Sailing along at 8,500 feet on Sunday, I had the benefit of not one but two Garmin G5s in the panel of the Sweepstakes 172.

The second G5, installed just last month, is configured as a horizontal situation indicator. Since both G5s run off the electrical system and include a back-up battery, Smart Avionics was able to remove the 172’s vacuum system. (The Sweepstakes 172 gained three pounds in its useful load!)

That hole in the instrument panel won’t remain empty for long. On Sunday I flew the Sweepstakes 172 from Frederick, Maryland, to Jackson, Tennessee’s McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport (MKL).

Here, at Tennessee Aircraft Services, the 172 is getting its final fantastic upgrade. Jeff Ley of The STC Group has flown in from California and is installing a Trio autopilot.

The STC Group announced at Sun ‘n Fun that it had obtained an STC for the kit to install theTrio Pro Pilot autopilot in Cessna 172s and 182s. The company hopes to announce at AirVenture complete STC and Parts Manufacturer Approval (PMA) to build and sell the entire system. The Pro Pilot was developed for the Experimental market.

The Sweepstakes 172 will be at AirVenture all week, so please stop by and see this wonderful airplane for yourself. From its humble beginnings as a trainer, trusted family aircraft, and hangar queen to its spinner-to-tail transformation at Yingling Aviation to its eye-catching paint schemes, the 172 is a special bird.