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 The Entegra system was way outdated by that point.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.
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.
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.