Plane & Pilot
Monday, September 1, 2003

Project Bonanza Part II

The easy part was done. We had bought an airplane. Now we had to get busy with new avionics, paint and interior to create our vision of the perfect flying machine.

Bonanza Our plan was simple: Choose a relatively economical, high-performance airplane for business and personal trips. Find one that’s in great shape, but as “original” as possible to simplify the upgrade process. Then add avionics, interior and paint to transform our selection into a modern, exciting aircraft. “Project Bonanza: Part I” chronicled how we decided on a 1982 Beech B36TC turbocharged Bonanza, completed a prepurchase inspection and pilot checkout, made some initial upgrades, and flew the airplane for a year as we evaluated options and planned our “project.”

The time finally came to get to work. Although many of our upgrades satisfy multiple goals, we can classify the items of our project into three areas: avionics, safety and comfort, and style.

Getting There
With very few exceptions, the panel of the Project Bonanza was strictly 1982. Then-top-of-the-line Collins Microline radios, including a Bendix/King KFC-200 flight director/autopilot and HSI (horizontal situation indicator), were (and are) still extremely capable avionics. But they’re decades old. Modern lightplane navigation allows for far greater precision and situational awareness in the form of Global Positioning System (GPS), “direct-to” capability and moving-map displays with overlays of weather, terrain and traffic information. We wanted the Project Bonanza to be our version of a “high-technology transport,” the best-looking, best-equipped Bonanza out there.

A search of the growing GPS and MFD (multi-function display) market zeroed in on the UPSAT Apollo MX20 as our display of choice. Boasting a full six-inch diagonal screen with 640 x 480, 65,536-color clarity for moving-map situational awareness, the MX20 takes input from a variety of navigation, weather, charting and traffic-plotting sources, and displays it all in an easily understood, sunlight-visible picture—doing in nanoseconds what pilots in the past had to do by scanning multiple indications, overhearing air traffic control (ATC) and forming a picture (likely somewhat erroneous and incomplete) in their heads, all while trying to fly the airplane. We can now display our track and course information on sectional or en-route charts, choose to highlight rising terrain or access airport and ATC information, and/or monitor Stormscope™ and traffic information on the same picture (more on those options in a moment). With the JeppView™ option, we can display instrument approach procedures right on the panel. It even has SIDs and STARs (Standard Instrument Departures and Standard Arrival procedures) and airport diagrams in the database for navigation to, from and even on charted airports. What a workload reduction and improvement in safety! Yes, we wanted the MX20—and that made the rest of our avionics selection far easier.

To take advantage of UPSAT’s equipment integration, or the ease with which various “boxes” exchange information, we chose a full UPSAT suite to drive our MX20 picture. GPS navigation and our number-one communications come from the UPSAT GX-60 GPS/comm. Even without the MX20, the GX-60 is impressive. A moving-map display aids in orientation alongside displays for the 760-channel VHF communications radio. The GPS is certified for en-route and terminal operations, and can store up to 30 reusable and reversible flight plans (up to 20 legs each) to reduce button-pushing for those heavily-trafficked routes. The comm side includes an active and standby frequency display, a “frequency monitor” function that allows listening to the standby while using the active, a memory of up to the last eight frequencies used (or stored), a “stuck mike” timer that stops transmissions after 35 seconds, capability to monitor non-aviation National Weather Service transmissions and a built-in intercom.

Backing up the primary GPS is an SL30 nav/comm, providing secondary radio capability (with all the features of the GX-60’s “comm side”) and a VOR with localizer and glideslope capabilities that can drive the HSI for ILS (Instrument Landing System) approaches. The SL30 also has a built-in Course Deviation Indicator (CDI) display and a unique Morse code feature that automatically decodes the signal for ease of station identification. At the bottom of the UPSAT stack, the SL70 transponder provides Mode C capability for ATC functions and also feeds altitude information to the GPS for vertical navigation (Vnav).


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