Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 21, 2011

It’s The Little Things: Refurbishing On A Dime

A dozen ideas to upgrade your airplane without breaking the bank

Micro AeroDynamics Vortex Generators
Micro Vortex Generators ( are tiny aluminum blades placed in a spanwise line just behind the leading edge of the wing and horizontal tail surfaces. They control airflow over the upper surface of the wing by creating vortices that energize the boundary layer. This yields improved performance and control authority at low airspeeds and high angles of attack. Vortex generators will typically give you lower liftoff and stall speeds, improved controllability and flight characteristics, safer flying and quick installation. They come ready to paint, and adhere to your airplane with a special adhesive. Priced between $700 and $1,500 for most singles, it's a do-it-yourself application and comes with all the tools and instructions you need.

Seat Refurbishment
Aviation Design ( creates what they call "total comfort package" seats to replace your worn OEM versions. They employ a special viscous foam they call "ComforFoam," which was originally developed for the space program, and whose chief benefit is that it doesn't restrict the body's circulation like conventional foam does. Aviation Design ergonomic seats utilize separate sections with varying densities of foam to offer a total body-support system. They also offer complete interior kits, armrests and side panels for just about any GA aircraft. One of my favorite refurbish ideas is their French-stitched yoke covers (with window covers to match). To top it off, their seats and interiors have earned a boatload of awards.

Rosen Sun Visors
Rosen's Monorail ( and NSA visor designs allow pilots to position them across the windshield or side windows, where direct sunlight creates a problem. Because they're larger and have precision mechanisms, they can be moved to just the right spot, and will stay there. Rosen's STC visor systems are available for just about any aircraft, with features like optical-quality materials, blocking of harmful UVA and UVB rays, and ultraflexible positioning via their patented mounting arm. Rosen's machining standards produce mechanical assemblies that are smooth and precise. They're now factory-original equipment on new Cessna singles.

Power Flow Exhaust System
Pilots are always trying to squeeze a few knots more out of their machines. Since 1997, Power Flow Systems ( has been manufacturing distinctive-looking exhaust systems for GA aircraft. Installing a Power Flow exhaust is similar to installing a bigger engine but at a fraction of the cost. By helping your engine "breathe" better, you get improved fuel economy, more power and less noise. Power Flow introduced a short-stack exhaust option in 2005 that's more streamlined but offers the same performance. Power Flow Systems has STCs for most popular aircraft including Cessnas, Pipers and Mooneys, among others.

There are many options for pilots who want to upgrade their aircraft without going into debt. By combining several "budget" upgrades, owners can completely transform their airplanes, whether to raise the resale value or to get the benefits of a new airplane without the extravagant cost. In these lean economic times, many of us have to stretch our imaginations to keep flying. A simple, low-cost refurbishment of a few critical components could make you feel like you have a new airplane in the hangar. There's something to be said about our old, reliable airplanes, and a simple face-lift could be just what the doctor ordered.


Add Comment