AOPA's Ultimate Arrow Sweepstakes
An Inside View
Bringing a disco era panel into the '90s
BY PETER A. BEDELL (From AOPA Pilot, June 1997.)
AOPA's Ultimate Arrow sweepstakes airplane looks quite different today from the way it did when we acquired it in late September 1996, and we're only half way there. After the overhaul of the engine, propeller, and everything else ahead of the firewall (see "Arrow Overhaul," March Pilot), the Arrow was delivered to Mod Works in Punta Gorda, Florida, for a rework of the panel, interior, and eventually the paint.
Where do you start with a ground-up panel restoration such as this? First, you need a plan for the replacement panel. For the Ultimate Arrow the plan was to provide the highest possible level of safety and awareness for the pilot. All new instruments, standby vacuum system, weather-detection equipment, panel-mounted moving-map display, and improved lighting were just some of the items we hoped to equip the Arrow with. We sketched out the Ultimate Arrow's instrument panel on a computer program titled Panel Planner. This program, which has basic panel dimensions for many GA airplanes, allows you to place instruments and avionics in locations you desire, to give what is perhaps the most accurate model of what your instrument panel will look like when finished. Be sure to review your wishes with the avionics shop to see whether they pass the experts' litmus test.
With panel possibilities in hand, we arrived at Mod Works and professed our desires to the staff there. We elected to outfit the Arrow with an all-new flat metal instrument panel and all-new internally lit instruments and gauges. Mod Works' Steve Ryan headed up the panel refurb, while Dave McCluskey took on the task of wiring the myriad avionics. Although some changes were required, the finished panel closely resembled what we sketched out with the Panel Planner.
The Mod Works team started by gutting the interior from firewall to tailcone. All of the old avionics were packed up and donated to ADRA International, a relief agency that placed some of them in a Piper Cherokee Six and an Avid Flyer in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, West Africa, where they'll see continued duty.
When our Arrow left the Piper factory in 1978, it had a good supply of IFR avionics and instrumentation. But what was considered well-equipped in the 1970s has become somewhat antiquated as GA approaches the next millennium. Understandably, we faced somewhat of a dilemma in deciding how to equip the Arrow-do we grasp onto the future or cling onto the past?
In keeping with the tradition of making this the ultimate Arrow, we equipped it with the latest avionics that bridge the gap between navigational methods that are still useful today and tomorrow's technology. An IFR approach-approved AlliedSignal Bendix/King KLN 89B GPS will provide satellite navigation, while Bendix/King's modernized Silver Crown KX 155A navcoms receive traditional VOR and ILS signals. A KR 87 ADF and KN62A DME round out the traditional IFR avionics.
The new navcoms are currently available only in Cessna's new singles and will eventually replace the Silver Crown KX 155s that we've come to know over the years. They will not be available on an aftermarket basis for at least a year. But when they are available, they will share the same trays as the current Silver Crowns (see "Silver Crown's Next Step," p. 94).
Why add ADF and DME units in this day of GPS? Because ADF and DME are still required for many approaches, we decided that no airplane could be considered ultimate unless it can shoot nearly any approach that an airport may have. Not only will all of this equipment be a convenience when bad-weather cards are dealt, but it will also come in handy if the airplane ever lands a job in the training arena.
The KLN 89B feeds position information to a centrally located multifunction display, Arnav's new MFD 5200. The MFD displays a large color moving map on its 5-inch-diagonal screen. Engine monitoring functions can be simultaneously displayed to keep an eye on CHT, EGT, oil pressure and temperature, fuel flow, manifold pressure, RPM, and vacuum differential. If normal operating parameters are exceeded, the MFD will alert you. Normal and emergency checklists are held in its memory for quick access should a problem arise.
Installed in the Ultimate Arrow will be WxLink, an optional VHF datalinking module for the MFD that will allow the pilot to receive minutes-old graphic and textual weather products. This $995 feature is currently available in selected areas of the country, but it will have continental U.S. coverage by January, when the airplane is given away in AOPA's annual membership sweepstakes. With moving map, engine monitoring functions, datalinking capability, checklists, and many other features, Arnav's MFD lists for about $12,000. Without the engine monitoring/advisory capabilities, expect the price to fall to $7,995.
Given that the MFD's engine monitoring capabilities are not currently certified for primary use, we installed a set of Rochester Gauges' 2.25-inch analog engine gauges flanking either side of the flight instruments. Not only are the two-in-one gauges extremely compact and attractive, but most are fed the necessary information by transducers ahead of the firewall. This keeps fuel and oil lines out of the cockpit for added safety. Also improving safety are low-fuel warning lights that are triggered by the fuel gauges when fewer than 5 gallons are left in each tank. Since the fuel gauges are electronic, there is no bouncing of the needles. For the moment, Rochester's gauges are available only if you buy a new Cessna single. Rochester's Gus Horvath customized a set of gauges to reflect the Arrow's engine parameters. Going to these lengths may not be economical for your own restoration project-at least, until Rochester receives more STCs to retrofit older aircraft-but other companies such as Sigma-Tek and Aerosonic make attractive replacement engine gauges, too.
Just like a new airplane, we wanted our Arrow to have all-new flight instruments to complement the all-new avionics. Aerosonic provided a new airspeed indicator, instantaneous vertical speed indicator, altimeter, a combination manifold pressure/fuel pressure gauge, and a tachometer. We retrieved data from the airplane's flight manual so that Aerosonic could customize the faces of the instruments to depict the Arrow's limitations. Altitude alerting is provided by Electronics International's clever ASC-5A Altitude Alerter and Superclock. This 2.25-inch round clock reads altitude from the encoder, warning the pilot of altitude deviations. The unit also contains alarms, a programmable timer, and a display for outside air temperature, eliminating the need for the Arrow's windshield-mounted OAT probe.
Sigma-Tek supplied one of its flagging attitude gyros that warns the pilot if the instrument source has quit. If the flag comes into view in the Ultimate Arrow, the pilot needs only to pull a knob to allow the Precise Flight standby vacuum system to take over. The standby vacuum system-which supplies suction based on the difference between atmospheric and manifold pressure-will take over in the event of a vacuum pump failure, illuminating a light to tell the pilot that the main source has quit.
Adding to the IFR capabilities of the airplane, the Ultimate Arrow now has an Insight Strikefinder installed to point out electrical activity and, therefore, thunderstorms. This unit weighs less than 2 pounds and installs in a standard 3.25-inch instrument hole. The $5,000 Strikefinder is slaved to the Bendix/King KCS 55A horizontal situation indicator (HSI) for heading stabilization, although Sigma-Tek can supply slaved directional gyros that will perform the same function if your aircraft is not equipped with an HSI. Insight, as well, is working on a self-contained stabilization module to provide heading stabilization to its Strikefinder, although it has not reached the market yet.
S-Tec supplied one of its relatively new System 55 rate-based autopilots for the Arrow. Because the S-Tec autopilots use electric turn coordinators, they are unaffected by a vacuum-pump failure. The System 55 is designed to fit into the aircraft radio stack and is the first S-Tec autopilot to offer control-wheel steering, a feature that allows the pilot to temporarily hand-fly the aircraft without completely disconnecting the autopilot. The two-axis system will provide heading select, nav intercept and tracking, plus altitude hold functions. The entire system, which includes the programmer/computer and roll and pitch servos, weighs approximately 11 pounds and lists for about $14,000.
Capping off the new panel is a new glareshield (not pictured) allowing for better visibility of avionics mounted high on the panel such as the Shadin Miniflo-L fuel computer and the Mid Continent MD41 GPS annunciator/control unit. Ryan will house built-in flood lights within the glareshield for better night visibility in the cockpit. The new glareshield also offers easier access for routine maintenance-pitot/static system checks may be done without requiring the technician to take yoga classes to reach the altimeter. In the long run, the ease of access will save the future owner of the Ultimate Arrow a few dollars in maintenance of panel-mounted instruments and avionics.
In all, Ryan estimates that he spent about 400 hours working on the Arrow panel. Now that he has done one, he figures he could do another in half the time. Budget about $6,000 for labor and 4 to 5 weeks to have a panel like this installed in an Arrow or Mooney at Mod Works.
Our next visit with the Ultimate Arrow will detail the interior refurbishment, exterior speed modifications, and exterior lighting. We'll see whether the aerodynamic wizardry of LoPresti Speed Merchants and Knots 2U can press an Arrow to 150 knots. We'll also explore how to make a PA-28 light up the sky for extra conspicuity, day or night. The Ultimate Arrow is scheduled to make its first appearance in completed form at AOPA's Fly-In at Frederick, Maryland, on June 7. Thereafter, it begins a promotional tour of the country, stopping at many airshows-including Oshkosh and AOPA Expo in Orlando, Florida. Don't miss an opportunity to see what may be your airplane.
Silver Crown's Next Step
AlliedSignal's modernized Bendix/King Silver Crown line is similarly styled but contains many new features compared to the units we've come to know over the years.
The company took a conservative approach when deciding to tinker with the stalwart design that has become a standard for general aviation aircraft. The styling is similar enough that some people may not recognize the difference at first, but that will change after the units are fired up and used. The KX 155A navcom has been redesigned from scratch, said AlliedSignal's Doug Henkel. It has new electronics, a new two-line display, and a 32-frequency memory to recall your most commonly used frequencies. These frequencies can be called up by tapping a remote channel switcher mounted on the yoke, if desired. The knobs are bigger and more solid, and they now are lighted for easy operation at night. A new stuck-mic feature will shut down the transmitter if the mic is keyed for more than 30 seconds. Normal operation will then resume.
On the nav side of the KX 155A, the display will show the heading to or bearing from the VOR station currently tuned, or display a CDI depiction with a To/From flag-a feature common to the more expensive KX 165 in the current lineup. Most pilots these days will have the Number 1 nav indicator coupled to their GPS rather than a VOR, Henkel said. With the CDI depiction on the radio itself, Henkel believes the KX 155A will make a good backup during a GPS approach that overlays a VOR. There is also a timer built in to the unit.
What can you do to improve a transponder? Improve its ease of use, for one. The new KT 76C transponder should definitely lessen the already short amount of attention that the transponder requires. Using keys marked zero through seven, the code entry of the KT 76C is a no-brainer; simply type in the code as it's read off to you in the clearance. This Mode-C unit displays pressure altitude read off the encoder and also has a "VFR" button to restore the 1200 code. This unit lists for $2,200, or about half the price of AlliedSignal's previous digital transponders. And the good news is that this box is available now for aircraft with 14- or 28-volt systems.
Heading up the next generation Bendix/King stack is a new KMA 26 audio panel that contains a built-in intercom for as many as six seats. The intercom has separate volume controls for crew and passengers, semi-automatic squelch (a button needs to be pushed after startup to sample the ambient noise), crew and pilot isolate functions, and selectable auto muting of the music being piped in from two separate inputs. The KMA 26 also contains a built-in marker beacon receiver with a muting function. The unit can drive as many as three communication radios, as well as the usual navigation radios. The KMA 26 is expected to list for $5,400, or about 5 percent more than the non-intercom-equipped KMA 24 that it replaces.
As for the KR 87 ADF and KN 62A DME, AlliedSignal made minor changes to the style of the units to match the other boxes and has improved their night utility by lighting the knobs and buttons. Otherwise, they are the same units as those we've become accustomed to over the years. List prices are $5,200 and $5,830, respectively.
Of course, the future of navigation involves GPS, and the first of the modernized Silver Crown line was the KLN 89B IFR approach-approved GPS, which was introduced a few years back. The unit lists for $5,190 and is a lower-cost alternative to the top-of-the-line KLN 90B. In fact, the KLN 89B has special-use airspace depictions on its built-in moving map, a feature that the 90B doesn't have.
Together, the new Bendix/King package looks neat and tidy and should outperform the units it replaces. After using it in the Ultimate Arrow this year, we will be able to give you an update. PAB