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The Avidyne Equipped Cirrus Upgrade

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A History Lesson

11 years ago, in April of 2009, the Avidyne Corporation unveiled the much bally-hooed Release 9, or R9 as it is commonly known, as a hardware replacement for the Avidyne EX5000 Entegra system in Cirrus Aircraft. The Entegra system was way outdated by that point. Even though Avidyne was the first company to put together a glass PFD in a single engine piston airplane, the company had quickly fallen behind Garmin in keeping up with the ever changing technology landscape.

Rewind to 2008. Cirrus had been going strong with the Avidyne Entegra since the SR20 and SR22 went to full glass in 2003 (a PFD and an MFD; prior to that, Cirrus aircraft only had an MFD with steam gauges and a Sandel Electronic HSI). Cessna, on the other hand, vaulted past the Avidyne Entegra and went straight to the Garmin G1000 in it’s aircraft, starting in 2004 with the 182 G1000 and 2005 with the 172 G1000. Beechcraft and Columbia went to the G1000 (Columbia started with the Avidyne as well) in 2005.

Garmin’s technology in 2007 was so much better than Avidyne’s technology that Cirrus decided to switch. I’m sure there were many promises made by Avidyne to Cirrus about what Avidyne was working on (the R9), but the G1000 was out there, available, and being used in a lot of different airplanes with very good results.

So, in 2008, Cirrus made the switch from the Avidyne Entegra to the Garmin G1000, dubbing it the Cirrus Perspective by Garmin avionics package. Avidyne finally got the R9 to market in 2009, but by that time, Piper was the only airplane manufacturer left putting factory Avidyne panels in their airplanes, and they switched to G1000 later that year.

The R9 is a fabulous product. It’s fully integrated, has great graphics, has fully redundant displays, a QWERTY keypad (which, by the way, Garmin didn’t do for another 8 years), and a lot of other neat features. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but it’s a really good product for what it is.

Avidyne, though, was late to the game with their technology. By the time it debuted in 2009, all the GA aircraft manufacturers had long since switched to the Garmin G1000 and weren’t looking back. That left Avidyne with the retrofit market for the many different Avidyne Entegra Cirrus aircraft out there. The only problem was, the retrofit was $80,000 ($95,000 if you wanted to throw in the DFC 100 Autopilot, which is a must have) and not many owners were up for paying that much money, then or now.

To sum up our brief history lesson, Avidyne knew the Entegra needed to go, but couldn’t get the R9 out quickly enough to convince anyone to stick with Avidyne products. The retrofit market didn’t amount to many sales, so Avidyne doesn’t even make the R9 anymore.

As a side note, I really, really like the Avidyne R9 and am sad that it didn’t make it into more airplanes.

So, when the Avidyne Entegra starts to have issues, what’s an owner to do? Keep reading!

There is Hope

There are thousands of Cirrus aircraft out there flying with the Avidyne Entegra instrumentation, which is basically 20 year old technology (I’ve had a computer engineer tell me the programming in an Entegra is Windows 98 tech). These things are going to start having problems at some point (many already have), but what solution do owners have that is cost effective and get’s them new technology?

Remember that little company named Garmin? Well, they have come through again. Announced this summer, the Garmin G500 TXi is now certified as a replacement in the Cirrus Avidyne Entegra equipped aircraft. This means pulling out both the PFD and MFD and replacing them with the G500 TXi on both sides. Engine data is also displayed on the G500TXi MFD, including the percent power and TIT indications, if equipped.

Cirrus SR22 Equipped with Dual G500 TXi Screens and Dual Garmin GTN 650Xi GPS Units

The cost for the panel? Two 10.6″ G500 TXi’s run about $16,000 apiece for the units, not including labor. $32,000 for a brand new panel isn’t terrible. Plus, the G500 TXi’s work with the DFC90 autopilot if the Cirrus is already equipped with it. If not, the Garmin GFC 500 autopilot is now approved for the Cirrus at a relatively low price of $7,000, including the servos.

Still have the original Garmin 430s in your Cirrus? Upgraded to the Avidyne IFD 540/440 stack? Put in dual GTN 650Xi’s? Put in a GTN 750Xi? All are compatible with the G500 TXi panel.

Want to upgrade everything? It does get kind of pricey at that point, but for just equipment, the cost for a complete panel conversion is somewhere in the area of $65,000 plus labor, still below what the R9 cost, but not cheap either. That would include 2 G500 TXi’s, 2 GTN 650Xi’s, a GFC 500 Autopilot, and all the engine monitoring equipment that the G500 TXi would need.

Cirrus SR22 Equipped with Dual G500 TXi Screens, a GTN 750Xi, and a GTN 650Xi

Thankfully, some new technology has finally come to the Generation 1-3 Cirrus. Oh, and by the way, your steam gauge Cirrus is fully upgradable as well.

Want to read more? Check out Garmin’s website.

Flying Through Rain

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For the most part, flying through rain is a non-event. If the NexRad or Radar is showing light green or dark green, usually there aren’t that many bumps and your plane just gets a wash. Sometimes the visibility drops down a little bit making us IFR pilots have to transition to our instruments.

It get’s a little more exciting when the precipitation on your screen turns to yellow. This means there is a lot more precipitation echoes either in the clouds or coming out of the clouds, meaning harder rain. I usually tend to stay away from yellow unless it’s absolutely necessary to go through it.

I had a situation a few weeks ago where I deemed it necessary to fly through some yellow NexRad returns. I was flying a G1000 Columbia into Monroe, Louisiana, KMLU. The winds were mostly light, but slightly favoring runway 04, which was the runway in use. As I got closer, a decent size rain shower with mostly yellow returns was sitting over the final approach fix for runway 04 and slowly tracking to the northeast.

I didn’t particularly want to spend the entire approach getting beat on with rain, so I decided to fly the RNAV 14 approach at MLU and circle to land on runway 04. The rain hadn’t quite reached the airport yet, so I decided that circling to 04 should be no problem.

I started the RNAV 14 at the FLESH IAF. Since I was approaching from the west, I did not need to do the procedure turn, so I joined the Final Approach Course (FAC) after crossing FLESH.

In the meantime, that rain shower was inching closer to the FAC for the RNAV 14. I wasn’t concerned about my safety if I flew through some of it and I didn’t have passengers on board who would get nervous, so I elected to continue. I wasn’t seeing any lightning coming out of the clouds, so it appeared to only be moderate rain.

Just before I got to JIVEY, the FAF, I entered the clouds and the rain. About 20 seconds later, my altimeter and airspeed started bouncing around a lot. Now, based on all I’ve said so far, what would cause that, and what would you do?

(Jeopardy theme song playing while contestants ponder questions)

The answers? Due to the moderate precipitation, water had gotten into my static port and caused the unusual readings on my altimeter and airspeed indicators on the G1000.

I had experienced this before, so I knew what to do. I reached down and turned the static source from primary to alternate, which starts taking static pressure from inside the cabin in the Columbia. Instantly, everything went normal.

The other time I had experienced this was also in a Columbia, so I’m under the impression that the way the Columbia static ports are designed, they are a little bit more susceptible to water creeping into them than other airplanes.

Moral of the story? If your pitot/static instruments start jumping around, the first thing you do is turn your alternate static source on.

Removing a Hold on Foreflight Approach

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I’m a big fan of having my Foreflight map always match up exactly with the way I am flying. Having a Flight Stream in the airplane helps a lot with that as it always prompts me to load the new flight plan from the GPS into my Foreflight map. When I load an approach in the GPS flight plan, Foreflight will put it into my Foreflight flight plan via the Flight Stream.

The problem I run into on Foreflight is when there is a published hold at the Initial Approach Fix (IAF), but ATC has told me to fly the straight in approach and skip the hold. Up until recently, I didn’t think there was a way to set up a straight in approach on Foreflight, so I just settled for the hold staying on there.

Not anymore! There is a simple trick that I discovered that allows you to remove the hold from the Foreflight flight plan. Here’s how to do it.

Load the Approach

The first step is still to load the approach into your Foreflight flight plan on the Map page. In this scenario, we are flying from KAQO, the Llano Airport, to KHYI, the San Marcos Airport. Austin Approach has told us to expect the straight in RNAV 17 KHYI via PUKIY. So, on Foreflight, we have KAQO and KHYI in our flight plan. Then, I tap the Procedures button on the upper right hand corner of the screen. I then tap Approach, then RNAV 17 KHYI. Then I select my transition.

The options given are either PUKIY with the hold, seen below;

Or Vectors to Final, which lines me up inside of PUKIY. Neither of these are what I want.

But, to get this to work, I select PUKIY, then tap add to route. Now we have our approach loaded into our flight plan.

Removing the Hold

The RNAV 17 is now in the Foreflight flight plan, but the hold is displayed at PUKIY. To remove the hold, the first step is to tap the approach in green and a menu pops up.

The 7th option down is “Remove Hold in lieu of PT.” Eureka! Tap that, then the approach is displayed without the hold. Houston, we have success! It even says “NoPT” in the flight plan.

Stratos 716X

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Cirrus Vision Jet, meet your competition.

In July, Stratos Aircraft completed the first test flight of the single engine Stratos 716X personal jet. Stratos, based in Redmond, OR, is taking a page out of Epic Aircraft’s book in how the company is planning on bringing the Stratos 716X to market.

Epic Aircraft first released the Epic LT composite single engine turboprop in the early 2000s as an experimental. The first kit was completed and flying in 2005. Epic’s goal was to bring the airplane to market as a certified aircraft, a feat that took them almost 20 years to do, achieving full certification earlier this year.

Stratos Aircraft is hoping to learn a lot from their Bend, OR neighbors. The 716X is going to start off as a limited release experimental kit, while the company is working on achieving certification for the airplane. Once the plane is certified, it will be dubbed the Stratos 716. The 716X experimental kits will be assembled through a factory builder assist program (no garage built single engine jets here!). The kit will cost $2.5 million assembled, while the expected cost of the certified Stratos 716 will be $3.5 million.

Now, let’s talk about the airplane. 400 KTAS. One engine.

That’s right, you did hear correctly. The Stratos 716X is expected to cruise at 400 KTAS on only one engine. Compared to the Cirrus Vision Jet, that’s 100 knots faster. Think, “I’ll be relaxing at the hotel pool with a drink in hand when you are landing” type speeds. The fuel burn of the Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 engine (3,000 lbs of thrust) is about 25 GPH more than the Vision Jet (the Stratos 716X will burn about 98 GPH of Jet A while the Vision Jet averages about 75 GPH of Jet A).

Comparing the two engines, the above numbers start to make sense. The Williams FJ33 engine on the Vision Jet only puts out 1,850 lbs of thrust, significantly less than the 3,000 lbs of thrust that the Stratos 716X Pratt & Whitney JT15D-5 puts out.

What does that mean to the pilot? In the Stratos 716X, it means less takeoff roll, better climb rate, faster cruise (as evidence by the 400 KTAS expected cruise speed), and a better payload. More power = more weight carrying capacity. And, the 716X is expected to have a service ceiling of 41,000 feet. I probably wouldn’t want to go that high single pilot with one engine, but I’d be very happy with that speed in the mid-30s.

The cabin, based on the pictures I’ve seen, looks very comfortable. The Stratos 716X seats 6 and can be configured in several different ways. Baggage is no problem as Stratos Aircraft stretched the fuselage from their original 714 Proof of Concept aircraft, adding a very roomy baggage compartment above the engine compartment. The passenger compartment is as big as a Phenom 100, providing more leg and head room than the Vision Jet. The front seats have plenty of legroom too, as Stratos has opted for a side stick instead of a yoke.

The avionics for the Stratos 716X are expected to be the Garmin G3X Touch for the panel which will be driven by a Garmin GTN 750 GPS. Autopilot will be integrated within the G3X. I would imagine that once the plane is certified, the panel will be switched to a Garmin G1000 NXi and a GFC 700 will be installed.

The genius of the design of the Stratos 716X is the aerodynamics of the engine placement. Instead of hanging the engine out in the slip stream and going with a drag inducing V-Tail like Cirrus did, Stratos took some notes from the myriad of single engine military fighter jets out there, placing the engine inside the fuselage. The fuselage is then built around the engine with two air scoops for intake directly in front of the wings. With two intakes instead of one, that leads to more air flow, which again, means more power. The Vision Jet has only one.

I’m going to keep tabs on the Stratos 716X (as I kept tabs on the Epic E1000). I’m hoping Stratos gets several flying soon (the company expects to do 3 kits a year till the airplane gets certified) and certification comes quickly after.

I got to stick my head in the mockup of the Stratos 716X when I went to Osh Kosh in 2018. I was very impressed and was excited to see the airplane was finally airborne this summer.

For more information about the Stratos 716X, check out the Stratos website.

Santa Fe Fly In Canceled

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Sadly, Texas Top Aviation is having to cancel it’s 2020 Santa Fe Fly In due to COVID. New Mexico has continued to implement travel restrictions, making it difficult for Texas Top Aviation to complete the event.

Mark your calendars now, though, as Texas Top Aviation has scheduled is 2021 Fly In. We are returning to the Lajitas Golf Resort in the Big Bend area of Texas. The event will be March 24th-26th, 2021. Stay tuned for more information. We hope to see you there!