Project Update

Hey Guys,

With the weather being pretty darn cold, I’ve switched my focus –up until I leave for North Carolina on my Christmas break– to electrical system taskers that have been queueing up.  After Christmas I plan on firing up the heat in the shop and get back working out the finer details of making everything fit inside the cockpit, specifically the left armrest.  As I noted before, I really can see a very real light at the end of the tunnel for all my in-cockpit install shenanigans, and expect to be done with those in about a 2-week total time span.  

However, at the end of the first full week in January I will have to break from the in-cockput installs to start working on the lower engine mount extrusions and hanging the engine mount itself in prep for the engine build that is set to take place in mid-January.  These pre-engine build tasks will include mounting the firewall as well in prep for the concurrent canopy and nose builds.

So the big build stuff REALLY is coming soon! (including the wheel pants…)

Happy Holidays…


Chapter 22 – Matching OATs

I started out today implementing some instructions that I got from the MGL guys to calibrate the OAT probe on my panel MGL RTC-2 Clock/OAT display.  I reconnected the stock OAT probe to the D-Sub connector.  I then added power to the unit and immediately went into the setup menu, and then the calibration menu.  From there I was able to calibrate the OAT reading, but only to a whole integer number, and in Celsius to boot… close enough I thought.

Here’s the MGL clock OAT readout after I calibrated the OAT probe readout to match the GRT OAT probe readout.

And here’s the GRT OAT probe readout below.  It was good at this point, but there would certainly be an issue with a whole-integer Celsius temp reading since it would be off at some point when compared to a whole integer Fahrenheit readout.  Sure enough, as soon as the OAT display on the GRT increased a bit, the OAT on the MGL was off a degree again.  Since I knew the MGL OAT was now 1° max off in temp, I decided to make the fix a simple one: I simply changed the readout on the MGL from Fahrenheit to Celsius, leaving the one on the GRT Fahrenheit.  There  . . . problem solved!  Since I can’t do the C° to F° (vice versa) conversion in my head, and I know the OAT is within 1° between the units, then one displaying C° while the other displays F° works out just fine.

Moving on from the great OAT incident of 2017….

If you watched my latest video you’ll note that I had some issues bringing up the External flight plan on the GRT Mini-X EFIS.  After messing about with it a bit I determined what the deal is.

First, a reminder of my configuration: my GNS480 connects directly to the HXr via 3 ARINC connections and an RS232 connection. Conversely, the GNS480 has no direct connections with the Mini-X.  Thus, the only way my Mini-X gets any of the GNS480 data is via its DU (display unit) cross link connection with the HXr.   Since it’s not directly connected to the GNS480, the same holds true with displaying the External flight plan.

The bottom line is this: to view the GNS480’s active flight plan as the external flight plan on the Mini-X, both the Mini-X and the HXr must be set on GPS1(GNS480) AND the HXr must have the external flight plan pulled up (at least for the initial sync-up).

With the above true, there are really only 2 things I can do to resolve this issue:

1) Since I have no more Rx serial ports open on my Mini-X, I would have to pull off the direct feed from the EIS (engine data) and replace it with the the RS232 feed from the GNS480.  This would give me autonomous flight plan display options on the Mini-X.  However, if I lose the HXr then I have no engine data displaying on my BACK-UP EFIS, while for flight plan I could obviously just read it straight off of the source: the GNS480.

2) I could obtain more ports by purchasing a $300 serial 4-port expander from GRT that would provide me with enough ports for hooking up both the EIS and the GNS480 RS232 link, plus have a couple extra ports on hand for expansion.

For now, at least, I’ll simply deal with the requirement to have both DUs set on GPS1 and the external flight plan brought up on the HXr before being able to display it on the Mini-X.  I honestly feel that I need engine data more if the HXr goes offline than I do being able to view the external flight plan on the Mini-X (which again, I cold view straight off the GNS480).

My final task of the evening was to install the batch of 12V annunciator lights for the GNS480 that just arrived in the mail today.  This should end the saga of any more of these guys burning out.  You many note that on this batch they got the correct font, which is slightly larger and more modern looking than the old style Boeing font [this is the font that I originally asked for in the original order, so besides the 12V (vs 5V) lights, they fixed the legend fonts as well].

Tomorrow will be a very light build day, if it all.  I need to start packing up boxes for a load of household goods that I’m taking down to North Carolina.  So, for the most part I won’t have any real build actions to report until after Christmas.


Chapter 22 – It’s a wrap!

Today started out as another research and coordination day.  I am still trying to nail down some details with both GRT and Electroair, and was communicating with both companies via phone and email.  I guess I should include MGL in there as well. I also got some more documentation squared away on the GNS480 for future reference.

I then had to take the afternoon and early evening off to run a bunch of errands, so I really didn’t get much else done for the evening except the Instrument Panel Overview Part 3 video below, which was quite the challenge in itself.  It seemed like tonight if it had electrons running through it, and I touched it, my reverse midas touch was kicking in and making everything go all haywire.

If you watched the video above, you may have noted that I hit the “SNAP” button during it, and said that I would post the resulting screenshot to this blog…. so here it is (this screen shot gives you a much better idea of the actual EFIS display colors):

In addition, if you watched the video you’d also have noted that I resolved the issue with the Mini-X displaying the GNS480-generated External flight plan [sort of… I can display the External flight plan on the Mini-X, but not gracefully nor seamlessly.  I definitely need to iron it out a tad more].  I also solved the problem of the Trio autopilot not getting GPS data from the EFIS when the A/P Source Select switch was set to “EFIS.”

Tomorrow will be a short build day as well, since over the next 4-5 days I’ll be prepping to move a load of household stuff down to North Carolina for storage in prep for my move down there next summer.  I’ll be spending Christmas down in North Carolina as well.  Still, I may need to call GRT and get a final –clean– resolution on the Mini-X displaying the External flight plan.


Chapter 22 – Panel…getting there!

As I mentioned last night, today I started out by doing a decent amount of research in the manuals to see what I could find out regarding my panel issues.  I fired up the panel to check on a few things, and set my full screen map in prep for Panel Overview video #2 that I was getting ready to shoot.  Although I point it out in the video, the green highlight text in the upper left hand corner denotes that ADS-B is on, alive and well.

I also checked some parameters to get a general feel for how I’m going to link the Electroair spark advance display.  I think the spark advance meter lead is most likely 12V output, so instead of conveniently hooking up it to my Engine Info box less than a foot away –all neatly stashed away in the GIB’s headrest– I’m going to have to run the wire up to the panel to connect it to the HXr for display.  Not a big issue at all, just a bit easier the other route.  BTW, AUX inputs to the EIS can only be 5V, thus the reason it would have to make its journey forward in the fuselage.

I then took my second video on the Instrument Panel, detailing some of the things I left out of my last video.  Here it is:

As the video was rendering, and armed with just enough knowledge (so I sez to myself… ha!) I called Trio and talked to Jerry about my autopilot not receiving a GPS signal.  It had before, so what changed I asked him . . . of course as the words were leaving my mouth I had an epiphany.  Something had changed.  With my newfound knowledge on GRT EFIS functionality, I had switched the A/P source select to “EFIS.”  It then came back to me that the very first time I fired up the autopilot it immediately synched to the GNS480 (the A/P source select switch being set on “GPS . . . doh!) . . . and now set on “EFIS” it wasn’t working.  Therein lied the problem: it was the connection between EFIS GPS and the Trio autopilot.

When I had talked to Chuck a few months ago, he (and the Pro Pilot manual) said that when the A/P source select switch was on “EFIS,” the autopilot was looking for NMEA GPS data.  This was perfect since this is exactly the format that the GRT GPS puts out. Today though, Jerry said that Aviation GPS data should be used if I’m not getting a GPS signal (to be fair, Chuck told that if I could use Aviation GPS data, I should).

Not bragging! But in my mind it took about 30 seconds after I had my epiphany and Jerry’s input to figure out my plan of action…

My GRT HXr GPS is connected as such:  First, there is a GPS antenna connected straight to the AHRS.  Out of the AHRS wiring bundle is an RS232 GPS OUT wire to Bus A on the HXr.  This same RS232 GPS OUT lead, immediately after it departs the wiring bundle, splits off and connects to the “EFIS” side of the A/P source select switch.

The NMEA GPS data enters the HXr on the RS232 Rx half of Serial #1.  The good thing for me is that the other side of Serial #1, the RS232 Tx half of the pair, was currently empty.  Since each port is programmable, I merely cut the wire from the AHRS GPS OUT to the Trio autopilot right near the “Y” junction close to AHRS wire bundle. With a new unattached wire then coming from the autopilot, I terminated the end of it with a socket and plugged it into the HXr Bus A RS232 Tx Serial #1 port.  When I fired up the panel I recoded the previously empty port to handle GPS Aviation data (vs. NMEA data).  The Trio Autopilot immediately came online and the display lit up like a Christmas tree!

(Note the A/P source select switch in the pic below)

Online/connected Trio autopilot receiving GPS signals from the HXr EFIS GPS.  (Note the traffic alert in the lower left corner of the EFIS).

With some physical wiring changes that just occurred, I spent a good half hour updating the associated electrical wiring diagrams.

Later in the evening I got a response back from Jeff at GRT on my forum questions regarding the Mini-X not being able to see the External flight plan generated on the GNS480.  Well, not surprisingly I was missing a few key menu-set parameters on HXr and the Mini-X, that once I cleared up I had the immediate ability to view GNS480-generated flight plans on the Mini-X!

So not a bad day today…. not only have I flushed out some major issues in the last few days, but Ive been able to find the correct information to fix them.  Hoo-ah!



Chapter 22 – Wire labels… yeah!

Today was one of those mundane, must-do build days.  I spent literally over 3 hours getting a bunch of wire labels that I had printed out heat shrunk to wires on both the mocked up panel and the cockpit heating system wires.  Part of this time was spent confirming my wiring connections in the schematics, and verifying the pinouts as a precursor to below.

I then spent well over an hour verifying and updating my connector pinout diagrams.  I know, I know  (believe me!) … not the fun updates to read about on a airplane building website, but as I’ve said many times before: Oh, so necessary for future knowledge, troubleshooting at upgrades.

I then spent another 45 minutes soldering in a 300 ohm resistor and diode, one each, to the last two GNS480 LED annunciator lights.  Let’s mark that task complete!

I then spent another good hour locating & installing 2 test switches OFF-(ON) that provided me with the momentary ON function I needed to emulate the 5-position castle switch that will control the remote UP-Down (and display) functions of the GNS480’s User Comm Frequency List.  After digging through my spare inventory of switches, I found 2 switches that fit the bill and designated one for UP and one for DOWN.

I drilled the 1/4″ holes into the bottom of the panel at each lower corner of where the pilot air/heat vent will go [again, these are simply mocked-up switches installed here to test the GNS480 User Comm Frequency List capabilities.  The final actual control function will be provided by the 5-position castle switch mounted on the throttle handle, not in the locations shown].  As you can see by the tape, the amount of pressure required to drill these 2 mounting holes snapped off this bottom piece of the panel that had simply been glued into place after I moved the air vent lower.  No worries, the tape held well enough for me to actuate these switches.

I then researched and verified a number of box configurations on the EFIS, GPS and autopilot.  As a point of note, a lot of my latest panel configurations have been in a collaborative effort with Marco, since not only is he using 2 GRT EFISs, but he also has the GNS480 and an onboard GPSS/GPSV capable autopilot (GRT).  Since Marco just converted his autopilot roll servo from the Trio EZ Pilot servo to the GRT servo, he took the opportunity to test fly it today.  Thus, a long in-depth discussion ensued afterwards (a “hot-wash” if you will) on autopilot functioning and approach sequencing, etc.

It was in this discussion that Marco, who has 2 GRT Minis (-APs vs my -X) highlighted a specific issue that he has with his Minis, and that I had summarily noticed but didn’t recognize as an issue: the GRT Minis currently will NOT view an External Flight Plan that is loaded/executed on the GNS480 (at least as we both have our respective Minis programmed).

So after a fair amount of digging in the manuals, I fired up the panel in an attempt to figure out the External flight plan viewing issues on my Mini-X.  Lo and behold, Marco was right. I could view the External flight plan off the GNS480 on the HXr, but not on the Mini-X.  Of course, if I copied the external GNS480 flight plan into the HXr as the new Internal Flight Plan, then I could see and manipulate it from the Mini-X.  This is an issue mainly as my planned role for the Mini-X is to be a fully functioning (sans vertical AP servo control) backup EFIS in case I ever lose the HXr. If I can’t see the external flight plan that is loaded in the GNS480, I would be in quite the pickle during an IFR flight in VMC, especially if a fully-coupled instrument approach was required.

Another significant issue I discovered is that through all my (latest) “initial” research in using my GRT-based glass panel, I learned that the Trio autopilot source select switch should be on “EFIS” vs “GPS” during normal flight ops.  Only if I lose the EFIS would I then go “VFR-direct” from autopilot to GNS480 GPS for ARINC and GPS flight control data input. Upon learning all this, I had since switched the autopilot source select switch to “EFIS” as the default setting.

Thus, in my last video I was remiss in identifying the reason for the “NO GPS” message on the Trio autopilot’s screen as being caused by the GNS480 being in simulator mode. However, my explanation was flawed since the GRT EFIS GPS, not the GNS480, is the primary GPS source for the Trio autopilot’s GPS input when the autopilot source select switch is in the “EFIS” position. [Trust me, all this stuff gets confusing since, when the GNS480 is online, the GRT EFIS uses the GNS480’s ARINC data to provide guidance to the autopilot… it’s a very convoluted mishmash of signals and I will probably never understand it fully].  I will say that when wiring up the Autopilot source select switch, Trio warns specifically that the source signals must never be mixed: GPS = all GNS480 source signals and EFIS = all EFIS source signals.

One final note.  Having been dealing a lot lately with the GNS480 annunciator lights’ open collector circuits, which are powered on the upstream side of the lights and then switched to ground inside the GNS480 if the light condition (GPS, NAV, SUSP, etc.) is active, I summarily hooked up the User Comm Frequency List function switches the same way.  Oops!  These go exactly the reverse in that their feed needs to start at ground, with the 12V+ coming from the GNS480.  So one quick relocation of my alligator clip wire from the E-Bus to the ground bus and I had them up & working lickety-split!

Tomorrow I have a number of phone calls and research in store for me to resolve these issues that I discovered today.  Again, most likely not a big deal, and exactly why I wanted to mock up my panel outside of the airplane so I could resolve all these issues while my panel is sitting on the bench.


Chapter 12 – Back to the pump!

Today was all about finishing up a bunch of electric tasks that are just a few that I have on a fairly long list.  Since my workshop is in a very cold state, to save money I just decided to knock out what I can on the electrical system and other non-shop –or at least heated shop– build tasks.  I figure this stuff has to be done at some point anyways, so might as well try to optimize time and money and get it done while the shop is harder to heat. Still, when I get back from my Christmas break I plan to fire up the heaters in the shop and get some real shop work done then.

One reason I needed to knock out some electrical stuff was simply to get the area around my instrument panel cleaned up and organized.  I have dozens upon dozens of wire shrink labels that need to be attached to the wires, so that’s what I started out with.  I attached 5 labels, which is much more of a pain when the wires are attached into a D-Sub connector or something analogous and must be removed to attach the label.

I then got to work on solder splicing a length of 20 AWG yellow wire to an existing yellow lead on the Electroair electronic ignition control head wiring harness (below).

This yellow lead is the one that attaches to the EI “mag” switch for ON/OFF control of the Electroair EI.

I spliced the wires together then soldered it up (I didn’t realize both pics I had of the next steps were blurry until I uploaded them).  I then labeled the wire, wound it back up and put the wiring harness away for later.

After a good hour of labeling and adding a couple of long wires to the oil heat PWM control and the heat seat relays, I then got to work on configuring the oil heat pump power leads.

Since the wire on oil pump’s leads aren’t Tefzel, I trimmed them back fairly short and prepped them for getting solder spliced to longer 16 AWG Tefzel leads.

Below you can see the raw splices and the soldered splices for both of the oil heat pump’s power leads: the positive lead and ground.

I then heat shrank the solder spliced oil heat pump power leads.

I then slightly twisted the oil heat leads together (as I did the leads coming from the PWM controller) and then labeled the leads.

I also terminated the ends of the oil heat pump power & ground leads with knife splice connectors, just as I did the oil heat pump power wires coming from the PWM controller.

Below you can see the knife splice connectors slightly set together for the aft side oil heat pump leads to the power wires coming from PWM controller.

Although I had finalized a couple of the GNS480 annunciator light wires earlier, I decided to document the last one I did for the evening (I still have 2 left to do).  I’m adding in 300 Ohm resistors to help clean up the power signal and also take a slight edge off the brightness of these annunciator lights.  In addition, to ensure there is no negative power spikes to damage the LEDs, I’m installing a small diode in parallel on each annunciator light for just a bit of added protection . . . just in case.

After soldering the 300 Ohm resistor in place (in a Z configuration for added strength), I then covered it with some heat shrink to secure it.  You can also see the diode lead sticking up, ready to be attached to the other GNS480 LED annunciator lead.  Since these protective diodes are truly optional, I didn’t waste any money on using fresh socket tabs on the end of each wire.  Instead, I just tacked the diodes in place with some solder at the base of each crimped on socket tab terminal.  I then added some shrink tubing for added strength to the diode lead.

Here’s the finished product for the new configuration on the GNS480 annunciator lights. This is the fourth one I’ve finished out of 6 total.  Tomorrow I plan on finishing the other 2 (….as well as use up a bunch more wire labels!)

Tomorrow will be a continuation of getting as many electrical tasks knocked out as I can during the cold season (at least for the next week).



Chapter 22 – More panel chicanery

I started out today with another round of in-depth studying on the GNS480 GPS unit.  I also tweaked some of the user’s manual as I did yesterday.  I also made up a decently long list of configuration changes that I needed to make to the GNS480 box.

Unlike yesterday, or the past week really, today I fired up the ‘ol soldering iron and got to work.  First off, I swapped out the MGL clock’s OAT probe with one of the ones I got in from GRT.  I had high hopes that a new probe would solve the issue of the MGL OAT consistently reading about 5° lower than the actual temperature, even though the MGL & GRT probes are within a couple of inches from each other (no joy, so back to MGL…).

The GRT HXr has 3 separate power inputs and it simply chooses the one it likes best power-wise and goes with it.  I thus have the HXr wired to the Main power bus, the E-Bus, and the TCW IBBS.  In the HXr install manual it states that when first powering on the HXr, to isolate each power connection to test out the power circuit.  I’ve been remiss in specifically doing this, so I took the opportunity to physically connect the HXr’s secondary power lead to the E-Bus and disconnect the HXr’s primary electrical input by removing the 3A fuse out of the Main bus.  Any power issues would then be noted upon power up [there were none].

I then pulled some LED Korry annunciator light boards out of some of the ON/OFF Indicator lights that run in the row above the main HXr EFIS.

After swapping out the LED light board for a 12V version, I then soldered a diode into the circuit on the GNS480 “GPS” annunciator light.  I did close to the same on the GNS480 “NAV” annunciator light, but also added a 300 ohm resistor in line.  Finally, for the “SUSP” annunciator light, I simply tested that with the 12V LED board sans the diode or resistor. While I had the connectors off, I took the time to label those wires that I hadn’t gotten to previously.

Since I already had my soldering “kit” out and ready for action, I went ahead and cut, labeled and then soldered the PTT leads coming out of the P5 connector to the pilot headset jacks, finishing off all the connections that need to be soldered to those headset jacks.

My final act on the panel was to move the HXr EFIS audio output feed from the designed (but not installed) proprietary Dynon EFIS input pins on the Dynon Intercom, and simply treat the EFIS audio out as any other audio feed as far as the intercom is concerned.  The big change was that I simply ran it into the intercom via the AMX-2A Audio Mixer.  I then cut and terminated a set of wires, labeled them and installed the twisted wire pair between the HXr EFIS (via the J4 connector) and the AMX-2A Audio Mixer.

Once my “chores” were out of the way, I fired up the instrument panel to check out all my updates and see how well they worked.  Plus –again– I had a number of configuration updates to input into the GNS480.

After I was done with all my checks and updates, I was going to take a few pics when I got a wild hair and decided to just film a video… so here it is:

Yes, it’s a bit lengthy (and bouncy) but hopefully it shows a glimpse of what I’ve been up to over the past week.  I have a few more minor electrical taskers to knock out tomorrow, but for the most part I won’t have a ton more of electrical stuff to do until much later.

I also updated a number of electrical diagrams as I was waiting for the video above to render.


Chapter 22 – Fried annunciator light

After waking up to a good 3″ of snow and a shop temp barely above freezing, I set aside today to really dig into the Garmin GNS480 manuals to really get a decent baseline understanding (and relearn a ton) on how this very powerful unit works.  I also rewickered the user’s manual a bit and consolidated their formatted half pages onto full standard pages for about 2/3rds of the unit’s major functions that I was interested in.

After a few hours of studying, I decided to start down the path to resolve an issue I ran into last night.  To set the scene, in the 2 pics below you can see a row of annunciator lights just above the Garmin GNS480.  Well, last night, right before I headed out the door for my near-weekly dinner and libations with a buddy of mine, as I was getting ready to power down the GPS unit and then the rest of the panel, I noticed that the “GPS” annunciator was inop.

So, the last couple times I’ve turned on my GNS480 I could smell a strong electrical “ozone” type smell, yet nothing was “burning.” Still it was a distinct electrical smell.  Quite often I’ll leave the battery charger hooked up to the battery when I’m messing with the EFISs, but lately I was making sure to pull the charge leads off when I fired up the GNS480  …. just in case it wasn’t liking that power connection.

As I mentioned above, last night as I was flipping through different functions to light up the annunciator lights, “SUSP” was a really bright white, “LOC” half the brightness (white) as SUSP, and my green “GPS” annunciator was not lighting up at all when I went into GPS mode.  I powered it all down, doing yet another sniff test (I had double checked ALL the power connections before firing up the panel… saw zero issues).  I then quickly pulled out the green GPS Korry light.  The top corner resistor (opposite the power leads) was fried, visibly burnt up and discolored as you can see below.

So this afternoon I called Stein from Stein Air and asked him if he had installed annunciator lights on the 480 (he had, but it had been well over 10 years ago and he didn’t remember anything about it).  I then ran my plan by him to add some resistors to the light circuits… which ironically I was already going to do to dial down the brightness of the LED annunciators.  He thought that was the best route and said that’s what he’d do.  So, some R&D coming up on stuff I thought I had finalized.

Then, late in the evening, after doing a fair bit of research on LED circuits, etc. I then went to test out a circuit that I found in a discussion that Bob Nuckolls posted on his Aeroelectric Connection forum.  It was then that I noticed that the reason why the annunciator light burned out was that it was 5V model versus the 12V version that I had ordered.

To be clear, as you can see in the pic above, both the 5V and 12V PCB boards are marked as 5V.  With the vast amount of time spanning between the first order and second batch of lights, I just never noted the difference and assumed the latest order was 12V (plus, I really had no way of knowing except after the fact).

In a big way I’m actually glad this happened because I found out some good stuff on protecting LED lights on the AEC forum . . . especially for high powered circuits.  The diode protection circuit is essentially the same as a flyback diode on a relay in that it keeps any initial voltage spikes from backtracking through the LED and frying it.

So, with all that, I have some tests I need to run to get these GNS480 GPS annunciator lights back online.  I’ll also email PCFlights and sort out getting the correct voltage lights to use.

Chapter 22 – Armchair Pilot?


Since my last update I’ve been continuing down the path of finalizing my EFIS checklists, to include my education on how the GRT HXr, Mini-X, Trio autopilot and GNS480 GPS all play together during normal sorties, and specifically during instrument approaches.

Since the “online” checklists on the GRT HXr are simple small-sized text files, it means that A) they take up very little thumb drive space, and B) I can add virtually as many as I want. Since the integration of my glass cockpit comes with a decently high learning curve, this led me to make crib notes for the pertinent functions, especially the ones that had either befuddled or eluded me for various reasons (typically ignorance, ha). I’m seriously under no illusions, knowing that after another 6 months of in-depth building I’ll have forgotten the majority of what I just learned… thus, hopefully my crib notes will facilitate glass cockpit mental reintegration much more quickly!

Besides continuing to add to my checklist library, it also got me back into the manuals and other various reference material specifically focusing on GRT EFIS-based instrument approaches. Case in point, a gold mine I found on the GRT forum from a response that Bob Turner (resident forum non-GRT-employee EFIS guru) provided a GRT newbie was a 3-page how-to for setting up the autopilot, managing climbs & descents, shooting precision & non-precision instrument approaches, and missed approaches.  The only catch was that Bob’s notes were specifically geared towards an HX EFIS, which is close to the HXr, but requires a bit more button pushing.

In addition, my first real scheduled 28-day cycle navigation data update from Seattle Avionics was due, so while I fiddled about with figuring out the idiosyncrasies –and there’s a distinct few– of that process [I tried to do it overnight as Seattle Avionics recommended, but that didn’t work…. but I think I can get it to next time] I went to work concurrently testing out Bob’s 3-page knob-twisting and button-punching EFIS how-to on instrument approaches.  I finally got the multi-hour Seattle Avionics nav data download completed [this data covers approach plates, airport diagrams, sectionals and IFR low charts] and was still into documenting pertinent information nuggets into my “online” (EFIS) crib notes, and morphing Bob’s instrument approach how-to’s into a GRT HXr and Mini-X based document that I could use.

It felt good dialing in the process for getting the first set of nav data downloaded from Seattle avionics and then uploaded onto the HXr’s thumb drive.  Moreover, through the process of verifying and/or modifying Bob’s procedures, I learned a ton more about the EFIS/GPS/Autopilot functions and interfaces, nav modes, approach sequencing and just general familiarity with my panel systems.  Also big was my more in-depth understanding of the capabilities of my Mini-X backup EFIS.  All good stuff, which of course was fed into the checklists for yet another round of updating.

To perhaps express a bit clearer on these checklists, the minor issue in updating them is one of format.  I prefer, if possible, for a checklist item to only be on one line of the checklist … I guess harking back to my military days of focusing on ABC for any communication: Accuracy, Brevity, Conciseness.  So, when I say format, besides optimized verbiage, I often mean the difference between a physical one or two line checklist entry can be had by denoting “on” as “ON”, “On” or “on”. Or GPH vs gph, etc. Minor issue yes, but it’s one that I simply clean up on the fly as I add more info into my online checklist/crib note library.

I also engaged in some direct collaboration with Eric Page, ala Aeroelectric Connection forum, on maximizing the output of a Voltage “Deslumpifier” (brown-out circuit module) based on Eric Jones’ ( … and one of my electrical system mentors) original design.  Initially Eric came back and stated that the specs for his new & improved Deslumpifier design just wouldn’t work for the GNS480.  Then Joe Gore jumped into the forum conversation and sparked an offline discussion between me and Eric on building a supercharged version of his new & improved Deslumpifier, specifically for my GNS480 configuration.  Over the last two days, Eric was able to spec out some higher powered capacitors (5-Farad per) that would both fit his board and give us nearly double the output for my supercharged (in comparison) Deslumpifier.  Of course the proof will be in the pudding if it actually works or not, but based on Joe Gore’s provided numbers, it looks very, very promising… and again, all for much less than TCW’s Intelligent Power Stabilizer (again, not bashing TCW– great products).

So yes, alas, I have gotten very little done in the shop.  But to be honest, I don’t mind straying from the playbook a bit during the cold winter months because it does save a ton of money from having to heat up a cold shop (or try to work layups all under heat lamps). And I have to admit it’s been really gratifying digging deep into these systems and learning their true, no-kidding operational capabilities.


Chapter 22 – A Black Hole . . .

Yes, over the past few days it seems as if I’ve been fighting the un-overcomeable gravitational pull of finalizing my EFIS-loaded checklists.  I’ve been wimping out a bit on getting into the cold shop, easily pulled away by the lure of cross-checking each respective piece of avionics, instruments, electronic ignitions, and components that are covered by the checklists.

A big focus of mine on the checklists was finally integrating & deconflicting the engine starting & run-up sequence between the SilverHawk fuel injection, P-MAG EI, and Electroair EI requirements as detailed in their respective manuals.  I think my “shakedown cruise” analogy regarding the checklists was correct in that it actually brought a number of issues to light that need(ed) to be worked through.

With Electroair specifically, I found that my fuses were more than adequate as stated by their tech gurus, but then got caught up into two separate discussions with Danny, then Mike, on engine starting methods, sequencing and EI ops in regards to their system’s integration with a P-MAG.  Apparently it’s much more common for them to see an Electroair system paired with a traditional mag then it is with a P-MAG.  Nonetheless, they were very helpful, I gained some more knowledge about my system, and I got my checklists nailed down for the engine starting & run-up areas.

In focusing on the GNS480 GPS and Trio autopilot part of the checklists, I realized I really needed to get it straight in my head how these two components work together with the GRT EFIS.  Besides a number of sideline conversations with Marco on both checklists and GRT EFIS functions, including instrument approaches, I took a few hours to go offline and submersed myself into learning a lot more of how my GRT EFISs really work.  This was also part of a specific effort to learn how the EFIS functions integrate with the GNS480 GPS and Trio autopilot.

And boy, did I ever learn a lot…. including that a number of my initial operational assumptions were off.   I was pleasantly surprised that these components integrate much better than I had imagined, decreasing a lot of the workload I assumed I would have with three separate systems.  Let’s just say that the ARINC 429 protocol is an amazing thing! Moreover, probably the biggest lesson this “young” (ha!) Jedi learned was that the Trio autopilot source selection [GPS or EFIS] default needs to be on “EFIS” so the autopilot is controlled by the EFIS, not the GNS480 GPS that I had mistakenly implemented.  This allows all ARINC 429 data to pass through the EFIS to the autopilot, but still allows on-screen control of the autopilot via the EFIS (not quite a Doh! moment, but close….).

Below is a shot of the GRT HXr EFIS with the “Before Taxi” checklist pulled up with checklist items checked off as complete.  The pic itself, as the one above and below, are screen snapshots, or “SNAP”s, that I took via the EFIS system with just one press of a button.  Pretty cool, eh?

Getting into these separate manuals also highlighted some not so great aspects of my current system as well . . . ahem, but let’s call these either areas of opportunity or areas for improvement, shall we?  One such area was the initial placement of the GNS480 GPS and Trio autopilot startup on the checklists.  Since I “wanted” them on the “Before Start” checklist then that’s where I put them.  But, after tweaking the lists and getting into the manuals, I was faced with “Doh!” moment 3,461 of this build…. um, can’t fire them up before engine start-up without a brown-out circuit!  Hmmm?

I’m not quite so concerned about the Trio autopilot since it has a fairly fast boot-up time, and my input to the unit is minimal.  However, loading a flight plan into the GNS480 while the engine is off is a big requirement of mine.  Burning up gas (and money) needlessly and getting the engine all hot & bothered while not moving, is not cool in my book.  So this led to a discussion with Bob Newman from TCW Technologies regarding his Intelligent Power Stabilizer and also some bubbas on Bob Nuckoll’s Aeroelectric Connection forum.  Love Bob Newman and his products, but aiming for cheap as possible here, and I think once again Eric on the AEC forum is going to bail me out of a sticky wicket with his brilliance… for way less cost!

Here’s another SNAP, this time off the Mini-X.  Yes, some blatant eye candy that I added just to spice this blog post up!

In addition to all my shenanigans above, I also got some great gouge & specs from Mike Beasley on the throttle and mixture cables install.  He gave me some awesome builder tips to assess that I’ll share as I move further along in sorting out the left armrest.

For all those of you who thought I had fallen off the grid, I haven’t.  Just took a very educational detour over the past few days.   I can assure you –maybe not in an actual physical build sense– that my time has been very productive over these past few days (IMO).