First Word: May, 2023

Supply Chain: Survival By The Fittest

That’s Kranston Kincaid on camera at Sun ‘n Fun last March. Last year when we reported on his company, Superior Aircraft Components, which makes custom instrument panels (don’t confuse it with Superior Air Parts—he’s tired of fielding calls about engine matters), Kranston captured my attention for a few reasons. At the time, the industry was struggling—badly—with supply troubles. It hit the avionics retrofit market especially hard because shops couldn’t get high-priced equipment when they needed it, while shop floor time was backing up longer than anyone imagined it could.

Part of the longer stay at the shop is because building custom instrument panels takes a lot of planning and sometimes several tries to get it the way the customer aesthetically expects, let alone fitting the new layout. But to take that distracting burden off the shop, Superior has become a growing source of some of the nicest custom panel work I’ve seen. As you’d expect, today’s graphics software and metal cutting systems have stepped the capability of panel building to a high level. Frustrated when he tried to source a new panel for his own airplane, Kincaid figured out how to do it right, and even better, figured out how to pump out highly detailed panels in short order—like a few days in many cases. I think it’s a huge resource for shops (and kit builders) struggling with workflow and supply delays. Check out the video linked here for a look at Superior’s work.

And speaking of supply chain, maybe it’s getting better. After a mostly productless and bland AirVenture last year, my goal at Sun ‘n Fun was to check the supply chain pulse, and I came home optimistically enthusiastic that things are getting better. Companies that faced the problem head-on by upgrading product lines and just changing the way they produce stuff have survived. Others are gone or barely hanging on. Dynon Avionics called the all-clear in March when it announced it was back to a normal delivery schedule after a long stretch of concerning slowdown.

I asked Garmin’s Jim Alpiser how it’s going compared to the way it was last summer and he said product is starting to flow again. I can attest to at least part of it. The glass suite for our Van’s kit project went from a projected eight-month lead time to a bit over one month. But don’t think the problems of supporting older equipment—no matter what it is—are over. I predict more companies will simply abandon support for aging stuff a lot sooner than we’re used to. When I asked about Garmin’s warning that support for the mighty GNS series navigator is running out, Alpiser reminded me that I installed one of the first GNS units 25 years ago. I tried to estimate­—in tens of thousands—the number of boxes that have made it into panels in 25 years. Plus, I have to wonder what that’ll do to the price of the usually strong-selling used GNS navigators—which have notoriously fetched top dollar. Garmin didn’t say when it would stop supporting the units, but you can bet the parts bins will be empty sooner than later.  Larry Anglisano 

See a video on Superior custom instrument panels at

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.