Are Your Cockpit Avionics Becoming Obsolete?

What are the subtle signs your existing cockpit avionics are becoming obsolete? How should you act when you notice a need to refresh your flight panel? Rebecca Applegarth asks the industry experts…

Rebecca Applegarth  |  28th February 2020
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    Rebecca Applegarth
    Rebecca Applegarth

    Rebecca Applegarth has been brought up around Aviation for as long as she can remember. As a current...

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    Whether your aircraft is decades old or only a few years off the production line, keeping its avionics up to date (from software updates through to a full panel retrofit) is an important part of maintaining optimal efficiency. But what are the tell-tale signs to look out for, regarding your avionics becoming obsolete? How can you tell the time might be right to update?
    While budget is an important factor in an upgrade decision, the need to update avionics will also depend on many other factors, including an operator’s wants, and mission needs, notes Bill Forbes, avionics sales manager, Elliott Aviation.
    “If the aircraft doesn’t have new enough equipment that allows for good situational awareness, traffic, terrain, airspace or a moving map, then it is probably time to invest in upgrades,” he suggests.
    Offering a wide-range of expertise in avionics upgrades, Elliott Aviation provides (among other items) Garmin G1000/G1000NXi/G5000 panel retrofits, Pro Line 21 modernization solutions, and an aftermarket avionics program supporting a wide variety of turboprops through to mid-size jets, through which operators can gain access to a large inventory of Pro Line II, Pro Line IV, Honeywell and Universal Avionics parts.
    According to West Star Aviation, however, another factor can creep up on operators gradually and suggest there’s a need to upgrade the flight panel.
    “Once an operator starts having issues finding replacement parts or they’re finding the parts are becoming expensive, that can cause them to start looking for upgrades,” a company spokesperson told AvBuyer.
    West Star Aviation, a FAA Certified Class I, II, and III avionics repair station, can install, repair and update most avionics systems common in Business Aviation.
    “If the operator is finding more options available from third-party vendors than with the actual Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), those would be subtle clues that their cockpit is becoming outdated,” the spokesperson adds.
    “It also points to the fact that the OEM has newer options available on that airframe.”
    “If replacing parts like-for-like are hard to come by, the costs will (more often than not) be inflated,” Forbes concurs. “Ultimately, budget, mission and parts obsolescence all play a key role in an operator considering an avionics retrofit.”
    How to Act on a Retrofit Requirement

    Assuming the signs are emerging that the flight panel is becoming outdated, it’s time to put an action plan in place. As Forbes explains, “Upgrading may only be cost-efficient, it may also improve the overall aircraft function.”
    “Operators should make themselves aware of what is new within the avionics market,” West Star’s spokesperson suggests, “because upgrading avionics can add features to the cockpit that weren’t there previously.”
    Additional features might include synthetic vision or charts, “all of which can be added to the cockpit by upgrading the avionics.”
    It’s also important to remember that you’re not alone when it comes to exploring the avionics upgrade/retrofit market in search of the best possible solution for your aircraft/mission need.
    “Any time you start seeing obsolescence in your cockpit, reach out to a vendor you trust who is knowledgeable about options for your aircraft, and the pricing,” West Star Aviation suggests.
    In Summary…

    Ultimately, a realization of avionics obsolescence may be gradual, becoming clear over a period of months or even years of flight operations.
    As suggested by the experts, operators should keep abreast of product developments, whether an upgrade need is imminent or not, talking to their MRO provider who will offer additional insights.
    That way, when the time does come to replace part, or all, of the flight panel you’ll know how to maximize the efficiency as well as the potential resale value of your aircraft.
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