Today is a good day. The Avidyne IFD540 GPS/NAV/COM that I purchased has arrived—and today my radio shop guru, Eric, started the install. Here’s part one of my story.
Avidyne avionics—GPS, audio panel and transponder—are plug-and-play devices. That means you can slide out old equipment and slide in new Avidyne equipment. There can be exceptions, however. And one has to do with whether an aircraft’s existing functionality is plug-and-play ready in all the necessary ways. If you want to implement new functionality—and there is plenty of it—you will need to add a few wires.
My IFD 540 comes out of the box
For the last three months I’ve been using the Avidyne-supplied free PC-based simulator to learn about the IFD540. I learned a lot and gained some confidence. Last weekend I read the pilot guide cover-to-cover—all 226 pages! By the time the day of the unpacking arrived, I was more than ready to try out my new device.
If you look at photo 01 (page 26) you’ll see my old Garmin GNS 530W. Above it is a Garmin GMA 340 audio panel and below it is a Narco AT-165 transponder. To the right is a Garmin GMX 200 MFD. (Not shown is a Garmin GDL 69 datalink weather receiver that displays simultaneously on the 530W and 200.)
When my new IFD540 arrived from Avidyne, it included a thumb/flash drive for use in uploading and downloading data to the device. In my opinion, this is a big improvement over using two plug-in memory chips—a replacement flash drive, if you were to need it, is available for about $20 from an electronics store. Also contained in the box was a CD with the pilot guide and installation PDFs.
In photo 02 (page 28) you’ll see Jake Remington, president of Burlington Air Center, opening the box and removing the IFD540 itself. Since I’m taking the photograph, you can’t see me grinning at the sight of it.
A short—but rather costly—delay
One of the delays in the project came right at this point. While it was a small delay in terms of time, it was expensive.
I found I had a bit of a dilemma on my hands. I planned to sell my GNS 530W, but I wanted to keep the tray, backplane, connectors and antenna that were already installed in my airplane. Most of the folks that contacted me weren’t interested in buying a 530W without these parts, and yet the same parts are necessary for the IFD540 plug-and-play device.
I ended up purchasing a second set of these items and supplying them with my 530W to the new owner—a $1,000 surprise. There wasn’t much I could do about it so I had to accept it, but for anyone in a similar situation, I’d advise that you investigate how much it’ll cost and from whom you can order a new tray, etc. before you finalize the sale of your used equipment. It may affect your bottom line.
Removal and yellow
tagging of old equipment
At this point, I thought it was time to remove the old 530W—but my radio guy, Eric, had other plans. Eric explained that before he removed it, he needed to power up the 530W and take photographs of each configuration screen so that he would know how to configure the 540. (Makes total sense to me; this is why we pay trained and competent people to work on our airplanes!)
Once that was done, Eric stuck a screwdriver-like tool into the bottom of the 530W and turned it counter-clockwise about two turns. The 530W magically slid right out. We removed the 530W to Jake’s office and Jake, Eric and I talked about what came next.
Since the buyer of my 530W required a yellow tag (i.e., an FAA Form 8130 Airworthiness Approval Tag), we needed to send it to another radio shop capable of testing and certifying my radio.
While this is a hassle (and is not free), I totally recommend it: it’s your buyer’s assurance that the device is in proper working order at the time the ownership changes. To me, it’s certainly worth one week and a little more than $100 for both the buyer’s and seller’s peace of mind. Also, my personal integrity is important to me and this tag is my proof that when the radio left my possession it was in satisfactory working order.
Adding three new functions
Remember how I said that there were exceptions to the plug-and-play installation process? I found three new functions that exist in the IFD540 that didn’t exist with my 530W. This meant Eric had to run wires from the 530W to the transponder and audio panel. Here’s the rundown:
The 530W that I had installed did not have TAWS. It did have a terrain/obstacle map and visual terrain/obstacle warning, but it had no audio warning feature. The IFD540 does have an audio warning, however; and this brings up one of the wonderful new features of the IFD540: the announcements arrive to the pilot’s ears through the audio panel on one of the unswitched audio inputs.
If you’re about to fly into something harder than air, or embark onto a journey into CFIT, Avidyne’s IFD540 flashes and talks to you through the intercom. The warning is, “Terrain, Terrain, Pull Up, Pull Up.”
This new feature is fabulous and may save my bacon someday, but here’s the problem. The IFD540 and the GNS 530W both use the same audio wire on the backplane for this function—and since I didn’t spend the extra money on the TAWS function at the time I purchased and installed my 530W, the wire wasn’t there.
Eric had to install one TAWS alert audio wire from the new IFD540 to the audio panel unswitched audio input. To do so, he had to pull the tray and connectors out of the instrument panel. While it’s not hugely complex or expensive, this task did add about two hours to the installation, and two more hours in labor costs.
As long as the IFD540 connector was available, I figured I might as well install wires on the back of the IFD540 for the RS-232 position output that connects to a new Mode S ADS-B Out transponder. (An article discussing this installation will be published later in 2015. —Ed.)
The manufacturer of the new Mode S transponder doesn’t matter in this case—
I simply needed wires to feed the position information to it in order to be ADS-B Out compliant.
Again, another hour of cost—and now the transponder had to be removed, too.
MON 1 and MON 2
My new Avidyne audio panel has replaced the buttons marked DME and ADF with MON1 and MON2. (You may continue to use these buttons for your DME and/or ADF as you wish, but I have long since removed these radios.)
You may have on your older com an active and standby frequency display. The active frequency can be heard through your audio panel by pushing the MIC1 or MIC2 or COM1 or COM2 button.
If you want to hear the standby frequency, you need to push the transfer button on the com and move the standby frequency into the active position. When you do this, of course, your active frequency becomes the standby frequency and can no longer be heard. Avidyne has an improvement to this process.
When pushing the MON1 or MON2 button on the Avidyne audio panel, you will hear your com standby frequency while your active frequency is still in place and being received. This means that the standby frequency is actually a second receiver in the radio! How cool is that?!
By the way, if you install an Avidyne IFD440 or IFD540, this function exists even without an Avidyne audio panel. Just wire your standby frequency to your old DME or ADF button. This capability only exists on Avidyne equipment—and I’ll tell you how it all works in part two of this article.
Powering it up
As I said, the addition of these three wires added a few hours of labor to the cost—but it was not a huge undertaking. Eric put the audio panel, IFD540 and transponder back in the panel of my Seneca. Once all the new wires were in place, the 540 indeed slid right into the existing tray and plugged right into the existing connectors on the back of the tray. How sweet is that?!
Photo 03 (page 29) shows one of the displays on an IFD540. Once mine was installed, Eric and I powered it up, and it did, in fact, pass the smoke test! No anomalies or problems during initial checks. That’s a relief.
In part two, I will describe the initial testing of all of the functions and interconnections to the audio panel. I’ll also detail my in-air flight test, a complete wring-out, plus my first impressions on using the 540—including and how it is similar to and different from the venerable Garmin 530, my old friend for the last 10 years. Stay tuned til next month.
Piper Flyer Association member Scott Sherer is a multi-engine and instrument rated private pilot. He’s the owner of a 1977 PA-34-200T based at Burlington Municipal (KBUU) in Burlington, Wis. Send questions or comments to .
Burlington Air Center