AEA Convention 2023: Supply Chain Loosens

Shops and manufacturers seem to be charging forward in an avionics retrofit market where qualified techs are scarce.

Like the organization itself, the annual Aircraft Electronics Association convention and tradeshow is important for member avionics shops and installers. It’s a good place for quality training, to learn about the latest regulatory issues and to interact directly with manufacturers. It’s also a place for new product announcements. With over 125 exhibitors and representation from over 300 companies from 16 countries, this year’s convention in Orlando, Florida, was well-attended and the mood was positive for good reason.

I sensed that while supply chain issues aren’t exactly over, the climate is better than it was at last year’s show, and perhaps better than it was at AirVenture last summer. Still, shops and manufacturers I talked with said that FAA approvals are a hurry-up-and-wait process, and it’s still a huge challenge to find skilled avionics installers and troubleshooters. This means longer downtimes when aircraft are on the shop floor, and labor rates certainly aren’t going down. 

On the product front, Avidyne (it won AEA associate member of the year) is jumping on what it sees as increased demand for its IFD-series GPS units, mainly because of Garmin sunsetting the support for the GNS navigators. The IFD440 and larger IFD540 will slide in with minimal wiring and install hardware changes. Tom Harper at Avidyne had a good point that Avidyne dealers embrace these units because there’s minimal effort to put them in. Think of it as filler work—fly over in the morning and fly it home in the afternoon with a spanking new GPS to replace the obsolete Garmin.

Avidyne was also showing the Vantage flight displays, which are big 12-inch replacements for the long discontinued Avidyne Entegra displays that were standard equipment in earlier Cirrus SR22s and SR20s, plus a couple of Piper models. Avidyne’s Tom Harper said the FAA approval process is moving along, but slowly, and that the order books have been filling up. Unlike the IFD navigators, these aren’t drop-in replacements for the Entegra. Since they are larger, there will be panel work to do, which in the Cirrus models will require new metal. The Vantage displays for the Cirrus (pictured below) are currently priced at $16,500 each, or $33,000 for the pair in models with an Entegra PFD and MFD.

AeroLEDs was showing off its new Sunspot 36-4000 LED landing light. It’s a powerhouse at 75 watts and has the highest candela (200,000-plus) on the market for a PAR 36 LED landing light. With a 15- by 15-degree beam angle and 6500 lumens, you’ll see it from 30 miles away. The new lights drop in to the PAR 36 mount, and there’s an -H model with a wigwag pulse light feature that requires an additional wire. The new Sunspot has FAA-PMA and STC approval. The typical retail price is $349. We’re preparing an LED lighting roundup in an upcoming issue of Aviation Consumer.

True Blue Power (a division of Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics) was showing off new main ship lithium-ion batteries and hoping for more market penetration—including experimentals and 14-volt applications. Priced at $2499, the TB28-14 is a 26-amp-hour battery that weighs 10 pounds, and the company is working on FAA approval for certificated aircraft. There’s also a 28-volt version—the TB14—priced the same as the 14-volt model.

As for the worker shortage that continues to worsen, AEA launched in hopes of attracting future workers to the market. The organization added Nick Brown, a dedicated staffer, to direct the workforce development effort. Focus includes hiring more former military technicians and women. “We’ll be talking about this a lot and our focus will be on the pipeline for future workers,” AEA President and CEO Mike Adamson said on the opening day of the convention. 

The Aircraft Electronics Association is a respected voice of the GA avionics industry. Founded in 1957, AEA represents roughly 1300 member companies in more than 40 countries. It also includes avionics manufacturers, repair facilities, test equipment manufacturers and also airframe manufacturers. 

Larry Anglisano
Editor in Chief Larry Anglisano has been a staple at Aviation Consumer since 1995. An active land, sea and glider pilot, Larry has over 30 years’ experience as an avionics repairman and flight test pilot. He’s the editorial director overseeing sister publications Aviation Safety magazine, IFR magazine and is a regular contributor to KITPLANES magazine with his Avionics Bootcamp column.