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Friday, September 16 2016 15:16

In with the New: An Avidyne IFD540 Plug-and-Play Conversion Part 2

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July 2015 -

In my last article, the hardware installation on my new IFD540 was successful—with a few adjustments. I’d expected to be able to remove the 530W and slide in the 540, configure a few screens and be done. It didn’t quite go that way.

The new IFD540 features that required wiring included an additional com receiver; a wire for the yet-to-be-installed Mode S ADS-B Out transponder; and a separate wire to the audio panel to ensure that terrain alerting can’t be disabled. (For details, see “In with the New Part 1” in the June 2015 issue of Piper Flyer. —Ed.)

With this fresh in my mind, I further researched the requirements for the AMX240 audio panel and the AXP340 transponder I’m planning to install and found out that they are not 100 percent plug-and-play, either. I was able to get the necessary wiring for these devices accomplished during the installation of the IFD540 which will save two panel teardowns later. (Future articles will cover Sherer’s other projects. —Ed.)

Configuration

As I mentioned in part one, my avionics tech, Erich, photographed the GNS 530W configuration screens using his cell phone. It took him five minutes of configuration time and another five minutes of testing to get the new IFD540 working correctly with my GMX 200, GDL 69, GMA 340, Century NSD-360 HSI and Century 2000 autopilot.

The next step was updating map information. For the last decade I’ve subscribed to Jeppesen’s 530W maps and downloaded them using the Jeppesen Services Update Manager (JSUM) program. JSUM software is free with a Jeppesen subscription and very easy to use.

I called Jeppesen’s customer service and within 10 minutes they switched my subscription to the new device. I started up JSUM, downloaded and saved the new file on the flash memory (thumb) drive that came with the IFD540.

To transfer map data to the IFD540, you simply insert the flash drive into the front panel, select a menu on the AUX screen, and the new file copies in just a minute or two. You can then remove the flash drive and take it home for the next time.

A good surprise

While reading the IFD540 manual—which, by the way is very detailed and easy to read and understand—I came across something very good. But first a short story:

Several years ago I landed one night at my then-home base, Racine, Wis. It was about 0 degrees F. I taxied to my hangar and discovered the lock had frozen over. I couldn’t get into my hangar to the safety of my heated automobile.

I pulled out my cell phone to call my wife, but there was very little battery charge left. I chose to call 911 and just got the call out before my phone failed. (I had a charging plug with me, but there is no cigarette lighter socket in the aircraft panel.)

Fortunately, the Racine Police Department called my wife and she came out in the middle of the night to get me. But it was a very cold wait.

The feature I discovered on the IFD540 shows the thoughtfulness and attention to detail of Avidyne’s engineers. The flash drive used for uploading maps and downloading stored checklists for backup has yet another function.

Here’s the passage from the manual:
“The USB port on the front of the IFD bezel is a USB v1.1 compatible USB port and can be used as a ‘high power’ charger as well.

“Most devices are ‘low power’ devices and they will fully charge from the IFD bezel USB port.
“Some devices are ‘high power’ devices and need up to 2.1 amps of power—these devices can also be charged from the IFD USB port. The iPad is a good example of a ‘high power’ device and the IFD supports charging.”

The first flight

So here we are, as Charles Lindbergh said upon landing at Le Bourget Airport in Paris in 1927. Let’s take this baby for a spin!

Since it was January, I asked if I could get in the airplane before the maintenance crew tugged it out of the hangar. Yes was the word, and I climbed into the plane while the crew opened the hangar doors.

I had already done the preflight, put on my seatbelt, locked the door, put on my headset and turned on the battery master. Now the plane was out of the hangar and I did my methodical 60-item checklist and cranked the engines.

Oil pressure came up in about 10 seconds and I let the engines idle while I powered up the Janitrol furnace and radio master on my Seneca.

Firing up

The IFD540’s white LEDs and the Avidyne logo soon became visible on the LCD screen. (These screens have to be warm for the liquid crystal formulation to work, so the display takes a couple of minutes when powering up in cold weather.)

In short order the unit came online and the GPS found itself in Wisconsin and the display showed Burlington (KBUU) when I pressed the map button.

My Garmin GMX 200 MFD powered up and showed KBUU on its display, too—the Avidyne GPS had communicated with the Garmin MFD successfully and correctly. Since I have a hybrid panel with Avidyne, Garmin, Century and Narco equipment, this check was important.

The GDL 69 datalink XM weather receiver started to display NEXRAD weather radar on the IFD540 and GMX 200 MFD. Another promise from Avidyne had been kept: complete compatibility with these two devices.

Initial tests

I did a Direct-To KMRJ, Iowa County Airport in Mineral Point, Wis., about 75 miles away. I took off, entered 6,500 feet in my altitude preselect and engaged the autopilot in GPSS mode.

The airplane turned to a heading of about 290, climbed to 6,500 and entered altitude-hold mode on the autopilot, a Century 2000 configured with the altitude-preselect and GPSS boxes.

During this phase of the flight I tested a multi-leg flight plan and pushed the MON1 button on my new audio panel to listen to the standby frequency on the IFD540. Unfortunately, this function didn’t work, and I jotted this down for my radio guy Erich to debug later.

Every other function that I could think of—and test—was working.

The last big test

The only other untested item at this point in my first flight was an instrument approach. I was now 75 miles west of my home airport and it was time to come home. I entered a two-leg flight plan in the unit—which is amazingly easy—and then pressed the PROC (procedure) button. I selected an RNAV-29 GPS approach and pressed enter.

When I was positioned about 15 miles out of KBUU, I activated the approach and left the autopilot coupled in GPSS mode. That’s when the magic began to happen—and it was amazing to watch.

I was 15 miles west of the airport and would need to move to a position about 10 miles east of the airport, do a course reversal, descend and land. After activating the approach and selecting FAF (final approach fix) on the unit, the airplane flew to the waypoint, did a course reversal and asked if I wanted to hold at the FAF.

If I had wanted to hold, I would’ve pressed the HOLD button on the lower left side of the IFD540. Since I didn’t press the hold button, the unit displayed a message saying that the unit would not hold and proceed to the approach.

Having completed the course reversal and approaching the FAF, I switched the autopilot from GPSS-Heading mode to Approach mode. This tells the autopilot to increase sensitivity and enable glideslope control.

Since I was doing a left pattern approach without vertical guidance, the function wasn’t enabled for this approach. Nevertheless, I had two more approach waypoints with step-downs and the final landing.

Preparation paid off

On my first flight I successfully did a GPS approach with course reversal, two step-downs and a landing. Easy as pie!

I landed with two hours on the hour meter, taxied back to the maintenance shop and powered down. My only squawk was that MON1 that didn’t work. Erich, my radio guy, will work on that shortly.

To prepare for this first flight with the IFD540, I installed the free PC-based simulator and had spent about 10 hours using it over the last month.

This IFD540 simulator allowed me to practice how to configure, load flight plans and play with everything that I could play with on a screen. This preparation was invaluable. When I got in the plane and used the new radio, I had no confusion or think time required. Needless to say, I’m very pleased.

AviKeyboard hand 540 300IFD540 FMS QWERTYIFD540 MAP PinchZoom

Touch screen and buttons

Avidyne’s IFD540 works with buttons or a touch screen (or both), and there is a configuration option that allows the user to turn off the touch screen.

I initially turned the touch screen off as I really prefer pushing buttons. However, upon reading the manual I noticed that there are a couple of functions that only work via the touch screen.

I re-enabled the touch screen capability, but I didn’t use it at all on my first flight. It remains to be seen if I’ll move to using the touch screen over the next few months.

The buttons and knobs on the IFD540 closely match my previous Garmin 530W so I found that I didn’t have to reprogram my brain to use the new radio. In fact, I would say after my first flight that I’m about 90 percent acclimated to the new radio.

One part of a bigger picture

Previously, the panel of my Seneca contained a Garmin GNS 530W GPS/NAV/COM which was linked to a Garmin GMA 340 audio panel, a Garmin GMX 200 MFD, a Garmin GDL 69 remote datalink receiver, a Century NSD360 HSI and a Century 2000 autopilot.

When my project is complete, I will have replaced the Garmin GNS 530W, GMA 340 and my older, trusty Narco AT-165 Mode C transponder and installed an Avidyne IFD540 navcom, AMX240 audio panel, AXP340 Mode S ADS-B Out transponder and either an Avidyne or Garmin ADS-B In receiver.

It’s my intention to continue to receive weather from my datalink receiver (GDL 69/SiriusXM) and only use traffic from the new ADS-B In receiver.

I’ve been using Garmin equipment since 1992 and have enjoyed using the equipment very much. I’ve owned a GPS 155, a GNC 300 and my trusty 530 and I suspect the new GTN equipment is a continuation of the amazing technology that Garmin has brought to our industry.

I chose Avidyne this time around because I felt that its design considerations were more appropriate for my situation. It’s mostly plug-and-play compatible and the same size as my previous Garmin equipment, and this has reduced my conversion cost by thousands—literally. In my opinion, the Avidyne equipment is nothing short of awesome.

Scott Sherer is a multi-engine and instrument rated private pilot. He’s logged 2,600 hours and is the owner of a 1977 PA-34-200T based at Burlington Municipal (KBUU) in Burlington, Wis. Sherer anxiously awaits the day when N344TB finally gets new paint. Send questions or comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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