The message is clear for makers of transportation airplanes: pilots want flat panels, as evidenced by the fact that once an airplane maker starts offering flat panels as an "option," customers buy nothing else.
New Piper Aircraft became the latest aircraft manufacturer to answer the call, announcing recently that its entire Saratoga lineup-the Saratoga II HP, the Saratoga II TC, the Piper 6X and the Piper 6XT-would all get Avidyne FlightMax Entegra flat-panel displays.
Thanks to the airplane's huge panel and some smart avionics engineering, the Saratoga flat-panel installation is exceptionally clean, with the two displays situated in the landscape (horizontal) format with the radio stack (dual Garmin GNS 430s, Garmin audio panel and the S-Tec 55X autopilot) situated level with and between the two LCDs.
The new package eliminates the vacuum pump. There's just one battery, but the backup attitude indicator is electrically powered and has a self-contained NiCad backup battery. Another thing lacking from the panel, you might notice, are the electromechanical engine gauges. With both the primary flight display and the MFD displaying engine gauges, the need for backups was gone.
The PFD incorporates some nice upgrades. Autopilot mode annunciations are shown at the top of the PFD, and with the autopilot and navigators just to the right of the PFD, the level of auto- flight integration-real and perceived-is greatly enhanced over other Avidyne PFD installations. As in the Lancair installation, the Saratoga PFD features a flight director for command guidance when the pilot is hand flying.
In addition to the other utilities in the FlightMax system, buyers will get the option of Avidyne's datalink weather service. At press time, Piper was finalizing pricing details, but expected the cost to be about $30,000 for some models. Piper has already started delivering the first Avidyne-equipped airplanes.