I recently did some upgrades to my avionics and thought I would share my experiences.
I started with a Garmin GNS430, Garmin 327 transponder, GRT Sport SX EFIS with an ARINC unit, and a TruTrak Digiflight 200 A/P with GPSS but no vertical commands.
I went to Oshkosh this year with a mission to look into upgrading my A/P which would allow me to shoot coupled approaches, not that I wouldn?t hand fly an approach but it is nice to have the option. I do not intend to fly any hard IFR but would like the ability to transition through layers and shoot an approach when needed.
In speaking to TruTrak about the Vizion 385 they advised me to chat with GRT to see if the unit could actually be used to shoot a coupled approach.
The guys at GRT told me I would need purchase a software upgrade to add the vertical A/P commands, which I did. This would allow the EFIS to drive the A/P, although I do have a switch that allows the A/P to be driven directly from the 430. GRT also told me I would not get vertical A/P commands from the 430 for a GPS approach, which I knew, they suggested I may want to invest in a WAAS GPS.
The avionics shop I use was at Oshkosh so I stopped to chat with them regarding upgrading to a WAAS GPS. The owner suggested I go look at both Garmin and Avidyne. You have to love Oshkosh for the ability to see all the avionics manufacturers in one venue.
I have been a Garmin user for 20+ years (GNS530 and 430?s) and yet found myself not liking the Garmin 650. I did not like the 100% touch screen nor the icons (I?m not a fan of icons). I also did not like the extra cost for a WiFi card to connect my iPad with the only interface being Garmin Pilot which I don?t use, I use the Fltpln Go app. I was told by the guy demoing the unit Fltpln Go was not supported. The 650 also required a complete tear out of my panel, new tray, new wiring, antenna, cable, the works.
The Avidyne unit I looked at, the IFD440, was a direct slide in replacement for my GNS430, the only changes were changing the antenna to a WAAS antenna and cable to RG400. I liked the hybrid touch screen and buttons, the unit is very intuitive. I also liked the free iPad app, IFD100, which creates a large screen version of the unit and allows for control of the unit, flight plan, radios, etc., it is loaded with Jeppesen charts if you purchase the Jeppesen nav data for the IFD440. The IFD440 has Bluetooth and WiFi at no extra cost, it also comes with a small Bluetooth keyboard, although I don?t know if I would use it.
A third option was to upgrade the GNS430 to a WAAS unit, but spending $4500 on a 16yo unit did not sound like a good idea. Then there is the question of how long Garmin would continue to service the GNS 430 units, although I suspect they will for a while yet.
After Oshkosh I updated the A/P to the Vizion. I was able to keep the existing wiring, TruTrak made up a jumper harness to connect the Vizion to the existing wiring. I also needed to replace the elevator servo.
I then started working on getting IFR current. I found that the 430 would not drive the A/P to enter a hold on a GPS approach, nor would it fly a hold at all, I guess I should have known this but I haven?t flown IFR in years.
The GRT Sport worked well with the 430 and new TruTrak Vizion on shooting an ILS approach and even an ILS backcourse. As for the GPS approach it would work but if there was a hold at the beginning of the approach the A/P had to be used in heading mode, or hand flown. While the 430 could be used for a GPS approach it could not go to LPV minimums.
In early November I finally decided to upgrade to a WAAS GPS unit and went with the Avidyne IFD440. I got a good deal from my avionics shop on a trade in of my 430 which helped keep the cost down. The install of the unit took about 10 min, which included removing the 430, installing the IFD440 and inputting the settings for the ARINC etc. Running the cable for the new antenna took a bit longer as I ended up having to pull the floor out to run the new cable. I did not install conduit under the floors and had zip tied the existing cable in multiple locations under the floor. The new antenna had a slightly larger footprint with a matching bolt pattern so it didn?t require repainting of the fuselage top skin.
I setup the IFD440 WiFi to connect to my uAvionix Echo WiFi as a client and also the iPad as a client. It allows me to control the IFD440 from the iPad, have the charts on the iPad, and have the traffic from the Echo display on the Avidyne iPad app. The Echo is also connected to my GRT Sport SX as is the IFD440 via the ARINC unit. I admit it?s overkill but this eliminates switching between apps during flight, we?ll see how it works out. The small keyboard connects via Bluetooth, I have it paired to the unit, charged up, and in the airplane but not sure if I will use it.
I have flown with the 440 a few times, but have not flown any approaches yet. Jeppesen updates are a breeze and do not require the adapter as the 440 uses a USB stick (supplied with the unit) which plugs into the front of the unit. So far I am impressed with the unit. It is more of a flight management system than a NAV/COM/GPS, maybe that?s the massive jump in technology from a 2003 GNS430 to today. The menus are very easy to navigate and many functions are automated.
Time will tell if I made the right choice. I will have to see how all the units play together once I start flying approaches, although since it is winter in WI and I?m on a grass strip that may be a while depending on the weather.