“The portable 496 doesn’t meet the FAA’s HIRF/lightning criteria necessary for an IFR GPS like our certified GTN touch-screen navigators do,” says Jim Alpiser, Garmin’s director of aviation aftermarket sales and marketing. “A VFR-only airplane like an S-LSA doesn’t need HIRF, so we don’t need to include that feature, which means we can offer it for less.”
As is the case with Dynon and its non-TSO’d avionics (and any manufacturer’s for that matter), Garmin has seen firsthand the time that can be saved in getting these products on line compared with those that require FAA certification.
“It took several years to get our Highway-in-the-Sky synthetic vision certified for the G1000, a TSO’d product,” Alpiser says. “We added SV to our G3X EFIS/EMS for the sport aviation market, and it only took about six months to develop and get into market.”
At the end of the day, Dynon’s Hamilton feels the quality of many non-TSO’d avionics in today’s market is comparable to that of certified products; otherwise S-LSA manufacturers and homebuilders wouldn’t buy them. That said, Hamilton admits that, because there aren’t any performance standards in place for avionics, performance can’t officially be proven other than by word of mouth by those who fly them.
Standards to Come?
That lack of equipment standards might change, however. There’s currently an ASTM F37 task group working on developing design and performance standards for flight instruments, avionics and supporting equipment in LSA, says Michael Schofield, who sits on the task group and is Dynon’s product manager.
“There’s a list of required equipment under the ASTM standards but no performance requirements equipment,” he explains. “For example, how accurate does an airspeed indicator need to be?”
It’s the task group’s aim, Schofield says, to fill that gap with appropriate standards that aren’t overburdensome in time and cost to the manufacturers but that offer real safety and performance benefits to users. The sport aviation industry wants to succeed, and part of that success is avoiding the extreme costs associated with manufacturing certified products.
Although the “shiny” avionics that I’ve been flying with in a Remos for more than a year now have been performing fine, I have to admit that it seems establishing such standards could only help the industry. Even if it’s just to keep others from wondering if the quality of the avionics equipment is up to snuff — or not.