AOPA's 2001 Bonanza Sweepstakes - Mar. 15 Pictures and Commentary

November 11, 2009

Pictures and Commentary

Mar. 15 - Since last week, when AOPA Editor at Large Tom Horne flew the Sweepstakes Bonanza for its first "big power" cross-country flight from Ada, Oklahoma, to DuPage Airport in West Chicago, the Sweepstakes Bonanza has been losing weight. The reason? The experts at J. A. Air Center are removing last century's King radios in preparation for the installation of a whole new avionics suite. J. A. Air Center ( was picked for this task because of their excellent reputation garnered from years, actually decades, in the aviation electronics business.

J. A. Air Center used to be known as Joliet Avionics. In 1975, they moved over to DuPage Airport (DPA) and renamed their business, using the initials of their former name. Today, J. A.'s top-quality avionics installation and repair operation works hand-in-hand with its airframe and powerplant maintenance department to provide complete aircraft service. An onsite autopilot servicing and an instrument rebuild and calibration shop help make J. A. one of the most complete aircraft service centers in the Midwest. They also are known for their service oriented avionics and pilot supplies mail order business.

The get-to-it attitude at J. A. was evident when I arrived on Tuesday to introduce myself as Associate Editor Steve Ells and work out the details of the avionics upgrades. The instrument panel, the windshield, and the old radio stack had been removed, the autopilot servos were being installed, and most of the old antennas had already been replaced with new ones. Under the cowling, the B & C Specialty Products standby alternator had been installed.

Two boxes of evidence showed that the radio men had not only removed all the old stuff (the radios and the Brittain B-4 autopilot filled two cardboard boxes), but a peek into the installation shop showed that they have moved right on to pre-wiring the radio racks for all the new twenty-first century stuff.

While the term "avionics suite" may seem a little pretentious for an average installation in a 35-year-old Bonanza, it's not an exaggeration for our Sweepstakes Bonanza. A Meggitt Avionics New Generation Integrated Cockpit (MAGIC) electronic flight instrumentation system (EFIS) will be installed right in front of the pilot. This system consists of two 5.3-by-4.4-inch advanced color liquid crystal displays (LCDs).

The upper flat panel screen is termed the primary flight display (PFD). This display will simultaneously depict attitude (pitch and roll) via an artificial horizon-like picture, and altitude, airspeed, and vertical speed via moving tape-type displays on each side of the horizon display. Heading information will be centered on the top of the screen, with ILS cues present when needed.

The lower flat panel is the navigation display (ND). This screen, which is the same size as the PFD, will show waypoints, NDBs, VORs, airways, and weather information. If the PFD fails, all of the data that are normally displayed on its screen can be shuttled to the ND display screen.

The last piece of the Meggitt MAGIC system is the air data attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS). This box is plumbed into the airplane's pitot and static systems. By constantly updating data from solid-state reference generators, this system produces signals that continuously change and update the information on the flat-panel displays.

Since this system depends on a reliable source of electricity (although the current draw of the MAGIC system is very low) a backup alternator is being installed on the right accessory pad of the engine. For more information on Meggitt's MAGIC, system see the Web site The same Meggitt MAGIC panel has proven to be such a popular option on the equipment list of the turboprop-powered New Piper Meridian airplane that not one Meridian has been delivered with the standard equipment. For Tom Haines' review of this equipment installed in a Meridian, see his article in the March 2001 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine:

B & C Specialty Products of Newton, Kansas, has developed a small STCed standby alternator with electrical load�sensing circuitry. This circuitry helps the pilot manage the available electrical power when the standby system is supplying power to the airplane. During normal operation of the Bonanza's 14-volt, 70-amp capacity alternator, the standby system control switch is on, putting the B & C system in a standby mode. When the primary alternator fails, the standby system comes online automatically. A panel�mounted annunciator light flashes on and off when the electrical system current load is greater than the standby system's 20-amp capacity. The pilot then simply turn off loads (lights, etc.) until the indicator light stops flashing. A steady annunciator light indicates that the capacity of the standby system isn't being exceeded. The B & C standby alternator can supply its rated 20-amp output indefinitely.

In the event of the loss of the primary alternator, the B & C system will easily supply enough electrical current to power the MAGIC system, and at least one of the Garmin GPS/nav/com units (GNS 530 or GNS 430) and the Garmin transponder (GTX 327) and have a little left over for a few instrument lights. For more information on B & C Specialty Products, see their Web site

Next week we will update the avionics installation progress and feature the Garmin products, including the revolutionary GNS 530 and GNS 430, the GMA 340 audio panel, and the GTX 327 transponder. For more information on Garmin equipment, go to

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The instrument panel sans instruments, radios, and circuit breakers. The staff at J. A. Air will fabricate a completely new instrument panel and paint it to match the interior colors. The original, shock-mounted floating panel that supported the pilot's primary instruments will be eliminated.
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A piece of masking paper represents the planned instrument panel, and instrument- and radio-sized paper cutouts help during the planning of the new panel. This is one of five configurations being considered.
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The pre-wire phase of the installation. The radio racks are assembled, the installation drawings are laid out, and the harness is planned and assembled. After assembly, the wires are all tested for routing and continuity before any power is applied to the avionics units.
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The B & C standby alternator mounted on the right accessory pad. During installation of this STCed system, the vacuum pump that is normally mounted on the right pad is moved to the left pad.
Meggitt Avionics Garmin