New Avionics Package

No_Desk_Jobs

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My Boss wants me to do some research on purchasing new NAV/ COM packages for our C-172 rental / instruction aircraft. The long term goal is to get a standardized avionics package in the planes that have 2 Com. Radios, ILS, VOR, and IFR certified GPS capability, and possibly a new transponder.
I was just wondering if anyone had any input on some of the different options out there. I’d be interested in all the normal things that you look at when buying any new product to include price, reliability, resale value, and ease of use.
I’ve had some input from the director of maintenance and he seems to think that the Garmin Units are nice but when they fail they are tough to repair. He expressed interest in the KX-155 Nav/ Com and the KLN-89 IFR GPS.
Any input is appreciated. If you have experience with a system you like or dislike I’d like to know so we can make an informed decision on where to spend the money. Thanks in advance for any help.

Matt
 

Timebuilder

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The units I would avoid are the production run of King radios that had problems with cold solder joints. They came out in the new Skyhawks, and if you talk to most people who owns/owned those planes, most of them replaced the radio stack at least once, some a couple of times.

I was told by one source that the problem stems from outsourcing labor to a foreign country, perhaps Mexico. Zenith Television did this several years ago, and their product suffered a slump in quality.

The old King radios, before that time, are almost bulletproof. The models with the twist-dial mechanical tuning found in planes from the sixties and seventies are still working well today. The electronic radios with the active and stanby frequencies and the swap button work well, as long as they weren't produced during that problematic time I mentioned.
 

Wiggums

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What about using Garmin GNS430s? They are a little more expensive, but they are WAAS upgradeable. Also, the 430 has to be the most advanced nav/com/gps available. I'll bet the resale is great on them also.

For a rental fleet you could go with one Garmin GNS430, one King KX-155, and a Garmin GTX320 or 327 transponder.
 

Timebuilder

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Good idea.

The Garmin is a nice unit.
 

aero99

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ditto the 430.
 

gnx99

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IMHO, the KLN-94 is awkward to use, not very intuitive.

Garmin sim i've used seem much better
 

ShawnC

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Garmins make some of the best units IMO.

Now if you guys want to go high tech there is the dual 430 stack, or a 530 ( I wish) and a 430 with a TCAS.
 

HMR

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For the past year or so I’ve been doing ground and flight training for new owners of both the King and Garmin units. If you want to keep it cheap and get the job done I recommend 2 used KX-155’s and an old KLN-89. They’re bullet proof, very easy to use and available for bargain prices on the used market. MAKE SURE if you buy a used unit it’s certifiable for IFR and GPS APPROACH use (and installed accordingly). I’ve seen pilots install GPS systems in their planes and unknowingly fly off into the clouds with a unit certified for VFR or IFR ENROUTE use only. On a properly installed system the needle sensitivity on your CDI or HSI will change automatically depending on whether you’re enroute, in the terminal area, or on an approach (kind of like when you switch from a VOR to a Localizer). This will keep you out of the trees.
For a lot more money you can go with a new King or Garmin unit. They’re nearly identical in performance and are very intuitive and easy to use. Be sure to read the owner’s manual and discover all the neat things the new units do (like VNAV). It’s hard to say which unit is better. I get asked to choose between the KLN and the GNS setups all the time. Both are excellent. If it were my plane I would get a new series KX-155, KX-165 (the 165 runs an HSI) and a KLN-94 connected to a good Multi Function Display (makes up for the small GPS screen). The newer KX-155 and 165 have a digital RMI and CDI function that rules. The GNS 530/430 or 530/ 530 combo looks great and does everything except fill in your logbook but the King setup I mentioned does it all cheaper and just as well. If you get into moderate turbulence it takes a lot of patience and a steady hand to use the little knobs and buttons on the Garmin. Also, if you’re instructing in the clouds with the Garmin you’ll get a few gray hairs on approaches when students bump the tiny little “CDI” button (switches between GPS and VOR/LOC) that’s next to the frequency knob and end up a mile off course before you figure out what happened.
As for transponders, both the King and Garmin units are great. Good luck with your purchase. I spent all morning teaching LORAN and RNAV ops and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate GPS.
 
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