Help me upgrade my Decathlon VFR panel

Discussion in 'Avionics and Upgrades' started by Ed Haywood, Jul 19, 2020.

  1. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Seriously consider springing for the GI-275. Its a lot of money but it packs a lot of punch.
     
  2. CRQFlier

    CRQFlier Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Which version? I've been debating various uses.

    Sent from my SM-G960U1 using Tapatalk
     
  3. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    The AI has a lot of capability by itself.
     
  4. arnoha

    arnoha Cleared for Takeoff

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    Do you know if the VSI aspect has less delay than the standard 6 seconds of an analog VSI? That could make it very nice for acro.
     
  5. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    No idea.
     
  6. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Update: the Collins nav/com croaked halfway thru my first XC trip. I hated that radio anyways. No flip flop, no standby freq monitoring, and the display was unreadable in sunlight. I probably would have replaced it even if it didn't break.

    So the plane going into MAC Avionics at KLAL on Monday to yank the Collins and install a new GTR 225. While there, I'm going to have the TC replaced with an RC Allen 2600-3 that I got on eBay for $1300. Also going to have a dual USB charger installed to power my GDL-50 and iPad Mini. Finally, I'm getting WAT Orion 650 wingtip strobe/nav lights. I'll post a picture next week, so those of you who said not to mess with it can yell YOU RUINED IT! :eek:

    Any suggestions on what to do with the empty 3" hole where the CDI was?
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
  7. frtrkap

    frtrkap Pre-Flight

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    I got a used JPI EDM 700 for my Cherokee 140 and love it to bits. You can get them well under 1000$ with probes. If I had a plane I was planning to do acro with, i'd want an engine monitor.
     
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  8. NordicDave

    NordicDave Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    Great advise! This is a freak-in beautiful panel as-is.

    @Ed Haywood, Consider:
    • GTX-345 for ads-b in/out with an AHRS to drive ForeFlight. Or if you had the money GNX-375 for WAAS GPS and ADS-B transponder.
    • GNC-255a with it's builtin 2 position intercom
    • And for a bonus EI CGR-30P engine monitor to get the essentials plus fuel totalizer
    Putting the CRG-30P into the current RPM spot, means the elimination of all engine gauges left of the 6-pack leaving room for an iPad mini RAM ball mount.
     
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2020
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  9. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I would definitely go with the GTX-345 if I was starting from scratch. But since I've already got a GTX-335 and a GDL-50, that would be a whole lot of extra cost just for the sake of neatness.

    No offense, but why would anyone buy a nav/com in the GPS era? I probably haven't followed a VOR radial in 20 years.
     
  10. NordicDave

    NordicDave Pattern Altitude PoA Supporter

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    I saw the VOR head in the plane and assumed it’s staying. I personally like a both a GPS with a VOR as back-up. Occasionally I get a departure for a crossing radial like have the VOR for those reasons.

    The GTX-375 is a slide-in replacement for the 335 except for wiring to a GPS if installed. Having WAAS GPS and AHRS data feeding and iPad is a joy to fly with.

    Your plane looks like a lot of fun.
     
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  11. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My plane is sooooooo much fun!

    The CDI is coming out with the Collins. I suppose I could leave it in, but I think I'd rather have the space and weight savings. Maybe one day I'll put a GI 275 as an MFD in the hole. Or move the G-meter there and put the GI 275 in the center as an HSI/moving map.

    Keep in mind my airplane is impossible to legally make IFR, so I won't be doing departures, approaches, etc. Pure VFR. And since I've got 3 GPS-capable devices in my cockpit, I'm comfortable with my ability to navigate, unless the whole system crashes.

    I'd love the 345 or 375, but I think I've blown my discretionary budget for now. My GDL 50 gives me WAAS GPS, ADS-B In, and AHRS to my iPad mini, though with more cables and batteries than I would prefer. I agree it is a joy, especially the weather in. Here is my approximate route from last week using my ADS-B feed to dodge weather and get home happy in VFR.

    weather.PNG
     
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  12. jimhorner

    jimhorner Line Up and Wait

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    I used to be a member of West Valley Flying Club in Palo Alto, CA just to get access to their Decathlon, N814AC. However, it was down for maintenance for months, so I switched to Advantage Aviation, also in Palo Alto because they had a Great Lakes biplane which scratched the same tailwheel acro itch. Wonder of wonders, several months later, N814AC showed up on Advantage’s line. There were, however, a few differences. Below is a shot of the new panel. Gone is the old transponder, an old radio with a severely out of date gps, and an attitude indicator and directional gyro that were never turned on anyway. In their place is a lot of fancy glass stuff.

    Now, the panel below would be great for a cross country, IFR cruising machine, but in my opinion, that’s not the purpose of a Decathlon. A Decathlon is made for going out and truly exploring the 3D nature of flight: loops, hammerheads, rolls, spins, etc. It’s also a lot of fun to go up on a pretty day and just go exploring with no particular place to go. The panel below really seems like overkill for the mission of a Decathlon.

    If it were my plane, I’d stick with an ADSB-out transponder and use an ipad strapped to my leg if I wanted to travel somewhere, maybe with a USB charging port. Keep everything else simple. A Decathlon really doesn’t need a lot of high-performance IFR stuff.

    I’d pull out the VOR head also, but that’s just me.

    Of course, my opinion (worth exactly whatcha paid for it) might be colored by the fact that I do live and fly in the SF Bay area in California. It’s awfully hard to get lost around here. Pacific Ocean on one side, Sierra Nevadas on the other, and Mt. Diablo as an easy landmark.

    [​IMG]

    [edit] I was able to locate a picture of the old panel. Nothing wrong with it for what I believe is the primary mission of a Decathlon.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
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  13. jimhorner

    jimhorner Line Up and Wait

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    Just as a comparison, here are a few shots of the panel in the rear cockpit of the Great Lakes.

    There’s a switch that supposedly powers up the attitude indicator, but in 16 hours flying the plane, I’ve never turned it on once. No standard six pack here. G meter takes front row, center.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
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  14. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I really don't like the way that Aspen looks. Makes me glad I steered away from the G5 and stuck with round gauge.

    I can see the appeal of a multi mission aircraft to a flying club. Having an aerobatic taildragger that you can also do IFR training and currency in is smart business. Keep it flying more.

    I think the original owner of my plane was going for the aerobatic version of a six pack, so you could do a quick scan before each maneuver to verify entrance parameters, and check critical info with a quick glance down. It is pretty well laid out, though I question the logic of putting the tach in that spot. With a CS prop, you have no need to keep an eye on the RPM. Set and forget. With a fixed prop, totally different story.
     
  15. jimhorner

    jimhorner Line Up and Wait

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    Yeah, looks strange on that panel, doesn’t it? Very much out of place.

    Seems like Return On Investment would need to be thought of, however. There are about 50 planes online at the club, owned by individuals who make them available for lease back. https://www.advantage-aviation.com/rental-aircraft/

    Lots of 172’s with a good number having G-1000s. This Decathlon is competeing against a lot of other planes for IFR uses, and it will take a long time for the owner to recoup the cost of adding all of these fancy avionics.

    Decathlons are great planes. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of fun with yours. Gotta admit a little envy. We’re very happy with our Super Viking; it fits our travel mission perfectly, but I confess to checking out the Decathlons, Great Lakes, and Stearmans on Trade a Plane from time to time...
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2020
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  16. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I've been a Decathlon fan for a long time. I'm dumb to have bought it, given my mission requires considerable travel right now. But I'm happy. Something about taildraggers, tandem seating, and sticks instead of yokes just feels right. Flying is always satisfying, but in these type airplanes there is a joy to it. I would love to get an open cockpit biplane one day. Skybolts have always caught my eye.
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2020
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  17. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    This will shock everyone who knows me (especially @SixPapaCharlie)

    Leave the panel alone and get a great tablet.

    [Ravioli runs off to wash his fingers and keyboard having typed such advice]

    Reference information:
     
  18. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    It's a done deal now. Dropped the aircraft off at the avionics shop yesterday. Remove Nav/Com, CDI, and TC. Install GTR-225 com, electronic AI, and dual USB charger. Navigation will be via iPad with portable ADS-B In. Will post pictures next week.
     
  19. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Done! I pick it up tomorrow. Thanks to MAC Avionics of Lakeland. Pictures:

    IMG_20200916_151952.jpg

    Closeup of RC Allen electronic AI. Just what I wanted.

    IMG_20200916_151917.jpg

    New Garmin GTR-225 and dual USB port to drive my iPad mini and portable ADS-B In.

    IMG_20200916_151930.jpg

    New lights while I am at it.

    strobe.jpg
     
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2020
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  20. Seanaldinho

    Seanaldinho Pattern Altitude

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    Looks good!
     
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  21. Ed Haywood

    Ed Haywood Pre-takeoff checklist

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  22. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson En-Route

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    Looks good to me for VFR CC!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
     
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  23. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    All that bellyaching about G5 and Aspens hanging on the panel not flush but the radio LRUs stick out?

    I think they all look fine.
     
  24. arnoha

    arnoha Cleared for Takeoff

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    I've been with WVFC for years. Some of my pals are with Advantage. How do you compare the two clubs?
     
  25. jimhorner

    jimhorner Line Up and Wait

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    Well, I’m not all that active in Advantage because I just fly the biplane once a month or so. I’ve never rented any of their other planes, so I may not be the best person to compare the clubs from an average renter’s standpoint. Before buying my plane in 2012, I did do a fair amount of Cessna renting from West Valley while working on my IFR. Once I got my plane, I stayed with West Valley only for the Decathlon. Once the Decathlon went away, so did I. Switched to Advantage for the biplane.

    Both clubs have a good selection of planes. Plenty of Cessnas in both clubs, a few Pipers, a handful of the plastic Cirri, and a decent number of Citabrias. However, Advantage seems to have more variety. A couple of Bonanzas, a Dutchess, some Diamonds, a Decathlon, a Great Lakes biplane. and even a AT-6 texan. Both clubs have glass panel and 6 pack planes for training. Advantage had a Stearman for a while and an Extra. West Valley had a Pitts for a while. The fleets change over time.

    Both clubs have a long list of instructors, and some instructors appear on both lists. Both offer the standard PPL training, IFR, tailwheel, etc., but Advantage probably has a bit of an edge wrt acro, and it”s the only club currently with a twin, although West Valley has had twins in the past. It seems that owners tend to move back and forth between clubs, not sure why.

    Scheduling systems are pretty easy for both, although I might give a bit of an edge to West Valley. Dispatch is a bit easier at Advantage.

    Not a clue about social stuff at Advantage. West Valley used to have monthly gatherings, Friday cookouts, and holiday parties. I joined Advantage in October 2019 and didn’t see any of that, but, to be fair, I wasn’t really looking. Of course now, all of that type of stuff is on hold.

    Can’t speak at all about the owner experience with the clubs.

    All in all, from a renter’s standpoint, I would give a slight edge to Advantage, but that’s just a perception. If the biplane moved to West Valley. I’d switch back to them without a second thought. I choose the club based on access to a tailwheel acro bird.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020