Aspen expects that it will be much more than an iPad link. A potential application that shows great promise, to name just one of hundreds of possibilities, is a data loader for your MFDs or FMSs. Load your data onto your iPad (if it’s supported) and then just load your data onto your devices through Connected Panel instead of swapping cards and lugging laptops around. Jeppesen, for one, is already working with Aspen on just such an app, which is as yet unnamed.
It all sounds cool, but it’s important to remember that this is just one of hundreds of possible apps. I can think of a few that I’d like to see, and if that’s the case you can rest assured that there are scores of clever developers out there working on things we haven’t yet dreamed of.
Another way that Aspen found to make its compact PFD even more valuable was by making it compatible with more autopilots and by enhancing the integration of those autopilots.
The most noteworthy of these is the Avidyne DFC90, an attitude-based high-performance digital autopilot with built-in envelope protection and straight-and-level recovery mode. The autopilot is available on the Cirrus SR22 and SR20 and the Piper PA46. Avidyne is closing in on certification on a number of Cessna 182 models, and it plans to get approvals in a number of Beechcraft Bonanza models, as well as numerous others yet to be announced, down the line.
With its latest update the Aspen PFD, specifically the EFD 1000 Pro, has been updated to interface with the Avidyne autopilot in the same way as Avidyne’s R9 PFD does. The Aspen display, as you can see in the accompanying photographs, displays the autopilot state, allows for altitude preselect and displays rate of climb selected or indicated airspeed. It also displays messages from the DFC90’s envelope protection features, including annunciating when the straight-and-level emergency recovery button has been pushed.
When combined with the DFC90, the EFD 1000 Pro becomes the nerve center for aircraft control, giving control and display to the impressive capabilities of what is one of the best autopilots available in the GA market and arguably the best available on the aftermarket for light airplanes. I’ve flown the DFC90 on a couple of different Cirrus SR22s, and I’m impressed with everything about the autopilot, from its positive and smooth flight control to the turbine-level features, including indicated airspeed hold, to the remarkably advanced envelope protection features. The marriage of Aspen’s fine PFD to the DFC90 is a great match.
The pair of components goes for an attractive price too: The DFC90 starts at right around $9,995, the Evolution Pro PFD starts at $10,180, and the autopilot software activation goes for just under $2,000. So for around $22,000 (plus substantial installation costs, of course), the owner of a suitable candidate airplane gets a remarkably capable system with primary flight display and a top-notch digital autopilot. No other system with similar components and features comes close.
The safety benefits are great. The system affords a lot of redundancy (especially if an Aspen MFD is added to the mix), the reliability of solid-state attitude — the AHRS in the autopilot drives the autopilot — and the in-your-face clarity of PFD annunciation for your autopilot modes.
They’re great features to add to an existing airplane. Throw in the Connected Panel, and you might be adding new features, in the form of Connected Panel apps, for a long time to come.