The latest in the growing number of new avionics that enhance safety in certified aircraft for significantly lower cost is a compact annunciator panel from Approach Aviation that can deliver many alerts in one unit.
Jeff Simon, an A&P mechanic and AOPA columnist, is also the president of the Massachusetts startup called Approach Aviation that secured FAA approval in May for installation of the FlexAlert Multifunction Annunciator under an FAA policy established in 2016 to facilitate installation in certified aircraft of Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE).
“We have blanket FAA approval to install this product with nothing more than a logbook entry, as long as you leave the original indicators in the aircraft,” Simon said. Installed indicators also may be replaced in some circumstances, though it should be left “up to the installer to determine the legality” of such scenarios.
The FlexAlert Multifunction Annunciator uses a proprietary (and patent-pending) setup that minimizes the required wiring, and can cut labor in half compared to comparable indicator installations. Shipments were expected to begin Aug. 1, the first units being sold for an introductory price of $699. The system can be configured out-of-the-box for a variety of setups, such as with or without retractable gear. It can operate on 14-volt or 28-volt systems without modification. The kit includes flush panel mounting bracket options, and can be supported from the top, bottom, or either side.
Simon explained that installation of the device is typically quite simple. After routing one wire per function to the back of the unit, the installer flips a series of tiny dip switches to configure annunciations. “Those dip switches take literally seconds” to match the appropriate alert to an associated aircraft function. He said installation can typically be accomplished in about four hours, "and that keeps the overall cost low." Simon predicted the total cost including installation would be "right around $1,000" or just a little bit more, depending on panel access.
“This is all meant to really simplify things, so you’re not just listening to a horn and trying to figure out what it means,” Simon said.
The NORSEE approval route was created with strong support from AOPA. The first products approved under the NORSEE policy began to reach the market in October, with Guardian Avionics claiming the distinction of being first with an iPad mount that fits the device flush in the panel.