Letters: March 2014

I just received my February 2014 issue of Aviation Consumer and read with interest the article on turbochargers, since I’ve been flying my Mooney 231 converted to a 252 for the past 6500 hours and 27 years. I was surprised at the estimated turbo “surcharge” of $25 per hour, with “most of it being for a $2200 overhaul at 1200 hours.” If you were to put aside $25 per hour for 1200 hours (to cover a $2200 overhaul), that would be $30,000. Let’s say the engine made it to 1500 hours. The turbo allowance would have amounted to $37,500, which for me would more than cover both the engine and turbo overhaul.

Luckily for me, my experience has been much better. My Garrett turbo frequently lasts longer than an engine overhaul and my cost for a turbo overhaul at 1500 hours for a cost of $2200 only comes out to a turbo tax of $1.47 per hour. Even if you overhaul the controller and wastegate at TBO, that would be an extra $2000 at the extreme outside, resulting in a total turbo penalty of $4200 for 1500 hours, which is $2.80 per hour.

Perhaps I’ve been really lucky, but I suspect the turbo penalty of $25 per hour as published is probably grossly overstated. Could Mr. Durden provide me with his research that yielded the $25 per hour figure in case I’m missing something?
Earl M. Douglass
via email

After looking at the numbers again, Durden says that $5 per hour is a conservative number for turbo overhaul, the exhaust system inspections and possible repairs. Figure $2200 for the overhaul and $2000-$4000 in exhaust system inspection, maintenance and component replacement.

For non-millionaires
I read Larry Anglisano’s article on autopilot upgrades in the February 2014 issue and would like to suggest an idea for those of us who aren’t millionaires.

I am a retired pilot with a 1962 Piper Cherokee. I keep the plane in good shape and fly as much as I can. At the airport where I keep it, the average value of most of the other aircraft is around $30,000-$40,000. While we all do our best to be safe, none of us can justify or afford to invest up to 75 percent of the plane’s value in avionics upgrades.

Many of us have gotten Apple and Android tablets and portable GPS receivers, but with NexGen coming and every pilot’s desire to upgrade, it’s becoming almost impossible not be behind the times.

Three years ago I decided to get my instrument rating, but first I had to upgrade my VFR panel. One shop said I needed to spend $20,000 and another said I should spend $12,000, at a minimum. Turns out that for $5000, I got a heated pitot, a Navcomm with glideslope, a marker beacon receiver and a Garmin GNC300XL GPS/Comm. This is a servicable, but dated panel for light IFR.

How about doing a series of articles for those of us who can’t afford the latest and greatest, but are considering upgrading to something better than what we have?

Mike Hartz
Adams County, Wisconsin

Actually, we’ve covered budget avionics upgrades in the past. Sounds like it’s time to have another look at the market.

As for autopilot upgrades, there are folks who won’t fly IFR without them, so they buy them. That’s why we ran the market roundup article. For entry-level aircraft like your Cherokee and for limited budgets, we recommended the single-axis S-TEC 20.

Pay-to-play ads-b
In my Mooney Ovation, I have Garmin GTN750 and GTN650 WAAS navigators, a Garmin GDL69 XM WX satellite weather receiver, plus a Garmin GTS800 active traffic alert system. Presently, I see no advantage in upgrading to ADS-B since FIS-B and TIS-B don’t provide additional capabilities.

However, I will need to upgrade to ADS-B Out. One option is to install a Mode S transponder with 1090ES capability and interface it with one of my WAAS navigators for GPS position input.

Since I have a Bendix King KT76C transponder, I was elated to see that Honeywell is offering the KT74 plug-and-play ADS-B transponder. Unfortunately, as I dug a bit deeper into the interface, I discovered it’s not exactly plug-and-play unless you only want Mode A and C capability. The ADS-B interface requires a different mounting tray, plus the KT74 needs to be wired into a WAAS GPS position source.
It’s misleading to say the unit is plug-and-play. It’s more like pay-to-play.

Luca F. Bencini-Tibo, ATP/CFI
Weston, Florida

Replacing the mounting tray usually isn’t a lot of work, except in your Mooney (the entire radio stack needs to come out to gain access). Our advice is to compare the cost of the KT74 retrofit with that of a dedicated ADS-B transceiver, like the Garmin GDL88.