AOPA Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Update -- Glass retrofit options

March 25, 2013

Sweeps Update

Project Update: August 21, 2008

Glass retrofit options

By Ian J. Twombly

With the Aspen Avionics EFD1000 primary flight display now nestled front and center on AOPA’s 2008 Get Your Glass Sweepstakes Piper Archer, we thought we would take you back a bit and talk about the decision process that led up to choosing the Aspen, and what other glass retrofit options are on the market today.

When we began work on the project late last year, only Chelton Flight Systems had certified an aftermarket electronic flight information system (EFIS) on a mass scale. Avidyne had its Envision two-screen system based on the popular factory Entegra, but STCs were one-off and did not include the Archer. Chelton’s system was featured in AOPA’s 2005 sweepstakes airplane, a Commander. It’s a great system; in fact, the first with synthetic vision. But since we had used it before, and because the price means an average Archer owner is not going to install one, we wanted something new.

At EAA AirVenture last year, industry newcomer Aspen Avionics announced it was working on the EFD1000 PFD, and that it would be offered for less than $10,000. This was a significant breakthrough in the market and we were excited about the potential to install one on the Archer. As time went on, we grew more confident in Aspen’s business plan and its ability to deliver on earlier promises. That culminated in April of this year when the company’s new certified unit received an STC for the Archer. We were on our way.

But what if the Aspen hadn’t received certification? What other options are on the market now? Last month, Garmin announced its G600 had received certification and an extensive list of STCs. At around $30,000, the G600 is three times as much as the Aspen, but the price reflects greater capability. For example, the Garmin system is two screens, one for the PFD and one for the multifunction display.

The Aspen system is upgradable, but you only get the PFD for $10,000. The optional MFD is expected to run $8,000. Installation will also be considerably cheaper in most cases with the Aspen because it fits into existing 3-inch instrument holes. Garmin and Aspen representatives will tell you the two systems aren’t competitors, but it would be surprising if Aspen’s lower price point doesn’t take at least one potential G600 buyer. On the other hand, those loyal to Garmin may opt to pay more for a product from a better-known company.

Now that Aspen has opened the gates to the retrofit market, it seems like the flood is approaching. In addition to Chelton, Aspen, and Garmin, long-time players Bendix/King (now a division of Honeywell), and Avidyne are in the mix as well.

Bendix/King is calling its PFD/MFD package the Apex Edge Series. The “series” consists of two boxes—the KFD840 PFD and the KSN770 MFD. One thing the KSN770 has over both the Garmin and Aspen units is a higher level of integration. While the Aspen and Garmin both need external GPS inputs, the KSN770 includes GPS, and a navigation and communication radio. Retail price on the KSN770 is expected to be $13,995 and the KFD840 is expected to go for $16,995. The MFD is expected to be available starting in October, with the PFD to follow early next year. The Apex’s price puts it in close competition with the Garmin G600 and Avidyne’s new offering.

EAA AirVenture was busy time for glass announcements, and this year Avidyne announced a new, competitive product for light GA, the PFD4000. Earlier Avidyne displays were either too expensive or too large to fit in many GA airplanes. The PFD4000 seeks to change that with a smaller 8-inch diagonal screen, but with the same presentation Avidyne users are accustomed to. The company expects users to add in an EX500 multifunction display, which is featured on the Archer this year.

Also at AirVenture, Avidyne announced it is working on synthetic vision, which it says will eventually trickle down to the PFD4000. That capability, combined with the company’s new flight management system, should make for a formidable product.

As time goes on, expect glass offerings to improve and capabilities such as synthetic vision to be added. It’s an exciting time, and one that the winner of the Get Your Glass Archer will be able to say they experienced first-hand.

Next week: MFD thoughts

E-mail the author at ian.twombly@aopa.org