Air Plains Offers Custom Avionics Panel for Upgraded Cessna 172s

Air Plains is offering a new, advanced panel kit for Cessna 172 owners who are planning to upgrade their aircraft engines with the company’s 180 hp supplemental type certificate.

Air Plains custom avionics panel in an upgraded Cessna 172

The instrument panel will be test fit for instrumentation, powder-coated, and laser engraved, with pilot holes pre-drilled for final fitting and installation. [Courtesy: Air Plains]

There is a common school of thought that if your aircraft is going to be down for maintenance, such as an engine upgrade, you might as well get the other labor-intensive projects—such as an instrument panel upgrade—done at the same time. 

That's the thought process behind the Advanced Instrument Panel Kit 172XP “alpha” update, developed specifically for Cessna 172 owners planning to upgrade their aircraft engine with Air Plains’ 180 hp supplemental type certificate (STC). Alternatively, if the owner has one of the more than 2,500 172XP upgrades already in the field, the new avionics panel is also an option. Both the panel and the engine updates can be installed by Air Plains at its Wellington, Kansas, facility, or it can be shipped as a complete kit for local installation.

According to Air Plains’ president Katie Church, the company has been supplying the horsepower-upgrade STC since the early 1980s. They noted that often when the customer purchased the 180 hp upgrade, they almost always paired it with a new instrument panel, resulting in what she describes as an "upgrade experience for legacy Skyhawk airframes." 

“That led us to develop a new, advanced panel kit, available to be shipped along with the engine upgrade, that’s easy for your mechanic to install at the same time, giving the customer essentially a new airplane at a fraction of the cost of a factory model,” she says.

The Flight School Market

The Cessna 172 is the workhorse for many flight schools. Air Plains notes that many schools have taken advantage of the 180 hp upgrade, resulting in better engine performance and a gross-weight increase for their training aircraft. The avionics upgrade is the next logical step, Church says, noting, “With the Alpha avionics upgrade, they can offer a wider range of training programs in one airframe, and they get a trainer that meets a student’s idea of 21st century flying.” An aircraft equipped with the 172XPα advanced instrument panel kit meets all the requirements under FAA FAR 61.129(j) for a technically advanced aircraft (TAA) needed for logging time towards a commercial pilot certificate. 

According to Church, on average, the time between order and delivery of the kit is about six months. Another benefit of adding the 172XPα advanced instrument panel kit to an Air Plains’ engine upgrade order is that both packages can be installed at the same time.  

“You didn’t get your airplane for it to be worked on,” Church says. “If you’re planning on a new Air Plains’ 180 hp upgrade, get the most out of your planned downtime during your engine upgrade and leave the maintenance facility with an essentially new 172."

On average, the time between order and delivery of the kit is about six months, the company says. [Courtesy: Air Plains]

What You Get

The 172XPα Advanced Instrument Panel Kit features Avidyne and Dynon components including:

  • Avidyne IFD540 GPS/nav/com*
  • Avidyne AMX240 bluetooth audio panel w/ 4 place Intercom
  • Dual Dynon HDX 10-inch PFD and 7-inch MFD
  • Dynon EFIS-D10A backup flight instrument
  • Dynon ADS-B In traffic and weather
  • Dynon Mode S transponder with 2020-compliant ADS-B Out
  • Dynon com radio
  • Dynon autopilot
  • Dynon engine monitoring
  • Air Plains custom pilot and copilot instrument panels

* IFD540 may be substituted for IFD440 or IFD550.

According to Air Plains, the 172XPα Advanced Instrument Panel Kit arrives wired, interfaced, plumbed (pitot-static), and configured for the Air Plains’ 172XP 180 hp engine upgrade STC SA4428SW and STC SA2196CE, if applicable. 

The instrument panel will be test fit for instrumentation, powder-coated, and laser engraved, with pilot holes pre-drilled for final fitting and installation. 

"We designed it so you do not have to go to a full-blown avionics shop," Church says.

The installer will need to finish the remaining installation items in the aircraft including antenna, magnetometer, coax cabling, mic/phone jacks, radio and transponder rack, leveling, and return to service. 

Mechanics will find Air Plains’ technical support quick and easy to access for any questions that come up during the process. 

Air Plains has been in business for over 45 years and has sold more than 2,500 180 hp engine upgrades to customers worldwide.

Meg Godlewski has been an aviation journalist for more than 24 years and a CFI for more than 20 years. If she is not flying or teaching aviation, she is writing about it. Meg is a founding member of the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture and excels at the application of simulation technology to flatten the learning curve. Follow Meg on Twitter @2Lewski.

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