFR training is to learn to fly the airplane and use visual references. Of course, it would be easier for a student pilot to use the GPS but I’m not sure that’s the point. The old units are sufficient to fly direct to an airport. Also, the 152s are not used very extensively for trips.

    For IFR training and cross country flights a good GPS and autopilot are very important. My experience with the Aspen was that it can greatly reduce the workload once I was familiar with it. Everything needed is in one place and the computer adds extra functions that make flying easier. Of course, that is after some time of learning and getting used to it. While the 430 is not the most advanced GPS available I never experienced any big pain working with it. It does get everything done that I want it to do in a reasonable amount of time. Even on longer flights there are ways to minimize the time on the ground required to enter a very long flight plan.
    One thing that I very much like about the current avionics is that they are very uniform. We have the same 430s in all Skyhawks and the Mooney which makes switching planes easy. For some IFR operations it’s a good idea to know the GPS very well and to be able to use it efficiently. If we get new, non-Garmin avionics additional training might be required and everyone has to be proficient in two different systems (please correct me if I’m wrong and they are identical to use, but then what’s the point of getting a new one?).

    I agree with Jim that a working two-axis autopilot in the Mooney would be top priority. The Mooney is currently the only plane that allows long trips and those can be made substantially more convenient with a working autopilot. That said, I’d rather be able to do a trip (by having a second complex aircraft available) than to not do one but have a fancy autopilot.

  4. Being active for both VFR and recently IFR, I think the safest approach to upgrades is consistency. Having several different types of navigation across the 172’s and Mooney is putting our pilots at risk. As Lucja indicated, she has a preference based on ease of use, so it determines which plane she would want to fly to Teterboro, Vs Oswego. This should not be the case. We should be able to fly any of the fleet and have consistency…for safety sake if nothing else. So, how do I recommend we do that. Well, upgrading all the 430’s to the Avidynes would be ideal, but I”m sure the challenge is cost, that would be $30,000 to complete right?. Then I think they should all be set up with consistent Aspens. I would like to see 1500’s in all, but again, cost is the issue. So at a minimum, all the 172’s should have a single panel Aspen, but ideally a double panel to allow ipad connectivity. Its almost christmas, so you asked what my list was. Realize it is not so much based on cool and fancy, its based on safe flight and the ability to plug in a new IFR route after you have taken off and they decide the direct you filed is no longer ok.

    As the regulations change, we need to also consider ADS-B. And in flight weather, which honestly is more valuable than having a digital heading indicator in my book. So also add some permanently mounted Stratus or equiv.

    Happy holidays

  5. Hi Everyone,

    First, I really think we should get at least one more Stratus or similar device (Garmin GDL 39) and some 34v cigarette chargers to the our iPads and Stratus’ charged on long flights.

    I agree the other about keeping the GPS units consistent across the fleet. Sure there are problems with the 430s, but it really is nice to hop in a plane and only have to wonder where the headset jacks are. It would be nice to get a 430 into at least one trainer. Maybe we could upgrade the Mooney GPS since it requires extra training and goes on more IFR trips and then put the extra 430 into N6230Q. I have used 152s for short trips (especially when 172s aren’t available) and it would be nice to have an up-to-date GPS and database in plane.

    I think it may be a better investment to continue with the Aspen revolution. I don’t know all the details but it’d be great to have the Mooney and N97266 Aspens integrated with the iPads. Also it would be nice to have some sort of engine/fuel monitoring system in 266.

    Just my two cents.

  6. Wow, such varied and thoughtful comments… I won’t say much here other than… I agree with Glenn and Thomas in that we should have consistency… if we update GPSes we need to stick to Garmin… how about the GTN-650 TOUCHSCREEN GPS/NAV/COM? it’s like a Garmin 430, I-pod and MFD in one! http://www.aircraftspruce.com/catalog/avpages/ngar650.php

    We could then move a 430 to one of the 152’s.
    Agree with Glenn, ADS-B is also a consideration we need to think about…

    I like the 430’s functionality, it’s not perfect… But the organization of information is that all the bad, if one takes he time to learn where everything is… everything is relatively easy to find. I suppose no matter what one does one could find fault with anything; but over all the 430 is an industry standard for good reason.

    And, Apsen is a great tool and necessary for training pilots in this century’s technically advanced world. Once one takes the time to get acquainted with it’s not a problem. Steam gauges are so two decades agos…

  7. I wanted to add a follow-up in response to some of the excellent points brought up by everyone. First, I agree that we should aim for consistency across the fleet as far as possible.

    With that said, I’m not fully convinced about the “let’s outfit all 172’s with Aspens” suggestion. I absolutely believe that the Aspen has significant advantages and provides a better experience than the six-pack overall (once you learn to use it properly). However, there are two issues I wanted to bring up more explicitly.

    1) While steam gauges are older technology, many planes across the world still use them and I am very glad I have been able to train on them. Even if all East Hill 172’s get outfitted with Aspens, I am glad I have the ability to fly IFR on a six-pack in a plane that I may rent in another part of the country or another part of the world. By analogy, I am glad I first learned to drive on a stick-shift car and consequently know how to use one although I mainly drive automatic transmission cars on a daily basis. This argument will of course get weaker with time, but I am not convinced we are already at the stage where the ability to fly instruments on a six-pack is an optional skill for a fully competent pilot.

    2) I personally lack adequate information on the reliability of the Aspens – and, being in computer science, I am highly suspicious of the reliability of any device with a chip in it. This is perhaps (even likely) excessive caution on my part, but I would like more evidence to believe that these are unlikely to fail unexpectedly. Or at least that an Aspen failure is no more likely than a vacuum failure on a six-pack. I have heard at least one anecdote about the Aspen in 266 spontaneously rebooting on someone while he was above an overcast. So, as we consider adding more technology – which I think is absolutely the RIGHT thing to do – I think we also need to start a discussion on the expected reliability of these devices and set up some explicit training on emergency procedures for handling failures.

    With that said, if the general consensus is that Aspens in all the 172s is the best way to go, I am happy to go along with that.

  8. Has anyone ever used or currently use the ForeFlight Checklist app for the iPad? It seems like it may be helpful if it does what it claims and not too expensive.

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