Chapter 22 – New Panel Annunciators

As I’ve noted many times before, my buddy Marco’s flying Long-EZ has been a phenomenal testbed for both Marco and I as we trudge forward in building our respective planes.  Since so much of the technology is the same in our planes, it really helps me in a big way when Marco optimizes processes and flushes out better ways of cockpit management.

One such improvement is with our Garmin GNS-480 (again, which we both have) navigational GPS external annunciator lights.  Per the GNS-480 manual, one can have up to 15 external annunciator lights for various functions.  As you can see below, Marco outputted 8 of these to external indicator lights, in 2 rows of 4.

What Marco discovered is that the vast majority of the time he is navigating via GPS and not via older school VHF navigation, or what a Garmin 430 would ID as VLOC (VOR and Localizer).  Thus, to have a light blaring in your face full time with GPS or GPS NAV is a bit redundant (remember, these external annunciator functions are also displayed on the GPS unit’s screen), and not to mention overkill, since that is the “standard” operating configuration Marco uses currently, and as I will when I get this bird in the air.

Clearly a personal choice of how to navigate, but practically the odd man out is VHF NAV, so why not have that externally annunciated to overtly communicate that the typically lesser used nav function is being employed?  Moreover, this frees up an indicator light position to use for something that Marco found to be of particular importance: the Loss of Integrity, or LOI, annunciation.

[Another example of our common configurations is the two Trig units, COM2 radio and XPDR, at the bottom of Marco’s panel.  These are the same two units I have, only mine happen to both be remote –EFIS controlled– with no physical panel displays like his.]

Marco found this out while in a 2-ship Long-EZ formation with Chris Cleaver as they were on their way to Ohio to visit Terry Lamp (JT’s builder) and Mike Toomey (Chris’ EZ builder). Marco’s GNS-480 lost GPS positional fix, unbeknownst to him (due to no external LOI indicator), and caused his plane –on autopilot at the time– to unexpectedly turn.  Not something you want in a 2-ship formation, however loose it may be at the time. Thus his refining of the external GPS annunciator indicator lights, and prioritizing them in a way to get a significantly more prominent LOI indicator light on the panel.

When we discussed it, it of course made perfect sense to me so I followed suite and ginned up an order for some new indicator lights.

You can see below that with the limited space on my panel I only have a single row of 6 external indicator lights immediately above the GNS-480 GPS unit (top row photoshopped in place to show the new mods).  This makes Marco’s latest discovery very impactful to my configuration since I have fewer external annunciators.

As you can see, I yanked the GPS indicator, changed the VHF label to VHF NAV (new ordered light) and replaced the pulled GPS annunciator with the new LOI indicator light (also on order). I also reordered the external annunciator light positions to have LOI closest to the EFIS for the highest visibility possible.  Yes, this is how important this indicator is!

In swapping the external GNS-480 external annunciator indicator lights, I also updated and reprinted the associated wiring diagrams to annotate these changes.

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