Avionics (14)

by Jeffrey Chipetine


A harrowing ordeal creates a customer for life for Electronics International.


The restoration of my R182 Skylane was proceeding as expected, and that included replacing the hazy windscreen with something that had a bit more transparency than “a pair of stove-lids,” to steal a phrase from Samuel Clemens. Sweat equity and a liberal application of dollars were slowly transforming the Ugly Duckling into something more acceptable.

Sticking out of the Skylane’s scratched windscreen was an old school rump-roast-style OAT thermometer coupled with an old bow-tie glideslope antenna at the top. The replacement plan included dispensing with both the meat stick and the formal wear.

Modern engine analyzers offer real-time six-cylinder monitoring of both EGT and CHT—lean find, OAT display, data recording, the whole nine yards. These capabilities far outstretched the simple OEM gauges and instruments installed in the Cessna R182. I unzipped the wallet, and there was much rejoicing.

December 2015

It’s been nine months now since I started my ADS-B installation project. Along the way I’ve sold most of my old avionics, researched and purchased new avionics, and babysat the installation processes.

In addition, I’ve had a complex annual inspection that found corrosion needing repair and have installed auxiliary fuel tanks.

Try these troubleshooting tips before you visit your favorite avionics shop for service.

We all know it takes fuel to fly our aircraft from point A to point B, but we sometimes take for granted that communicating and navigating along the way is just as important to knowing how to manage your engine and fuel reserves.
    After more than 20 years running an avionics shop, I have seen, heard and experienced many different types of navcom problems. Some are really complicated, but many times the issues can be very simple.

If you're not using an iPad in the cockpit, you could be missing out on one of the greatest and most cost-effective innovations for aviation in decades.

May 2015-

No question, the iPad has changed the way we fly. About a year ago, I stopped carrying paper charts completely, and I carry two iPads instead. I even cancelled my Jepps approach plate subscription—which I've had since 1980—because it's all in the iPad now.

A few years back at the Gathering in Waupaca, I spoke to association members about Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) technology and specifically about using an iPad in the cockpit.

Three years later, there are many more uses and apps designed just for aviation and many of them are very good. Here is a brief description of just a few of the apps that are available to a pilot in 2015.

A clear understanding of FAR 91.207 is just the beginning for pilots looking at installing a new ELT.

March 2015-

"ELTs are specialized radio transmitters that sit in the aircraft and are designed to do nothing," says Joan Goodman, president of Emergency Beacon Corp. based in New Rochelle, N.Y. "And they should do nothing—that is, they are designed not to interfere [with other equipment]."
That is, until they're needed. "In the event of an incident, the ELT will either trigger automatically, or can be manually activated," Goodman explained. Automatic ELTs begin transmitting an emergency distress signal only after a significant change in velocity of the aircraft.
There are a number of companies that make 406 MHz ELTs for use in the United States. These include ACK, ACR/Artex, Ameri-King, Emergency Beacon Corp., Emerging Lifesaving Technologies and Kannad.

Factors in the price
A 406 MHz ELT can be costly, and there are several reasons why. First, the parts play a big role. "The signal is so specific and so narrow, you need a very specific oscillator—and it's very expensive," Goodman told me. "If the price of the oscillator came down, prices on ELTs would come down."
The testing process is also a factor in the final price. These devices are built to withstand a lot, and their critical electronics—which Goodman says are "quite small, actually"—need to be well protected. Emergency Beacon's units house these potentially lifesaving electronics under closed-cell polyurethane.
Because a certified ELT is required to put out a five-watt burst signal and transmit on 406 MHz for 24 hours and at 121.5 for 48 hours, it has to have a good power source. "There's only one [element] that'll do that: lithium," said Goodman. And lithium batteries can be pricey.
The inclusion of GPS technology can also drive up the price of an ELT. GPS allows greater detail, but at a significant cost. Emergency Beacon Corp. doesn't offer GPS-enhanced ELTs right now—the technology adds both cost and complication, Goodman says. "The information [already] provided by the satellites will get a rescuer so close that they can typically walk to the site," she explained.

In 1982, journalist Tracy Kidder won a Pulitzer Prize for "The Soul of a New Machine," a book that described the development of a next-generation computer by Data General Corp. and its competitor Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). For engineers in the story, the time-to-market pressure was constant. As Wikipedia notes, "The 'soul' of the new machine comes from the dedicated engineers who bring it to life with their endless hours of attention and toil. The soul is theirs, stored in silicon and microcode."

February 2015-

Thirty-three years later, a similar narrative is playing out just 30 miles from the site of that original drama. Avidyne Corp. of Lincoln, Mass., has introduced the IFD540, a plug-and-play GPS Nav/Com. Pilots are already embracing this exciting new choice in the avionics market. Avidyne's next product, the IFD440, should be available this spring.

Meet Norris Brown
One pilot who embraced the choice is 69-year-old Norris Brown. Brown has logged 2,200 hours since 1973 and flies a Cessna P210 from his home base in Spokane, Wash. His love of flying began in his childhood on a farm in Boulder, Colo. "A flight of four F-102 Delta Dagger jets went zooming over our fields at low level and I thought, 'That is so cool!'"
Brown wanted to join the Air Force as a pilot, but his eyes weren't perfect. With an industrial engineering degree from Oregon State in hand, he applied to the Navy as an engineer and was accepted.
Brown had been wearing contacts, however—and he worried he might have trouble getting a pilot slot. He put off the military eye inspection while he made a quick trip to his personal doctor. Much to his surprise, according to his doctor the lenses had reshaped his corneas. Brown now had 20/20 vision, so he joined the Air Force, becoming an F-4 Phantom navigator.

January 2015-

The choices may seem bewildering (and they can be!),
but at least prices seem to be settling down.

In 2014, EAA AirVenture's exhibit halls were filled with ADS-B vendors who have viable products for the FAA mandate that's coming sooner than we think—January 2020. The infrastructure is already in place, so why not take advantage of the benefits these devices provide right now, before the requirement date arrives?

December 2014-

Active Noise Reduction Upgrade
You can install ANR electronics into an existing passive headset, and you can do it by yourself.

Several months ago I explained the mechanics of human hearing and the physics of passive and Active Noise Reduction (ANR) headsets ("How it works: Noise Reduction Headsets," Leading Edge, March 2014).
The takeaway from that column was Passive+Active Noise Reduction (P+ANR) is superior to Passive Noise Reduction (PNR) only, but the average headset cost—$700 to $1,000—might be out of reach for many pilots.
But what if you could cut the cost down to around $200 by upgrading your existing PNR headset? Would that make the decision any easier?


November 2014-

A rundown of three products on the market today.

inReach Explorer Print-1

October 2014-

A ferry pilot uses this global satellite communicator for practical purposes—and also for fun.

  Ferrying an aircraft is one of the most taxing activities a pilot can undertake. From checking weather to packing the right equipment, your whole focus revolves around one question: How can I complete this flight as safely as possible?