3 min read

I have been flying off and on for nearly 40 years. I’m just an average working guy, but two years ago when my kids were all launched, my job seemed fairly secure and my debts were mostly paid off, I fulfilled a lifelong dream by buying an airplane.

I found a 1974 Piper Warrior for about the same price most of my friends paid for their SUVs. The majority of my flying is cross country and I usually file IFR. I hate scud-running and like being in the system.

Dynon Skyview

Non-TSO’d avionics like this Dynon glass cockpit are usually half the price of certified units.

Last summer I was IFR over Lansing, Michigan, en route to Saginaw when the vacuum pump failed. The weather at Saginaw dictated that Lansing was the better option, so I advised ATC and was vectored for the ILS 28L approach. I turned and descended through a few thousand feet of overcast on partial panel and landed with only sweaty palms to show for it (thank you Dick Collins for all the Air Facts videos).

That event started me looking into avionics redundancy and upgrade options, which is the purpose of this writing. As I implied earlier, my budget is not bottomless, and I don’t know if it’s even prudent to have more invested in avionics than in the airplane, so I have been searching for cost-effective options. In my research I have discovered a wide gap between approved or TSO’d avionics and avionics for homebuilts and LSAs. As a new owner, that’s a real surprise, and the logic of it totally escapes me.

My 40-year old Piper is far less sophisticated than the current class of high-powered homebuilts. For example, a Glasair or Lancair, when compared to my Warrior, can haul similar payloads but will fly significantly higher, faster and farther, yet for some ancient, bureaucratic reason my Piper is not allowed to use the same newer, more capable and less expensive avionics and autopilots that they do, although we all fly the same airways, airspace and systems.

Is TSO’d equipment really twice as good and twice as reliable as today’s non-TSO’d, because it seems to cost that much more?

Is there any room for exceptions or waivers in the process? I wouldn’t suggest an LSA-level EFIS in a Gulfstream or Citation but there are lots of old Cessnas and Pipers still flying that could benefit from a reasonably priced electronics overhaul.

Would better equipped aircraft have any effect on the accident rate for general aviation? I suspect that at least one category, inadvertent flight into IMC, would show some improvement with wing-levelers or autopilots installed (to combat loss-of-control), but again, TSO’d models are two times the price of non-TSO’d.

Maybe my budget still isn’t big enough to own an airplane, but with all the discussion around the declining pilot population, I would imagine anything that increases safety and lowers cost would be a positive step.

Looking for some conversation, feedback and opinions…

So Air Facts readers, what would you advise Ed? Share your opinions with us and let’s explore this topic.

Ed Rickett
Latest posts by Ed Rickett (see all)
42 replies
  1. Richard
    Richard says:

    Excellent post.

    This, along with fuel prices, is one of the major things holding back general aviation right now in my opinion.

    Technology and the capabilities have come so far that the current crop of pilots and upcoming pilots and they strongly desire high tech in cockpit features.

    That said, there is simply no logical reason for the TSO pricing schemes. I’m sure it’s tied to some overpriced regulation and certification process, but the question was correctly asked.

    Does that actually make those units safer? These are electronics being evaluated using rules that were made in the days of far more manual and old school “avionics”.

    I would guess no.

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    Ed, simply put, the mfg’s are trying to recoup the costs of taking non-TSO’d equipment to the TSO level. Government bureaucracy has added so many costs to getting equipment on the approved list, that it becomes incredibly expensive to TSO avionics. Logic dictates that after X amount of time, the cost should come down. However, it does not.
    Owners continue to pay the high costs of remaining “legal”, and in most cases (like yours), put off or dismiss the idea of moving to newer avionics, because of price. This lowers the economic demand, and fewer units are moved. I have no doubt that if the TSO’d equipment were priced lower, and not necessarily as low as the non-TSO’d, they would move more units. This, to me, seems as if it would aid in recouping those costs and, perhaps, at a quicker rate. Instead of a $10k TSO radio, and a non at $4k, meet the consumer at a more acceptable price for the TSO radio at $7k for the shiny new radio.

    The other alternative is the second hand market. Good deals do exist there, if you are willing to look and be patient. However, you aren’t getting the latest and greatest.

    And now the elephant in the room; save your pennies because here comes the ADSB requirement. That stuff ain’t cheap…

    To me, part of the attraction of home built is the low cost of avionics. Granted, I am scared to death of lighting a BBQ grill that I just assembled, so, building a plane is out of the question.

    BBQ anyone??

  3. Duane
    Duane says:

    Good issue. I think this is supposed to be addressed by the intended reforms of Part 23 certification, now mandated by Federal law. It’s hard to be optimistic about FAA’s tendency to over-regulate, however, even under a legal mandate. Nevertheless, if the FAA fails to get the job done, then Congress can certainly step in again and make the law more specific and explicit.

    Seems here that the logical concept is that there is no good reason to require FAA TSO certification on any avionics installed in non-commercial aircraft.

    As you say, the cert increases costs unnecessarily, thus discouraging the very desired end of increasing flying safety. TSO certification also discourages innovation and advancement, which also discourages advances in flying safety. Pilots are highly educated consumers, so we are perfectly capable of researching and assessing the available products and choosing for ourselves which avionics to install and use.

    In this day and age when GPSs and portable electronic flight bag devices and even autopilots are cheap to buy and install – as long as TSO certification isn’t required – it’s just plain stupid to demand the cert and thereby discourage adoption of such safety devices in the cockpit. In fact, the non-cert electronics are so cheap to design and build, it’s easy enough to adopt redundancy, so that even if one piece of electronics fails in flight, a backup device can be readily available. Redundancy is good.

    One example of a really valuable safety upgrade:

    With an autopilot and a programed flight management system, using GPS and AHRS, any light aircraft can be equipped with a one-button (or even self-actuating) “upset recovery” capability. Such capability could dramatically reduce accidents due to loss of control in flight, including the biggest bugaboo of all – the frequently fatal stall/spin accident. Such systems could also reduce accidents of controlled flight into terrain by automatically steering away from high terrain and issuing altitude alerts. Electronics can also help reduce the incidence of running out of fuel (with precise electronic fuel measurement and warning annunciators showing how many miles to go til empty). Electronics can also eliminate the issue of vacuum pump failures in IFR, and are easily made redundant with backup batteries and independent electrical busses.

    A bad pilot, or even a good pilot who makes a very bad one-time decision, or who relies excessively on automation, can still kill himself despite the best electronics available. But that is not to say that we also couldn’t make significant improvements in the GA safety record.

    All of these safety capabilities are immediately available, but only at very high prices for certified aircraft.

  4. Louis Sell
    Louis Sell says:

    Your choice is limited to TSO’d Avionics because you have a certified airplane.
    A question you may wish to ask yourself however, is do I really need all that glass?
    I suggest you may wish to study Aircraft Spruce’s catalog. There are “Steam Gage” instruments which are electrically driven allowing you to rid yourself of the vacuum pump.
    Beyond that, study “Trade-A-Plane”, you can find some good values in used Avionics.
    Please be practical–your wanting to upgrade a 160 HP airplane, it just is not worth a big investment, you will never get your money out of it when you sell! Likely, like most of us you will get the itch for something faster.

    • Eddie
      Eddie says:

      Good thoughts Louis… Never really considered it as “all that glass”… I began this exercise by pricing out what I thought was a modest upgrade from straight steam gauges to an Aspen PFD1000 and an S-TEC single axis A/P, but busted through the $20K mark with just those two items… That’s when I discovered the huge difference between certified vs. non-certified pricing.


  5. Ken
    Ken says:

    I have a 1974 Cessna 182P, with a Garmin 430W and a Garmin 696 mounted in the panel in a dock. The 696 is WAAS GPS, and I have a XAON traffic system attached to it. With these portables, I have satellite weather, terrain, and a very decent traffic warning, all for a total of about $4,500 installed and all legal, as they are portables. That 696 needed to be built rugged enough by Garmin to not only resist the rigors of flight, but also the inevitable knocks a portable device gets. I am simply not buying the idea that a quality company like Garmin uses inherently cheaper and less capably components in their portables; they sell thousands of those to every panel certified install, and the damage to their reputation, not to mention the legal ramifications of them selling something that would not do the job simply preclude it happening. These older airplanes would have a tremendous enhancement in safety by allowing the install of, for instance, a Dynon panel as used in experimental aircraft. It makes ZERO sense this sort of upgrade is not allowed. What In the world is the difference in an old 182 having that panel, and a new Vans RV10 having it? None!

    • Louis Sell
      Louis Sell says:

      You may want to check with your insurance carrier and the friendly folks at the FAA to see if you are legal to fly IFR and approaches using that wonderful Garmin 696.
      I am afraid if you prang that 182 using the 696 you may be in for a shock.

          • Dan Vigesaa
            Dan Vigesaa says:

            Situational Awareness my friends! As long as you are doing things that your airplane is approved to do (ADF approaches with steam gauges!) you can add anything and everything you can think of to enhance your situational awareness. 696 in a docking station? No problem! ForeFlight on an iPad? Go for it! Just remember that the primary instruments in your airplane must be approved for your operation. No GPS approaches in an airplane with only VOR equipment. Setup your 696 and your iPad to overlay the VOR approach instead!

  6. Pete Hodges
    Pete Hodges says:

    Ed, I own a 68 Cherokee 140 and have investigated this matter at some length. While I was feeling exactly as you about a year ago, I think by next year things will get better. Aspen is working hard on this and you do have other options.

    While it is true that you cannot use a handheld or panel mounted non-IFR GPS for approaches, as long as you have acceptable and functioning IFR equipment in the plane you can use any additional instruments you want to increase your situational awareness during the flight. That opens the door to a host of less expensive GPS equipment if you want to add your existing equipment and use them without replacing the TSOd equipment you already have.

    As for upgrading to better equipment, I’d look at the Aspen Avionics pages. They are gearing their equipment options to meet next gen and interface to existing panels two holes at a time. While not exactly cheap, they are getting better and coming down in price. They also have a modular system that can be added to the plane a little at a time.

    I know you likely don’t want to hear this, but most of these problems go away if you elect to fly VFR only. There is a different mindset involved, but it is much less expensive, at least until 2020 when we all have to do something.

  7. David Megginson
    David Megginson says:

    Interesting article. As a fellow Warrior owner, I’d like to point out that in that famous study from about a decade ago (where they simulated unannounced vacuum failures in flight with Archer and Bonanza pilots), *every single* Archer pilot was deemed to have survived to a successful, if sometimes sloppy, approach and landing, even though it took them much longer to spot the failure than the more-experienced Bonanza pilots (many of whom were deemed not to have survived). After that study came out, I search through accident databases over more than a decade, and couldn’t find a single case where a vacuum-pump/AI failure was a major cause of a fatal accident for a fixed-gear plane that was flying IFR (I’m not counting VFR into IMC), while there were a number of such accidents for planes with retracable gear.

    So it seems that a draggy wing and fixed gear, not a backup vacuum pump/attitude indicator or fancy glass panel, are the key to surviving partial panel, and while you deserve credit for good flying, it’s no surprise that you managed to land your Warrior safely partial panel in IMC. I’ve been in a similar situation (lost the AI and ASI on a low approach), and I agree that while it was a bit nerve-wracking, my Warrior was never at risk of going out of control.

    • Louis Sell
      Louis Sell says:

      The Piper Cherokee line is indeed very stable. However, comparing a Warrior (160HP) to a V35 Bonanza (285HP) is Apples to Oranges.
      The V35 requires constant attention and if left unattended will build speed quite rapidly. The “Fork Tail” is an honest 160 knot airplane while the Warrior is a 115 knot cruiser. The difference can and has been calculated by insurance companies as it relates to “Surviveability”. Please don’t misunderstand, I have flown all the Cherokee line and find them a pleasure (except for Turbo “T” Tail Lances). The Seneca is a fine twin, roomy, but will not climb on one engine well at all.
      I have also flown all the Bonanzas, V35, F33 and A36 also the Barons which are just Bonanzas with two engines. I like the Barons best for Midwest flying mostly because you can use differential throttle for take off and landing in the stiff crosswinds.
      In a Cessna you can drop a wing, but “Bananas” have their Rudders and Ailerons interconnected so you can only “crab”. Don’t get me wrong, crabbing is fine and at Grand Island, Neb. and Jamestown N.D. you really got used to it.
      Another wonderful thing about Cherokees was the ability to kick them around and come down like a freight elevator. I wouldn’t want to try that I a “Fork Tail Doctor Killer”.

      • David Megginson
        David Megginson says:

        I agree entirely, Louis. My point is that, if you’re just flying a Cherokee (like Ed and I are) or a fixed-gear Cessna, you don’t really need to invest in advanced avionics to help ensure that you can maintain control of the plane in an emergency.

  8. Greg Vivaldi
    Greg Vivaldi says:

    Lets just address the elephant in the room, there is more computing power and situation awareness in your IPAD and foreflight with the new Stratus ADS and all you spent was under 2K. It even has a AH and DG….So we now that it is a both the Government and the Manufacturers trying to make a bundle of money. We all know that the little bolts and nuts we have to buy aren’t worth 500.00 apiece.

    I appreciate the RD but soon there will not be any real GA in America it will look like Europe. They are short sighted when they think they can keep their companies going on business jet and new airplanes. Come on why by a brand new plane for 300K for a 172 ??? Too bad it will be to late when they realize that the aging fleet needs be repowered and reavoiniced….wonder how many of the old fleet will be left to rot when you have to spend 10K for the upcoming regulation.

    but then again the stratus is ADS isn’t it I would like if my AOPA money went to this issue too, because soon it will not matter if there are less airports there will be less planes.

    • Louis Sell
      Louis Sell says:

      Sometimes the “nuts and bolts” can cost $500.00 apiece, and maybe more.
      First, yes there is a lot of greed in our industry–just look at the recent sales and buyouts.
      BUT—the real costs are the cost of certifications. If you sell airframe components or provide processing services to airframers:
      (1) ISO certification required. Cost about $25000.00/year.
      (2) If you sell to BCAC you must be certified by them to their interpretation of the ISO Standard with their SPECIFIC requirements added. Cost about $40000.00/year.
      (3) NADCAP = SAE national accredition. Cost about $300000.00/year.
      (4) Annual certification for each process specification designated in a contract (purchase order)from an airframer.
      Clarification = Contract can specify SAE or Airframe Manufacturer process specification. Larger companies have their own process specs. and smaller companies do not and use SAE specs. SOOOOO—you have to be approved for both.
      (5) Lets break ISO and NADCAP down.
      ISO is a “Policy Based” in house document. Simply put, it says you will empty the trash can each day. That’s what you are evaluated on, execution of policy.
      NADCAP is “Procedure Based” and is an “In House” written procedure that is very specific. It lists the size and shape of the can, color, material and time of day you empty the trash can. It includes how you grasp the can, which hand and what you empty it into. It can also include the requirement that the can be purchased from a source listed on the “Approved Products List”. This list can be from the customer or his requirement you have an “In House” APL.
      NADCAP requires you pay a fee up front of about $40000.00 for each point you wish evaluated. One to two people come to your facility once or twice a year and grade you–failure is EASY.
      Additionally, each customer who has contracts with you will come in at least once a year to evaluate your Quality Control and assure you are processing to their requirements.
      I need to add that NADCAP (SAE) and manufacturers (airframers) specifications ARE NOT THE SAME. Your QC Manual must cover both and his processing specification must be followed even if it conflicts with NADCAP.
      Roughly, nine to twelve employees are tied up 10 hours a day all year long to maintain these requirements. If you do business with most Mfgs. you will have survey people in your plant each week.
      Of course they will always have write ups so your people will be writing answers about seven days a week.
      Simple example; our forging division has two (2) Liquid Penetrant (Zyglo) systems because some companies requirements differ so much in the liquids and process to be used we had to install more than one system. Black lights are tested daily, we had to have two (2) different test meters.
      This is all a “Quickie” explanation. You should get me started about Heat Treating or Metrology. I spent 49 years dealing with this and was involved with NADCAP from the “Talking” stage forward.

  9. Stephen Phoenix
    Stephen Phoenix says:

    Just to throw in a little technicality here; the airplane certification rules don’t actually require TSO’d equipment. Some airplane companies, like Boeing for example, don’t use TSO’d equipment. What is required is that the equipment be shown to work in all anticipated environmental conditions and that it not screw up the operation of other equipment in the airplane when it’s working. Will the homebuilt equipment do that? What are you willing to pay to find out?
    You know, VFR is not so bad for those of us that fly for personal reasons and do not have to be on a schedule. A few nights in a hotel are a lot cheaper than any hot dog equipment you can buy.

    • David Megginson
      David Megginson says:

      “A few nights in a hotel are a lot cheaper than any hot dog equipment you can buy.”

      That varies, depending on the opportunity cost. If you’re a retired person or a salaried employee on vacation, then yes, that’s probably true; if you’re self employed (e.g. consultant, lawyer, business owner), and can’t work out of the hotel room, then you have to add them money you don’t earn during the stay to the cost of the accommodation.

      On the bright side, most of the really fancy glass stuff isn’t any more *necessary* for IFR than VFR. I’ve been flying IFR over the past almost 11 years without an IFR-certified GPS, for example, and just bought my first (single-axis) autopilot a couple of years ago. So IFR doesn’t have to be expensive — just a few more requirements and inspections (here in Canada, we need a working source of alternate static air, a heated pitot tube, and a correlation check between the altimeter and the transponder).

      • Stephen Phoenix
        Stephen Phoenix says:

        I would expect a self employed consultant, lawyer, business owner to be able to buy the necessary equipment to do the job since he can deduct the expenses and is presumeably making enough to cover the necessary expenses. Otherwise, there are cheaper ways to get around.

        • David Megginson
          David Megginson says:

          As a consultant (and the son of a lawyer), I’ll point out that that’s not always the case — I’ve had years where I’ve earned less than I would have at the drive-through window at Dunkin Donuts — and that “deductions” don’t work the way you might think they do.

          However, as I mentioned, you don’t actually need $150,000 (or even $20,000) in fancy glass instruments to fly safely IFR, so we agree on that point; you do, however, need the instrument rating itself. VFR is fine for recreational flying on a flexible schedule, and $500K+ planes full of glass panels and fancy avionics are great for the wealthy, but it’s worth remembering that there are those of us who earn average salaries consulting and use 35-year-old $45K Cherokees to fly around and meet customers quite effective.

          Not everyone who flies a low-end plane is flying recreationally, and not everyone who flies on business is rich.

          • Stephen Phoenix
            Stephen Phoenix says:

            Yeah, I know, I was just playing devil’s advocate.
            You’re right, of course. If a person wants to fly IFR (and it is fun as well as useful) on a budget, it is quite doable. With a set of mechanical gyros (with a heading bug on the DG please), a KX-155 w/GS, a second comm, audio panel with markers and a handheld GPS, a person could go about anywhere. Replace the KX-155 with a used G430W if you need to do GPS approaches. If one is going to be flying in some of the busier airspace then a 2-axis autopilot with heading and altitude hold would be very desirable.

            I commuted daily into Seattle (KBFI) for some years and all over the country with a setup like described above (no autopilot though) and it worked fine. I actually like flying the mechanical gyros better than the flat screens, but that’s probably just because I grew up with them. Should change the vacuum pump out every 500 hours though for maximum reliability on that weak link (or get a wet pump).

          • David Megginson
            David Megginson says:

            Yes, I hear you on the second autopilot axis. In still air above the clouds, it’s no big deal, but down in the bumps, it would save a lot of work. I’m thinking of updating my S-TEC 20 to two axes in a year or two.

  10. Eddie
    Eddie says:

    Very interesting evolution of conversation; IFR vs. VFR and business vs. recreational… Lots of good input and feedback…

    Although I have plenty of VFR miles behind me, and lots of IFR trips long before GPS was even around, I do prefer to file and fly IFR for all the standard reasons… Aside from having the vacuum pump failure, which ignited this search into upgrades, having a little extra help during single-pilot IFR can only be a good thing…

    This post was not about refitting my old Warrior with a Garmin 1000 (obviously insane), but more about an average working guy adding a piece or two of reasonably current technology to his airplane, and the sticker shock from discovering the huge price discrepancy between certified and non-certified avionics…

    Please continue…

    • Stephen Phoenix
      Stephen Phoenix says:

      Yeah, sorry we diverged a little bit. You were really asking if TSO equipment is worth the money. I have some experience in that field.

      TSO equipment is run through a battery of expensive laboratory tests to show that it will meet industry standards for a number of operational environment parameters like vibration, mechanical shock, temperature extremes, altitude, electromagnetic interference, voltage spikes, resistance to High Intensity Radio Frequencies, resistance to lightning strikes, sand, dust, saltfog, mold and humidity. These tests are expensive and they are included in the price of TSO equipment. In addition, the manufacturing process requires great amounts of paper to prove that the manufactured articles are the same as what was orginally tested. In all, it’s expensive, but I can assure you that the TSO component manufacturers are not getting real fat even with the high prices charged.

      But is it all worth it? That is the real question. The new thought process is that the LSA types and homebuilders are getting by without all the lab testing and paperwork bologna and they are not falling out of the sky in great numbers. So maybe the TSO process is overkill; and some of that thought process is going into the new Part 23 rewrite I do believe.

      I have witnessed TSO tests in which weaknesses were exposed in the tests and fixed before the product got put on sale; which is a good thing. I have also held in my hands, 2400 pages of TSO testing documentation which proved that the item passed all tests devised by industry and the government and the military only to have the components fail regularily within a couple months of operational service. So what was all the testing good for?

      With the Experimental equipment you are, in fact, a test pilot out proving that the equipment works in the enviroment you happen to be flying in. Much of the Experimental equipment is designed and built by very knowledgeable and capable people; they usually just don’t spend the big money for lab testing. As noted above that may not be such a big thing; or it might be a big thing. I don’t think there’s a silver bullet answer here, we’re just going to have to try some new things and see how it works.

      • Louis Sell
        Louis Sell says:

        Many thanks for your writing about TSO’d vs non TSO’d equipment. It really needed to be addressed and you clearly know this process.
        I don’t agree that you were off subject however, I think you were spot on!
        Old military adage = weight of paper work has to equal weight of airplane before it can fly !!!
        P.S.–I was there and that’s close to true.

  11. Tony Harrison
    Tony Harrison says:

    As an RV10 part owner, equipped with Dynon glass and analog dials, I know which way I would go. But it did take me a little time to adjust.

    Previously I enjoyed flying Piper’s and Cessna aircraft from local flying schools, but was always on the look out for a syndicate. When the RV10 came up I was a bit dubious, after all, it was put together (literally) under someone’s house.

    But 160kt cruise, and long legs, plus dual glass and analog backup, dual alternator and careful co-owners, means I am more than happy with the route I have chosen

  12. Lloyd Bunbury
    Lloyd Bunbury says:

    Interesting topic and lots of thoughtful responses. I live in Canada where, sadly, LSA aircraft are not recognized killing my dream of one day buying an Icon A5. But that is a discussion for another day. I do own a 1997 Katana DA20A1 with TT of 1500 hours. In fact as I write my Rotax 912F is on it’s way back from a zero time overhaul at a cost of about $20,000.00. All of this to say that with limited budgets I decided to spend my coin on the engine and not on new avionics. I have both a certified NAVCOM and GPSCOM in the aircraft but rely on my Garmin GPSMAP296 as primary VFR navigation. I love the portable because I can program the route at home and then fly it in the plane. I also carry an iPad mini using Foreflight with a full set of Canadian charts (VNC, VTA & CFS). Between the 296 and the iPad I have great situational awareness and us the certified avionics as backup. Seriously, who can afford a certified panel upgrade after doing certified maintenance? Now, if I could just snag that Icon A5….

  13. Bart McPherson
    Bart McPherson says:

    It has long been a bone in my throat that small plane pilots have been denied the safety of the wonderful sport pilot electronic auto pilots and so forth. The dirty truth is there are many many good pilots in their graves because of this bureaucratic roadblock. There should be a provision allowing pilot to use any avionics they want to, with the proviso that their log books would show exactly what they had aboard. It’s all about government lethargy coupled with turf protection. Basically, it is about job protection by the drones. Let’s just face it.

  14. Steve
    Steve says:

    When glass panels for synthetic flying environments (simulators) cost $100, it begs the question why the exact same rugged LED screen on my laptop costs more than ten times as much when purchased for an airplane, and that’s long before considering any costs of installation.

    The main problem is that the bureaucratic process is broken. 1950’s-era avionics required certifications on a make, model, and type basis. Modern avionics, not so much, if at all.

    The bureaucrats are missing a HUGE opportunity to help us all dramatically improve flight safety. I know of very few owners who would hesitate to upgrade to glass cockpits if the total cost of doing so was at cost + an acceptable price for profit and labor. As it is, most of the exorbitant expense for avionics pays for the company’s expense of jumping through burdensome red tape.

  15. jim machuga
    jim machuga says:

    I have to agree with Ed. At 100Kts my prise and joy for over 43 yrs,a ’56 c-172 is slower than the true “airplane” LSA’S. Its flight instruments ? needle,ball,airspeed,altimiter and rate of climb…all factory! no gyros. Radio?…Ky 96. no vor, and xponder. Why? braces and college took precedence over avionics and gyros…But the kids are gone now, but so is the job. And social security does not pay much… So I go blundering alone on only CAVU days for should I make a mistake and blunder into a cloud Im afraid my life expenctandy, even tho i am instrument rated, would equal that of a non instrument rated pilot in IMC…about 2 min according to AOPA seminars. Even a little Dynon EFIs would get me home for dinner!

    There must be a senseable and workable compromise…After all a glass cockpit C-172 has steam gague backup. Why cannot we have EFIS in certified planes as backup and placard against intentional flight into IMC?


    • RB
      RB says:

      Actually Jim, you can have a portably mounted EFIS in your certified airplane and use it all the time as a non-primary instrument.

  16. Bart McPherson
    Bart McPherson says:

    It’s really time for all pilots of small planes to start just raising hell with the FAA. Starting to nag our senators and congressmen would finally get to the drones. There is no excuse for the status quo. But, it will not change one iota unless some immortal hell is raised, as it should be.

  17. Losdubes
    Losdubes says:

    Personally, I wish AOPA would pick up on this topic instead of their driver’s license medical for VFR daytime only campaign. After all, they all want to encourage GA while making it safer,right? Then focus on making the tools we need to stay safe available at a reasonable price instead of suggesting a program the will encourage us to become scud runners just to avoid peeing in a cup.

    • David
      David says:

      I totally agree with the comment concerning the AOPA. IMHO they are spending time chasing rabbits into holes while GA for small pistons is being eroded into extinction.
      Many of us pay annual fees for them to represent us but we are still a dying species of aviator.
      I dare say it is almost as though they are on the side of the modern glass cockpit aircraft and are willing to let the real birds die.
      That is my 2 cents.

  18. Josh Dickson
    Josh Dickson says:

    You hit the nail on the head. I am hoping the part 23 rewrite will all the previously Non-Tso’d avionics into our Single Engine Pistons…December 2015 by presidential mandate.

  19. Chris Sims
    Chris Sims says:

    No one has commented in two years on this thread so has there been any movement on the subject.

    I contacted my Ft Worth FSDO regarding mixing non certified EFIS products in an AA5B and removing all the vacuum instruments. I explained that Saftey, Situational Awareness, & Reliability would be enhanced while cost and weight would go down.

    Long story short I was told to submit a proposal of exactly what I wanted to do. Currently I am looking at Dynon, GRT, and MGL. The panel would be completely rebuilt to modern standards- rewired, adding PS 200A, Garmin/Avidyne/BK GPS, ADS-B center stack. Installed cost is $12-14 thousand less than with certified products.

    Light General Aviaton Aircraft should be permitted to upgrade their avionics with affordable, modern systems. Instead, the bureaucracy, mired in archaic regulations, forces either expensive upgrades or obsolescence of the GA fleet.

    • David
      David says:

      I have been looking at purchasing a 1963 AC500B with all steam guages, dual VOR receivers, no auto pilot, and made the mistake of contacting an avionics shop for an instrument retrofit for an HSI, GPS, MFD, and an autopilot and the total is more than the acquisition cost of the aircraft.
      This is why so many great aircraft are staying in graveyards to rot away, because the average GA pilot cannot afford to own one and even more so keeping up with the antiquated FAA regs tha plague so much of GA.
      Is this end of traditional GA as we know it?

  20. Chris
    Chris says:

    Seems like AOPA, EAA, and GA aircraft owners need to deluge the FAA and congress on this issue. The rules are antiquated and need immediate updating to allow many economic improvements to GA safety, reliability, and economics.

    This is very frustratingly……..I guess everyone will just Velcro an IPAD over the six pack and add Statos. $1200 total and you have a legal system.

    BTW the Statos is fantastic!

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