Private Pilot with IR endorsement with both FAA and South African License. Total time 1650 hrs with 1250 on BE33.
My Panel (Before and After)
Before I upgraded, I had the usual steam guages, an S Tec 60-2 AP, a Garmin 100 GPS, 2 x KN 155 Nav/Com, 2 X VOR/ILS indicators, 1 X ADF, King transponder and a Strikefinder stormscope.
Once I had the aircraft in the shop and work had started to install the Aspen 1000 Pro, I sucumbed to the temptation to upgrade the whole panel. On compiling a "wish list' of new avionics, the first reaiity check was space on the panel followed by available, within limits, power on the busbar at maximum damand.
Having cleared that hurdle, the shopping list read a follows, from top down. Garmin 340 Audio, an Avidyne EX 500 MFD with CMax charts, Garmin 530W and Garmin 430W GNS, Garmin Mode S transponder, and to the right of this, Nexrad, and repositioned ADF.
Incorporated into the above systems, and with the neccessary hardware accomodated in a new rack in behind the rear bulkhead, was a Ryan TCAS, Stormscope, Nexrad receiver, and Bendix 2000 radar, Some of the systems require 24v power so a converter was added. Up front an AHARS unit had to be added behind the panel to provide remote heading information to the radar without which the display would not correct itself relative to the heading when making turns, as the Aspen does not provide heading output to the EX500.
As one can see, a big learning curve in installing all this and, a bigger one once it was all finished and asking it all to work together, and then, for the pilot to comprehend the transition!
It is now routine to fire it all up and get under way. The level of confidence in embarking on long trips with scant, and often inoperative ground navigation beacons, and the chance of flying into embedded weather systems is a thing of the past.
One word of caution; the ease which one can become complacent given the many duplicate systems available, basic partial panel flying and "101' pre flight planning, must never be abandoned. Should "Murphy" pay a visit by shutting down the GPS coverage or some other electronic dependant mishap occur, position awareness and reversion to first principles of navigation must be second nature, otherwise one is inviting trouble.
My Aspen Experience
In the early days of the installation, which the first in South Africa in 2009, the instrument (and pilot) was subject to a lot of the early teething problems. However, with the upgrades and subsequent improvements, I would not fly without it and, the comprehensive information in one place is hard to imagine being without. Total reliance on the system is a trap one can easily fall into, so training to stay current on steam gages is imperative in case of failure in IMC.