Monday, August 04, 2008

Does the walker choose the path, or does the path choose the walker?

You've heard me say it before: when it comes to airplanes, you need at least two, but no more than five different airplanes to address every need/desire you have as a pilot. You need a travel plane, a fun to fly plane, etc. The reason for the incredible size of the RV community is not just the great product support; that wouldn't explain their popularity in the resale market. It's also because the RV is nearly unique in the way it provides a very good compromise between the most common differing goals. I can fly 170 miles per hour on average, or I can go out and just fly around, enjoying the sensations of flight with the responsive and smooth controls of the RV. With mine, I even get a bit of the Walter Mitty aspect, what with the military paint job.

With regards to that last bit, understand that Mr. Mitty has nothing on me when it comes to flying. I've been daydreaming about flying for at least four decades. Of course at my age, sitting around pondering things like airplanes and flying in general is no longer referred to as daydreaming. I object to the term because the 'dreaming' part of it is no longer the case; in this case the dream has been realized. So I'm "introspectively debating alternate paths regarding the future of Papa Golf," not daydreaming.

I got started down the path of thinking about panel improvements again after flying with Ted in his very well equipped RV-9A. It seems that every time I start down this path, though, the whole thing falls apart for the same two reasons. First, as I plan a panel upgrade I seem to always end up following what seems like a reasonable incremental if-I'm-upgrading-this-I-should-upgrade-that-too path. I start with the bottom line EFIS, for example, bu then option it up, decide it needs a new GPS/Comm to drive it, and I ought to get an engine monitor besides. Too expensive. The second that thing that always stops me is the realization that extensive work would be required to work all of that stuff into my old panel. The work required to do that would take me months, and the risk of dorking it up would be high.

I tried a different approach this time. I consciously started out with the intent to minimize. I realized that I had failed at the point that I added my third or fourth option to a Grand Rapids EFIS, so I started over. I failed again at Dynon, where I added the HSI control panel. So I started over. I quit when I minimalized to the bare minimum and realized that even an AirGizmo in-panel mount and a new Garmin 396 would require panel surgery.

So, you gotta really want it. A lot of money, a lot of work, but what's the benefit? And that's hard to answer. Are there trips where I would like to have had weather reporting and good attitude and navigation instruments? Of course. Most of those are trips that I didn't take because of the iffy forecast, but are they trips that really mattered? Probably not. One of my credos for staying alive in an airplane is to never put myself in the position of having to be someplace. It's why nearly 100% of the trips I do are day trips. So none of my trips are necessary.

But here's where you get into the realm of long-term reasoning. I've come pretty close to playing out Ohio for day trips. I'm getting to the point where I want to make longer trips, but I have to have better avionics for that. But when you think long-term, you also have to consider how long you will have the plane. After all, an easy path to an upgrade is to let some else do the work: just sell Papa and buy a different RV with more stuff in it. That presents an entirely new set of challenges that we have no desire to confront, so we try to create a more flexible path.

Which, at long last, brings me to the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Pro PFD.

No panel change required. It plugs right into an existing hole. Short-term issues halfway addressed. It is also certified for use in store bought planes. In other words, if I wanted to sell Papa and move to a store bought four-seater, I could remove the PFD from Papa and put the old gyros back in. Or, Papa's resale value could be boosted a bit if the new plane was already sufficiently gadgeted. That leaves only the prominent pachyderm in the room: the second half of the short-term issues list: cost. $9,995 sticker price. You more than likely can only get one through dealers (who are having a hard time getting units themselves due to the huge demand) so there may not be a whole lot of difference between street price and sticker price.

Installation is another issue. $3,000 seems steep to me. And it would be the same, if not more, to remove all of the stuff and put it into a different airplane. Even if I could find a shop that would let me do some of the work to reduce the labor costs, the economics just don't work like I had thought they would. And if I wanted to do the work myself, why wouldn't I just get myself a pair of plug-in Dynon EFIS D10As:

I need the second screen for the HSI display:

Here's a picture from the way-back archives showing two Dynon screens taped to Papa's panel:

Mentally replace the engine monitor with the HSI screen, and put the HSI control panel in the space between the Dynons and the altimeter. It's $4,400 for the pair. Well, $4,400 plus options like the HSI control panel:

Oh crap, here we go again! This is the fully optioned first screen:

The second would be $2,420 since it wouldn't include the pitot, transponder converter, or HSI control panel. Which, by the way, I could possibly do without. So it would be five or six thousand bucks total. That's really not bad when you consider that I would only be one decent comm/gps from being minimally IFR capable. The difference in price between the Aspen and the Dynon would be more than enough to replace my Icom radio and old King 89b GPS with a nice Garmin:

For even better IFR capability I would only need an autopilot, and lo and behold, Dynon has one! Or will soon. Either way, it could be added later.

1 comment:

  1. Decisions, decisions, it is always hard to make the commitment. For AP I would recommend a TT pictorial pilot. It is also a back up turn-n-bank. For $2100 you can get a 2 1/4" head (plug in one of your existing holes). For IFR, AP is not only a co-pilot but also a back up instrument. You don't won't to have one integrated with EFIS. Because if EFIS fails, you lose AP too.