Though my experience with avionics installations has been on the whole very good, on most major renovations there have been issues with fine-tuning the equipment or getting the local FSDO (flight standards district office) to release the 337 Form. Despite the scope of this work, there was only one minor correction needed. The airspeed tape, which is designed to mimic in color what the traditional airspeed indicator does, showed red for all airspeeds. This was instead of white, green, yellow and red/white “barber pole” colors used to denote flaps operating range, normal operating range, caution range and never exceed speed (Vne). That was it and it was easily fixed.
On the day of delivery, I flew by airliner to Providence, Rhode Island, and rented a car for the drive to Groton. The airplane looked great — there wasn’t a scuff on the carpet or a speck on the newly constructed and expertly painted panel. If the preceding sentence seems overburdened with superlatives, it is because the job was that much more than I had expected. I had picked a light beige for the panel, close to the original. I’ve had dark gray, blue and beige panels, but in dark weather, I like the cheerfulness of the warm color. A new panel means no black covers installed to fit where previously useful but no longer necessary instruments once plied their trade. It made the airplane look brand-new.
With Jack in the right seat, we fired up and taxied out while I whistled at the SafeTaxi GPS-driven map that alerted me to hot spots for runway incursion. With Jack giving a running commentary on various buttons and bells, we took off and circled for an ILS 5. As the autopilot caught the localizer, I was reassured that I could at least get started in the airplane without killing myself. In retrospect, I caught only about a third of what was going on.
Alone and proceeding VFR to an airport 150 nautical miles away, I managed to get airborne and headed in the right direction. I did note that I sought consolation and information from the gauge on the copilot’s side occasionally, just a habit of knowing about where 120 knots was on that round dial. Leveled off at 12,000 feet, I gingerly engaged the autopilot with my thumb poised over the disconnect button. The autopilot engaged effortlessly and without complaint. I took a deep breath.