How to Overcome Avionics Obsolescence in Older Aircraft

Avionics Upgrades

When you purchase an aircraft, you make an investment. You purchase an airplane that will fly for decades and will provide yourself, your family, or your business with years of service. But as an aircraft ages, its technology ages alongside it, leaving aircraft owners and operators to decide which avionics upgrades to perform. Between technology advances, regulatory guidelines, and parts obsolescence, it can be a challenge for owners and operators to know which avionics upgrades are essential, and which aren’t.

At Winner Aviation, we’re here to help you overcome avionics obsolescence in older aircraft by helping you make informed decisions that will maximize your cost vs. hull value, help make your flight experience more efficient, and future proof your avionics technology.

Understanding What Contributes to Avionics Obsolescence

Avionics obsolescence ultimately occurs when the long lifecycle of an aircraft exceeds the technology within it. The technology can be exceeded when:

  • New FAA regulations to improve flight safety are released
  • Technology simply progresses
  • Supply of parts diminishes
  • There’s a lack of an upgrade path

When this happens, aircraft owners are presented with two options: Completely replace the flight deck or upgrade key components.

Option 1: Total System Replacement

A great example of total system replacement is the Pro Line 4 to Pro Line 21 flight deck upgrade. However, this is an expensive option—both financially and in length of aircraft downtime.

Owners and operators who want optimal situational awareness, increased functionality, and a safeguard against failure, are more inclined to entirely replace their flight deck rather than retrofit or upgrade certain components.

Option 2: Upgrade Key Components

Rather than totally replace the flight deck system, you have the option of upgrading certain components within your flight deck. To do this, there are a number of approaches:

  • Decode the proprietary digital interfaces
  • Convert to standard interfaces
  • Leverage the standard interfaces, even if it’s not what was originally intended for the functionality

The ability to retrofit upgrades within your current flight deck system offers advanced capabilities for better situational awareness such as:

Making the Right Avionics Upgrade Choice

There are pros and cons to either option, and no “right or wrong” answer. The key to making the right avionics upgrade choice is to always consider the primary mission of your aircraft.

Is your aircraft primarily used for short “joy rides” for individual use? Then it may not require a complex overhaul with sophisticated navigation systems. Is your aircraft used for long-range business operations in high-density air routes? Then your aircraft should have complex equipment with adequate backup that allows for continued operation in the event of any avionics failure.

Before you make any decisions—whether for a complete flight deck overhaul or a retrofitted option—it’s best to sit down with an experienced avionics professional who can explain the capabilities of different devices and avionics upgrades. A knowledgeable avionics technician will help you weigh your options and help you understand what equipment can be mixed and matched together.

Considerations that you should always keep in mind when having these conversations with an avionics technician are:

  • Flight Crew – Your flight crew should always have good situational awareness and ease-of-access to the needed displays and controls. If you’re not the operator of the aircraft, talk with your pilot and/or flight crew to understand their requirements better.
  • Upgrade Ability – Talk with your MRO about how difficult and expensive future upgrades may be.
  • Use of Existing Equipment – Certain pieces of existing hardware within your flight deck may be compatible with newer technology. Talk with your MRO about where you may find cost savings here.
  • Technical Support and Logistics – When you choose a flight deck system or avionics hardware, it’s important that you understand the cost of support associated with them. Talk with your MRO and determine if technical support can be addressed by a wide range of shops or if spare parts are readily available.
  • Weight Change – Installing additional systems can impact your payload. While most new devices are lighter than their previous counterparts, it’s important that you talk with your avionics technician about any weight changes.
  • Power Requirements – Anytime aircraft electrical loads change, a load analysis should be conducted. Your MRO should help you understand what type of electrical power your new flight deck or technology will consume.

Winner Aviation Will Help You Overcome Avionics Obsolescence

If you’re ready to overhaul your flight deck or upgrade any of your avionics technology, talk with Winner Aviation. Our experienced and detailed avionics technicians will answer your questions and help you determine the right path forward.

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