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What is the top-end avionics fit for a European homebuilt aircraft and suitable for IFR, with autopilot?

There is a lot on the US market but I wonder how much of it can be installed on a European homebuilt.

I know the term “European homebuilt” means a lot of things because in some regimes there is no “authority” (e.g. the UK LAA, which won’t accept a lot of stuff) signoff so you could install anything, but maybe there are general guidelines.

Also it needs to work properly; anything less is no good for serious flight in IMC. I recall seeing a list (non-published) showing that some equipment gives misleading indications in some cases.

I am also aware that currently there is no non-certified GPS which can fly GPS approaches. Jeppesen own the data and the data has never appeared on any uncertified GPS (e.g. Dynon). Whether this is because Jepp don’t want the risk exposure or whether it is because the equipment makers don’t want to pay for the data, I don’t know. The bottom line is that any homebuilt flying any useful IFR will need to install a certified GPS.

That’s unless you want to enter every GPS approach as user waypoints, which would be really stupid. But maybe someone in the USA has extracted the waypoint coordinates from the Jepp (or NACO) data and had put them in a database which can be loaded into uncertified units?

The autopilot can be uncertified, which raises the issue of the GPS-autopilot connection. That’s probably OK – analog signals, or ARINC429 for lateral.

To start with, it would be useful to know what the UK LAA would accept (G-reg).

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

As I understand it the LAA, as part of their current deliberations on allowing IFR on permit aircraft, are insisting that the GPS is a certified one.

Forever learning
EGTB

Last year, I had an interesting conversation with one of the first owners going through the approval process.

First off, most of the equipment carriage requirements are airspace requirements – not airworthiness – so they will have exactly the same requirement for certified B-RNAV navigation with backup that the rest of us do.

The interesting part is the display technology; there is no airspace requirement for a particular navigation display. Word was that the LAA would approve “aviation standard” displays – Dynons, Garmin G3s and so on.

I’ve played a bit with the G3x Touch and the Dynon. They are both excellent systems. Far better than anything in the retrofit certified market.

EGEO

there is no airspace requirement for a particular navigation display

Indeed – until you read TGL-10 and all that nonsense. Since nobody I know knows what this means (and many have tried, and some spent stupid money on PRNAV approvals, though a few got in under the wire very early on) today it comes down to installing an RNAV1/PRNAV approved GPS whose STC gives you all that on a plate – or at least it “needs” it to the same extent that certified IFR pilots need it, or will need it one day.

In practical terms it makes no sense in spending money on avionics unless you get RNAV1/PRNAV thrown in, and of course LPV.

But would say a GTN750 or an IFD540 be installable in a non certified aircraft and still get the benefit of the STC in these areas? I wonder if anybody has thought about this. Do the STCs on these boxes apply only to certified aircraft? An STC is a Supplemental Type Certificate and if the aircraft doesn’t have a Type Certificate??

BRNAV (an enroute requirement, basically) is achievable with an ex-Ebay GSN430. It’s the other stuff…

Far better than anything in the retrofit certified market.

Except they can’t fly GPS approaches unless, presumably, there is a certified GPS which interfaces appropriately.

Anyway, this may be digressing. What is the current top-end noncertified glass cockpit and autopilot?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

TOP end would be the Garmin G900X, which is like an up to date G1000 (twin WAAS GPS, twin nav/comm, two 10" screens etc). Costs about $70,000 for the base system plus installation – more with autopilot, TAWS, weather etc.

AFAIK that’s the only fully integrated option (= everything controlled via the two screens) but if you accept a separate navigator there are many other options – most notably Garmin G3X touch, Dynon Skyview but also look at GRT and AFS. A two 10" screen system for any of these costs around $10k but you then need a transponder, two comms, an audio panel, a certified navigator and a backup nav source. The total cost is around $30k to $40k.

In both of these examples you don’t have ADF or DME but experimental builders don’t fit that stuff any more.

EGMA / Fowlmere

Oh, forgot the a/p. Most of the G900X installations that I’ve seen use the Trutrak Scorcerer – about $8k with servos. For the other systems an autopilot is around $3k.

EGMA / Fowlmere

What is the current top-end noncertified glass cockpit and autopilot?

This is going to be difficult. A few years ago it could have been the Garmin 9000X because it was basically a G1000, this is getting old now. I don’t see Garmin advertising it, but Steinair have it on their site at $55k. It was also only meant to be for specified aircraft RV7, RV9, RV10 and one or two others.

If I was starting afresh I would look at the Garmin 3X or the Advanced. I am not sure where Dynon are going with the Advanced, they bought it allegedly to keep ahead of Garmin, whether they are going to incorporate it into a Dynon or keep the Advanced going is the question. MGL has a good reputation but I know nothing about it.

Autopilots: Trutrak or Trio.

The best place to start is a call and a talk with Stein. They build probably more panels than anyone else and have close relationships with the different manufacturers.

http://www.steinair.com/index.cfm

Norman
United Kingdom

Also it needs to work properly; anything less is no good for serious flight in IMC. I recall seeing a list (non-published) showing that some equipment gives misleading indications in some cases.

You can use whatever you want, as long as the minimum required instruments are installed (ASI, radio, alt, etc etc) and any redundancy requirements. But IFR navigational instruments are different. They are required to follow the appropriate design and performance standards. They don’t need to be certified, but if not, you have to show they follow the standards, and this is probably much more work and hassle than just getting a pair of GTNs (I would guess).

In Norway you can install everything yourself, including any certified IFR equipment, if it is installed when you build it. If you install it later( after the aircraft has received it’s C of A), it has to be installed and tested by an approved organization..

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

For sure there is a G-reg rv7 with G900x (installed by RGV). If money is not a problem this is the best/most-proven system for experimentals seeking ifr capability.
My main question is: is there any EU Country that allows his experimentals to legally fly IFR in class A (of course subject to certified avionics, etc)? If not (I don’t know any), then why install a g900x in Europe at all?

In my opinion, since experimentals tend to use vfr airstrips and fly vfr, I would go for an efis/autopilot combination that can best assist in marginal vfr, i.e.:

1) able to make coupled synthetic vfr approaches at constant glide slope to any airstrip
2) with synthetic 3d vision generated via ahars, on a large pfd
3) autopilot with advanced vertical modes (climbs and descent at constant ias, altitude capture, stall prevention) and attitude-based (not rate-based)

With respect to the above, AFS and GRT are the most advanced (heard good of MGL too). G3x comes after (misses n.1 but Garmin wrote to me they are working on it for the g3x, since the g1000 already has it). Last comes Dynon (no point to compete with the recently bought out AFS).
All come with their own autopilot systems (otherwise Trutrak Sorcerer or Digiflight ii vsvg are probably the best third party autopilots). Of course all these systems can also couple with a certified nav (or nav/gps) for ils ifr approaches (g430/530(w), gtn650/750, but my favourite for price/quality is the “old” 480 whose only blemish is the lack of 8.33 radio for Europe).

Last Edited by at 09 May 19:19

As already mentioned, the big guys in experimental avionics are Garmin G3X, Dynon Skyvew and Advanced flight Systems (now part of Dynon). If you want a reliable system coming from a company doing good business (important for support), you should stick to these ones.
All these systems are being used every day to fly IFR by > 1000 US experimentals every day. These systems have the right redundant architecture (with 2 screens and 2 AHRS) in order to enable safe IFR flying. Well, you still need a certified GPS. An ebay refurbished GNSx30WAAS is the easiest path.

On the autopilot side, I would not go further than Garmin or Dynon. You get a complete 2 axis autopilot that is fully integrated with your EFIS/Moving map for less than USD2K. I wouldn’t like to be in the shoes of Trio or Trutrak. Their business has evaporated about 5 years ago the day that Dynon came with his 2 axes autopilot for USD1500 (2XUSD750 servos connected to their EFIS). There is still a minority of people who think that it is safer to have a 3rd independent box (the autopilot) with the equivalent of a low cost AHRS. Trio and Trutrak have dropped the price of their system by 50-70% over the last 2 years. These days, Garmin G3X and Dynon Skyview offer fully integrated functionalities. Garmin even brought out recently the equivalent of Cirrus ESP for their G3X autopilot.

What I am still expecting from them is a good and low cost European weather system.

Their next innovation could be auto-throttle and auto-landing, before just replacing the pilot with auto-radio (voice recognition and synthesis) and a camera for traffic and weather detection :-)

Ukraine
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