Aspen Takes On Retrofit Partners

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Aspen Avionics sees a big opportunity in the light aircraft retrofit market and it's moving aggressively to stake out its market share through joint ventures with at least three other avionics companies. At the top of the list is Bendix/King, whose long-delayed KSN770 has buyers waiting for competitive choice against Garmin's dominant panel-mount products. Aspen and Bendix/King are pooling resources and talent to complete the KSN770 certification, which Aspen CEO John Uzekacy sees as a natural third-party interface for its popular aftermarket Evolution EFD systems. At Sun 'n Fun on Wednesday, John Uczekaj said the 770 project is "a very big deal" for Aspen because virtually every Aspen installation includes a WAAS-capable GPS navigator and heretofore, Garmin has been nearly the only choice, so a customized interface opens up considerable market potential for both Aspen and Bendix/King. Uzekacy expects the 770 to be available by year's end.

The retrofit autopilot market may have just as much potential, if not more, according to Uzekacy, who explained in this podcast that another joint effort with Avidyne will certifiy Avidyne's sophisticated DFC90 digitial autopilot both or use in more aircraft and with a dedicated interface with Aspen's displays. Uzekacy said many owners would upgrade to more sophisticated autopilots if they had more produces to chose from and the D90 will offer just such a choice. The DFC90 is full-featured, digital attitude-based autopilot which will get its attitude inputs from the Aspen system and the EFD will, in turn, provide the autopilot's mode annunciations. The DFC90 has high-end capability such as low and high speed envelope protection to guard against upsets and overspeeds and it's capable of unusual attitude recovery.

Aspen is also joining with S-TEC to provide cutting-edge interfaces for its well-regarded rate-based autopilots, of which there are thousands in field. Many owners have chaffed at the lack of interface options for those products, but Aspen now says it will provide them, including flight director options and altitude pre-select for S-TEC's 55 and 60 series autopilots.