Avionics Warranties: Worth The Investment

Extended-warranty plans for integrated avionics could pay off in a single repair. Read the fine print before you sign the contract.

If you’ve paid for repairs on modern avionics—especially glass cockpit components—you might have wished you bought the manufacturer’s extended warranty plan. That’s because in many cases, the cost of the plan could pay for itself during one trip to the shop. It can also reduce downtime and entitle you to no-charge loaner equipment.

Now that the fleet of glass cockpit aircraft is aging (some models are older than 10 years), we’re seeing more frequent failures of expensive avionics components. That makes it easier for us to recommend buying an extended warranty. Here’s a report on what’s available from three major avionics manufacturers.

Garmin Flitelevel
Garmin offers extended coverage for the components of the G1000 integrated avionics suite and for some aftermarket retrofit products (FliteLevel Select plan). This includes all current production and WAAS-upgraded GNS units.

Garmin told us they are still including the GNS500W and GNS400W-series navigators. That’s a good thing, since the FliteLevel Select plan could add an additional two to four years of coverage, at 400 hours per year. The original factory warranty on a new product is two years. You’ll pay over $1000 for a flat-rate repair on an out-of-warranty GNS530W. In contrast, two years of FliteLevel Select coverage on a pair of GNS units will cost $1995.

A plan for a loaded retrofitted panel with a G600, GTN 750 and GTN650, GDL69 XM receiver, GTS800 traffic system, GTX33 transponder and GMA35 audio system is approximately $6085, for two years of coverage. Garmin dealers can provide custom pricing options, depending on the equipment that’s installed.

What’s not covered? Service bulletins (unless mandatory), failures due to abuse, misuse, accident, natural disasters, unauthorized alteration or repairs, damage caused by other equipment installed on the aircraft, software data and data cards that hold supplemental data (FliteCharts, Jeppesen data, etc).

FliteLevel Select doesn’t cover freight charges to return the failed unit to the factory. It does cover two-day freight service from the factory to the shop. With Garmin’s coverage, units are either repaired or exchanged and no-charge loaners may be supplied at the customer’s request. However, shop labor for installing the loaner unit isn’t covered and you’ll be assessed a late charge if the loaner isn’t returned within 60 days.

The FliteLevel warranty isn’t available for fractional or charter operations, aircraft outside of the United States or Canada (there is an international coverage plan), or for non-individual ownership—such as flight training schools. It can’t be added for aircraft that are out of their original warranty end date by more than one year. G1000 suites are initially covered for two years after delivery. FliteLevel extends coverage for up to an additional three years. The Garmin extended warranty is transferable with the sale of the aircraft. Warranty coverage can add to the value of an aircraft. Some owners told us that the coverage for their glass cockpit helped to sell the aircraft, easing the fears for potentially high maintenance.

FliteLevel covers nearly all components within the G1000 suite, called Line Replaceable Units or LRUs. These include remote transponders, audio systems, heading sensors and those big displays, to name a few. You can purchase coverage on equipment only, or equipment and labor. On average, the price Delta between covering the labor or not is $2000. We would opt to buy the labor coverage given the intense troubleshooting and disassembly effort that’s often required for G1000 repairs. There’s also time-consuming software configuration.

Garmin has an extensive LRU exchange program in place, and our experience has proven that there’s always a generous supply of exchange units on hand. The coverage includes paid air freight outbound and call-tag service for return of the failed unit to the Garmin factory in Olathe, Kansas. You’ll need to have this warranty work accomplished at an authorized Garmin service center, of course, but you’re bound to find one in nearly every region you fly. There’s even AOG emergency service available 24/7.

The Avidyne FlexCare extended warranty product has been discontinued and replaced with the company’s new AeroPlan, which covers Entegra multi-screen systems, the R9 integrated cockpit plus the DFC90 and DFC100 autopilot systems.

Owners currently covered under a FlexCare plan can transfer into AeroPlan and gain an extension on their current remaining warranty by 33 percent. For example, if you currently have 12 months remaining on a FlexCare plan, you will receive an additional four months of coverage after converting to AeroPlan. But as we explain in the sidebar on page 20, converting to AeroPlan also has means you must sign off on a waiver, release and indemnification.

Avidyne has also increased the flat-rate repair costs for units not covered under their warranty. For example, the flat-rate cost for an Entegra MFD is now $5900—up from a previous $2150. An Entegra PFD repair that used to be $3250 is now $5900. The DFC90 autopilot is $4900, which used to be $2150.

For new customers, there’s a 30-day grace period before any coverage takes effect. This new coverage starts at $2000 for a one-year plan, $2900 for two years and $3700 for three years of coverage.

What doesn’t it cover? Bezel and glass hardware. Avidyne charges an additional $1300 for Entegra units ($2000 for R9 products) requiring these repairs and exchange replacements. Units with aftermarket screen protectors, scratches, excessive wear, or damage to the glass and/or bezel will automatically be subject to this additional fee. You can purchase a plan that covers glass protection, for an additional $1775 for a year, which covers a PFD and an MFD.

There’s also a no-trouble-found (NTF) fee of $750, should Avidyne not confirm the reported discrepancy. That’s why it’s important to work with a shop that knows the product line, and how to troubleshoot.

All in-warranty repairs are part of Avidyne’s Platinum Exchange program, where they’ll send you a replacement unit within two business days of Avidyne’s receipt of a broken one. It also covers ‘reasonable’ dealer removal, installation and calibration costs, plus two-day shipping costs.

If you need a replacement component faster, your shop can supply Avidyne with a credit card and Avidyne will ship a replacement component prior to them receiving the failed unit, eliminating potential downtime. They call this Platinum Advanced Exchange, and charge a flat-rate fee of $400 per claim.

Aspen Avionics
Now that many of Aspen’s Evolution PFD and MFD systems are out of warranty, the $795 extended warranty buy-in beats the $1995 flat-rate repair or exchange cost of a failed display.

Aspen’s warranty plan lengthens the original two-year warranty for an additional two years from the expiration of the factory warranty. It’s available to purchase from any Aspen dealer, and there’s the option to purchase the plan any time before the existing warranty expires.

Aspen’s warranty covers the Evolution system for repair, rebuild or replacement with a rebuilt unit. There are also special pricing options for multiple displays. For example, $1095 covers a dual-screen suite, while a third screen is covered at no additional charge.

The warranty plan covers other components in the system, including the ACU (analog converter unit), the configuration module and the RSM (remote sensor module). Labor costs for removal and replacement of these components are not covered under the warranty. Other exclusions include batteries, software upgrades and Aspen’s EWR-series weather receivers. Further, Aspen warrants repaired, rebuilt or replacement items only for the unexpired portion of the extended warranty period.

To be eligible, the original warranty application must have been completed by the installing dealer, and the system must be under the unexpired original factory warranty or prior extended warranty. For units out of warranty, the $1995 flat-rate exchange comes with a one-year warranty.

Hedging Bets
Some owners are reluctant to buy extended warranties, but when it comes to avionics, many don’t realize the potential costs of component replacement and flat-rate factory repairs. On top of that, there’s shop labor. The going hourly rate at most avionics shops is over $100 and won’t include shipping costs for sourcing replacement parts.

Our advice to glass cockpit owners is to include avionics warranty coverage in yearly maintenance costs. You have to accept the fact that you might not use the coverage but given the potential costs of repairs, we think it makes sense.

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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.