The Mooney Avionics Upgrade of Captain Dennis

Back in June of 2017 I bought N1163Z , a 1982 Mooney 201, fulfilling a life long dream of owning my own airplane.

The panel was equipped for IFR with state of the art avionics from 1982!  Autopilot, dual King KX-170b Nav/Com radios, ADF, DME, and Mode-C transponder.   Along the way a previous owner added a GPS to round out the panel.

I knew eventually I would need to make upgrades and decided to take it one step at a time.  First priority is the 2020 ADSB-Out mandate.  Since I live within the Mode-C veil of the MSP Class Bravo I had no choice.  After trips to Sun-N-Fun and Oshkosh, reading reviews in magazines an online I determined that the best choice for me was the Stratus ESGi transponder from Appareo.  Since the Stratus was a 1090es transponder I would be able to fly internationally, something that you can't do with a UAT solution.  On February 1st we delivered the airplane to Modern Avionics at Flying Cloud Airport.  At the time it seemed innocent enough, I am going to replace just one radio.  Silly me…….

Since I don't have a WAAS GPS, the Stratus ESGi includes it's own GPS receiver and antenna.  This required installing GPS antenna on the fuselage and  the cables had to be run through the interior of the plane to connect to the instrument panel.

At this point you start to realize that since you are already this deep I might as well just go for it and replace the radios at the same time.  After all, you don't want to pay the avionics shop twice to open the panel.  I started by removing the ADF and old King KLN89b GPS, then I looked at my options.  Do I install a used GPS/NAV/COM or buy new?  The choices came down to a used Garmin 430, new Garmin 650 or Avidyne IFD.  All 3 provide IFR WAAS GPS, Comm and NAV functions in a single panel mounted receiver.

I discounted the idea of installing a used Garmin 430.  The 430's were new in 1998 and while they are highly regarded they are also very old.  Next up I looked at the Garmin 650.  The 650 is a departure from the knobs and buttons we are all familiar with and features a touchscreen interface for everything.  I don't know about you but tapping, pinching, and zooming is a challenge on an iPad in a moving car.  Imagine the challenge on a smaller screen in flight with any turbulence.

The Avidyne IFD 550 and 440 navigators turned out to be the perfect fit for my needs.  Avidyne chose to include touch screen capabilities, but also retained the knob and buttons giving the pilot multiple options to enter or select information on the screen.  Avidyne also includes bluetooth and wifi to interface with 3rd party and their own applications on your iPad.  This allows you to easily populate your flight plans from Foreflight, etc. directly to the aircraft panel.

Avidyne IFD540 and IFD440

In another case of while we are in there ™” it only made sense to replace the old King audio panel to a new Avidyne AMX-240.  This included a new Stereo intercom and the ability for both pilot and copilot to talk simultaneously on separate radios.  Now the copilot can call the FBO with our fuel request while I am working with tower for a landing clearance.  In addition the audio panel includes Bluetooth to connect to our phones for hands free calling and inflight entertainment.  No more having to shut down to call flight service for an IFR release, hit the Bluetooth button and call them right from the plane.

Avidyne AMX240 audio panel

This also seemed the best time to address another shortcoming of the 1982 instrument panel.  Engine Monitoring.   Currently the factory gauges only monitor the temperature of 1 cylinder.  I have a 4 cylinder engine, are the others running too hot or too cold?  In an effort to keep costs down I was able to purchase a used Insight 602 Graphical Engine Monitor.  With a single gauge I can now monitor the temperatures of all 4 cylinders.   Later I can upgrade to an newer Insight monitor and not have to replace the cables.  In fact I have already upgraded to an Insight G1 thanks to the folks at Wentworth Aircraft.  

At this point we have nearly everything out of the aircraft and it became very obvious that the carpet has seen better days.  What was once blue has faded and in spots looks more grey.  So again, “While we are in there” I called SCS Interiors in Duluth, MN.   Mike and Carissa were extremely helpful and provided full size paper patterns to ensure the new carpets would fit properly.  Now the interior will look as nice as the panel.

Light at the end of the tunnel….

March 9, 2018 – After nearly 6 weeks all the “While your in there” tasks are completed and we were finally able to power the panel up for the first time.  The team at Modern Avionics is going through the the configuration and checkout process to ensure all the new an existing equipment functions perfectly.

What a beautiful sight!!

March 13, 2018 –

To validate the performance of the new ADSB-Out transponder, and to qualify for the FAA rebate I had to fly for 30 minutes inside “Rule” airspace.  This meant I had to fly within a 30 mile radius of the MSP Class Bravo airspace.  Just to make sure, I made a loop around the Minneapolis metro and was even cleared to overfly the MSP airport.  It is pretty cool to watch airliners flying under you

This was also the first flight of the new Avidyne IFD 550 and 440 NavComms.  The first thing I noticed was how clear the radio reception was.  The enhanced situational awareness provided by the Avidyne made it so easy to navigate the MSP airspace.

Stay tuned for more updates…


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