March 25, 2013
By Ian J. Twombly
Let’s be clear. Any major refurbishment, be it an instrument panel or paint and interior, is going to have a few bugs. With so many complex systems, there is just no way to ensure that everything is going to work exactly as advertised on the first try. With that being said, the good folks at Penn Avionics in West Chester, Pa., took temporary custody of N208GG last week for some touch-up work.
Most of the work order is related to calibration, at least according to installer Chris Vinciguerro. The sweepstakes Piper Archer has an entirely new panel, and many of the components need another go at making them give precise readings as they settle in. On a practice instrument approach, thankfully in visual conditions, I discovered the second nav indicator head was off by about three or four degrees. “A simple calibration,” said Vinciguerro.
The flight director on the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 primary flight display was also off a degree or two, an issue so minor I’m ashamed to admit I didn’t even notice. It took another pilot flying the airplane to point it out. As an aside, therein lies a good lesson: Get another pilot to fly your airplane after you have major work done to ferret out bugs that you may not have noticed. Vinciguerro said that discrepancy on the flight director is also an easy calibration. Since Aspen has also come out with numerous software updates since we installed the box, our unit will get those as well.
Larger problems required more snooping. The L-3 Communications Avionics Systems WX-500 Stormscope wasn’t working. A warning flag on the Avidyne EX500 made it appear to be a sensor issue to this mechanically impaired pilot. Dr. Vinciguerro is still working on his diagnosis.
Perhaps most troubling is the autopilot. The S-Tec System Fifty Five X performs beautifully in smooth air. But get it in any sort of turbulence and it searches for altitude so much that you start to feel ill watching it. Vinciguerro said there are ways to calibrate the system, or, being a dealer, Penn Avionics can bench test the servos. My money is on rigging or a bad servo, although at this point it’s just speculation.
There are a few other minor issues that I wouldn’t even have noticed if this were not a sweepstakes airplane. The Garmin GNS430Ws only cross-reference occasionally, for example. But, we like to try and give away perfection, so the shop will be working hard to attain that in the next week before Oshkosh.
Read about how things came together next week, or come see the Archer next to the Big Yellow Tent at Oshkosh.
Next week: Running like a top (hopefully)
E-mail the author at firstname.lastname@example.org
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