AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes - Apr. 12 Pictures and Commentary

November 11, 2009

Pictures and Commentary

Apr. 12 - While mechanical and electrical upgrades such as the Osborne tip tank fuel system, the Beryl D'Shannon speed sloped windshield, and the B & C Specialty Products back-up alternator system are being installed on the AOPA Sweepstakes Bonanza, J. A. Air Center's avionics experts are putting in the Meggitt Avionics MAGIC system.

Many owners probably think that the actual workings that allow the black boxes in their panels to communicate and navigate the airways are magic, and that avionics technicians are magicians. Read on about some of the tricks of the trade.

Front and center

The Meggitt Avionics MAGIC system is an Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS), consisting of two flat-screen active matrix liquid crystal displays (AMLCD) that are mounted in the aircraft instrument panel directly in front of the pilot. The upper display is the primary flight display (PFD) and the lower screen is the navigation display (ND). A third part of the system is the air data, attitude, and heading reference system (ADAHRS), which is hidden under the instrument panel and is plumbed into the pitot and static systems.

The PFD and ND are displays; only the ADAHRS part of the system generates data. ADAHRS generated data includes airspeed, vertical speed, attitude, and altitude. One of the little extras that the engineers worked into the PFD is an airspeed trend monitor. This little bar extends off of the airspeed window and points up with a gain in airspeed and down with a decay in airspeed; the length of the bar denotes the scale of the trend. While this tidbit is not an Earth-shaking piece of information, it is one that wasn't available with mechanical gauges that the MAGIC EFIS system replaces. Little pieces of information like this are displayed all around the PFD, and once the user learns where to find what he's looking for, he will be better informed than ever before.

The MAGIC system generates and displays air data, attitude, and reference data from solid state sensors in the ADAHRS unit; and navigational, flight director, Instrument Landing System (ILS), Jeppesen database, and weather (lightning strike) information from the avionics suite.

The Garmin stack

The Bonanza is equipped with vastly upgraded Garmin equipment, like a GMA 340 audio panel/marker beacon/intercom unit; and the GTX 327 solid state transponder which is instant-on, and contains additional features like a count up/count down timer, a pressure altitude display, and a flight time recorder that can be wired to start when the GPS senses takeoff speeds.

In addition to the two flat screens of the MAGIC system, both the Garmin GNS 430 (zesty) and the Garmin GNS 530 (definitely zesty) GPS/nav/com units, which will be mounted in the avionics stack, will have color screens that can display flight plan course, airplane track, and all the components of a full Jeppesen database including airspace, SIDs/STARs, nonprecision and precision approaches, airports, VORs, NDBs, intersections and all frequencies, as well as airspace. Garmin and Jeppesen have taken a whole flight bag full of paper and stuffed it inside these boxes. Through pilot-selected menus, almost any quantity or selection of data can be displayed on the Garmin and the MAGIC screens.

I had a chance to fly the Meggitt MAGIC-equipped 1997 Cessna 182S at the EAA Sun 'n Fun Fly-in last Wednesday. This 182 wass also equipped with the S-Tec FiftyFiveX autopilot, which will be in the Sweepstakes Bonanza. During our more than one-hour flight from the airport in Lakeland (a bustling beehive of airplanes) we flew to and shot a GPS approach to Runway 9 at the Avon Park Municipal Airport, and then returned to Lakeland. I was along for the ride and since everything, including the altitude pre-select and vertical speed selector of the autopilot, worked perfectly, I tried to get used to gathering all the flight information from the MAGIC displays.

Frankly, my mind wasn't ready for the experience. I expect that the winner of the Sweepstakes Bonanza will be better able to make informed in-flight decisions after he or she has at least 20 hours of flight time using this twenty-first century EFIS and avionics suite. In the meantime, it doesn't hurt to dream a little.

Click on images for a larger view.
Click for larger image
The MAGIC system installed in the Meggitt/S-Tec 1997 Cessna 182S. Back up airspeed, altitude, and artificial horizon instruments are required for certification of a single-position MAGIC system.
Click for larger image
In-flight photo of the MAGIC AMLCD displays during a flight in the Lakeland, Florida, on April 10. The upper display is the PFD and the lower is the ND.

Meggitt Avionics Garmin S-Tec