Welcome to the edition of Airplane Noise for 2021. As we leave 2020 in the rear-view mirror (thank goodness, right?), I frequently get asked, “So, how were avionics sales in 2020?” 

Well, to put it in perspective, it’s no surprise that 2018 and 2019 were exceptionally good years for us – thank you, ADS-B mandate. Our avionics shop was often backed up nine months out, and that’s with 18,000 square feet of hangar space and 13 full-time technicians.

Just about every install job we did had an ADS-B product of some kind. And in many of those cases, customers also took the opportunity to upgrade part or all of their panel.

Between the ADS-B mandate ending and COVID-19 beginning, early 2020 was pretty slow. But the good news is, the end of the year saw business returning to the pre-ADS-B “normal” level. And that’s a good thing!

Right now, Pacific Coast Avionics installers are booked out about four months. And while we are still doing a fair number of ADS-B transponder upgrades, a few newer products have driven sales this year, and I look for them to continue for 2021.

So what products are driving up sales? Well, here are a few of the top-sellers as we enter 2021.

 

Garmin GFC-500 autopilot.

For us, the Garmin GFC-500 Autopilot was 2020’s sales star. Overall, we installed 47 GFC-500’s last year, and our customers are thrilled with the system. Most of the installations we are doing are to replace the 50-year-old Cessna NAV-300’s or Piper Altimatic autopilots.

Along with a new autopilot, pilots get a whole lot more with the system. The GFC-500 is a digital roll control and altitude autopilot, altitude preselect, climb/descent speed control, “straight & level” button, VOR/ILS/GPS tracking including LNAV/LPV approaches, and optional auto-trim. It also provides flight director capability, which is displayed on the required G5 or GI-275 Attitude Indicator. Either an existing or new G5/PFD or GI-275/PFD is a required part of the GFC-500 as well, and the systems work together flawlessly.

Another amazing feature of the GFC-500 system is Garmin’s ESP – Electronic Stability Protection – even with the autopilot off, it will give some “feedback” in the yoke if you start to over-control the airplane. It’s important to note that it won’t prevent you from over-controlling, but ESP just lets you know that you are doing it.

Between getting a new EFIS attitude indicator, an HSI, and removing the troublesome vacuum system, it delivers a lot of capabilities for your buck. Speaking of price, the typical price for the GFC-500 including dual G5’s is $23,000 installed! Based on what we have on our installation shop for the next few months, it looks like demand for the GFC-500 will continue for 2021.

Garmin G5 electronic flight instruments.

With or without a new GFC-500, the G5 PFD/G5 HSI upgrade was a great seller in 2020. In most cases the vacuum system is removed from the airplane, which saves weight, and eliminates a future point of failure ­– a win/win for every owner.

While G5 installations require that we keep the mechanical altimeter, airspeed, and turn coordinator in the airplane, the G5’s do such a great job of displaying that information, so most people don’t even look at them…which makes an instrument scan very concentrated and easy.

As an added benefit, Garmin introduced the GAD-13 Adapter a little over a year ago that gives the G5 the ability to display Wind Direction/Speed, True Airspeed, and Density Altitude. Even with the more advanced GI-275’s available now, I see the G5 continuing to be very popular for 2021.

 

Garmin GNX-375 IFR GPS/ADS-B Transponder combination.
I don’t mean this all Garmin all the time, but another hot item for 2020 was the GNX-375 IFR GPS/ADS-B Transponder combination. It’s been a huge hit with Bonanza and Mooney owners that want to replace the old King KLN-90B/94 series GPS and KT-76A Transponders.

While the new-generation GNX-375 fits the same space as the KLN GPS, it also provides WAAS GPS with LNAV/LPV GPS approach capability. In addition, it provides FIS-B ADS-B weather and traffic information on the display.

uAvionix tailBeacon ADS-B solution.

The uAvionix tailBeacon is an easy owner installable ADS-B compliant product for under $2,000. It’s not just an ADS-B-Out compliant unit; it also has a WAAS GPS, and UAT ADS-B transmitter built-in.

As long as the airplane has a tail position light, the tailBeacon is a direct mount replacement.

 

Appareo Stratus-ESG ADS-B transponder.

The Appareo Stratus-ESG ADS-B Transponder continues to be a real hit with many owners who are still flying with vintage 70s-80s era King, Narco, or Collins Mode C transponders. The Stratus-ESG has a built-in WAAS GPS with a GPS antenna that fits the same space as the old Mode C transponder, so it’s an easy one-box ADS-B solution.

It’s an easy upgrade that can be installed by any shop, an A & P, or owner (as long as a licensed avionics shop does a VFR Transponder certification). For customers needing a new transponder anyway, the Stratus-ESG has been a very popular choice.

 

2021’s looking good.

While I certainly don’t have a crystal ball, I think the GFC-500 and G5’s will remain sales leaders well into 2021, or at least until someone introduces the “next big thing.” There are, no doubt, products in the works that will take us all by pleasant surprise yet this year.

If you have any questions about any of the products I’ve mentioned here or any other avionics upgrade, feel free to call me at 503. 678. 6242 (ext: 201). I’m here to help. In the meantime, I hope you can get some good flying in this winter.

 

Until next time, keep looking up,

Dewey

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