2003 AVIONICS, ELECTRICS, & CONTROLS
June, 2003 - It's been a pretty crappy year for consulting. I don't know how I'll afford more than basic VFR instruments (or any engine at all), but we'll see what develops as I build the rest of the plane.
Aug 5, 2003 - I'm back from a great week at AirVenture, Oshkosh. It was lots of fun, and I learned a lot. I spent most of each day in the workshops. I spent 2 whole days with Kent White on metalworking. I did a composites class, and I spent another whole day at a workshop on building a Superior 360 engine. I am still agonizing over engine choices, and still thoroughly confused by avionics choices. See my engine page for the latest updates there. While at OSH, I bought my control stick grips and an engine pre-oiler from Infinity Aerospace, and the AOA Professional angle of attack indicator system from Proprietary Software Systems (AUG '05 - now called Advanced Flight Systems.
This is the grip I ordered, with a coolie hat for trim, and 5 other switches. Any other grip I've seen has a maximum of a coolie hat and 4 switches.
This is the Pro angle of attack indicator. Even though I haven't flown using AOA, it sure makes a lot of sense to me. I looked at 2 other brands at the show, but I liked this display (and audible warning) better, and this brand doesn't use any probes hanging out into the airstream, like the others do. Of course, it was also by far the most expensive. The display alone was $600 more than their same system with an LED indicator system. Awful expensive display......
Aug 12, 2003 - Receive and inventory my Angle of Attack system.
This is the computer for the Angle Of Attack system, with the cover removed.
Here is the whole kit for the Angle of Attack system.
Aug 18, 2003 - While I admit to a lot of confusion so far, especially regarding EFIS & related traffic, weather, and terrain avoidance displays, these are what I have leaned most toward so far:
Full Garmin (340/430/530/327) or UPS IFR stack; nav/com/gps, audio, xponder
2 or 3 axis autopilot - maybe Tru-Track
Chelton or Blue Mtn EFIS
Vert card compass
Aileron trim, elevator trim, & flap position indicators
Backup electric or (probably) vacuum primary flight instruments (small)
Engine monitor with alarms - I am stuck with non-capacitance-type fuel level senders, though (due to Van’s QB tanks), so that’s an issue with some of them
Proprietary Software AOA Pro instrument
I don’t expect to have any switches or breakers taking up space on the panel proper. At this time, I think there’s plenty of room above my legs for a panel addition at the bottom to contain all the switches and breakers, or I can just make a whole new panel that runs a bit taller than stock. I have ordered the Infinity grips with coolie hat and 5 other switches for each side. I am also considering making a console and using a throttle quadrant, with an Infinity or other grip with more switches on the throttle. I haven’t decided yet what switches should go where.
Aug 25 - Spent several hours talking to David at Avionics Systems, studying avionics choices, and studying the Eggenfellner electric plans & instructions and how the Eggenfellner electric setup would coordinate with my panel. I've decided I don't need vacuum gages as backups, so the whole panel will be electric. Received my order for Bill VonDane's landing light wig-wag flasher kit. 7.5 hr
Aug 26 - Studying avionics choices. Looking heavily at Chelton Flight Systems Sierra and Grand Rapids Technologies (GRT) EFIS systems, and Garmin 430/530 or UPSAT CNX80 GPS/Nav/Com. Studying CNX80 CD I got at OSH. Downloaded 430 and 530 training/simulator software from Garmin's site, and spent quite a bit of time playing with that and comparing the 530 to the CNX80. I am currently leaning toward a Sierra EFIS on top, backed up by a Grand Rapids EFIS under that, and the UPS CNX80 for GPS/Nav/Com. The Sierra EFIS is definitely better than the Grand Rapids EFIS, but it's also $31K vs $7K. One Sierra - maybe; two no way, and the GR does have some features not found on the Sierra. So, one of each may kill several birds with one stone.
I've pretty much written off the Blue Mountain EFIS. I have heard less-than-ideal things about their reliability, and their display is limited to PFD on the left half and the right half split into upper and lower displays, with no ability to change that. The GRT will let me select full screen for any of the displays, or select a combination of split screens. Also, the Blue Mountain booth people at OSH left me a bit less than impressed; the person I talked to knew next to nothing, and the only one who knew the product was swamped with people around him. And finally, I got their product CD at OSH, but it comes up in my PC as "unformatted". The GRT is also a new product, but David at Avionics Systems seems to be pretty convinced of the viability and reliablility of the GR. 2.0 hr
Aug 27 - Avionics planning, study CNX80, practice on Garmin 530 simulator/trainer. 7.0 hr
Aug 29 - While at the track, studying avionics brochures, and updating web site info. 4.0 hr
Sep 1 - Wrote to Garmin and asked for a copy of the CNX80 training/simulator software that comes with the CNX80.
Sep 5 - Got my new Kitplanes magazine and went right to the avionics reviews. The Blue Mountain Avionics EFIS/One seemed to really stand out, so I got out my avionics brochures and spent the evening studying them, reconsidering the Blue Mountain, and comparing the Blue Mountain and Sierra EFIS systems. Sent email to BMA (Blue Mountain Avionics), asking for a new product CD that works. 5.5 hr
Sep 6 - Studying Grand Rapids, Blue Mountain, and Sierra EFIS systems. 2.0 hr
Sep 7 - Got email from BMA CEO, Malcolm Thomson, saying that their CD is actually a DVD. Plugged the DVD into my stereo system and watched it several times. It was a pretty good presentation. IF it works as claimed, it sure looks good. Emailed Malcolm and some BMA users with a barrage of questions about the BMA.
I really prefer my backup EFIS to be a different brand than the main display, in case there is a problem related to one brand. That big ole BMA EFIS sure takes up a lot of panel. The Sierra synthetic vision terrain modeling is highly touted as being excellent, but IMHO it pales in comparison to the BMA. The Sierra has the HITS Highway In The Sky, though, which looks good. One thing that added to BMA's credibility is that they're partnered with Lancair now; that's a positive indication.
Sep 8 - Got emails from Malcolm Thomson and BMA Tech Support, providing good detailed answers to my questions. BMA's stock is going up every day in my book.
Sep 11 - David at Avionics Systems has been very helpful and responsive with helping me get my panel designed. I am appalled at the poor customer service and responsiveness I've gotten from some of the other panel builders, especially considering I am looking at spending $50K or more with them. It's interesting how perceptions can change, and how the people staffing a trade show booth can make such a big difference in perceptions. I was favorably impressed with the line I got from the Aerotronics people at OSH, and figured I'd be going with them for my panel. At that time, Avionics Systems was a second choice. After the show, I wrote to Aerotronics, asking for info on building a panel. First, they sent me an email, re-asking questions that were already answered in the first email. Then a couple days later I got another email from a different person there, basically asking if I was REALLY planning to go with such a fancy panel. I assured him I was serious, then he sent me a half-hearted poor attempt of a sketch, apparently made on a non-RV-7 panel. I wrote back with some questions, and never heard from them again. I wrote to Gulf Coast Avionics with the same list of specifications, and never heard back from them at all. I emailed Gulf Coast a couple times, and got no response. I emailed the Gulf Coast president, Rick Garcia, and got no response. Finally, I printed out the email and mailed it to Rick, telling him how unhappy I was with his company's lack of responsiveness. He did finally respond to that, but of course by then it was WAY too late. Apparently a $60,000+ avionics system isn't important enough for these people to be bothered with. What is WRONG with these people?? They spend tens of thousands of dollars on marketing, advertising, and going to shows. Then they ignore customers with money in hand. I highly recommend that people avoid Gulf Coast Avionics and Aerotronics.
Sep 11 - I am working this week in the Nashua, NH area, so I went by the Nashua Airport and met Gary Newsted. He showed me his RV-9A. He's got a very nice plane, with the same Eggenfellner Subaru engine and Blue Mountain Avionics EFIS I plan to use. He showed me the use of the BMA EFIS. He was a very early adopter of the BMA EFIS, and he's been through a LOT of development pains with BMA. His EFIS is nice, although it does still have some bugs. He also mentioned that he does not recommend the RV as an IFR platform.
Sep 12 - Got my UPSAT (now Garmin) CNX80 training software CD. Will let you know what I think of it when I get a chance to try it. Drove to Fulton, NY (5 hr) for RV Forums. I was going to rent a plane & fly there, but I waited too late in the week to reserve the plane for the day.
Sep 13 - RV seminars all day - riveting, alternative engines, first flight prep, and an extensive electrical seminar, including multiple handouts and a CD with more info. Met and talked with Mike Seager about the RV as an IFR platform. He does not recommend it. Perhaps I need to reconsider some of my grander avionics choices, although that question to him evolved in to a larger discussion with others at the table about how much ice buildup you could still fly with, so maybe he was thinking of things like icing when he answered the question. I NEVER plan to fly in ice, or heavy turbulence, but I'd like to be ready for anything short of that.
Sep 17 - I tried the Garmin CNX80 training CD last night. It appears to be a thorough trainer, but it is a bit of a disappointment to me, because it does not include any SIMULATOR functionality. This is because the trainer tells me the CNX80 comes with its own built-in simulator. So, normally one would not have this CD without having purchased the CNX80, and thus could do simulations there. I am also wondering how the Garmin purchase of UPSAT is going to shake out. Based on MANY bad experiences with software, ISPs, Renewable Energy products, and other areas, when one bigger company buys up a smaller one, the smaller company's products and support go out the window. So, I'm still waiting and thinking about it.
Sep 19 - Been having problems with the ePanelBuilder site. Wrote to Bill VonDane and he said to delete the panel*.xml from my PC, as it must be corrupted. Did that & ePanelBuilder worked fine. Laid out a couple more possibilities, based on the BMA:
Sept 22 - I've been comparing the Blue Mountain Avionics autopilot servos with those of Trutrak. When I first saw the BMA servos, I thought they looked HUGE, so I got this info on their size; 8.5" long, 3.1" high. 5" high with arm, 3.375 deep, and weigh 3.5 pounds each. The Trutrak servos look much smaller. Will update here when I get that info back from them. If I go BMA EFIS, I will have to use their servos, so that may be part of the deciding factor on EFIS systems. If I don't go BMA EFIS, I will definitely use Trutrak for the autopilot. Spent some time looking at servo installation pictures. The BMA site shows their roll servo installed under the cabin floor, but I am already using that space for the aileron trim. The servo is so big, I doubt it will fit in there with the aileron trim. The Trutrak site and Dan Checkoway's site show an R-7 installation with both the aileron trim and the Trutrak servo installed under the floor panel. 1.0 hr
Sep 23 - Got info on the Trutrak servos. They ARE quite a bit smaller and lighter. Looked at from the side (as with the BMA servos mentioned above), the "C" servo is about 4.5" long, 4" deep, and 2.5" high, 3" high with arm, and weighs 2.5 pounds. The "B" servo is 3.9" long, 4" deep, 2.5" high , 3" high with arm, and weighs about 2 pounds. I had to really DRAG this info out of the Tru-Trak people, and I never did get an explanation as when one would use a "B" servo and when one would use a "C" servo. 1.0 hr
Oct 1 - Finally connected with Kirk Hammersmith at Chelton, after trading many vmails. Got some details on the Sierra EFIS. He said he'd get me info on seeing one in person, to help finalize purchase choice.
Oct 10 - Finally got my Infinity grips - it's been over 2 months. No word on the pre-oiler. I emailed them last week, asking for status, but no response; not too impressive. The grips look OK, though.
Here are my grips and relay board.
Nov 17 - started wiring landing lights. Ordered the AeroElectric book and a bunch of wiring supplies from B&C. I sent a second email to Gulf Coast Avionics, but got no reply to that one, either. I printed the email and mailed it to the GCA president. He sent me an email & apologized for screwups.. I never did hear back from Kirk Hammersmith of Chelton/Sierra EFIS aka "Direct To Avionics".. I guess my intention to buy his $30K EFIS system wasn't important enough for him to bother with. Oh well; that finalizes my choice of secondary EFIS as the Grand Rapids Technologies (GRT). Also, Jan Eggenfellner (another highly responsive person, which is one reason I chose his engine system) recently announced his enhanced compatibility between the Subaru system, the Grand Rapids Technologies engine monitor, and the GRT EFIS, so one more reason for going with GRT as secondary. I am now fairly sure I will go with BMA for primary EFIS. Their system still has a few bugs, but I am very impressed with their efforts, their openness and their responsiveness, both in personal emails and on their discussion site. I should send GRT some questions, to see how responsive they are. If companies can't be responsive when they want your money, you KNOW they won't be responsive once they get the money.
Nov 21 - Received, inventoried, put away Van's #6 Lighting System Kit. 1.0 hr
$750 bucks worth of lighting kit!
Nov 24 - I came across the SteinAir web site. It looks like he's got lots of good stuff at good prices. Wish I'd seen that site before ordering all that wire & crimpers. His wire is definitely cheaper than B&C, and he's got an even bigger color selection. Stein has also been quite helpful with good suggestions. I also ordered my ELT from him, as he got good quantity pricing.
Nov 30 - Receive, sort, put away B&C order. The crimper I got from them was made in Taiwan, so that was disappointing, but it does appear to be of reasonable quality. I was thinking of sending it back, but Stein said his is Taiwan, too. I read some of the AeroElectric Connection book that was part of the B&C order. I tested some wire I picked up years ago from a military aerospace contractor. It seems to be 19 strand, plated copper wire, with teflon insulation, so I should be able to use some of that in my wiring, although I probably bought enough from B&C to do several planes. It's certainly heat resistant; a 250 watt soldering iron directly on the insulation has no effect on it at all. 2.5 hr
This is the array of different sizes and colors of wire I got from B&C. The same wire would have been cheaper at SteinAir.
I got the 2 crimpers with red handles in my B&C order. The upper one is for solderless terminals and the lower one is for barrel connectors. The upper one is made in Taiwan, same as the one from SteinAir, but it seems to be decent quality.
Dec 3 - Tried putting Infinity grips on and the adapter for the RT side does not fit. Sent email to Infinity about that and about returning the pre-oiler, as I have decided I'd rather use an Accusump accumulator-type pre-oiler. I later got a reply from Infinity, and the adapter DOES fit the RT side stick - it goes on the outside of the stick, not inside, and the powder coating at the top of the stick has to come off in order for it to fit.
The mounted grip looks pretty cool. For now, I just fed the cable out the bottom. I plan to drill a hole in the side of the stick weldment, as close to the pivot point as possible.
Dec 12, 2003 - Received my ELT from SteinAir at a special group discount buy.
Here's my ELT package.
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