Companies that sell high technology sometimes lose sight of the fact that when it doesnt work-at all, let alone correctly some of the time-buyers become profoundly disgusted. Sometimes irretrievably. In my view, some of Avidynes datalink customers appear to be getting to that point. As we report on page 4 of this issue, weve been getting an earful from some of them about what they view as poor performance of Avidynes Orbcomm-based weather datalink system. The receiver for this system is standard equipment in Avidynes latest color MFD, the EX500. With the addition of an antenna and a service subscription, datalinked weather is at your fingertips. Except when it isnt. Owners have complained about delays awaiting NEXRAD imagery while flying in conditions where its urgently needed.
To its credit, Avidyne has worked diligently to correct this shortcoming and the company says performance has been improved. But several customers we talked to arent convinced the low-earth-orbit satellite technology Avidyne has picked will ever work satisfactorily. Garmin is using similar technology with its GDL49 datalink receiver and has found the limitations of the system so frustrating and difficult-to-correct that some customers have asked for and been given a refund. Garmins latest software and electrical noise filter packages have further improved performance but at this juncture, the sun may be setting on Orbcomm datalink.
Because the datalink receiver is integrated into the MFD and because many owners bought the hardware to replace onboard weather radar indicators, Avidynes options arent quite as clear cut as Garmins. But Avidyne needs to understand that some customers are losing patience with technology they view as only half-way right. Were all full-up-to-here with hardware that doesnt plug-and-play, software that locks up and gadgets that dont perform. Although Avidyne has worked the problem in good faith, some customers are annoyed at what they see as black-art fixes that dont seem to resolve the underlying shortcomings. And in the end, customer perception isnt everything, its the only thing.
Avidyne has proven to be a shining gem on the avionics horizon, with innovative engineering and well-made, high-value products. (Indeed, see page 10 of this issue for more on that.) But we think it made a technological wrong turn with Orbcomm datalink-and lets face it, Garmin did the same-and it needs to mend fences with customers dissatisfied with the product. A brother-in-law deal on the new XM receivers might be a good starting place, in our view. Our sense is that some EX500 datalink customers are standing by for a reach-out-and-touch from Avidyne.
We Missed Ya
Last months review of electronic chart products revealed a dirty little secret about the inside workings of Aviation Consumer: We didnt include all of the products available. Roger Stenbock of www.flightprep.com wrote to complain that we overlooked his companys ChartCase product-mea culpa-and another company wondered why we didnt wait another 30 days to include the product they would soon be introducing.
The truth is, where practical, we try to include all of the available offerings in a class of products but sometimes we omit products because (a) we dont know about them or (b) there are time and space constraints or (c) some other reason, which we try to explain in the article. Frankly, we simply missed ChartCase and well examine it in a future issue. Meanwhile, if youre one of the 900 or so makers of an electronic charting product, be sure to add us to your Christmas card list.