Design Philosophy One of the main reasons that E2/R9 took so long to come along is that, in developing it, no possible improvement was off the table and nothing was taken for granted.
In order to learn just what worked and what didn't, Avidyne put developmental systems through user testing so it could see how smoothly pilots, and not Avidyne's pilots, were able to use it. Avidyne designers painstakingly recorded actual user button pushes and keystrokes in order to discover inefficiencies and fix them. I've seen several developmental versions of various components of R9, and I feel safe in saying that almost good enough wasn't good enough.
That said, this laser focus on the mission had its costs. E2 was years behind and cost a great deal more than Avidyne dreamed it would.
What's Inside the Box? As I said, R9 is a new system that consists of all-new hardware and software, and the interfaces are all very different from those on the Entegra system, though they're different in nothing but good ways.
Revolutionary Displays With R9 Avidyne has come out with all new displays, which Avidyne refers to as Integrated Flight Displays (IFDs). The glass itself is better, with higher resolution (1024x768) for sharper images. And it looks even nicer thanks to a new generation of symbology that brings the outside world to life with a variety of coloring and shading effects that add depth and dimension to the display.
The flight planning interface is, likewise, the best we've seen. Waypoints are grouped together with labeled brackets along the margin to enhance organization, and you can split screens to see both the flight plan and the map.
The IFDs are identical, though once they're in the airplane, they behave differently. An inline configurator tells the left-side display to behave as a PFD and the middle display as an MFD. Because each display has a solid-state ADAHRS built-in, the system gives you full redundancy, using advanced algorithms to cross compare the displays' data. But there's no specific reversionary mode with the system. Because the IFDs are identical, you can fly off of the middle display in exactly the same way you would with the left-side one. It's just a little off to your right.
The PFD is a thing of beauty. Even though it is a 10.4-inch display -- Avidyne is working on larger versions for certain applications -- it feels much larger, thanks to the way the information has been arrayed on the screen and the artistic and effective way it is rendered.
And there's a ton of information, some of it not available on any other primary display in this class or at all. It will spoil you.
The attitude indicator segment on the PFD, for example, shows you the outside air temp, the true airspeed and the baro setting at the bottom of the various tapes, and a CDI shows you the current deviation scale. On the vertical speed tape, a green arrow automatically displays the required rate of climb to arrive at your targeted altitude.
On the HSI section, there are more extras. When paired with a compatible audio panel (such as PS Engineering's PMA8000B), you get a display of not only what frequency you have tuned but of the facility that you're talking to. On my flights in Avidyne's R9-equipped Cirrus, when we were talking with Jacksonville Center, it said so right above the frequency. It also auto decodes the Morse code for nav frequencies and displays those identifiers, as well: instead of CRG, it will read "Craig."
And on the HSI there's a remarkably good little map displayed, with flight plan waypoints, obstacles, traffic and even color-coded flight plan legs.
The PFD is very flexible. It can, in fact, be set up to function as a composite display, showing a variety of other information while always, of course, keeping the HSI and the attitude display prominently in view. On the PFD you can see flight plan and engine information, as well as checklists and more, all with a push of a button. With few exceptions, anything you can do on the MFD, you can do on the PFD.
There are a lot of buttons on the R9 displays, but they are smarter than any buttons I've flown behind. The twin dual-concentric knobs located on the right and left lower corners of the display are nicely executed, with a smooth feel and action. And along the sides are arrayed 12 soft keys (six on the left, six on the right) that will do what their soft labels say they will. Those labels and functions change depending on the phase of flight. When you have an approach loaded, you'll get the "activate approach" button. When you're on final, the "activate missed" label will appear. There's no need to hunt. And there's a dedicated baro button, as well, a big improvement over systems that make you go through any key pushes at all to access the most used key of all.
The graphical engine instrumentation page is organized nicely, letting you get a quick picture of the health of the systems. The PFD can also display engine data on the lower half, superimposing the HSI onto the horizon above.
Along the lower bezel are a series of five keys that Avidyne calls "page rockers." These are the keys to navigating pages with R9. Hit the rocker key to activate that view, and then use the right and left toggles to go where you want. It's the same essential setup, chapters and pages, as with Garmin's interface, but for some reason it's easier to visualize and navigate when a separate key controls each "chapter."
Remember that the PFD and MFD displays are physically the same, so working the buttons and knobs on one is the same as working them on the other. You don't have to learn two boxes.
Multifunction Heaven The MFD represents a remarkable achievement as well, presenting pilots with a selection of composite views to suit their needs. Navigating the MFD functions is also done with the page rocker keys, just as it is on the PFD.