By Tony Nunes, FBO Manager and Director of Maintenance
Do you have an avionics problem or question? Before flying off to a distant airport, give us a call.
We don’t have an official Avionics Repair Station yet – though we’re working on it – but we can already handle most of the repair work that our customers need here on site.
We’ve been equipped to do 411 and 413 checks for some time. Those are the altimeter, static system and transponder checks required every 24 months.
Moreover, if something is your panel is not working right, we can troubleshoot your problem. We can change out the box and we can go through its setup procedures. We can also do firmware updates.
Avionics repair isn’t what it used to be. In the old days, a tech would have a bench full of test equipment, where he’d open up your box, change out faulty components and then bring everything into alignment. Today, your modern equipment, including everything from Garmin, Avidyne and S-Tec, goes back to the factory for repair. That’s their requirement. Field adjustments are in the form of software configurations and typically don’t require special equipment.
The net result is that we can handle most, if not all, of your needs right here.
Several customers have asked us to install new equipment, most often for ADS-B. New equipment that’s come to market has made that easier, too. Right now, the best option for most airplanes is Garmin’s GTX-345. It goes right into the niche of most airplanes we work on. It gives you ADS-B in and out and works with the other equipment that’s probably installed in your panel. There are some cheaper options, but Garmin is a major manufacturer and you can expect them to stay around to support you.
Sometimes people ask if the manufacturers and installers can handle all the airplanes that will need ADS-B before the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline. That’s a legitimate concern. Fortunately, the new equipment is easier to install, especially if you already have a WAAS antenna, and we’ve seen no shortage of supplies.
In fact, there was a new solution shown this year at Oshkosh that’s ridiculously simple to install. It’s a self-contained WAAS GPS receiver and ADS-B transmitter that sits out on your wingtip, where it replaces your original position light. It draws power from the position light circuit. You just mount it, configure it through Wi-Fi, and you’re set. There’s nothing else to attach and your mechanic doesn’t have to dig through the old wiring harnesses, which is always a risky proposition. This doesn’t give you ADS-B in, but it meets the mandate and you can use a portable solution for receiving ADS-B. If the manufacturer can get it certified and mass-produce it, that could be game-changer for general aviation.
To give you an idea how fast things are changing, we priced ADS-B for one of our jets two or three years ago. It was between $500,000 and $1 million. Today we can do it for a little over $100,000 and get not only ADS-B in and out, but synthetic vision, too. The technology is changing at light speed for all classes of airplanes.
Let’s get back to the question of whether the industry can handle the rush of installations between now and 2020. We have a little over two years left, so it’s too early to panic. Once we get well into 2018, though, if you don’t have a plan, I’d say you need to get moving.
Call us if you’d like to discuss options.