Just how much value does an avionics panel upgrade add to a business jet or turboprop today? Jeremy Cox considers, while offering insight on how avionics evolved and are appraised in aircraft…
The segment within the Business Aviation industry that is at the forefront of most aircraft owners’ minds as we rapidly approach 2020 is the avionics sector. Many are struggling to find a cost-effective solution to make their aircraft compliant with Future Air Navigation mandates.
Moreover, Smartphones and Tablets have reprogramed us to expect on-demand delivery of information coupled with tactile control (our ability to point, pinch and swipe).
Following, we’ll provide a historical perspective regarding avionics display technology, and highlight the value increases that will apply to your aircraft should you elect to proceed with an integrated cockpit instrumentation display system upgrade that is currently available to you today.
Avionics means exactly as it reads: ‘Aviation’, plus ‘Electronics’ equals ‘Avionics’. However, Instruments and Gauges do also come under this category. The roles that avionics play in a cockpit is to allow the crew to:
- Flight Plan
- Manage the Flight
Though today’s integrated systems have evolved substantially, historically the first avionics provided only the basics, including:
- Oil Pressure
- Air Speed
Evolution of Avionics
The RPM/Power of the earliest aero engines were controlled by a ‘blip switch’ which cut the ignition ‘on’ and ‘off’ as the engine ran at full power, therefore no tachometer was required. From these bare-bones cockpit displays more instruments were added, like a magnetic compass and additional engine instruments.
Blind flying became possible with the addition of a gyroscopic Turn and Bank (Slip and Turn) indicator. Eventually, in 1937 the Royal Air Force ruled that an aircraft which was to be flown blind in clouds must be equipped with a Standard ‘6-Pack’ instrument package, installed and arranged as follows (starting top left and visually scanning clockwise):
- Vertical Speed
- Turn & Bank
The means with which to determine an aircrafts’ position has also evolved from the beginning years of aviation. Evolving from the Whisky Compass (used in conjunction with a timepiece) to GPS (with time built-in).
The CAA’s Civil Aviation Publication (CAP 737) provides a very succinct definition of Situational Awareness as “Knowing what is going on.”
Before integrated avionics systems were developed, knowing what was going on required the pilot to monitor and crosscheck a variety of independent analog displays and project a mental picture of where the aircraft was at any particular moment in space and time, which then was plotted on a paper map, while simultaneously monitoring speed, altitude, fuel burn and balance management.
Communications/position reporting, and traffic/terrain avoidance were a constant consideration, too.
These mental gymnastics required that a three (or more) person crew was required to legally operate a large, complex passenger aircraft.
The first truly integrated ‘single instrument’ display which depicted an aircraft position relative to compass heading; Non-Directional Beacon (NDB); radial from a VOR, or a localizer beam from an ILS; and an approach glide-path from an ILS was the Horizontal Situation Indicator (HSI).
The development of the Electronic Flight Instrumentation System (EFIS), coupled with ‘moving map’ technology has revolutionized the situational awareness of modern aircrews, reducing workloads, and ultimately reducing the number of crewmembers legally required to operate the aircraft, without compromising safety.
The military were the first to install in fighter aircraft in the early 1960s. Boeing started an EFIS design concept for the SST program in the 1970s while at around the same time NASA installed test EFIS systems in its Boeing 737 to evaluate the benefits, downsides and the human factors associated with EFIS.
The Boeing 757 and 767 were the first commercial aircraft to be certified with EFIS, while the first business aircraft to have EFIS (as a test-bed) was a Beechcraft Queen Air. The first to be certified with EFIS was the Dassault Falcon 100 with Collins’ Four-Tube EFIS-85.
As with everything in avionics, EFIS has evolved over time, with drastic improvements made in physical hardware weights (reduced), reliability (increased), information/data presented (more data available), display clarity (high-definition) and speed (data refresh, as well as processed calculations).
This evolution can be tracked as follows:
- First Generation: Cathode Ray Tube (CRT)
- Second Generation: Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
- Third Generation: Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)
- Fourth Generation: LCD back-lit by LED
- Fifth Generation: Future Projection Displays (currently active with HUDs)
A great example of instrument display evolution can be found by following the standard and optional packages that came with the long-running production of the King Air 90 series - starting with the first model (the 1966 King Air A90), all the way to the present-day King Air C90GTx.
- The A90, B90, C90, E90 and F90 all came with Electro-Mechanical Instruments.
- In 1983 a One-Tube Collins EFIS-84 was offered as an option on the King Air C90A.
- In 1992 a Two-Tube Collins EFIS-84 was standard on the C90B, with a Four-Tube system offered as an option.
- In 2005 the King Air C90GT came standard with Five-Tube Collins EFIS-84, then in 2007 the C90GTi, and later the C90GTx both came with Three-Tube Collins Proline 21.
- The current production GTx model, beginning in 2016, has Three-Tube Collins Proline Fusion which is a touch-screen and point-and-click system.
Current Production Displays
As we go to press, Rockwell Collins’ Proline Fusion is installed as standard equipment in current-production aircraft including the Beechcraft King Air C90GTi/250/350i/350ER; Bombardier Global 5000 and 6000; Embraer Legacy 450 and 500; and Gulfstream G280.
The Garmin G3000 is installed as standard equipment in the Cessna Citation CJ3+ and M2; Cirrus Vision Jet; Daher TBM 930; Embraer Phenom 300; HondaJet; and Piper M600.
Meanwhile, Garmin’s G5000 is installed aboard the Bombardier Learjet 70 and 75; Cessna Citation Latitude, Citation X (no longer in production) and Citation Sovereign+.
Honeywell’s Primus Epic is installed as standard equipment in the Cessna Citation Sovereign; Embraer 175/190; Hawker 4000; and PC-12NG (as Apex), and has been adapted, and customized separately for Gulfstream as PlaneView, and for Dassault as EASy.
Avionics Upgrades & Values
The following systems are currently available for retrofit/upgrade. All are installed under a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). In each instance, the average expected value increase is listed.
Some installations are unique, and therefore the subsequent realized value might vary from the figures quoted.
Note: these values are not the combined system plus installation cost; instead they are the numbers that would be applied to an aircraft being appraised one year after the system has been installed:
Aspen Avionics Upgrades
- Evolution 1000 (Two-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$25,000
- Evolution 2500 (Two-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$35,000
- Alliant (Three-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$75,000
- Entegra 9 (Three-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$125,000
- Apex (Four-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$80,000
- AeroVue (Three-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$200,000
Rockwell Collins Upgrades
- Proline 21 Upgrade from original Collins EFIS-86, Proline 4 or Honeywell Primus 1000/2000: +$650,000
- Proline Fusion Upgrade from original Proline 21: +$850,000
- G500 Upgrade (single unit) from original ‘steam gages’: +$30,000
- G600 Upgrade (single unit) from original ‘steam gages’: +$40,000
- G950 Upgrade (Three-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$300,000
- G1000 Upgrade (Three-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$400,000
- G3000 Upgrade (Three-Tube) from Proline 21 or similar: +$650,000
- G5000 Upgrade (Three-Tube) from Honeywell Primus 1000 or similar: +$500,000
Genesys (Chelton) Upgrade
- 3D EFIS (Four-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$150,000
- CD-820 or DU-875 LCD EFIS Tubes Upgrade from CRT on an Embraer Legacy/Bombardier Global size aircraft: +$600,000
- Primus Elite 855 LCD EFIS Tubes Upgrade (PlaneDeck): +$700,000
- EASy II ‘Full Boat’ Upgrade (incl. Synthetic Vision from original EASy): +$850,000
- EASy II Upgrade from original Collins Proline 4/Honeywell Primus 2000: +$1,150,000
Meggitt Magic EFIS Upgrade
- (Six-Tube) from original ‘steam gages’: +$45,000
- EFI-890 Upgrade from original ‘steam gages’/Collins EFIS-86: +$120,000
Avionics Rules of Appraisal
Usually 50-80% of avionics upgrades are ‘realized back’ in a sale after their installation. The true return on investment is ‘market position’, i.e. the better-equipped aircraft usually sell ahead of lesser-equipped aircraft, which is indicated by the days that a used aircraft is available on the market.
With more than 500 Days on Market (DoM) for some aircraft, an avionics retrofit/upgrade (possibly coupled with a paint and interior refurbishment) will likely make your aircraft the next to sell, instead of the last.
It is important to note that in the case of a highly-desired and/or necessary upgrade, such as Controller Pilot DataLink Communications (CPDLC), ADS-B, High-Speed Internet driven Wi-Fi, etc., 100% of their total cost could be added to the appraised value of the aircraft.
In the case of compliance equipment installations, this value increase shall eventually be driven down to ‘zero’, once the mandated deadline has passed.
When I appraise an aircraft that has been upgraded, I adjust the values (depreciate) of the installed Avionics based upon a 5% per year schedule up to 12 years, or 40% residual value. If the avionics are older than 12-years I just flat-rate their depreciated value at 40% of their original cost.
If the avionics are ‘serviceable as removed’ and are being sold as surplus parts, the residual value equates directly to the market value, which is at (or below) 10% of their new, uninstalled values - often merely ‘pennies on a dollar’.
If you are surprised by this, look at eBay to see the many ‘serviceable as removed’ avionics that are being advertised there. Their ‘Buy It Now’ prices might shock you…