# Have we reached the end of the Steam Gauge era?

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#### Victor Bravo

##### Well-Known Member
For the last 50 or 75 years at least, the fundamental mind-set in aviation has been maximum reliability AND the presence of one or more back-up systems everywhere it is possible to have them. That shouldn't go away IMHO. Anything pneumatic can have one kind of problem (vacuum pump, bugs in the pitot tube) and anything electronic can have another kind of problem (battery, bad circuit breaker).

Modern electronics have gotten a lot better in terms of reliability, but the truth is that your phone and iPad can still be hacked by some 15 year old kid 5000 miles away from wherever you are. Nowdays, there is a strong trend towards having aircraft electronics and data systems linked and networked and sharing data with ATC, etc. So there is a network connection and there is a data pathway that can eventually be cracked. So the very LAST thing that I want is for a network outage, innocent glitch, or intentional meddling to affect my navigation. "Honest, General, the little highway-in-the-sky icon told me I was on course a hundred miles away from here, and then all of a sudden it said ATTENTION Lottery Winner!!! and it wanted my credit card number!"

#### BBerson

##### Light Plane Philosopher
HBA Supporter
Doesn't electronic stuff become obsolete in a few years and become unsupportable? Like my old laptop.
Mechanical gauges last for decades without updated software.
Most planes sit year after year and get about 10-20 hours a year (after first year of 50 -100 hours).
So a $100,000 glass panel is worth what?, after 20 years. #### Toobuilder ##### Well-Known Member Log Member That is a legitimate concern in my mind. Some go unsuportable when the company folds, but those manufacturers still around today seem to have staying power. Dynon, for example still supports (and sells) its first products. Equally troubling is severe constriction of the steam guage repair/overhaul market. Before long its going to be like film processing... There used to be a Fotomat in every parking lot. Not today. #### Kyle Boatright ##### Well-Known Member Doesn't electronic stuff become obsolete in a few years and become unsupportable? Like my old laptop. Mechanical gauges last for decades without updated software. Most planes sit year after year and get about 10-20 hours a year (after first year of 50 -100 hours). So a$100,000 glass panel is worth what?, after 20 years.
You're a bit pessimistic, but your thoughts have merit. Glass panels seem to have pretty good reliability, but all of your eggs are in one basket. After a while, that basket is one out of production part away from being a boat anchor.

The other issue you raised is whether the panels become obsolete. Better stuff may come to market, but the functionality of whatever you install doesn't diminish over time. So if a glass panel filled your needs when you put it in, it should still meet your needs many years later.

My biggest concern with glass is that it becomes a single source of failure that can take down most of your instrumentation. Steam gauges typically fail independently, so <FAR's aside> one failure may not put you on the ground. On an EFIS, one failure can leave you stuck in BFE. I had a friend have to land away from home in his RV-10 because of a failure in a VPX fed electrical system.

#### Riggerrob

##### Well-Known Member
Good point about the difficulty in transitioning to steam guages after your EFIS fails. Struggling with a flying emergency while transitioning to half-forgotten instrument scanning skills is a bad combination.
Consider that a few years after CF-18 was introduced, old RCAF pilots complained about young pilots being "HUD cripples." Young pilots were so comfortable with heads up display (fancy gunsight) cues that they forgot how to fly on tiny, back-up steam guages that were deep down near their knee.
A better way is to grab the dash-top GPS moving map display out of your car. At least then you revert to a familiar map display.
Two similar electronic displays (Fancy Garmin EFIS and a tablet-based back-up) make for rapid transition when one quits. Oh! And warm up/align both systems before take-off.

Finally when we are comparing steam guages versus glass: let's try to keep the playing field level (cost-wise) by limiting our conversation to freshly-overhauled (by a licensed instrument shop) steam guages versus recently re-certified glass gadgets.

When comparing reliability and redundancy keep in mind weaknesses/failure modes of external sensors (e.g. pitot-static tube).

#### jwmflying14

##### Well-Known Member
All very good points guys.

I also agree we talk about similar set ups. Either refurbished glass and refurbished steam guages, new glass, etc. We also have to factor that we are talking about a cost comparison. It isnt fair to say steam is cheaper and compare minimal instrumentation, to a full suite of glass. If we are talking about a normal aircraft, you would have a set up similar to say, a 172 console.

Just for reference, If i do end up going with an MGL EFIS, I would have an integrated IPad pro 9.7 (which I currently fly with anyways) on the other side of the console, with built in permanent power and foreflight running.

#### dcstrng

I plan on quazi-glass (MGL-FI&E1), with steam back-up with refurbished ASI, clinometer and OP, as well as compass, but no artificial horizon -- so far total cost is slightly less than $1K, but I still need to aquire senders. Since I'll be LSA, daylight VFR will be the order of the day, but given how little electro-gizmos and I get along, I figure I can at least get to the ground with steam ASI; Since my ignitions are (both) points and condenser, if I have a catastrophic electrical failure at least I'll have something to gaze at (that is still alive) while I spiral down in silence. #### Mark Z ##### Well-Known Member I like both. Sorry about the inversion. #### rtfm ##### Well-Known Member Hi, To the OP: Why go with the MGL Lite? Get the mini instead. Almost identical functionality, but smaller, and less than$1800 AUD (even cheaper in the US).

However, I've found an even cheaper glass option. Check this out... https://afors.com/index.php?page=adview&adid=32941&imid=0

I had a guy say to me one day - what if your glass panel fails mid-flight? My answer was: So what? I'd just look out the window and fly home. I'm not planning on crossing the Atlantic.

Duncan

#### Daleandee

##### Well-Known Member
I plan on quazi-glass (MGL-FI&E1), with steam back-up with refurbished ASI, clinometer and OP, as well as compass, but no artificial horizon -- so far total cost is slightly less than \$1K, but I still need to aquire senders. Since I'll be LSA, daylight VFR will be the order of the day...
Sounds about like my panel and plan. I've got the MGL Engine & Flight gauges. They work extremely well. Instead of a back up ASI I opted for a LRI (Lift Reserve Indicator). As a VFR sport pilot the horizon in always displayed in "actual reality" just above the panel. Serious attention to the position of the nose in reference to the horizon gives me excellent attitude information. onder:

Dale Williams
N319WF @ 6J2
Myunn - "daughter of Cleanex"
120 HP - 3.0 Corvair
Tail Wheel - Center Stick
Signature Finish 2200 Paint Job
138.2 hours / Status - Flying

#### Lucrum

##### Well-Known Member
Log Member
"Have we reached the end of the Steam Gauge era?"

Not for my build
Nothing but steam gauges for the engine instruments