Advantage Avionics, of Chino, California, has finished its massive installation, and I was on hand for the shakedown flight tests on January 27. As I’ve said before, it was sensory overload when I first settled into the driver’s seat, but Garmin’s G500 is quite intuitive, and running the dual Garmin GNS 430Ws (which feed nav data to the G500) was a no-brainer since I was already familiar with their operating logic.
The tests were anticlimactic, save for some minor tweaks: turning down the autopilot-disconnect warning tone’s volume, and adding command bars to the PFD among them. The Cobham/S-TEC System Fifty-Five X autopilot flew headings, vertical-speed and altitude preselect commands, instrument approaches, and course intercepts with near-perfection. In altitude-hold mode, there is some hunting in pitch, but I am told that Cobham/S-TEC will fine-tune the autopilot gain levels to eliminate this.
Activating the XM WX datalink weather and radio functions proved tedious, as others have told me. At first I called XM’s 800 number and talked to a pleasant, yet not completely English-fluent, call center employee who swore my account was activated. “Just turn on the power and wait for the datalink receiver to lock on,” I was told. I sensed something was amiss when I was quoted a price of some $12 per month for all service levels I’d requested–the Aviatior Pro includes a massive amount of weather data. Anyway, I powered up the panel as I was told, and the download….
Didn’t happen. Another call the next day, more waiting, and finally I was receiving all the XM data and music I’d ordered. The bill was now a bit north of $100 per month, though! Seems the $12 per month was for the automotive package of services.
Another item: the Crossover Classic is a 1974 airplane, so its airspeed marking are in miles per hour. Consequently, all the V-speeds and airspeed arcs are in mph to remain in compliance with the airplane’s flight manual. However, the L-3 Trilogy standby instrument system uses knots, and I like the GNS 430s to show knots, too. To someone who learned in mph, then spent a mighty effort to switch mental gears into knot-dom, this dissonance actually drove me to the whiz wheel as I made my way from Advantage Avionics to the airplane’s next stop–Air Mod, our chosen interior shop, located at southwest Ohio’s Clermont County Airport (I69). True airspeeds were mostly in the 150-knot range as I made my way across the southern Rockies at 11,000 feet.
My route went from Chino, through the Banning Pass, then on to the Thermal and Blythe VORs. The first leg–two hours in duration–ended with a landing at Phoenix’s Goodyear Airport (GYR). Most of that leg was flown at 8,000 feet, and the only disappointment was the failure of Garmin’s GTS 800 active traffic advisory system (TAS). Up popped a “FAILED” message, and suddenly I felt naked. I was really spoiled by the 800′s traffic information. The unit really does a great job at directing your attention to airplanes both near and far, and greatly enhances your situational awareness. Advantage says a simple data entry procedure should solve the problem, which will be addressed by Cincinnati Avionics–a shop located just across the field from Air Mod.
The next leg was three hours and change, and ended with a landing at Albuquerque International (ABQ). There was the possibility that I could have gone non-stop from Chino to ABQ, but with my high power setting and wind situation, the leg would have lasted a bit more than five hours–and that cut into my fuel-reserve comfort factor. After ABQ, it was on to Wichita Mid-Continent Aiport (ICT) for an overnight. This was an easy leg, lasting just two hours. The hard part came when the flu flattened yours truly while an epic snowstorm/blizzard raged all along my next route from ICT to I69.
As I watched The Weather Channel endlessly, I reflected on my trip so far. What can you say about the G500? Everything. Airspeed and altitude trend information is portrayed with magenta trend lines on the PFD’s vertical tapes, terrain and obstacle info is on the MFD, as is route-, special-use airspace, and weather information. And don’t forget the synthetic terrain! Oh, and the XM radio has a page on the MFD’s “chapter” icons at the bottom of the screen.
On the PFD, you can seen indicated airspeed, true airspeed, groundspeed, wind vector, and flight path marker information–all at a glance. Again, am I spoiled? You bet. And so will the lucky winner of this fine airplane.
But the refurbishment isn’t finished, of course. As this is being written, the airplane is at I69, where Air Mod is gutting the ship’s funky old interior and preparing the airplane for a top-of-the-line leather interior, complete with Amsafe seat-belt air bags and much more. The old windows are gone, as are all the ancient fiberglass and plastic trim and other components. No mouse nests or noteworthy corrosion, however!
As always, stay tuned. Next time we’ll begin delving into the interior work in earnest.