AOPA 2011 Crossover Classic Sweeps

Panel countdown: From the 1970s to 2011 - in just eight weeks

March 1, 2011

Photography by Chad Slattery

Panel countdown

There’s something shocking about a total avionics makeover, especially when you plunge a 40-year-old instrument panel into a time warp that puts it squarely into the ranks of 2011’s swankiest panel hardware. When I last saw the Crossover Classic AOPA 2011 Sweepstakes Cessna 182, way back in November 2010, its panel was vintage early 1970s. Not that that’s bad, mind you. I learned to fly sitting behind a panel like the sweeps’ original. In the early 1970s, Cessna’s “Nav/Pac II” (a term that denoted dual nav/coms, a Cessna/ARC autopilot, a Mode C transponder, and a hodgepodge of round gauges) was the bee’s knees.

Alas, the Nav/Pac II concept just didn’t fit our idea of a thoroughly updated piston single. Avionics have changed over and over since the 1970s. First came loran—a wonder in its day—then came GPS, followed by IFR-approved GPS. Then single-line alphanumeric GPS displays gave way to a war of ever-larger display options, followed by moving-map and menu-driven graphic display units with their own attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS). Now there are high-end, big-screen GPSs with vertical-tape scales for airspeed and altitude; flight guidance symbology accompanies large moving-map multifunction displays that double as systems monitors, flight planning tools, and much more. Gone are round gauges and vacuum-powered instruments.

I had a chance to see just how far our 182’s panel had come. As we go to press, Advantage Avionics of Chino, California, was putting the final touches on our now thoroughly modern panel. What an amazing transformation! Your Skylane’s features could never have been imagined in 1974, when the Crossover Classic rolled off the production line at Cessna’s Pawnee factory in Wichita.

Advantage Avionics, headed up by Mark Krueger, did a superb job of rejuvenating the panel to the highest standards. And all in just eight weeks (with a few days off for Thanksgiving and the holiday season). I’m told it was a 300-hour job, which reflects the patience and precision a job this big requires.

What got chucked out? It’s easier to ask what wasn’t discarded. The undiscarded list includes: the magnetic compass, the power controls, and some subpanel switches. That’s about it!

What goes into the new panel

Now, the panel features a seemingly endless list of the best in today’s retrofit technology. For contact information, see the Crossover Classic website, but here’s a list of the new panel’s equipment:

  • Garmin G500, two-screen primary flight and multifunction displays
  • Garmin GTS 800 active traffic advisory system
  • Dual Garmin GNS 430s
  • Garmin GTX 330 Mode S transponder
  • Cobham/S-Tec System Fifty-Five X autopilot/flight control system
  • PS Engineering PMA8000 audio selector panel
  • Davtron M803 digital clock/timer
  • Artex ME 406 ELT
  • JP Instruments EDM-930 engine data monitoring system and display
  • CO Guardian AERO 553 carbon monoxide detector
  • New, powder-coated panel and subpanel fascia, with laser-engraved switch labels

Many, many thanks to Advantage Avionics for their top-notch work—and to our generous suppliers who make it all possible. As for me, I can’t wait to fly this panel. There will be a learning curve, no doubt, but if I can fly a Nav/Pac II to minimums, then the safety and situational awareness offered by this new panel, with its synthetic vision, traffic alerts, and loads more, should make any procedure a comparative walk in the park. Stay tuned for an in-flight review, and be sure to check the sweepstakes website for blogs, photos, and videos.

Make sure you’re in the running for the Crossover Classic—keep your AOPA membership active, join AOPA, renew your membership, or sign up for AOPA’s automatic annual renewal—which gives you multiple shots at the prize! Getting others to join adds even more to your chances. See you next month.

E-mail the author at tom.horne@aopa.org.

Crossover Classic

Keep up-to-date with your Sweeps plane

Stay in touch with future developments in the Crossover Classic’s transformation. Stop by the website for photos and blogs, and stand by for the next step: a complete overhaul of the Classic’s instrument panel. With each stage in its completion, this project gets more and more ambitious.