(February 2012) The first time I climbed into the Remos G-3 it was for my Sport Pilot discovery flight. The “shiny” Dynon Avionics glass and Garmin GPS, navcom and radio did not go unnoticed as I scanned the panel. “Wow, this Sport Pilot stuff is cool,” I thought. Especially since prior to this flight I had been flying in an older Piper Cherokee Warrior. The stalwart trainer was outfitted with mechanical gauges and older navcom equipment.
Most of us know by now that the advent of the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule seven years ago spurred the production of new airplanes, S-LSA, that offered modern technology and performance. Thanks to the technology advances of the day and the fact that the ASTM standards that “govern” LSA (see last month’s column, “ASTM and LSA”) currently don’t include design and performance for certain equipment, many of the airplane manufacturers could install glass, for instance, or offer these advances as options to the standard panel, with virtually no red tape.
That being the case, I couldn’t help but wonder if these avionics were the same as those that go through the rigorous certification process required by the FAA for standard-category light airplanes like a Piper Cherokee, Cessna 172 or Cirrus SR22. The equipment that goes into this type of aircraft must be signed off with a Technical Standard Order (TSO) by the FAA. A TSO is a minimum performance standard that gives the manufacturer authorization for the design and production of “specified materials, parts and appliances” (such as avionics). In essence, a TSO is a blanket approval process for aviation goods.
Under current ASTM standards for LSA, it’s up to the airplane manufacturer to decide what particular piece of equipment it wants to install in which airplane.
Where allowed, the manufacturers can opt for non-TSO’d avionics (some, like transponders — think about it — must be “TSO’d”). So why choose non-TSO, when permissible?
Who better to ask than the two manufacturers of the avionics in the Remos? Dynon has been producing avionics for the Experimental and LSA markets (aka sport aviation market) both in Europe and the United States since 2003, beginning with introduction of its EFIS-D10. Garmin specifically began targeting the sport aviation market in 2009 with introduction of its G3X EFIS, though the market has been using its navcoms and portable GPSs from the beginning.