Scott has the Pro model EFD1000 in his airplane. It is by far the best seller for Aspen, so my observations will be to it and not to the entry level Pilot model or the yet-to-be released ATP version.
The single piece of Aspen glass is segmented into "two" electronic instruments, the HSI and the attitude indicator. Sound like an even swap, two mechanical instruments for two mechanical instruments?
Hardly. The benefits you get in the exchange are numerous, and they give the pilot several new safety tools. The EFD1000 gives you: • A solid-state attitude heading reference system (AHRS) with no moving parts for greater reliability in the most critical instrument in the airplane. • Digital air data. • Altitude pre-select and altitude alerting, which can interface with the autopilot, as well. • Backup power, attitude, heading, GPS reception and OAT. • Altitude, airspeed and vertical speed bugs for reference. • With many autopilots, you get free roll steering -- also known as GPS steering -- which allows a compatible autopilot to follow the flight plan on the GPS. For autopilots with no roll steering, the Aspen PFD eliminates the need for a separate roll steering converter. • Readout of indicated and true airspeed. • Wind arrow and wind speed. • Track deviation indication. • Display of flight plan waypoints and nearest airports on the HSI. • A minimums bug and decision height annunciation. • Optional single-cue flight director.
And these are just some of the additional features you get with the glass.
Is it worth it? For the price of the unit, around $10,000 for the Pro version, I don't know if there's a pilot out there who would answer anything but in the affirmative. The product has a remarkable set of features at a price that's comparable to that of a new panel-mount navigator. It is, in fact, about the same price as fully featured HSIs.
Is Smaller Big Enough?
These are all great bonuses, but the big question is, is the display itself large enough to do the job?
You might think that I, after my flight up to Tulsa behind Avidyne's 10.4-inch glass, would be sensitive to the smaller size of the Aspen PFD -- the glass in it is 6 inches diagonally -- but the truth is, I never thought twice about it.
That fact says a lot about the display, and in order to get all of the information to fit on the display, Aspen had to do a few things exactly right.
For starters, it had to get a great screen, and it did. The EFD1000 is bright; even in direct sunlight its colors are vibrant and the images on it are tack sharp. Without a great display, the small size would have been a deal breaker.
But that wasn't enough. It also had to get the symbology on the displays just right, making them easily interpretable while making them small enough that there was enough room for the other symbology and data fields. And there's a lot to get in, in addition to the HSI and attitude displays, with airspeed and altitude tapes, bugs, nav symbols, text V-speeds and much more.
One of the keys to success is the dividing line between the two virtual instruments, the black data bar, which does a nice job of visually separating the attitude indicator and HSI while giving you your true and indicated airspeeds, outside air temp and a wind arrow with the wind speed and direction.
As to the big question: Is small glass workable? In this case, the answer is yes. I found myself focusing on just the right part of the display at the right time and easily, despite having spent little time with the display before.
Aspen might go a step further, saying not only is a small package sufficient, but that in some ways it might be advantageous because it allows you to take in a lot of information simultaneously without having to move your eyes more than a few inches, or fractions of an inch, left, right, up or down. And at least to some degree, I have to agree. It was very easy to make sense of.
On our first practice RNAV instrument approach to Muskogee, we let the autopilot fly the legs of the T-style approach -- remember, it's got roll-steering capability. With a little guidance from Scott, I put in the baro minimums, loaded the approach on the Garmin GNS 430 (old hat for this Cirrus driver) and followed along. If there were any issues, it was with the S-Tec 55 flying a straight line and not with the display, which gave a clear and easy to interpret picture of the approach underway, even laying out the approach waypoints on the HSI screen as we flew through the sequence.