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Are experimental EFIS really overpriced? (break-off from another thread)

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gtae07

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Throughout my research I have discovered that we are only scraping the surface of what is possible. My utmost goal is to eliminate the absurd high cost of cockpit instruments and avionics.
It is absolutely ridiculous the prices for these items. Sometime ago, I said to myself that there has to be a better and more cost effective way.
I have found hardware with 9 axis capability, =/-2,-16 g, built in barometric pressure, G.P.S., and other. I ever found one fellow that had built a crude transceiver in the beginning stages of development.

For those of us that fly in the experimental category, I do not feel there is as much experimenting going on throughout the community as there should be. We should be the leaders in technology transfer as well as the ones who prove what can be acceptable for safe air operations in all aircraft. When a new product comes out it should say that it was proven viable in the experimental aviation community.

There is way too much innovation in technology available for us not to drive costs down from the main stream companies. Even items listed as non certified are ridiculous in cost.
Honestly I don’t think the main experimental-market avionics suppliers (by which I mean Garmin, GRT, and Dynon/AFS) are really that overpriced, all things considered (heck, same for most of the aircraft kits themselves). Sure, the prices may sound ridiculous if you compare them to a home-brewed setup with your own software and hardware you pulled together yourself... but there’s a lot going on with these guys that doesn’t look obvious at first glance.

For one thing, they all seem to be trying to build actual “aircraft-grade” hardware—by which I mean, hardware that can meet the various environmental, electromagnetic, and usability standards for avionics. That means designing and testing for temperature, humidity, vibration, etc. as well as radio interference, sunlight readability, and so on... and then sourcing known good components, from reliable vendors.

They also are trying to keep their hardware standardized. Even if you aren’t driven to the levels of proven “conformity” paperwork like the FAA desires for certified gear, you still want standardized and serialized components and products so you can be sure your design, software, and testing are as valid on unit 547 as they were on unit 2. The traceability will cost you more—as will a contract that locks you in to a supplier who will guarantee that they’ll keep using the same materials and processes and keep making the parts you want for a long time, and not just drop production of your screen or sensors six months after you go to market. This might mean buying large batches of components at once (like maybe 2-3 years’ worth or so!) just to get the price down to something reasonable.

You also need to pay people to do your design, production, and customer support—everything from drawing out the boards, to assembling the units, to writing software, to testing (and testing, and testing, and testing... anyone involved in aviation software knows your testing is never done, because there are always bugs and new features), to shipping, to answering customer emails/phone calls, to fixing returned units. You aren’t going to find these people flipping burgers at McDonald’s; you have to pay them decently if you want a quality product. Then there’s the overhead costs—working space, insurance, tools, marketing (including trips to Oshkosh and SnF) and so on. And you have to cover your R&D as well (Dynon and Garmin both worked on getting STCs for their equipment; GRT is slowly working on an IFR GPS capability), and the ever-present bogeyman of liability insurance. Remember, lots of people are out flying in IMC with these systems and they need the confidence (i.e. demonstrated reliability) that they’re going to work.

Remember that the experimental avionics market is really a pretty small market—a niche within a niche. ROM estimate for homebuilt completions in the US is about 1000 aircraft/year; I don’t know what the figure is for the rest of the world but maybe half again that number? Anyway, let’s figure that of those very roughly 1500 new aircraft per year, only 1000 of them are going to fit one of these systems. Then let’s look at the upgrade market; of a very rough ballpark of ~30,000 homebuilts flying, let’s say 5% (1500 aircraft) are going to upgrade their avionics in a given year. That’s a total market of maybe 2500 systems, per year, split among the big three vendors and a handful of smaller players. And this isn’t like the consumer electronics market; most of these people aren’t going to drop the systems they have after one or two years for the next shiny one (like people ”upgrading” their phones every year). That’s a lot of work and a lot of cash; think of an avionics package as a capital investment, more like an engine that’s expected to last 15-20 years before overhaul/replacement.

Also remember that longevity is a major part of the brand in this market—Dynon and GRT tout their history in the experimental market and still support old units. Many of us were around to see what happened to Blue Mountain; nobody wants to buy a system and see it orphaned (either through dropping support or the company folding). This means the companies need to be run with a certain level of conservatism—you need to be profitable, yes, but as someone else (Toobuilder?) pointed out when talking about Van’s, this market can have some real highs and lows and swings. You need to make sure you have the cash reserves to hold through a “down” market.

So in the end, these guys are trying to cover R&D, support, production, procurement of bespoke components, testing, overhead, and insurance, plus maintain strong cash reserves and “rainy day” funds, almost exclusively on the sale of relatively few units per year.

It’s no wonder all these systems cost so much...


I recently noticed that GRT raised the cost on both glass panels they sell by adding a 1,000 dollar increase on both panels.
Evidence? I’ve been pricing out avionics for a while and GRT is my current front-runner. I haven’t noticed their prices going up in the past several months, though they did drop the HXr system for the 10.1 due to a supplier issue. It looks like the price for some of their displays may have gone up when they went away from separate ADAHRS units and just integrated those functions into the displays themselves.
 

TFF

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Not overpriced.
Actually a bargain.

Most of the homemade stuff is toys for idle minds. The real stuff, you are trying to miss thunderstorms and fly 500 miles or farther, many times to places you are not familiar with. You can’t fly through a cloud with crap.

Production volumes are low. A life run of 50,000 units over 10 years or more is not exactly I phone territory. You have to want to be in that business and make this type products.
 

cblink.007

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515
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K2W6, Maryland, USA
You can’t fly through a cloud with crap
Boom

I think the prices are great...actually super when you consider what you are getting. I have alot of hours operating GRT equipment, and have had zero issues. Easily on par with "certified" gear.

Many of us have seen DIY avionics systems kits out there, and, while there may ne a time, place and or application for some of this equipment, you still run a risk of failure or malfunction, and you are on your own to troubleshoot and repair. As TFF said, you can't fly with crap.

Sure, avionics make a massive part of the total aircraft cost, but I'd rather buy a proven product at a great price, like a GRT or Dynon, and have some peace of mind. Besides, building your own aircraft is complicated enough!
 

Yellowhammer

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Feb 21, 2020
Messages
203
Boom

I think the prices are great...actually super when you consider what you are getting. I have alot of hours operating GRT equipment, and have had zero issues. Easily on par with "certified" gear.

Many of us have seen DIY avionics systems kits out there, and, while there may ne a time, place and or application for some of this equipment, you still run a risk of failure or malfunction, and you are on your own to troubleshoot and repair. As TFF said, you can't fly with crap.

Sure, avionics make a massive part of the total aircraft cost, but I'd rather buy a proven product at a great price, like a GRT or Dynon, and have some peace of mind. Besides, building your own aircraft is complicated enough!

I never meant to come across as saying that GRT was not a good system. I think they manufacture a great piece of equipment and it is certainly more cost effective than the others out on the market.

My point is the "Experimental" aspect of things. I have never made it a habit of flying with crap. The systems I make mention of are to be tested and with the capabilities out there today it can be done. Also, if one is worried about failure of flight, one can afford to install quadruple redundancy and the price would still be very cost effective.

The thread topic asked what we are working on and interested in regarding aviation. I listed my interests and tried to expand on what think is possible. We all take advantage of the Experimental A/B category for different reasons.

However, the true meaning behind the experimental class aircraft are for education, learning, and trial and error of what is possible Certainly safety is of the highest priority. I would never fly on an unproven system especially without a proven system as a backup even if I was just testing around the patch.

I made the choice to become an educator a long time ago knowing full well that the compensation would not be very good. I chose to educate because at the end of my time on Earth, I didn't want to have spent it doing nothing for the betterment of mankind. I served in two different branches of the military and chose to go on a teach school.

That being said, not everyone is in the position to shell out a few thousand dollars for their "hobby". Although flying is much more than a hobby to me., I feel that for the most part it is something that those with the passion must do.

As many folks know on our forum that have raised or raising a family that there are a plethora of things that come way before aircraft building and the costs that are associated with it. So, those of us that are in the same position are constantly trying to find ways to cut cost. Not safety but costs. I have never and will never use a component in my aircraft that is not up to military specifications. Creating and testing avionics is something that can be done in a very safe manner.

Just look at Radiant Technologies for proof.

Thanks for your input and taking the time to post your opinion.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Yellowhammer
 

Yellowhammer

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Joined
Feb 21, 2020
Messages
203
Not overpriced.
Actually a bargain.

Most of the homemade stuff is toys for idle minds. The real stuff, you are trying to miss thunderstorms and fly 500 miles or farther, many times to places you are not familiar with. You can’t fly through a cloud with crap.

Production volumes are low. A life run of 50,000 units over 10 years or more is not exactly I phone territory. You have to want to be in that business and make this type products.

I agree with what you are saying. Nothing ever created for any purpose began as the final product. It's all about experimentation for me. I agree production volumes are low and the is directly related to the few of us that fly. Aviation is a country club activity and not everybody is in the club. I would like to see aviation become open to more people and I know for certain it is the cost associated that are the reason for that.

Radiant Technologies and Belite started tinkering with these toys and has created some very wonderful products that have been proven safe and pretty affordable.

I'm not talking about creating storm scopes and carrier landing systems. Just simple altimeters, AHRS systems. You know, the traditional six pack.
Anything else that comes along is just Lagniappe.
 

Yellowhammer

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Joined
Feb 21, 2020
Messages
203
Overpriced compared to what? Certainly not compared to conventional analog gauges and navigation aids.
Exactly my point. Overpriced compared to what? There is no alternative. I have never been scared to fly behind steam gauges I was taught how to do so and taught good airmanship and navigation skills.

I think many are missing the point of what I was answering to the thread. It all about EXPERIMENTING to see what is possible. Experimenting is certainly not for everyone. Somebody had to create the first Altimeter. Somebody had to create the first glass panel.

I would venture to say that their first prototype was not their final product too.
 

Yellowhammer

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Messages
203
Honestly I don’t think the main experimental-market avionics suppliers (by which I mean Garmin, GRT, and Dynon/AFS) are really that overpriced, all things considered (heck, same for most of the aircraft kits themselves). Sure, the prices may sound ridiculous if you compare them to a home-brewed setup with your own software and hardware you pulled together yourself... but there’s a lot going on with these guys that doesn’t look obvious at first glance.

For one thing, they all seem to be trying to build actual “aircraft-grade” hardware—by which I mean, hardware that can meet the various environmental, electromagnetic, and usability standards for avionics. That means designing and testing for temperature, humidity, vibration, etc. as well as radio interference, sunlight readability, and so on... and then sourcing known good components, from reliable vendors.

They also are trying to keep their hardware standardized. Even if you aren’t driven to the levels of proven “conformity” paperwork like the FAA desires for certified gear, you still want standardized and serialized components and products so you can be sure your design, software, and testing are as valid on unit 547 as they were on unit 2. The traceability will cost you more—as will a contract that locks you in to a supplier who will guarantee that they’ll keep using the same materials and processes and keep making the parts you want for a long time, and not just drop production of your screen or sensors six months after you go to market. This might mean buying large batches of components at once (like maybe 2-3 years’ worth or so!) just to get the price down to something reasonable.

You also need to pay people to do your design, production, and customer support—everything from drawing out the boards, to assembling the units, to writing software, to testing (and testing, and testing, and testing... anyone involved in aviation software knows your testing is never done, because there are always bugs and new features), to shipping, to answering customer emails/phone calls, to fixing returned units. You aren’t going to find these people flipping burgers at McDonald’s; you have to pay them decently if you want a quality product. Then there’s the overhead costs—working space, insurance, tools, marketing (including trips to Oshkosh and SnF) and so on. And you have to cover your R&D as well (Dynon and Garmin both worked on getting STCs for their equipment; GRT is slowly working on an IFR GPS capability), and the ever-present bogeyman of liability insurance. Remember, lots of people are out flying in IMC with these systems and they need the confidence (i.e. demonstrated reliability) that they’re going to work.

Remember that the experimental avionics market is really a pretty small market—a niche within a niche. ROM estimate for homebuilt completions in the US is about 1000 aircraft/year; I don’t know what the figure is for the rest of the world but maybe half again that number? Anyway, let’s figure that of those very roughly 1500 new aircraft per year, only 1000 of them are going to fit one of these systems. Then let’s look at the upgrade market; of a very rough ballpark of ~30,000 homebuilts flying, let’s say 5% (1500 aircraft) are going to upgrade their avionics in a given year. That’s a total market of maybe 2500 systems, per year, split among the big three vendors and a handful of smaller players. And this isn’t like the consumer electronics market; most of these people aren’t going to drop the systems they have after one or two years for the next shiny one (like people ”upgrading” their phones every year). That’s a lot of work and a lot of cash; think of an avionics package as a capital investment, more like an engine that’s expected to last 15-20 years before overhaul/replacement.

Also remember that longevity is a major part of the brand in this market—Dynon and GRT tout their history in the experimental market and still support old units. Many of us were around to see what happened to Blue Mountain; nobody wants to buy a system and see it orphaned (either through dropping support or the company folding). This means the companies need to be run with a certain level of conservatism—you need to be profitable, yes, but as someone else (Toobuilder?) pointed out when talking about Van’s, this market can have some real highs and lows and swings. You need to make sure you have the cash reserves to hold through a “down” market.

So in the end, these guys are trying to cover R&D, support, production, procurement of bespoke components, testing, overhead, and insurance, plus maintain strong cash reserves and “rainy day” funds, almost exclusively on the sale of relatively few units per year.

It’s no wonder all these systems cost so much...



Evidence? I’ve been pricing out avionics for a while and GRT is my current front-runner. I haven’t noticed their prices going up in the past several months, though they did drop the HXr system for the 10.1 due to a supplier issue. It looks like the price for some of their displays may have gone up when they went away from separate ADAHRS units and just integrated those functions into the displays themselves.

I think GRT is an awesome and cost effective system. especially to a Garmin. I have flown many hours behind a GRT system and will continue to do so. I was simply talking about the experimenting side of things.

The thread asked us what we were building and interested in and I listed my responses and simply listed the reason why.
 

Yellowhammer

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Joined
Feb 21, 2020
Messages
203
Nothing like a good, healthy discussion for like minded folks to reflect upon. Every person to respond to my post has had something valuable to add. This is why I am a member of this forum.

I am grateful for the feedback and for everyone taking the time to voice your opinions. Discussions such as these are what spurs innovation and realization. It also allows certain points to be raised that may or may not have been considered before,

Thanks again for your input gentleman.

-Yellowhammer
 

cblink.007

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Joined
Jul 7, 2014
Messages
515
Location
K2W6, Maryland, USA
I never meant to come across as saying that GRT was not a good system. I think they manufacture a great piece of equipment and it is certainly more cost effective than the others out on the market.

My point is the "Experimental" aspect of things. I have never made it a habit of flying with crap. The systems I make mention of are to be tested and with the capabilities out there today it can be done. Also, if one is worried about failure of flight, one can afford to install quadruple redundancy and the price would still be very cost effective.

The thread topic asked what we are working on and interested in regarding aviation. I listed my interests and tried to expand on what think is possible. We all take advantage of the Experimental A/B category for different reasons.

However, the true meaning behind the experimental class aircraft are for education, learning, and trial and error of what is possible Certainly safety is of the highest priority. I would never fly on an unproven system especially without a proven system as a backup even if I was just testing around the patch.

I made the choice to become an educator a long time ago knowing full well that the compensation would not be very good. I chose to educate because at the end of my time on Earth, I didn't want to have spent it doing nothing for the betterment of mankind. I served in two different branches of the military and chose to go on a teach school.

That being said, not everyone is in the position to shell out a few thousand dollars for their "hobby". Although flying is much more than a hobby to me., I feel that for the most part it is something that those with the passion must do.

As many folks know on our forum that have raised or raising a family that there are a plethora of things that come way before aircraft building and the costs that are associated with it. So, those of us that are in the same position are constantly trying to find ways to cut cost. Not safety but costs. I have never and will never use a component in my aircraft that is not up to military specifications. Creating and testing avionics is something that can be done in a very safe manner.

Just look at Radiant Technologies for proof.

Thanks for your input and taking the time to post your opinion.

Sincerely and Respectfully,

Yellowhammer
I wasn't advocating for GRT. I merely mentioned it based on my experience with non-certified avionics with it over the years.

I'd be careful about stating mil-spec, and I say that as a prior-enlisted helicopter wrench turner turned field-grade Officer and military XP who served for 21 years. Most of it is good, don't get me wrong, but its not necessarily the best. Compare the "mil spec" Blue Force Tracker to the civilian variant that evolved from it: ADS-B. Two systems...one garbage and another much better! However, on the same token, many of their specs are actually gold standards of sorts!

Also, I never said that DIY avionics were bad, not by any stretch. I simply prefer avionics equipment that is proven and as close to "plug and play" as you can get, because the design and construction of my project is already enough for my plate. Also, aerodynamics are my wheelhouse...not electronics (even though I hold an FCC license). That said, I'm all about avionics experimentation and development down the road once the design proves itself.

No need to talk anyone down at all...this is about discussion-driven innovation...that is why I am here!

Thank you for your service!
 

TFF

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Joined
Apr 28, 2010
Messages
13,668
Location
Memphis, TN
When it comes to VFR, I’m looking out the window. Instrument I want to know about if I’m going to stall, if I have oil pressure and what’s the altitude. Nice to know is if am I busting airspace. You can get all fancy with that stuff VFR, but it’s just stuff really. I see home grown instruments as an exercise to experiment, and I’m impressed when people can pull it off. Very very very very few are trusting their life to a raspberry pi. They are looking out the window and they have a pretty screen in front of them. There is a big stretch in trust between a home grown and a Dynon than a Dynon and a certified.

I’m always interested in the raspberry pi stuff or other technology. But if you are seriously going to fly farther than landmarks you know, I want something that works. I’m not much of an experimenter as a pilot. I would not to feel like every flight was a test flight.
 

Daleandee

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When it comes to VFR, I’m looking out the window. Instrument I want to know about if I’m going to stall, if I have oil pressure and what’s the altitude. Nice to know is if am I busting airspace.
I actually had a man at a fly-in once look at my panel and ask me what I use for terrain avoidance. "I look out the windshield" was my reply. I'm currently using some inexpensive MGL singles and have a LRI (Lift Reserve Indicator) in the panel. I think if I were to upgrade it would be to Dynon. Sat through a presentation by their reps and was quite impressed at their approach and the rigorous testing that they do.
 

Pilot-34

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I actually had a man at a fly-in once look at my panel and ask me what I use for terrain avoidance. "I look out the windshield" was my reply.
Homemade mark one eyeballs?
The point being sometimes simpler is better.
Hard to beat the simplicity of a magnetic compass and the turn and slip indicator.

I Met a guy once with a garden style wind speed indicated glued to the strut of a meticulously maintained c-185........
 

gtae07

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Messages
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Location
Savannah, Georgia
I think GRT is an awesome and cost effective system. especially to a Garmin. I have flown many hours behind a GRT system and will continue to do so. I was simply talking about the experimenting side of things.

The thread asked us what we were building and interested in and I listed my responses and simply listed the reason why.
No offense intended, and I didn’t mean to disparage experimenting with making your own systems—we’re homebuilders, after all, and our interests and talents vary widely—I just thought a discussion on why the existing products cost what they do would be interesting, and didn’t belong in that other thread, so I broke it out here.

Like a few others posted above, I look at my primary avionics as something I‘m not as willing to experiment with. Sure, local VFR fun flying doesn’t take much—basic air data and a clean canopy are all I really need (though a moving map and traffic callouts are nice in crowded airspace under a Class B shelf)—but I’m intending to do a lot of cross-country flying and want to get my instrument rating as well. I’ll happily use homegrown stuff for low-risk applications or to try out something new when conditions permit, but I don’t want my primary nav crapping out hundreds of miles from home or when I’m in IMC.

Now, if I ever get around to making my electric Goat, a tablet-based system might be really neat—airspeed, altitude, vario, map, propulsion monitor, and datalogger (for test purposes)...
 

BJC

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Now, if I ever get around to making my electric Goat, a tablet-based system might be really neat—airspeed, altitude, vario, map, propulsion monitor, and datalogger (for test purposes)...
If I had a battery powered Goat, I would want a battery charge indication and ... nothing else.


BJC
 

Daleandee

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What is your make and model for the LRI?
I bought them years ago (this one is my second plane to have one) from a gentleman named Kelly Meiste but he's no longer making them. These are pretty simple to make:

Information for installing & flying the LRI: Installing the Lift Reserve Indicator

Building & calibrating: http://tincantimes.dcsol.com/LRI_files/AirsoobLRI.pdf

There is a lot of internet information on building or buying these. Much cheaper to make. Do you need one? Not really as my plane screams at me when I'm are about to screw up (gotta be listening) but they are great for short field landings, max performance take-offs, and much more steady than an ASI needle that dances all over the place in turbulence.

In this video (early in flight testing) you can see the calibration is now correct as it is one notch in the red as the tires chirp at :28 into the video:

 

Yellowhammer

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Messages
203
I wasn't advocating for GRT. I merely mentioned it based on my experience with non-certified avionics with it over the years.

I'd be careful about stating mil-spec, and I say that as a prior-enlisted helicopter wrench turner turned field-grade Officer and military XP who served for 21 years. Most of it is good, don't get me wrong, but its not necessarily the best. Compare the "mil spec" Blue Force Tracker to the civilian variant that evolved from it: ADS-B. Two systems...one garbage and another much better! However, on the same token, many of their specs are actually gold standards of sorts!

Also, I never said that DIY avionics were bad, not by any stretch. I simply prefer avionics equipment that is proven and as close to "plug and play" as you can get, because the design and construction of my project is already enough for my plate. Also, aerodynamics are my wheelhouse...not electronics (even though I hold an FCC license). That said, I'm all about avionics experimentation and development down the road once the design proves itself.

No need to talk anyone down at all...this is about discussion-driven innovation...that is why I am here!

Thank you for your service!

Yes sir thank you for your service as well. My father is retired army. 23 years. Jump Master. 2 1/2 tours of Vietnam.
I totally agree with what you said about discussion which is certainly why I am here also. I value this community extremely and wish i could meet all of you in person. Hey, maybe we could have a get together fly in and finally get to meet each other. That would be as much fun as a trip to Osh-Kosh or Sun n Fun.

This forum alone is one of main driving forces of the very innovation and experimentation that I speak of.

What part of the country are you located in sir?

Thank you for your input and wisdom. It is much appreciated and valued!

Yellowhammer
 

Yellowhammer

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Joined
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Messages
203
No offense intended, and I didn’t mean to disparage experimenting with making your own systems—we’re homebuilders, after all, and our interests and talents vary widely—I just thought a discussion on why the existing products cost what they do would be interesting, and didn’t belong in that other thread, so I broke it out here.

Like a few others posted above, I look at my primary avionics as something I‘m not as willing to experiment with. Sure, local VFR fun flying doesn’t take much—basic air data and a clean canopy are all I really need (though a moving map and traffic callouts are nice in crowded airspace under a Class B shelf)—but I’m intending to do a lot of cross-country flying and want to get my instrument rating as well. I’ll happily use homegrown stuff for low-risk applications or to try out something new when conditions permit, but I don’t want my primary nav crapping out hundreds of miles from home or when I’m in IMC.

Now, if I ever get around to making my electric Goat, a tablet-based system might be really neat—airspeed, altitude, vario, map, propulsion monitor, and datalogger (for test purposes)...

I totally agree on the cross country aspects. I was not offended at all. Too many folks wear their feelings on their shoulders these days. LOL
I value and appreciate each and every person who takes the time out of their day to respond. I rarely read a comment on this site that I don't learn something from.

I would never fly without my 6 pack steam gauges. I love them and will never give up my turn/slip coordinator nor my artificial horizon and compass, Items like a G meter can be built to complement the traditional instruments as I am into aerobatics as well.

Thanks again for taking time to reply and provide your wisdom and outlook. It is greatly appreciated and highly valued sir.

Yellowhammer
 
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