Why is installation so expensive?

Discussion in 'Avionics and Upgrades' started by jd21476, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. jd21476

    jd21476 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I was looking at putting some new avionics in my plane, well not new (Garmin 430w, GTX330, Garmin audio panel, and maybe two G5s) and after talking to some installers it looks like I could be looking at over $7k just for the install alone. Why?
     
  2. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    I asked that question myself, until I did a DIY install of some avionics in my airplane. It's tedious, time-consuming work in (typically) a very tight, uncomfortable space. Disassembly alone, and removing old wiring, can take an inordinate amount of time. While some shops certainly pad bills and way overquote (like 40hrs to do a single Garmin G5), the reality is there's just nothing quick about doing the work. For the most part, there is no such thing as "plug and play" in the avionics world. It's largely essentially custom installs with wiring specific to your airplane and its equipment. That takes time and care to do it right.

    Frankly, it's really difficult to "get" why it's so expensive until you've done some of it yourself. Then it'll click.
     
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  3. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I bet I've put well over 100 man hours in my panel over the years... Audio panel, GTN, transponder w/ encoder, dual G5s, KN53, fuel flow. (Attached picture was without any G5s or transponder system)



    It probably took me 40 hours just on the dual G5s. Nothing is plug & play, all wiring, plumbing and mounting is custom on every job. Once you get the bloody thing assembled then testing and paperwork.

    Ever wondered what a complete panel on a transport category airplane looks like? A good round guess is 5000 man hours. Just accessing the roof, fabricating and installing an antenna doubler could be 50 hours.

    Occurred on a different airplane than the pictures:
    My dad: All you had to do is install a new ELT in my 182, WTH is the entire radio stack and racks out??

    Me: You want the ELT to receive GPS position from the GTN don't you? How else am I supposed to pin TWO freaking wires into the GTN's connector?
     

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    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  4. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Touchdown! Greaser! PoA Supporter

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    Crawl in there and look up behind the panel and you'll understand.
     
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  5. PaulS

    PaulS Final Approach

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    It's a lot of work.
     
  6. Bell206

    Bell206 En-Route

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    From the maintenance side, think of avionics installs and sheetmetal work as more a long the lines of hand-crafted, custom works. No job is the same even on identical aircraft. And as with any custom work, it's very labor dependent.
     
  7. Grum.Man

    Grum.Man En-Route

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    Very time consuming and lots of overhead cost.
     
  8. 455 Bravo Uniform

    455 Bravo Uniform En-Route

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  9. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 En-Route

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    Not all baby turtles make it to the ocean.
     
  10. wilkersk

    wilkersk Pattern Altitude

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    How many shop hours are they including in that quote? I'm betting thats a pretty reasonable price. Your typical 50 y/o spam can has so much crap behind the instrument panel, its easier to pull it all out and start over. Plus, if there's cosmetic work involved (think crappy old plastic trim and chewed up glare-shield cover) 80-100hrs of shop time could easily get charged.
     
  11. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Our airplanes are all older than dirt, and no two are alike. It is slow, highly skilled and very demanding work, not to mention all the paper that goes in and all the rules they have to follow. Oh, and if they screw up (or even if they don't) they can get sued. I begrudge them not a penny.
     
  12. chemgeek

    chemgeek Cleared for Takeoff

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    Shop rate times hours. To install avionics can be very time consuming, including tasks such as opening up the interior to route cables and wiring, seeking suitable locations for devices like magnetometers (and testing them), fabricating wiring harnesses, and mounting/moving trays. It is easy to chew up 15-25 hours depending on the device and its interconnection complexity. I was a bit lucky in that my NGT-9000 and my dual G5 installs were only about $1500-$3000 installation cost. The G5s were a lot more trouble with siting the magnetomer, troubleshooting and remediating magnetic interference, and then getting everything to properly talk to each other. If your installer is doing one of their first jobs with your equipment choices, they are learning on your nickel.
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2020
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  13. write-stuff

    write-stuff En-Route

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    I helped my A&P with a Lynx NGT-9000 install. Man, was it a bear. It has so many options it's dizzying. We ended up taking about 25 hours before it was operating properly. Granted, someone who had done it before could do it much faster, but it is still a time-consuming job.
     
  14. NordicDave

    NordicDave Cleared for Takeoff

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    Nicely said. We could also mention cramped work conditions and specialized tools. Check prices on a professional crimper for Garmin small pin connectors.

    BTW, short of a new PFD you have not seen expensive until an audio plane is replaced in an old plane. It's nearly a complete rewire as the heart of the system.
     
  15. Radar Contact

    Radar Contact Pattern Altitude

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    This is why...
    EE047199-4386-4952-9785-A8F48A12A805.jpeg
     
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  16. David Megginson

    David Megginson Pre-takeoff checklist

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    If you can afford a plane, you're probably not earning minimum wage for your work, either.
     
  17. southallb

    southallb Pre-Flight

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    Supply and demand! ADS-b is consuming all the capacity at the moment and Avionics shops can charge a premium.
     
  18. Ravioli

    Ravioli Final Approach

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    That's like 80 hours. Sounds like a bargain.
     
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  19. Chip Sylverne

    Chip Sylverne En-Route

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    Fear is the poison of our lives.
    Every time I need to get behind the panel of my Comanche, I could kiss the guys who did the panel rework for the previous owner. Everything is bundled properly, labeled and the equipment was installed per the IM's with plenty of service loop. If the guys who went before you did it the right way, then though tedious, installs aren't too bad. If they didn't, then it's a potential nightmare.

    Ya gotta do the work with the next guy in mind.
     
  20. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Supply and demand. People are paying it, so they can charge it.

    I did my last install myself with my IAs assistance and “paid” myself $62.50 an hour with the saved install costs. I compared with a buddies that had his done by pros and my install has higher quality and more attention to detail.
     
  21. chartbundle

    chartbundle Cleared for Takeoff

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    Once my insurance mess is resolved and work begins on my plane I'm hoping to find a shop I can work with and pre-wire everything myself for the stuff I want installed(and rip out the rest) while my IA does his work, then once it's all fixed ferry it to the avionics shop for the (hopefully much shorter)final installation of the equipment. The problem being Garmin and their protectionist attitude towards their dealers and Install manuals and not knowing if I can get a dealer to play ball.
     
  22. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Yes, garmin is protecting their dealers on many of the desirable units.
     
  23. aftCG

    aftCG Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Yes Garmin requires one if their dealers to sign off on work if you expect warranty service. Not sure why that would be considered sinister given how loudly people complain about name brands.

    I used to have the same opinion about install prices. How hard can it be, right? In many cases the tray coming out is the same size and if you just had the pin diagrams it should be pretty straightforward, right?

    I'm fortunate to be able to work under supervision of my Avionics shop and got to learn that even with my very simple aircraft (and radio stack), it's a TON of work.

    Others have said it, but every plane has a fist full of wire that goes nowhere. Or was wired poorly and you can't possibly leave it that way.
    You think one nav/com for another would be the same until you get it the wire diagram for your intercom system and realize that they don't swap one for one. Do it carefully and it works perfect the first time, but it takes a lot of time to make wire diagrams and carefully check, crimp, etc.

    An installer is almost certainly going to find something sub par that wasn't accounted for in the original quote.

    Add to this the number of customers who think throwing a pair of G5s in now won't add much effort.

    The shop I use now pre wires everything. You replaced it all clear out to the headset jacks. Having done two planes (one before and one after they implemented that change) I totally get it.
     
  24. asicer

    asicer En-Route

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    The Approach Fast Stack system is *supposed* to alleviate all that.
     
  25. Lndwarrior

    Lndwarrior Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I wired up a temperature sensor in the wing of my experimental aircraft last weekend (that I built).

    Two wires to an existing gauge on the panel. All in, took me more than 6 hours. I know what I'm doing. I did it right. Still took a long time, especially when you look at it after it's done. How
    the heck did I spend 6 hours doing that????

    From my experience aircraft wiring, when done properly, takes a stupid amount of time. Far longer than some would imagine.
     
  26. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    It probably helps, but the job remains a large undertaking. You still have all of the same cables, but instead of running them from device to device, you run them to a central hub. And you still have to pull and terminate a gazillion power and ground leads plus all of the jacks and device inputs.
     
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  27. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    The Fast Stack system helps a lot (I've used it). It saved me a LOT of hours building harnesses. And Approach will terminate the jacks and other inputs for you if you ask. Depends on where you're running them whether it makes sense. It did take several hours just to route, terminate and hook up the power and ground wires at the end of the project, though.
     
  28. Flybuddy

    Flybuddy Pre-takeoff checklist

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    A lot of shops do quotes based on worst case scenarios they've experienced. 50 year old planes with a lot of old wiring (same color), makes it difficult to do even simple jobs. It's still hard to believe sometimes when something like 70 hours is quoted. That would mean that a tech worked on your plane 7 hours per day for 2 weeks
     
  29. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    True. Mine quoted a ridiculous number for installing the magnetometer. After I saw an install they did on someone else's plane where they had clearly installed it without aligning it correctly and then had to drill new holes and bend the mounting bracket all wonky to get it to calibrate, I can see how they would need to cover their butts. Or they could do what I did and spend the time required to understand the install fully before doing it. I spent almost as much time planning the install as I did doing it, but my initial install of the magnetometer was perfect, so I didn't have to do it twice (or more, who knows how many tries it took them).
     
  30. Timbeck2

    Timbeck2 Final Approach

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    I can believe it. In most installs there is only room for one tech to work inside the cockpit or if they're building a harness.
     
  31. dreyna14

    dreyna14 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I love working on wiring so I would consider DIYing something like this to be a fun challenge, all while under adult supervision, of course.
     
  32. bradg33

    bradg33 Pattern Altitude

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    Working on wiring on a bench is fun. Working on wiring while bent up like a pretzel in a space where you can barely move is less fun. Even less fun is finally getting situated in your pretzel position, and then realizing the tool/part you need is still sitting on the work bench.

    My DIY project was at least 100 man hours. In December/January. With the plane parked outside.

    I'd still do it again :)
     
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  33. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    And who pays for the time they take to fully understand the job?
     
  34. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    You do. That's the damning thing of about avionics. Every installation is unique and requires someone to figure out the Rubic's cube that lies behind the panel.
     
  35. Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas Final Approach

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    We installed a glass panel in a Supercub and had to build a bracket to mount the magnetometer to the aft wing spar. Mounting required a couple of holes drilled in the aluminum spar, which requires an engineering signoff. You simply do not go drilling holes in spars unless you'd like some big fines or jail time. The engineering doesn't come cheap, as aeronautical engineers tend to have PE status and are paid accordingly. You can't just use existing bolts, either, as that device has to be installed well away from anything ferrous.

    And as others have said, there is an awesome amount of wiring involved in most avionics installations and a lot of old junk that should be taken out, left by previous technicians trying to keep the time and cost down. So you have to cut all the ties on the wiring bundles and separate the wires to find the dead-ended stuff, try to read the 50-year-old tiny printing on the wires and refer to the OEM's wiring diagrams, and fix all the lousy grounds and other stuff you inevitably find. And then put it all back together with the new wiring and make sure that the flight controls aren't contacting or fouling anything. It can be fun with so much stuff in a tiny space.

    It's not like installing your own tape deck in your car. There's a lot more to it.
     
  36. Stewartb

    Stewartb Final Approach

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    The G3X Touch and the associated boxes behind the screen cost me $6K for a local instrument shop just to make the harnesses, and there was lots left for my mechanic and I to do during the install. And I’m convinced they didn’t make a dime at that.
     
  37. kyleb

    kyleb En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I paid about $2500 to Approach Fast Stack to make the harnesses for my G3X. Note that I didn't use their hub. Their work is/was beautiful, but you still have to route and terminate a gazillion wires for sensors, power, ground, headsets, etc.
     
  38. Salty

    Salty Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    I included that time in my calculations and still paid myself $62.50 an hour. And I had to learn everything from scratch. They should have come in with some knowledge of how to do it.
     
  39. Bill Watson

    Bill Watson Pattern Altitude

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    I am 4/5’s through the install of some extended range fuel tanks in my home built RV10. The tanks (sort of a hybrid tip tank and wing tank) requires removal and reinstallation of the main tanks and some straight forward fabrication of brackets and stuff. 2 days if on on the clock, no big deal.

    Panel-wise, it only required 2 switches to run the pumps. Wiring to the panel required removal of seats and side panels on both sides to run the 2 wires. Adding a switch to the panel requires removal of left side and center panel just to cut a hole for the switch. Panel removal requires all components to be removed and reinstalled, some minor new wiring and then reinstallation of all components. I’m on day 3 of working in a cramped space and hopefully half done. The most productive thing I could do is to hire an assistant to hand me tools and components so that each time I need something I wouldn’t have to extract my self from under the panel and then re-insert my body into some pretzel shaped space. On day 3 and counting - it’s just one switch. If I were doing it for compensation I’d just add some kind of sub-panel with a switch on it but it would look like crap. But the customer would appreciate the shortcut when billed.

    I’m not a pro but I’ve come to appreciate the skill and time required to do quality avionics work.... even questionable avionics work. It’s tough work in tough spaces and these aging bones are hurting!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro
     
  40. Morgan3820

    Morgan3820 Pattern Altitude

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    I wonder if some of this stuff is worth it. All the money.