Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2016-2017 - 63
screen to display moving-map data
and, later, traffic and weather .
Today, Avidyne, BendixKing and
Garmin all produce newer versions
of the all-in-one avionics package,
all with sharper, more colorful display
screens, faster processors and, the
keys to the kingdom, an IFR GPS
navigator using WAAS .
For Avidyne, the IFD440
and IFD540 deliver the goods;
BendixKing's KSN 770 fills the same
bill; and Garmin replaced both original
GNS models with the GTN 650 and
GTN 750 .
All three of these current models
deliver sharper, more-colorful display
screens than the GNS models and
accuracy good enough to fly precision
approaches based solely on satellite
navigation signals .
Any of these options can displace
screens dedicated to weather and traffic sensors - as can the PFDs mentioned above .
And everything else
Engine instruments similarly
advanced during the years since the
first general aviation PFDs came along
in the first half of the 1990s .
Between Electronics International,
JP Instruments and several others,
operators enjoy the option to modernize their instrument clusters, right up
to and including fuel-level monitoring,
fuel-flow reporting, along with all the
usual engine health data and electrical-system health and load .
Some of this data may be wired to
the MFD or PFD used, as long as a
data-sensor feed exists for routing the
information to the digital screens .
Modern, no-moving-parts fuel-level
sensors can replace analog sensors
with their wire-mounted floats and variable impedance sensors; ditto for temperature and pressure sensors, heat
sensors and more .
With a little integration planning,
new sensors can be connected to
the digital cockpit screens for display,
eliminating the need for separate clusters of gauges and instruments reflecting powerplant and electrical-system
In reality, the biggest limitation for
many pilots will be their wallets .
But accomplished in steps, the
costs can be metered to make each
step more affordable and still achieve
the desired end - a modern, electronic flight deck that saves weight,
reduced power demand on the electrical system, and frees panel space by
combining multiple functions on one
easy-to-read display screen .
The choices are there
Planning a panel makeover need
not break the bank if accomplished
in steps . Upgrading to a basic glass
instrument can cost in the high four figures range, plus installation . Planning
an avionics step up after a couple of
years - and a similar investment - can
help make a tired panel into something
closer to the state-of-the-art .
But there remains one non-panel
system to consider when replacing
analog instruments and old radios with
new digital systems .
Power; specifically, electrical-system power .
A PFD takes more juice to power
than the typical turn indicator - the
one flight gyro of the three typically
powered by the electrical system . The
air powering the other two gyros usually comes off an engine-driven air
pump using either pressure or vacuum
to spin the gyro wheels .
While not substantial, the power
needed to light the display screens
of an all-in-one may, when added to
the power for the GPS and two VHF
radios, exceed the demand imposed
by the radios removed .
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An early part of the long-term makeover process should include weighing
whether the existing alternator - or
generator on many older aircraft - can
handle the anticipated current demand .
This can be of particular
importance if the progressive panel
upgrade process throws in an
autopilot or redundant displays .
And somewhere in the process of
planning the long-term upgrade, you
may want to consider adding some
form of standby electrical power -
perhaps an alternator in place of
the newly superfluous air pump that
originally drive two or more flight
It's all part of the planning for a
progressive upgrade, one partialpanel step after another . q
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