Aspen launches IFR capability for VFR pilots

Aspen Avionics EFD1000 VFR PFD

Aspen launches IFR capability for VFR pilots By Marc C. Lee

The VFR PFD is modular and slides into existing three-inch instrument holes in any instrument panel. Though glass cockpit technology has brought the general aviation piloting experience closer to what's available on airliners, VFR pilots haven't been taking advantage of glass in huge numbers. IFR pilots were the first to really embrace glass technology, and anybody who has flown IFR using round "steam gauges" and then transitioned to something like a G1000 can precisely place the "aha!" moment when the advantages of a glass panel became more than obvious. However, VFR-only pilots have been slower to embrace glass cockpit technology for a variety of reasons. Aspen Avionics is changing that.

The VFR PFD is modular and slides into existing three-inch instrument holes in any instrument panel.

The company announced the industry's first-ever certified, VFR-only, glass panel primary flight display called the EFD1000 VFR PFD. John Uczekaj, President and CEO of Aspen, gave us a sneak peek into this ingenious retrofit PFD targeted at VFR pilots.

"Our business has a real culture of trying to build products that are affordable," said Uczekaj. "And we noticed that VFR pilots were not taking advantage of glass technology. So we put our engineers to work to determine what type of product—and at what price point—would attract VFR pilots to the advantages of glass." Uczekaj said that the driving force behind the decision to create a VFR product was safety and not market share. "We want to contribute to the safety of the VFR pilot by enticing them to take advantage of the benefits of glass technology."

Aspen has created an elegant, useful and very affordable solution here. The VFR PFD uses the same single-unit footprint as the popular Evolution 1000 Pilot. In fact, it's the same unit but has been software "limited" to VFR-only capabilities. It allows VFR pilots the convenient option of upgrading to a full-blown EFD1000 PRO (with full IFR capability) only if and when they expand into instrument flying. The upgrade to the IFR-capable PRO model is a simple task, requiring only a software update. Just that easily the VFR PFD becomes a fully capable IFR PFD.

Uczekaj tells us that VFR pilots frequently cite cost as the limiting factor for upgrading to glass. To answer that, Aspen created this unit so it's inexpensive (in the avionics world) and easy to install. Priced at $4,995, the VFR PFD opens up the glass world to VFR pilots in a realistic way. Like all of Aspen's Evolution flight displays, the VFR PFD is modular and slides into two existing three-inch instrument holes in any instrument panel. This retrofit technology delivers substantially lower installation costs than other glass solutions. For under $5,000, the VFR pilot gets all the advantages of glass with the capability to upgrade as their skills grow.

Since the introduction of glass technology, the main advantages of switching to it have been increased situational awareness and higher reliability. Traditional rounddial instruments are filled with intricate mechanisms, whirling gyroscopes, tiny air bladders, mechanical links, gears, dials and an assortment of small, vulnerable parts that wear out with time. Glass technology replaces all that with "solid-state" components that rely on sophisticated,nonmoving sensors to provide the same information to the pilot. Second, glass displays combine multiple pieces of information (such as airspeed, vertical speed, attitude and altitude) into a single visual area, placing thedata close together and making the pilot's visual scan more efficient. Combined with GPS technology, glass PFDs give the pilot more information in a more efficient display and with greater accuracy.

Aspen's VFR PFD consolidates all the traditional "six-pack" instrument information—plus a course deviation indicator (CDI)—into a single display. It does much more, including displaying winds aloft, OAT, TAS and ground speed. The unit interfaces with all popular panelmounted GPS units, and its navigation display features a 360-degree compass and ARC modes. The display has a flight plan overlay, including flight plan legs and waypoints, curved flight paths and nearby navaids. The unit shares the Evolution series' Hazard Awareness feature, providing lightning and traffic hazard displays.

On the technical side, the VFR PFD has its own integral Air Data Attitude Heading Reference System (ADAHRS), so no additional units need to be installed into the airplane, saving weight over non-modular glass-panel systems. The unit includes a built-in backup battery and emergency GPS, and has an analog converter unit (ACU) that connects to some existing autopilots for GPS steering. Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADSB) is built into the PFD, as well.

To date, the VFR PFD is the most affordable, upgradable and easily installed Electronic Flight Instrument System (EFIS) available for the GA market. At seven inches high and three-anda-half inches wide, it packs a ton of information into a small space. With an affordable price tag, laughably simple installation and a wealth of information available on its crispcolor display, The Aspen VFR PFD is an enticing lure for VFR pilots to finally take advantage of what IFR pilots have been raving about for years. Contact www.aspenavionics.com.

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