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Avionics shops, AOPA members agree: Advanced avionics contributing to loss of basic navigation skillsAvionics shops, AOPA members agree: Advanced avionics contributing to loss of basic navigation skills

Avionics shops, AOPA members agree: Advanced avionics contributing to loss of basic navigation skills

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Many AOPA members believe that GPS moving map displays and other advanced avionics are contributing to loss of basic pilot navigational skills, AOPA President Phil Boyer told members of the Aircraft Electronics Association during his keynote address at the forty-third annual AEA convention May 7 in Reno, Nevada. [See also AOPA's avionics shop survey results.]

And owners of avionics shops attending Boyer's presentation agreed, signaling their opinions during his speech with AOPA's Perception Analyzer® instant response units. Some 66 percent of shop owners polled offered the same opinion, nearly matching 69 percent of AOPA members so responding in an April survey.

"The new 'gee-whiz' avionics on the exhibit hall floor at this convention are just the tip of the iceberg," declared Boyer. "It won't be long before many pilots—even those of many single-engine aircraft—will enjoy terrain mapping, ground proximity warnings, collision avoidance help, lightning strike data, radar returns, and near-real-time weather graphics and text. But the new avionics demand pilot vigilance, not total dependence.

"If a 'Love Bug' virus were to invade one of these modern marvels, we pilots must have the basic navigational skills to continue a safe flight."

Shop owners polled during Boyer's AEA speech also agreed with AOPA members on the level of difficulty in learning to use modern avionics. Have avionics become too complicated for the average general aviation pilot? About half of both AOPA members and shop owners said the difficulty of learning new equipment was only moderate.

But on providing training on new avionics, a surprisingly greater percentage of AOPA members (34 percent) believed training was the pilot's responsibility, compared to only 11 percent of avionics shop owners.

Over one third of shop owners (36 percent) believed the shop should provide training, while more than half (53 percent) said avionics manufacturers should assume the training responsibility. Two thirds of AOPA members who recently purchased a new GPS reported that their avionics shop offered no help in learning how to use the device.

Relations between aircraft owners and avionics shops

AOPA's polling also highlighted relations between pilots and avionics shops.

  • Repair concerns
    Only 25 percent of AOPA members polled reported that their avionics shop had discovered necessary additional radio repairs while the aircraft was still in the shop. Yet when Boyer asked shop owners, a whopping 98 percent said they "often" find additional problems.
  • Learning about avionics advances
    Shop owners estimated that only 19 percent of their customers rely on avionics advertisements in aviation magazines to keep up to date with avionics developments.

    But two thirds (67 percent) of AOPA members polled said aviation magazine ads were their primary information source.

    A miniscule 4 percent of AOPA members said their avionics shop alerted them to new equipment. Boyer gently chided shop owners for a lack of marketing effort, noting that AOPA's Flight Training and AOPA Pilot magazines were doing their part to let pilots know about the latest equipment advances.
  • Choosing a shop
    Three times as many AOPA members as shop owners (18 percent v. 6 percent) cited location as the most important factor in choosing an avionics shop. But both groups identified "quality of work" and "shop reputation" as the primary determining factors.

How old is too old?

Avionics shop owners at AEA also used AOPA's Perception Analyzer® to voice their opinions, and some of which could surprise aircraft owners. They included:

  • Avionics: How old before they're not worth repairing?
    A full third of shop owners said "under five years" while 28 percent said the useful life of avionics is between 11 and 15 years. Some 22 percent said avionics were not generally "over the hill" until more than 15 years old.
  • Trouble finding and/or keeping good avionics technicians?
    Over half (55 percent) of shop owners described the lack of good technicians as a "big" problem, while 11 percent called it " a disaster." Only 2 percent reported no problems hiring or retaining technicians.
  • Helpfulness of pilots' descriptions of avionics problems?
    Slightly over half (53 percent) of shop owners said pilots were usually "fairly" accurate in describing avionics problems, but only 8 percent called trouble reporting "mostly good." Some 26% termed pilot reports "horrible" and 11% said pilots rarely offer them valuable details on avionics malfunctions.
  • Biggest challenge in dealing with pilots?
    Customers who demand instant service topped the annoyance list for 32 percent of shop owners, while pilots' unrealistic attitudes about repair costs roused the ire of another 40 percent. And 15 percent of shop owners said pilots weren't realistic about the amount of time required for repairs.

AOPA's 360,000-strong membership encompasses more than half the U.S. pilot population. About half of AOPA members own an aircraft, either solely or in partnership.

Since its founding in 1939, AOPA has led the fight to keep general aviation flying practical, safe, fun, and affordable.

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May 12, 2000

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