Narco - it's lights out

Discussion in 'Maintenance Bay' started by murphey, Apr 3, 2011.

  1. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    http://www.narco-avionics.com/

    "Due to circumstances beyond our control, we regret to inform you that after over 65 years in business, Narco Avionics, Inc. has closed. A trustee will be appointed shortly to oversee liquidation of assets and assure return of Customer's property, such as Customer's Radios sent to Narco for service, as soon as possible. We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience this causes and thank all loyal Narco Customers, around the world, for their loyalty over all of these years! Please monitor this web site as informational updates will be provided as soon as possible."
     
  2. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What does this really do to general aviation?

    Does it mean all Narco radios are junk?
    Does it mean that their radios can't be repaired as they have always been in the local shops?
    Or does it mean there will be some pretty good deals on E-bay?
     
  3. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas En-Route

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    I would guess that older radios (without the gas-discharge displays) might still be repairable in local shops. Newer stuff has proprietary components that would be available only from the factory, and really new stuff often has surface-mount microcomponents that make the thing pretty much impossible to fix. They're built by robotic machinery. And some of that stuff is then encapsulated in epoxy. Fun to try fixing that.

    Garmin's radios aren't field-repairable now. When it quits you FedEx it to their plant and they "fix" it and return it to you for a flat rate. The ones we've done came back as brand-new units with the old serial numbers on new tags. Avionics have become like other consumer electronics: far cheaper to replace than repair, just like toasters and other small appliances did years ago. Larger appliances are getting like that, and cars will eventually become disposable, I suspect.

    Dan
     
  4. Trapper John

    Trapper John Ejection Handle Pulled

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    If they break, and the local avionics shop can't get parts, then yes, they'll be junk.
     
  5. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The parts for the KX 170s haven't been built for years they can still be repaired with off the shelf after market parts, the old Narco's will be too.

    the simple fact that these,
    http://www.valavionics.com/productPages/comms/commRadios.htm#2000 at these prices, will make the endeavor too expensive.

    my suggestion is if your old Narco quits, replace it. put the old one on E-bay. some one will use it as parts and keep theirs going

    I'm really sorry to see them go. the Mark 12D was a work horse of the industry. The company decisions to have all units sent back to the factory and refuse to allow the local shops repair as required by not providing the skits and parts was to me a death blow to the company.

    They were the leader of the industry at one time, poor company management is what got them here.
     
  6. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    I bet someone buys the assets and (at least) opens a repair station.
     
  7. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    And how is that going to affect their repairability now?

    Too bad, I always got a good laugh out of seeing them at trade shows hawking their brand-new 1970's technology. :rolleyes: Unfortunately, after the experiences we had with Narco, I can't say I'm sorry to see them go. Luckily, we no longer have any Narco equipment in the fleet.
     
  8. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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  9. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I do not know what will happen to the skits or parts supply the company had.
     
  10. Trapper John

    Trapper John Ejection Handle Pulled

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    If it's a bunch of boards with surface-mounted devices that were wave soldered, the prospects of replacing individual components isn't too good.

    Narco going TU probably isn't that big deal in the greater scheme of things. However, if Garmin were to be bought out by someone that thinks the risk/reward part of GA avionics just isn't worth it and wanted to concentrate on the consumer market or build up the ag/constuction market, a lot of people would be SOL. They have enough proprietary chipsets and firmware that they could slam the door tomorrow and your $12,000 GNS 530 would be worthless overnight.

    It's easy to say that would never happen, but look at Cessna when the took the big SE hiatus. It's not like someone new stepped in and made everything all better.

    In the mean time, Garmin's pushing Honeywell/Bendix/what used to be King Radio out of the GA market. Given the sucky GA market, who would be nuts enough to step up and fill the gap? Avidyne? Aspen? One of the non-cert homebuilt people?
     
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2011
  11. Keith Lane

    Keith Lane Pattern Altitude

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    I've got TKM slide in replacements.
    I like them.
     
  12. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It's not.

    I know this because last time we sent in a Narcrap radio to them for repair, they replaced a single capacitor... For a cost of over $500. :incazzato:
     
  13. Trapper John

    Trapper John Ejection Handle Pulled

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    Ugh. So, was it a cap that the local shop couldn't source? Or that they couldn't troubleshoot? Or did the local shop not want to try to repair and told you to send it to Narco?

    Not that it really matters - stuff like that probably killed a bunch of potential new Narco sales, which is why they're in the dumper.
     
  14. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I believe it was #2.

    At least that time, we got the radio back in a reasonable amount of time. The previous Narco repair took them OVER A YEAR. Completely unacceptable.
     
  15. JesseD

    JesseD Line Up and Wait

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    Actually, SMT isn't that bad. Most people, with a steady hand, can even learn to solder fine pitch chips if the lay off the caffeine. The hardest part is the test fixtures. Something like a Genrad, custom incircuit, or HP 3070 Series, with the proper fixtures and schematics is all that's required for component repair. The hard part is the boards themselves. Some will have burnt traces.

    Heck, get a nice heatflow, and it's even easier to replace chips.
     
  16. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I've had more luck with the tiny heated air systems/pens and just gently lifting on the chip with long tweezers. Careful application of a good quality (Read: Kestrel) solder paste with a toothpick on the pins of the new device and reheat/reflow the thing pack in place.

    I do so little of it though, that the paste dries out. I hear keeping it in the fridge works great, but wife isn't so keen on using the butter dish door as a solder-paste holder...

    The problems are mostly as you say, from caffeine/shaky fingers. And a nice well-lit bench and magnifier or those goofy-assed magnifying goggles that never play nice with my eyeglasses, helps tons.

    Another problem with resistors/capacitors smaller than 0208 or maybe 0206 is that one good sneeze will send your parts inventory everywhere... :(

    Some of the really small stuff is also an inhalation hazard if you're a heavy mouth-breather when gawking at a tiny surface-mount board. Very bad juju if a component takes up residence in a lung.

    I should post a photo of the "repair" someone did to the RF traces on a GE MASTR II RF power amp's board-printed Wilkinson divider/combiner right after the high-power RF transistor torched it, that's currently on-air from my basement as a link radio. A lovely shaky hand job with a silver pen.

    I was amazed when the thing still worked after a one-week key-down test into my 500W Bird dummy-load, after what I thought would turn out to be a bad eBay purchase, so I decided to put it on-air and see how long the nut-job golden-screwdriver fix lasted.

    It's going on 5 years of heavy-duty service with the power backed off to 65W (EIA/TIA rated at 100W continuous-duty). No spurs, no problems. Amazingly bad "repair" seems to be going to hold up until the thing takes a lightning hit or power surge during a thunderstorm.

    Granted, it ain't no surface-mount small gear, but it proved to me that sometimes really ugly burnt-trace fixes do sometimes work.

    On the other hand, I had one once that burnt the board to board "jumper" area so badly that the board had almost zero resistance across that gap, and every time it was keyed it would arc in the burnt area no matter how nice a path I'd made for the happy little electrons. I gave up after repair attempt number three, pulled the hard-to-find components off the board and scrapped it.
     
  17. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The bottom line here is the fact another American company is gone, beaten by its own management. Their decisions kept the company in the dark ages of technology, and the industry marched right by.

    I'm sure that the need is the mother of invention, and if a market is found there will be some body to fill that need.

    Time will tell.
     
  18. thomasdr72

    thomasdr72 Pre-Flight

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    That's just too bad... I did some research on mine (my bird has dual Mk12d's, and the loc on Nav#1 was acting weird.) Those aluminum electrolytic capacitors have a service life of 20yrs tops. When I had my radio open, I counted three. They can be sourced for about $10 for the set, and a decent electronics guy can probably replace them in an hour, maybe two if you never had the radio apart before...

    I have the A+ filter cap on my desk for each of my radios, ready to solder in... And the parts were $6.10 plus $6 shipping...

    That said, I'm planning to install a GNS-430w someday soon, but I may just keep one of my MK12d's until it pukes... Might just keep the one with G/s in the plane, and have a spare on the shelf...

    Cheers!
     
  19. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Go into one of the big fabric/sewing stores. They have flip-up magnifyers that clip to your glasses, just like clip-on sunshades. Great idea, and about
    $10. Perfect for contorting yourself under the panel trying to tie-wrap stuff out of the way of the controls.
     
  20. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I think that the need for more modern radios has already been met by several other companies, and Narco's lack of any sort of development in a REALLY long time (I mean come on, when did their latest "new" product come out? 30+ years ago?) meant that everyone else got people's business. They probably haven't sold very many radios at all in the last 10 years, and those that they did sell were probably replacements for existing Narco radios that had crapped out. Seems most people are going to 430's, or at least KX155's or SL30's or one of the numerous other newer options.

    Sigh. Reminds me of the old engineer joke... "Chalk mark: $1. Knowing where to put it: $50,000." It's quite possible that the avionics shop didn't feel like putting the work into replacing those caps without knowing if that would fix the problem, though the electrolytic ones should physically show a problem.

    Or, maybe as an official "FAA Repair Station" they have to use "approved" procedures, which Narco did not provide. :dunno:

    Sounds like a good plan. I hope your two aren't as problematic as our one was! Not too overly bad - But two pull-it-out-of-the-plane issues in 5 years, as much as our other five radios combined... 1 G430, 4 Kings, some of which had the MAC 1700 upgrade... These days, we have three remaining King radios, all with the MAC 1700 upgrade, and they've been completely bulletproof. The other three are the 430W and the two that are part of the G1000 system.
     
  21. Anthony

    Anthony Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Remember, Garmin didn't exist "x" number of years ago either. Its a cycle, with some companies that just don't innovate. Innovate or die. How about King? Would they have surivived this long without their parent?
     
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2011
  22. SCCutler

    SCCutler Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Narco did have some new product, their solid-state transponders are well-received, and the one-piece navs were sound products. The 12D+ was newer than 30 years... not sure when, though.

    I know Kent had bad luck with his Narco - mine has been fine, while during the time I've owned my plane, I've had one dead King, and intermittent issues with my GNS-430W.

    My point being, Narco were the instruments of their own failure, through widely-variable customer service and moronic business decisions - no need to pile-on with hyperbole.
     
  23. flyingcheesehead

    flyingcheesehead Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Only when Honeywell decides to stop spending money on 'em.

    They certainly need to do SOMETHING. Garmin is The Thing right now, and that's largely because they don't have any real competition. They're way ahead of everyone else, yet they continue to innovate and keep their lead, if not expand it even more. Anyone who wants to catch up is going to have to spend some SERIOUS dough on R&D, and given the small market, I doubt anyone will do that. :frown2:
     
  24. Dave Theisen

    Dave Theisen Line Up and Wait

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    I wasn't surprised to hear that Narco is going out of business. I WAS surprised that they were STILL IN business.
     
  25. Jaybird180

    Jaybird180 Final Approach

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    (LOLOLOL)
    Poor form of me to say "+1", but I just have to shrug and say +1.
     
  26. steingar

    steingar Touchdown! Greaser!

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    What is this "Narco" and why should I be concerned about it going out of business?

    If it were "Narfco", I would at least have a clue:

     
  27. JesseD

    JesseD Line Up and Wait

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    Denverpilot,

    You don't need paste at all. I do it with wire solder all the time. Heck, if you have a heatflow, you don't even need to remove the old solder. All that's required is a fine brush, flux, and a steady hand. Even the small parts aren't terrible, you just put on a "surgeon" mask to diffuse the breath.

    The hard part is the test fixtures. There is some serious engineering / programming for that. That, and the fact that jumper wires also only work in certain circumstances.

    "Bed'o'nails" (incircuit) testers are a PITA to get working.
     
  28. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Love that show! Always thought it was wasted on little kids. We used to watch it at work every morning along with "Animaniacs". "Just Say Narf!" (requires the glottal stop) is definitely a "Make 'em Laugh" take-off, right down to the pork-pie hat.
     
  29. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack En-Route

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    Isn't that show a documentary of your work? :)
     
  30. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There were several comments that were about the same, Narco never bothered to keep up, or compete.

    That's allowing the industry to march right by.

    I have mixed thoughts about Garmin. the GNC 250-XL being one example, nice unit, low cost, great usage, on the market about 10 year, yet Garmin has decided to not build them any more or support the data base up dates.

    They pretty much dictate the market. I don't believe that is a good thing.

    That is why I have been advising my customers to stay with the cheap com radio, ( VAL COM 2000C or a Icom A210) a good transponder,(Garmin 327) and a hand held GPS. (your choice)

    At least you won't have half the value of your aircraft at risk of a single company decision.

    I do realize that those who fly hard IFR in aircraft that can do that daily have different reason to buy equipment than the average hamburger chaser.
     
  31. Cap'n Jack

    Cap'n Jack En-Route

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    A couple of possibilities here-
    • Garmin discontinued a product to encourage an upgrade
    • Garmin saw the end of the road for parts and was forced to discontinue the product and subsequent support
    I tend to lean towards the second point as I see the same issue in lab equipment that I help sell. Vendors discontinue chips and boards and it forces a redesign. Like Garmin, we also have "wannabe us" competitors so we do evaluate our feature set in light of what the new hardware is capable of doing and market needs. We support the old stuff as long as possible but we stop doing software updates for new features on the old units. Software developers cost money and their pay comes from the sale of new equipment.
     
  32. Tom-D

    Tom-D Touchdown! Greaser!

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    either way, these new radios and nav equipment will not say in our aircraft as long as any of the radios we bought during the 70-2000 period, I have several Narco equipped aircraft that had a new set of radios put in service when the .03% rule out lawed the old 360 channel ones, and have never been out of the trays since.

    I liked the old Narco 120 series of nav and com radios, brick solid and worked every time. I'm still thinking they might still be the way to go for replacements.
     
  33. Trapper John

    Trapper John Ejection Handle Pulled

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    And the more integrated the avionics become, the bigger the risk. Take a newer 172 for instance. If Garmin decides to no longer support the G1000, what do you do? Probably spend a huge amount of money on whatever the replacement system is. Could be $50,000 to do that, could be $75,000, who knows. How much is the plane worth versus what it costs to put in the new integrated wonder system?

    Maybe someone will come up with an STC to convert 172 SPs back to analog instruments and conventional avionics.
     
  34. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas En-Route

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    Man's knowledge supposedly doubles every what? five or ten years? At that rate, new technology appears daily, and we can't have new technology appearing daily without making older stuff obsolete daily. As mentioned, electronic components themselves become obsolete and the few that would be required for repairs aren't worth any factory's time to make. We live in a world of wonderful stuff, but it has its price: Replace it when it quits. Forget about fixing it. A radio built in 1968, say, took a long time to become obsolete. Still see a few of them in old airplanes, still working. A radio built now is obsolete in the next couple of years, at the most.

    Only when there is demand for enough old components will some factory keep making them. As I understand, Russia is the only source for vacuum tubes now, and they sell them to the collectors and restorers of old TVs and stereos and shortwave radios. But, probably, 20% of the total range of tubes will fix 80% of the units. I doubt that 20% of the total range of chips will fix 80% of the IC-based electronics.

    Dan
     
  35. rpadula

    rpadula En-Route

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    Nah, I've heard from solder techs the bigger pain in the rump is the new lead-free solder.
     
  36. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    I'd love to see some Angel investors kick Garmin in the shins with Aspen's tech. Just to get prices off their over-inflated high-water mark.

    Aspen is the sweet spot price-wise for PFDs for retrofits. They just need a frakkin' GPS/Comm.
     
  37. Richard

    Richard Final Approach

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    Ack...city life
    RIP, Nancy.
     

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  38. HPNFlyGirl

    HPNFlyGirl En-Route

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    When I read the title to this thread I was thinking NARCO...as in the meds....and that it knocked you out. Hah hah hah.
     
  39. JesseD

    JesseD Line Up and Wait

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    For new builds it's harder. For rework it's not really a big deal.
     
  40. DebbieDriver

    DebbieDriver Filing Flight Plan

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    Not shocked at all.

    I sent in my old Nav121 last year because the tuning knobs were skipping frequencies (broken plastic gears). They called and told me it would be $1000 to bring it up to the point where they could properly test it, then they could tell me how much more it would be.

    I told them to send it back and it would go on the bookshelf with my old hockey-puck DG. They billed me $235 for the look-see. :eek:

    The estimate showed $100 EACH for the little plastic gears (3 of them). There were other items on the estimate, but these gears are worth about 25 cents each; I know, I used to buy similar items for an electronics manufacturer. I can almost understand the ridiculous $235 labor charge (2 hours minimum), but I took the cover off and saw the broken gears, and that took me about 3 minutes.

    After that experience I vowed that the Narcos would be leaving my stack panel as soon as possible. I still have a Nav122, and I'll keep it as long as it works, but as soon as it hiccups, I was gonna replace it anyway.

    Guess I'll be throwing them at eBay soon.:dunno: