For years-before Garmin even existed as a company-the Bendix/King Silver Crown line of digital avionics set the standard for IFR avionics. There was competition, of course, chiefly Narco and various iterations of Cessna avionics. Used aircraft listings in Trade-A-Plane touted Silver Crown IFR and for this reason, aft buyers often paid a premium.
Despite the fact that Bendix/King did very little to change the line over the year, up until just a few years ago, digital Silver Crown was still the avionics of choice of aircraft manufacturers from Mooney to Beechcraft. Garmins domination of the market ended all this, of course, but one thing didnt change: the quality of the Silver Crown equipment, its durability and ease of installation and use. And lets not forget to mention that theres a ton of this equipment installed and its being removed in ever greater volume. This represents a rare buying opportunity for owners who cant afford or who arent interested in a high-dollar upgrade with new equipment.
With the proven reliability and utility of the now well-established Garmin GNS430, we are surprised to see the number of owners who remove relatively new Silver Crown gear, especially the popular KX155 digital navcomms, to free up panel real estate for something newer. Although some of these owners want to retain the KX155, some find they simply dont have room for it.
Somewhere around the summer of 2000, the market made a major shift, becoming flooded with used KX155s, KMA24 audio panels and the KLN90B GPS system. This trend is continuing, although the volume may be slowing somewhat. This is good for the budget conscious utilitarian with an airplane begging for avionics upgrade but one that doesnt need or deserve a $30,000 upgrade.
What to Look For
You need to be cautious when searching the Silver Crown market, however, and you can afford to be. The KX155 and KX165 navcomm, for example, is voltage specific so if your airplanes electrical system is 28 volts, a 14-volt version wont do.
While a 14-volt unit can be made to work in a 28-volt airplane, adding the voltage stepdown equipment may not make economic sense. Shop for the unit that suits your airplane electrical system.
Some flavors of the KX155 have a glideslope receiver, some just have VOR and localizer. Buy what you need based on budget. For high-mins IFR, you probably dont need dual glideslopes. On the other hand, you can get the additional glideslope for about $500 on the used market; thats good back-up for not much money. (Dont forget the expense of a second antenna and wiring.) You can find used KX155s across a wide price range, from $1800 to $3000.
A common failing in the KX155/165 series and many other products in the digital Silver Crown line is gas discharge display problems. While display replacement is a relatively easy task on the repair bench, the displays themselves cost several hundred dollars.
Finding a well-maintained used unit, as with the airplane itself, is important. If youre buying from a local shop, ask them about the display or have them fire it up so you an inspect it. If buying mail order, make sure you can return a defective unit or that theyll vouch for the display.
Owners who refuse to use cabin covers or windshield sunshields also tend to own Silver Crown equipment with faded display lenses. We see a lot of these and theres really no reason to buy one, considering how many better ones are on the market. You can afford to be selective.