Friday, October 1, 2010

Avidyne R9 Upgrade Process

Many people have asked me about what was involved in doing my Avidyne R9 retrofit.  So I have finally gotten around to describing it.

First a little background/context....

Last year, I was the happy, proud owner of N-514TJ, which is a Cirrus SR-20, well equipped with the Avidyne R7 avionics suite. This was the first plane I owned and I was EXTREMELY happy with it.  However, it was missing a couple of features that got me thinking about upgrading.

My SR20 had dual Garmin 430s (but NO WAAS).  Being an IT guy this was perhaps the primary motivation for me to start to explore.  Since, upgrading to WAAS is a significant expense, I also considered "trading up" on the plane itself.

Here is pic of my "old" plane

When I started to look for the "next" plane, I naturally looked at a new Cirrus SR22 w/perspective.   When I first took a demo flight in this plane, my initial reaction was WOW! ... This plane is amazing.  (I didn't really understand everything on the screen.  But the demo pilot/salesman that accompanied me assured me that was "normal" and with a little training, I would become proficient very quickly.)  At that point, I had heard of the Avidyne R9.  However, I had not seen it in person.  Then, by pure luck, Avidyne had a sales presentation at my home airport.  The salesman was a very charismatic guy, who showed me how to fly a typical FL flight, that is to say with DPs/STARs, enroute diversions, holds, etc on R9.  I was sooo impressed, I decided that day that R9 was for me.  I left a sizable deposit on R9, even though I didn't have a plane that I wanted to put it in!

In my opinion, the R9 blows away the Garmin Perspective because it is so intuitive that after my demo flight, I felt like I knew how to use 75% of the system.  In contrast, after my demo flight with Perspective, I felt like I knew how to use 25% of the system.  Being a private pilot who typically flies once a week, this really appealed to me!

So I decided, I wouldn't upgrade the SR20 with WAAS.  Instead, I would "find" an SR22 w/ WAAS and then do an R9 upgrade.

Then, with the help of the Jeff Ellston @ Leading Edge in Tampa, I found N-914AL.  This plane was the "perfect" canvas to put R9 onto.  It was a GTS Turbo with Air (a must in FL) + WAAS + Deice + Built in Oxygen, etc

Here is what I looked like when I bought it:

This is the "before" picture of the exterior

This is the "before" picture of the cockpit

Then the R9 upgrade began... Perhaps I was a bit naive... I had envisioned 2 screens come out ; 2 bigger better screens go in ... Poof it is done.

The reality is not quite that easy.  In fact, it is major surgery.  The pix below show some of the work in progress.

This is the "during surgery" view
Believe it or not, this is "almost" done

The entire process takes 4-6 weeks and it is one that you do NOT want to rush. I visited the work in progress several times a week.  In my opinion, the folks at Leading Edge Aviation and Sarasota Avionics, really went out of their way to do a gr8 job.  (I am extremely pleased with the finished product)

Here is what it looks like now:
I couldn't resist vanity and "had" to change the tail # to N346TJ
This is the "after" view of the cockpit.

 The finished product has totally exceeded my expectations!  Now that I have over 100 hours on R9, I plan to write some other posts soon that demonstrate what I love about this system .  But perhaps the "big picture win" for me is that I have a plane that is "better" than what comes off of the Cirrus production line for ~ $100k less

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