Taking The Glass-Panel Plunge


Many regular readers may recall my occasional musings about trading out the round, “steam” flight instruments in my Beech Debonair for a fancy “glass panel.” Many pixels and buckets of ink, plus hours of research, went into my consideration of the various options and how well or poorly they may coexist with my existing avionics. So, it’s time to announce I’ve made a decision and scheduled the airplane into the shop. It is not, however, time to let you know what I’ve decided, along with other details. Watch this space and elsewhere in these pages over the coming months for the lowdown.

In the meantime, a bit about the existing equipment: My primary navigation box is a Garmin GNS 530W, one I’ve had since the 530s first hit the market, suitably updated to the latest configuration. It does everything I need it to do, and I usually know how to get from it what I want. After using it for more than 20 years, however, it still surprises me sometimes. It doesn’t, of course, have a touchscreen interface, nor does it have any kind of wireless capability; I still update its databases the old-fashioned way, by exchanging data cards. My #2 nav/comm solution is a venerable Bendix-King KX-155, which never requires a database update. The panel also includes a Bendix-King KN-62 DME, which will be removed. All of these boxes are working well.

The other bit of tech that plays into my decision is the L3 NGT-9000 touchscreen ADS-B transponder. It’s a unique box that also receives ADS-B traffic and weather, and displays it all on its own screen while feeding the same info to my iPad-based electronic flight bag via a Wi-Fi dongle. The 530 has display limitations when interfaced to it, but other screens I use in the cockpit make up for them and provide redundancy. Finally, I have an older autopilot, an S-Tec 60-2, that also works well.

Newer and more capable equipment exists, of course, to replace the 530, the 9000 and the 60-2, all of which is designed to work and play well together but only as long as everything has the same brand name. That’s a frustration, since it’s never made sense to me to yank out a perfectly good box to exchange it and some cash for the latest and greatest. My missions aren’t that critical. I’m anxiously anticipating this upgrade and will keep all of you posted.

— Jeb Burnside


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