First Word: April, 2023


With airshow season approaching, it’s a good time to think about putting your hands and eyes on the products you’ve been considering. Yeah, it’ll cost you some money and time to get there, but Sun ‘n Fun, AirVenture and some of the other larger gatherings can be the best places to do your research. This includes talking to vendors and other buyers, and in the avionics world, getting a thorough product demo to see how you jibe with the product’s control set and operating logic. Some vendors might fall short, but others just get it.

I got to thinking about the importance of hands-on product demos while putting two of the latest audio panels from PS Engineering and Garmin on my test bench. Forget everything you know about a King KMA24 and other vintage audio panels—these latest audio systems are packed layers deep with features. I wouldn’t consider dropping north of $2000 on either without first sampling the feature set to see which suits you the better. For years, I’ve watched PS Engineering’s Mark Scheuer demo his company’s audio products and others can learn from his approach.

“When I give a demo I first ask about the buyer’s aircraft and their mission. Do they fly VFR or IFR or a combination of both, as just one example,” he told me. Vendors need to realize that many buyers who haven’t shopped for new avionics in years are fish out of water when it comes to this new tech. I’ve seen vendors blow through GPS navigator demos at warp speed while the potential buyer absorbs little if any of it. Take control of the demo by sharing a little bit about your flying and experience using avionics. And when it comes to the nitty-gritty of navigating the feature set of GPS and EFIS, ask the salesperson to demonstrate procedures (airports and approaches) that you’re familiar with. That makes a big difference because you can better compare the new system to what you’re currently using or have used in the past. If you’re sampling multiple brands, have each salesperson demo the same procedures and take notes. Roll some video with your smartphone and play it back later.

If you can’t make it to a show, you’ll need to rely on the shop for an education. This can be a roll of the dice. The problem on the avionics shop level (especially at smaller shops) is that while the techs may be expert installers, many know little about a given system’s operating logic other than the basics. Good shops have active pilots behind the counter to guide customers along. The other problem is that many shops won’t have the product on hand to power up and provide a thorough demonstration. With a choked supply chain, shops are lucky to even have product to deliver the aircraft as promised, let alone have spare systems in a showroom for providing demos.  

Another approach is to simply do some training on your own to get a feel for the product, and there’s plenty of it to be had at all price points. As one example, Garmin’s page has a large variety of training options—from its web-based eLearning to in-person scenario-based training classes. I’ve done this training multiple times and found it to be a huge resource, with experienced and engaging instructors who fly the products on a regular basis. Garmin even offers eLearning courses in subscriptions so you can keep the training going after the purchase. We’ll take a look at avionics training in an upcoming issue of Aviation Consumer. Until then, go find a good demo and let us know how it went. —Larry Anglisano  

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.