Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Upgrade Your Plane! Part II


A new panel



Some of the original avionics are removed. The KX 170B and KX 125 are on the left; the GX55 is on the right (with assorted encoders, glideslopes, etc.). Missing are the DG, AI and about five pounds of wiring harness and connectors that were replaced.
Upgradability
Essential to the upgrade project was the selection of premium components that provided immediate improvements in cockpit functionality (and aircraft residual value) and would be the building blocks for future upgrades.

As mentioned before, the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 PFD can be integrated with up to two additional displays to add PFD/MFD capabilities and PFD reversionary redundancy. Cobham’s S-Tec System Twenty is fully upgradable to a two-axis autopilot. Furthermore, System Twenty requires no panel modifications because Systems Twenty and Thirty are a direct replacement for the standard turn coordinator.

The ubiquitous Garmin GNS 430s can be upgraded to support the addition of terrain, traffic and weather data. Furthermore, the older pre-WAAS GNS 430s (like the ones we installed to save money) can be upgraded to WAAS capabilities by sending them to Garmin. In preparing for the WAAS upgrade, the astute avionics team at Wipaire inspected the GNS 430s for WAAS-upgrade capability, ensuring that the integration would be seamless with the EFD1000 and S-Tec System Twenty. Here again, another reason to select the right shop to do the installation work.

Bonus Features
As you’d expect, completing a project of this magnitude offers some value-added perks beyond the improved safety, enhanced residual value and increased functionality of cockpit modernization. When it was all said and done, we were pleasantly surprised to get an increase in useful load, GPS steering and music capabilities (other than AM radio via the seemingly worthless ADF).

Useful-Load Increase: After reviewing the new weight-balance data, we discovered that the panel upgrade project netted a two-pound increase in useful load. Granted, that may not sound like much, but considering that the upgrade included the addition of a second GPS, audio panel, autopilot (complete with servo) and an avionics cooling fan, gaining rather than losing useful load was a nice bonus.

GPS Steering: Wedding the Cobham S-Tec System Twenty to the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Pro provides the GPSS feature that takes autopilot performance to another level of sophistication and accuracy, especially when flying in strong crosswinds.

Music: Finally, adding an auxiliary audio input and proprietary Bose headset jacks into the panel means I can access my iPod’s music library through my Bose Headset X while enjoying the scenery and allowing George to help with the flying chores (at least the heading portion anyway).

In the next issue, read Part III. Upon reaching TBO, an aircraft owner has a number of options: factory-new, factory-rebuilt, overhaul or continue to run the engine beyond TBO. In Part III, we’ll take an in-depth look at the nuances distinguishing one alternative from the next. You may be surprised to discover that what you stand to gain (or lose) with your decision is worth the cost.



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