The downside to the Aspen display is its smaller size, though this is a bit of a subjective call. For some pilots, me included, the EFD does everything they’d want it to do, and because Aspen does such a good job with the human factors, the size of the display just works. You get a lot of information, but it’s organized very clearly. The symbols and text are a large size but uncrowded, and the colors help set the various functions apart from each other so effectively that the display almost seems to speak to you. It’s one of those products with execution that looks so effortless it appears to have happened without any human intervention at all.
The engineers at Aspen could tell that nothing could be further from the truth.
When paired with one of the larger Garmin navigators, such as the GNS 530 or GTN 750, the effect is very similar to the PFD/MFD arrangement you get with a conventional factory-installed glass panel. Because the overall cost of the Aspen package (including installation) is lower than that of the larger and more integrated Garmin G600/G500, a lot of airplane owners are willing to go with the smaller display.
When paired with a good multi-function navigator, like one of the Garmin boxes, you have a winning combination of capabilities, along with greatly enhanced reliability — the addition of solid-state attitude is for many Aspen customers the biggest safety edge — added redundancy and greatly enhanced situational awareness.
Moreover, you can put one or two additional Aspen multifunction displays next to the PFD to bring additional real estate to the Aspen package. And Aspen’s nicely implemented synthetic vision on the PFD adds to the value too.
The iPad Connection
Aspen Avionics is closing in on certification for its Connected Panel, an iPad gateway product the company announced at last year’s Oshkosh show. The technology is one of the most intriguing introductions in avionics in a long time, because it forces us to rethink what avionics are and how our portable and handheld devices are integrated with the avionics system. Before Connected Panel, portable devices weren’t integrated at all.
Connected Panel brings portable and panel-mount products together by allowing a pilot to use an iPad (other devices are on the way) to do any number of aviation chores and move data back and forth between the iPad and the panel-mount avionics. In the process, Connected Panel keeps things on the up and up, serving as buffer, backup and traffic cop for the data that comes through it, keeping the system safe and providing potentially robust recovery capabilities in case of bad data or an interrupted transfer, for example.
Connected Panel (which is expected to sell for less than $2,500) is slated for certification soon. The device, the CG100, is a small blind-mounted box that connects using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or USB, and also features flash memory storage (for data logging applications and more). Aspen’s displays are optimized for Connected Panel, but apps can interface with any panel-mount hardware they can hook up with.