2003 Editors? Choice Awards

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Avidyne and Cirrus Primary Flight Display Large electronic displays that show all primary flight instruments have been the norm in jets for several years, but the high cost made the displays impractical for piston-powered airplanes until Avidyne and Cirrus smashed the price barrier with the Entegra system, delivered in the SR22 last summer.

The Avidyne Entegra system includes a solid state attitude heading reference system (AHRS) to track the airplane's attitude and heading and display it on the PFD. The AHRS replaces the spinning rotor gyros previously used to measure attitude, heading and rate of turn and, of course, eliminates the need for the vacuum pump to power the gyros. The system also has an electronic air data computer to measure altitude, airspeed and vertical speed, eliminating three more mechanical instruments and replacing them with a digital computer that contains no moving parts. Reliability, as you can imagine, soars compared to the conventional instruments the Entegra system replaces.

For its part, Cirrus reconfigured the SR22 with redundant electrical power for the PFD and added a conventional electrically powered attitude gyro, altimeter and airspeed indicator as ultimate backup to the Entegra system.

Cirrus also offered weeping wing TKS ice protection equipment as an option. And, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of powered flight, Cirrus created a limited production Centennial edition of the SR22 with a unique paint scheme and enhanced leathers, but most important, with a new six-point engine mount system. The new engine mounts eliminate nearly all of the vibration found in a standard SR22.

We will see "glass cockpits" in a host of piston-powered airplanes later this year, and in the years to come, but for being first and pioneering the technology, we honor Avidyne and Cirrus with a 2003 Flying Editors' Choice Award.

More Useful TBM 700C2 and Piper Meridian What pilots wanted most from their single-engine turboprop TBM 700 or Piper Meridian was more payload. And both companies delivered the goods last year with maximum takeoff weight increases that significantly increased the full-tanks payload.

Socata increased the maximum takeoff weight of the new "C2" model of the TBM 700 by 816 pounds, and nearly all of that goes into useful load because empty weight is only up a few pounds from the previous model. When you fill the tanks, a typically well equipped TBM 700C2 can carry 893 pounds of payload in the cabin and baggage compartment. And full tanks is enough fuel for a 1,375 nm trip with IFR reserves after flying an additional 100 nm to the alternate. If you pull back to long-range cruise power, IFR range goes to about 1,600 nm. Even if you put the maximum payload of 1,398 pounds in the cabin, you can add enough fuel to fly IFR for more than 1,100 nm.

Best of all, the new takeoff weight did not change the performance of the TBM. With a top cruise of 300 knots, it's still the fastest turboprop single in production.

Piper tackled the project of increasing the useful load in the Meridian by developing a system of vortex generators (VGs) on the wing and horizontal tail. The VGs manage the airflow at high angles of attack so that the new Meridian stalls at the certification limit of 61 knots at 5,092 pounds, up 242 pounds over the previous maximum takeoff weight. Nearly all of the 242 extra pounds go into payload, almost doubling the full-fuel payload to just over 600 pounds.

Piper and Meggitt also certified a new Magic 1500 autopilot in the Meridian. The new autopilot uses attitude inputs to fly the airplane with greater smoothness and precision, and its annunciation and operation are what pilots expect to find in a turbine airplane.

For giving pilots more of what they want-payload-without increasing empty weight or driving costs through the roof, we salute Socata and Piper for making the TBM 700 and Meridian better and more useful airplanes.