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I've also been watching the developments in solid-state flight
instrumentation, and while I'm a bit shocked by the prices, I haven't
given up simply on that basis yet. There are other things to worry about
For example, when you consider that the Archangel and Sierra systems both
provide everything you need except radios, $30,000 doesn't seem that bad
- until someone asks: "what happens when the screen goes blank?" We've
already discussed the certain-death-scenario of losing vacuum, having an
extra oil pressure gauge to back-up an electronic display so you know
your engine isn't about to quit after an electrical failure, two
batteries, and on and on...Now how many back-ups do we need? I suppose
that with the more reasonably priced Sierra system sans attitude
indication, using a separate vacuum driven attitude indicator, maybe an
AOA indicator, and ground speed and limited altitude information provided
by GPS, you're only a little worse off than the guy who lost his vacuum
and is flying with his turn/bank instrument. Frankly, with all the chaos
caused by a blank screen that normally tells me all is well in the world,
I wouldn't be paying much attention to back-up engine instruments -
unless of course the engine starts running rough at that moment, but what
good is knowing that you no longer have oil pressure going to do you in
such a situation? Obviously, with a single electronic display, a lot more
thought and sacrifice will have to be added to the design of a panel,
along with money.
Now Sierra also has a remote indicator, separate from the main screen,
that can display many of the numbers you need to save yourself if the
main screen goes blank - hopefully, it will also work in the event of a
software crash of some sort. Unfortunately, Sierra doesn't have brochures
or any details about this thing on their website, so we're going to have
to wait and see if it helps. That, with a heading only system, a vacuum
attitude indicator, along with the lower price starts making sense.
Not to forget the Archangel system: it costs a bit less than the fully
equipped Sierra system with the added benefit of being blessed by the
government. My concern with that system, even with all the colorful
brochures, has been in the details. Apparently, you can't interface your
ILS to it. When I ask, the answer I get is: "that feature is coming".
Also, if I have a liquid-cooled engine, what do I do with all those nifty
EGT/CHT displays? The answer I got was: "the screen is fully
customizable". I'd like to trust them on that, but when I asked for a
rough cost estimate of installing a single screen Archangel system in a
Velocity with a liquid-cooled engine, I got a very nice, detailed letter,
outlining everything that would be necessary, including EGT/CHT probes...
I suppose that once both companies deal with a few builders, they will
become more educated as to what we are looking for. In the mean time,
perhaps some of us could correspond separately from the Reflector and
compare notes on these and other systems with solid-state gyros, and
spare boring everyone else to tears...
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