Cockpit Considerations--Making the Case for Avionics Upgrades
Produced by Aviation Week, written by Paul Seidenman for Sandel Avionics
“The question is, do you want to keep repairing at anywhere between $17,000 to $35,000 per unit for replacement CRTs—which add no value to the aircraft—or do you want an upgrade to a new technology system, where you’re not going to have reliability and repair cost issues.” - Mark Wilken, director of
avionics sales for Elliott Aviation
As a result of dwindling supplies, the cost of replacement screens is escalating, and as Wilken notes, an older EFIS suite can account for between three and seven CRTs on the instrument panel.
“On the lower end, if you are looking at a replacement for a CRT system, it will cost $16,000 to $17,000 per display, and as much as $35,000 per unit on the high end,” he says. “Since the prices keep going up, the question is, do you want to keep repairing at anywhere between $17,000 to $35,000 per unit for replacement CRTs—which add no value to the aircraft—or do you want an upgrade to a new technology system, where you’re not going to have reliability and repair cost issues.”
To illustrate, Wilken reports that the company did a partial avionics upgrade—display units only—on a Hawker 800 XP business jet. The job involved the replacement of five Honeywell SPZ 8000 (5-by-5-inch) CRT units, with three (8-by-11-inch) LCD Honeywell Primus EPIC units. The new screens will be compatible with the aircraft’s existing autopilot and other OEM systems, which the operator elected to leave in place.
“The owner wanted to keep the aircraft for at least another five years, and ran the numbers,” says Wilken. “The old CRTs were breaking down at the rate of two to three per year—at $20,000 per replacement, which is typical for older avionics equipment. Now, for $500,000, the owner is getting a more capable system, with larger screens incorporating electronic charts and data link weather information—with a mean time between failure (MTBF) rate of 25,000 hours. At an average yearly utilization rate of 400 flight hours, which experts generally agree is typical for a business jet, it means that, theoretically, they will last 62.5 years—well beyond the service life of the aircraft.”
Older avionics systems, in fact, typically have an MTBF rate of 1,500 to 2,000 flight hours, according to Delmar Fadden of Sandel. In contrast, he explains, the company’s wider-selling avionics—such as the SN3500 3-ATI, the SN4500 4-ATI primary navigation displays, and the SA4550 4-ATI primary attitude indicators have an MTBF rate in excess of 10,000 hours, meaning greater warranty protection for the buyer.
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