VFR panel cost analysis

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N804RV

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Anyone working on designing a VFR cross country panel got an honest cost analysis comparing some of the popular homebuilder EFIS systems?

What are the must haves for your VFR panel? What's your budget?
 

TFF

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Im a steam gauge guy, but If I was building a cross country airplane with a EFIS it would be the D100 Dynon stuff with a Garmin 696 GPS. There is fancier stuff, but I like the simplicity , expandability, and usability. About everyone I know has an RV with varying panels. One has the D100s with a Garmin 430 WASS and a slaved 696. It is a go anywhere airplane. One did not go all the way with a IFR GPS and has a grand rapids; it just kills the value on his airplane and it is a perfectly built airplane. One is on his third panel and the plane has not flown in 7 years; new stuff comes out and he changes it before finishing it. One just finished a repanel his is half steam and glass. The 696 with the weather is the best thing in a cockpit, ever.
 

N804RV

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I was really leaning towards all steam guages bought 2nd hand from gottahavit crowd and a Garmin 696 in the center. But people keep telling me I can have EFIS for the same cost. I'm just not sure I see it.

That's why I was wondering if anyone had done a straight up cost analysis I could look at. I'm gonna do it my self. But, it'd be helpful to see someone else's results and what their outcome was.
 

Vigilant1

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There are soooo many variables that influence this decision--a VFR panel in a Piet is probably going to be a lot different from one in a Glasair.
On the low end (where I dwell . . .), I think the MGL Velocity Singles (which are not strictly an EFIS, just electronic gauges) provide a lot of functionality at low cost (Get an E1 for engine info and a Flight 2 for flight info-- about $1200 for all of it, including the sensors--with fuel flow, etc.). And keeping the nav functions on an iPad or Android goes a long way toward keeping the cost down and allows for rapid upgrades as technology changes. Add an inclinometer, whiskey compass, and maybe a steam-gauge for ASI (good backup to the Flight 2 and I like it for spotting trend info) and the package is complete. Again--that's the low-end approach. I'm happy with it, as it provides all I need in a relatively cheap, light, reliable package that doesn't take up tons of panel real estate. A color EFIS is nice, but I fly VFR to enjoy flying, and that means looking outside most of the time.
 
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TFF

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$6K buys the Dynon D100 EFIS, EMS, and 696. You might save some money on steam but it will not matter that much. 1-2K would be nice to keep in the pocket, but not if you will be wishing you had the other.
 

Pops

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In my little basic airplane, I have a helicopter airspeed that was given to me ( Zero to 100 knots). An altimeter that failed an IFR instrument/ transponder test that I bought for $40. A compass I bought on ebay for $15., An inclinometer. oil pressure, oil temp gauge from NAPA auto store, and a Tiny Tack. Also an Icom A-6 handheld com powered with a 5 amp gellcell model airplane starting battery . About $175. in instruments and $239. for the radio. Nav is a stop watch and finger on the chart. Dan

Added -- I love flying cross county low and slow this way.
 

gtae07

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$6K buys the Dynon D100 EFIS, EMS, and 696. You might save some money on steam but it will not matter that much. 1-2K would be nice to keep in the pocket, but not if you will be wishing you had the other.
For $6500 you get a 7" Skyview with its built in GPS and EMS, and no-cost data updates (try getting that on a Garmin unit!). Use the Dynon transponder (you'll have to get one anyway, might as well use theirs) and you get ADS-B traffic and weather, at least until 2020.

Personally, I'd pay a little more and get the 10" screen. You can also easily add autopilot later on if you want. That's the configuration I've flown with (single 10" display, ADS-B, autopilot); the airplane previously had a no-gyro day-VFR minimum steam panel with a 195 on a swing mount. I'd never go back. Here's a more detailed reason why: http://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/forums/instruments-avionics-electrical-system/15615-adsb-out-2.html#post191717


The plan for my RV is eventually an IFR glass system. I'm still a few years out so I'll wait and see what's available when I'm ready to buy, but my current plan is dual 10" Skyviews, a Val nav radio, ADS-B, and a 400W. Some of that may not be fitted at first flight but the expansion space and capability will be there.

I know some people object to glass and EFIS with things like "I don't want to have to push buttons all the time" or "I want to fly the airplane, not have the computer do it". I don't believe those objections are valid with a propery-designed and installed avionics package. I can jump into Dad's RV and fly VFR just like I did before, with zero button-pushing and less knob turning than I did on the steam gauges (I still have to tune the radio and set the altimeter). The capability and information are there if I need or want them, but they can be easily ignored if I don't. 80% of my flying time since the upgrade (which granted isn't much time) has been just like it was before--hand flying or in formation. So far I've only used the autopilot for cross-country flights or playing around with it to see what it can do.

And for what it's worth, Dad feels the same way. He's an ex-Navy airline pilot who gripes all the time about the systems on his "work airplanes" and still calls once a week or so needing help with his computer or his android tablet. He loves the Skyview and pushes it to everyone who will listen.

Full disclosure time: I work with even higher-end systems for a living, and know the guys who design them. My comfort level with integrated glass is probably higher than most other GA pilots.
 

TFF

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Im a scarf around the neck I follow roads guy, but I dont call that cross country. To me cross country is getting there as the most important part of the trip and flying is the medium. I worked on Collins glass stuff in regional airline planes for about ten years. If you are taking serious trips, you can not beat what is out there now. Im more of a scrounger like Pops, so I just need something I can work with. I am thinking cross country for family so if not certified airplane it would be bells and whistles. Compare a MGL or Dynon to a G1000 or Avidyne and the price becomes a non issue.
 

Toobuilder

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Cost analysis is tough because of the "used/free" variable Pops describes. Though the Rocket is going all glass, IFR soon, my next strictly VFR airplane (likely a Pitts S1C) will probably have a Dynon D10 right in the center of the panel. Yes, it has far more capability than required for a strictly VFR airplane, but they're relatively cheap and fit in a single hole in the panel. Add a tach, oil pressure and temp and you're done.
 

dcstrng

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If its not there, it weighs nothing, cost nothing and is 100% reliable...
:)

I’ve thought about going with the MGL MiniEFIS-XTreme, but even to do my basics (replace the engine gauges, etc.) it’s about $1800+/- So, until I win the lottery, or a non-existent rich-uncle dies, I’m pretty much staying with used steam gauges and mechanical engine meters I have.

So far about $300, but need to find an inexpensive Mode-C and will probably use a handheld VHF-com. Nav will be charts and at least at the first I plan to continue to use my 110% reliable Garmin 72H GPS… For weather I’ll try the novel approach of looking out the window… Biggest expense will be the Mode-C and the Com radio that I have to have in my area, but still hoping to be all up for close to $1K if I’m lucky…
 

Pops

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Doesn't Bob Barrows hand prop his 540 Bearhawk? He does not carry anything extra.


Yes, Bob hand proped the 540 Bearhawk. He has a solar panel on top of the instrument panel in the Protrol to charge some D size Ni-Cads for the total of his electrical system.
 

Battson

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Doesn't Bob Barrows hand prop his 540 Bearhawk? He does not carry anything extra.
He also sold that plane some years back, too much gas-guzzling for a cost-concious man. I don't know how Mark convinced him to put those 29" tires on his Patrol....

I have done the kind of analysis the OP asked about.
IF you are going to do a full VFR panel, I found the glass panel route was cost neutral, significantly lighter, and simpler to install. That was assuming you replicate all the functionality of any EFIS/EMS system with steam gauges, such as full multipoint engine sensors - which in my opinion you are foolish to do without these days, unless the prospect of fixing an engine doesn't worry you.

Note that to enter some controlled airspace VFR you may need a certified Transponder with mode Charlie, which means tested altimeter too. The altimeter need not be certified.
 

Pops

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He also sold that plane some years back, too much gas-guzzling for a cost-concious man. I don't know how Mark convinced him to put those 29" tires on his Patrol....

I have done the kind of analysis the OP asked about.
IF you are going to do a full VFR panel, I found the glass panel route was cost neutral, significantly lighter, and simpler to install. That was assuming you replicate all the functionality of any EFIS/EMS system with steam gauges, such as full multipoint engine sensors - which in my opinion you are foolish to do without these days, unless the prospect of fixing an engine doesn't worry you.

Note that to enter some controlled airspace VFR you may need a certified Transponder with mode Charlie, which means tested altimeter too. The altimeter need not be certified.
Yes, Bob sold the 540 Bearhawk. He had both the Bearhawk and Patrol for sale at the same time and the one that didn't sale first, he would keep.
Dan
 

N804RV

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.....Compare a MGL or Dynon to a G1000 or Avidyne and the price becomes a non issue.
Yeah, the high-end gear isn't even in the picture. I too, am a (former) avionics tech who worked on high$$ jets with expensive instrument panels. Never want that kind of show on my personal aircraft.

I just feel a bit disappointed that the cost a building and flying seems to have skyrocketed while I was holding off on building, trying to get my carreer transition from the military in order and 2 kids through college.
 

Kyle Boatright

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You can do everything you want for <$2500 plus whatever comm/xponder equipment you want/need.

The GRT EIS 4000 is $1,000 or thereabouts with basic sensors. Add a a couple of fuel level sensors and you're done with the engine/fuel monitoring. The EIS has one great feature which is the master warning light which prompts the pilot on out of range engine info.

The GRT Mini EFIS is ~$1,000. That's your altimeter, attitude indicator, ASI, and all of the other VFR stuff you need except for a compass, which is a $100 item.


Unless you can find everything you need used, it'll be hard to beat the price, functionality, weight, and simplicity of that kind of setup.
 
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Topaz

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I like Pop's solution. For VFR, even cross-country, an EFIS seems to me to be extreme overkill. Unless...

Look at the options for software and sensors, using a commercial-off-the-shelf Android or iPad tablet. Some of those come in cheaper than any EFIS and even cheaper than most bought-new steam-gauge setups.

Excluding that, I'm another steam-gauge guy. Airspeed, altimeter, vario (VSI, to you non-soaring types), yaw string (or basic skid-slip, if the prop's in front), compass, tach, CHT(s), fuel gauge(s). Handheld radio, since I already own one. NAV? My smartphone has a good-enough GPS and I can read a paper map and the compass just fine, thanks.

One of the commercial EFIS seems appropriate for IFR to me. For VFR? Look down. The whole world is right underneath you.
 

Topaz

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If you want to look at a great panel, look at the panel of Bob Barrows, prototype Bearhawk LSA. How thats a panel. If its not there, it weighs nothing, cost nothing and is 100% reliable. Dan

photo album
Anyone who needs more than this (and the compass I presume is there also) for VFR cross-country actually needs some serious re-training with a CFI more than they need the fancy glass cockpit.

Wants more than this is fine. I have no problems with "gadgeting up" a panel, by any means. But if you need more than this for VFR, IMHO, the biggest problem in your airplane is the guy holding the stick.
 
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