From the April 2015 Issue

Engine Cluster Gauges: Repair or Replace?

Sooner or later you’ll be faced with repairing or replacing an original-equipment engine or system gauge. It is impressive that many OEM manifold pressure, fuel flow, pressure and other gauges produced more than 60 years ago continue to function today. But without regular maintenance, their accuracy could be compromised. One option is to upgrade to an all-in-one electronic engine display, but that requires a sizable investment that might be questionable for basic aircraft. The cheaper alternative is to repair or replace an existing gauge. Here is a field report on available options and the limitations you might encounter.


Current Issue

Latest ADS-B Deals: Install Kills Value

Amid all of the buzz surrounding the announcement of L-3 Aviation’s low-cost NGT-1000 ADS-B solution, I’ve been talking with avionics shops to see just how realistic its estimated $3000 installed price will be. You can read all about the entire L-3 Lynx ADS-B product line—which has plenty of options at multiple price points—on page 11 of this issue. But based on my discussions with experienced installers, L-3’s entry-level NGT-1000 ADS-B Out system isn’t exactly the cure-all for mass, mandate compliance, and that has as much to do with the real costs of installation as it does tightening competition. Good shops consider this, and so should you. An ADS-B project can be the perfect setup for sizable cost overruns and buyer remorse.

Letters: April 2015

My airplane partner and I are upgrading the radios in our piston single to bring them into the present century and to comply with the ADS-B mandate. After much thought and discussion, we decided on Avidyne’s IFD540 box you reviewed in the March issue. Avidyne’s AeroPlan extended warranty plan offers a “free” warranty extension for three years. However, to get the extension, we have to sign a “Waiver, Release and Indemnification” document that could bankrupt us.

Engine Cluster Gauges: Repair or Replace?

Sooner or later you’ll be faced with repairing or replacing an original-equipment engine or system gauge. It is impressive that many OEM manifold pressure, fuel flow, pressure and other gauges produced more than 60 years ago continue to function today. But without regular maintenance, their accuracy could be compromised. One option is to upgrade to an all-in-one electronic engine display, but that requires a sizable investment that might be questionable for basic aircraft. The cheaper alternative is to repair or replace an existing gauge. Here is a field report on available options and the limitations you might encounter.

Pipistrel Alpha Trainer: Light, Efficient, Innovative

The notion that a basic training aircraft should be light, cheap and small has been dented by the advent of the 400 kilobuck Cessna 172, which is none of those things. But one of the companies that hasn’t abandoned the minimalist trainer idea is Pipistrel, the innovative Slovenian aircraft maker that continues to plumb the bleeding edge of aero tech with new designs, one of which is the Alpha Trainer we’ll look at in this review. An electric version may appear this year.

L-3 Lynx ADS-B: Scalable, WAAS Enabled

If you have been holding off on an ADS-B upgrade for lack of choices, go directly to the mother of all ADS-B comparison charts on page 14. The choices are plentiful, while the interface limitations and compatibilities are overwhelming. Adding to the mayhem is L-3 Aviation’s new Lynx ADS-B product line. L-3 says the MSS (for MultiLink Surveillance System) NGT9000 family of radio stack-mounted next-generation transponders is the primary market focus. There are also several remote UAT transceivers in the Lynx MSS line, including the entry-level NGT1000 with its attention-getting $2500 price.

OpenAirplane: Rent While Traveling

When you’re traveling and want to rent a car, so long as you’re 25 or older, have a drivers license and a credit card, it’s a piece of cake. But for airplanes, almost without exception, the reality has been that if you want to do some flying while away from home base, you have to go through the local FBO or flight school’s checkout to rent one of its aircraft. That means at least two or three hours and $300 before you can take the family for a ride—a pretty daunting obstacle.

Aftermarket Oil Coolers: Aero-Classics Dominates

You wouldn’t install a used oil filter on a new or overhauled engine, would you? Of course you wouldn’t, and for the same reason, you shouldn’t reconnect the oil cooler without replacing it, or at least having it properly serviced. Often one of the most neglected components under the cowling, the oil cooler on your engine could be in desperate need of servicing, even if it’s not begging for attention by dribbling oil on the hangar floor. Luckily, there are relatively inexpensive replacement and overhaul options that might provide insurance against premature engine wear. Let’s have a look.

Dynon’s WiFi Interface: Simple, Dirt-Cheap

Why make it complicated? The easiest and cheapest way to connect an iPad with panel avionics is to create a portable, plug-in WiFi network. That’s precisely what Dynon has done with its $35 miniature WiFi adapter. Garmin, Aspen, FreeFlight and others have wireless interfaces, but they all require FAA-certified wired transmitters that mount in the bowels of the aircraft. That can’t be done for $35, but Dynon can by using its secure WPA2-protected WiFi link. The thumb drive-sized device has an integral wireless transmitter, while new operating software enables connectivity with ForeFlight’s Mobile iPad navigation app.

Garmin GDL69 SXM: Price ADS-B Instead

As we’ve been reporting, SiriusXM Aviation is delivering its next-generation datalink weather products (supplied by WSI) over its latest G4 satellite network. The benefit is more weather products included in the entry-level subscription package. The downside is that older receivers won’t work with the newer G4 network. If you have one of these first-gen XM receivers, including Garmin’s popular GDL69 and GDL69A, it continues to receive XMWX weather from provider WxWorx, but for how long is anyone’s guess.

Aviat Husky

Utility airplanes occupy an interesting market niche. Like any other airplane, they take off and land, cruise at altitude, carry a payload and offer some creature comforts. Naturally, just about any spam-can does that and probably can do it faster, more economically and with more pampering of the pilot and passengers. But unlike most other airplanes, utility airplanes are optimized to use short, unimproved fields without drama or damage, carry lots of stuff, require little maintenance and be field-repairable, just a few of the features with which the typical tricycle-gear, all-metal single has trouble.

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