Can Dynon's Installation Policy Really Work?

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With its Certified SkyView HDX line, Dynon is seeking to effectively upend the established way of doing business in the world of avionics upgrades. Rather than only building dealer relationships with avionics shops who act as sales agents, Dynon will push the idea of any shop with a qualified A&P/IA installing this equipment. Some readers and other manufacturers have criticized this idea, perhaps for the wrong reasons. In case you missed it, read the story here

The Dynon Certified retrofit glass system started life in the experimental market as the HDX, but now has an STC for installation in Cessna Skyhawks and soon, some models of the Beech Bonanza. The company has plenty of other airframes on its STC to-do list. But while the Skyhawk STC has been in place for a while, not many have been installed, likely because there are just two shops authorized by Dynon to do it: Thrust Flight in Texas and Merrill Field Instruments in Alaska. 

The lack of an established dealer network for such a sizable product line is surprising, and Dynon’s Michael Schofield told me the company is sorting out which other shops it will select as authorized Dynon Certified installation centers. It will be a network that’s different than the one for Dynon’s experimental products. In the interim, it will be up to the aircraft owner to nominate an A&P with IA (inspection authorization) credentials to do the installation. The customer contracts directly with the installer for all aspects of the install, including instrument panel modification or fabrication. While some have suggested these major avionics retrofits—which include Dynon’s integrated autopilot—should be left to an avionics repair station, I think that’s a shortsighted, old-school way of thinking. I’ve seen plenty of horrific installs turned out by avionics shops and plenty of best-of-show projects done by IAs.

For talent that fits somewhere in the middle, Dynon insists that an A&P with a current IA certificate should be more than qualified to install the Certified HDX line and in many circumstances, I agree. An IA has much of the same inspection and signing authority as an FAA repair station, plus many avionics repair stations have IAs on staff. Suggesting that a competent and practicing IA (two imperative prerequisites) isn’t qualified to do the job might be insulting, especially considering the number of successful experimental avionics that have been installed by homebuilders who have little if any avionics experience at all—and not just Dynon equipment. Garmin’s G3X Touch suite (which includes an autopilot) is installed in a wide variety of IFR-flying experimental amateur built aircraft. You don’t have to hold any certificate to put one in.

Historically, Dynon has done a pretty good job of designing products that curtail and simplify the installation effort. It provides preassembled wiring harnesses and is simplifying and customizing the installation hardware for easier retrofit. Dynon’s field support and installation documentation is quite good, based on my own experience. But Dynon isn’t putting faith in every A&P/IA without doing some vetting first, although Schofield told me it’s the aircraft owner’s responsibility to ensure the work being done is airworthy. Still, Dynon won’t sell the STC authorization—which will specifically identify the name of the installing IA (or an FAA repair station)—or honor the warranty without verifying the individual selected by the customer has the right credentials. After all, the IA or repair station will be accepting the liability by signing the FAA Form 337. The installation also requires a flight manual supplement, a revised weight-and-balance report, a logbook entry and instructions for continued airworthiness.

Dynon expects that many of these installers will have previous avionics installation experience, perhaps on their own aircraft or on other experimental aircraft. That’s an obvious question for you to ask when nominating an installer for your own Dynon project. If the A&P hasn't installed anything more modern than a Narco Superhomer, you might want to find one who has because there will be a steep learning curve, in my estimation. Moreover, an IA who keeps the certificate current, but isn’t actively doing airframe work or doesn’t understand EFIS technology, might not be the best candidate. There will be wiring that’s interfaced with third-party equipment, including IFR navigators, audio systems and antennas. There’s also software configuration, including setting the autopilot gains and other post-install tweaks. The interface also includes mandate-compliant ADS-B Out.

Dynon is launching its Certified HDX system into a competitive EFIS retrofit display market—which will become even more competitive overnight if Garmin certifies its G3X Touch. It’s no secret that Garmin is dominant on the shop level, but a good shop is one that presents a buyer with options, including other brands with comparable capabilities. If your shop doesn’t, I would consider going elsewhere. Still, I suspect Dynon is at least somewhat concerned that some shops will push Garmin retrofits over the Certified HDX. While Dynon made it clear that it eventually plans to build Certified HDX dealerships at larger avionics shops (in addition to supporting A&P/IAs to do the work), I predict we’ll see more Dynon dealerships at smaller shops than at larger ones, especially those that don’t sell Garmin or may not even hold a repair station certificate. There are plenty of them. 

“From our perspective, we’ll be looking for capability and quality more than the very particular FAA credential,” Schofield said. Until Dynon builds its network of installers that fit that criteria, it’s up to the aircraft owner to find one they trust. Like it or not, it’s a departure from the old-school regulatory mentality the industry has been determined to fix. And it uniquely gives customers more choice and influence in the way avionics are installed. That's a big step forward.

Larry Anglisano is editor of Aviation Consumer magazine.
 

Comments (8)

This is long overdue and a step in the right direction. Now if the other manufacturers would follow suit...

Posted by: Jonathan Cullifer | September 5, 2018 12:40 PM    Report this comment

I agree with everything you said, Larry. Good article. I'm one of the "capable" you referred to. And I'll add a "twist" to your comments.

I'm an A&P with 40 years experience plus USAF (ret) and defense contractor background. When I decided to put ADS-B in my C172, I waited until single box 1090 MHz solutions came online. When the 800 pound 'Gorilla' came out with their single box solution for 'out' and 'in,' I wanted one but found out they wouldn't sell it to me, wouldn't give me the STC license or activate the warranty. I could find a way to buy it but without the above ... what was the point in spending ~$6K? Every time I tried, I was pointed at one of THEIR dealer networks. Well ... those shops employ a lot of younger A&P wannabe types who have no vested interest in taking care of my now 42 year old airplane. In one case, I was treated rudely when I told them I wanted to do the install part of the work because I wanted things done MY way. I'm particular.

Finally -- for reasons I don't know of -- the Gorilla decided to sell their ADS-B 'out' only box on a promo package. Needing a transponder, I decided to go that way at Airventure 2017. When I activated the purchase, an email came in with about 15 different documents, license to use and manuals electronically. I found that several manuals were the wrong version. When I asked for help or needed questions answered, they refused and pointed me back at the selling dealer who -- fortunately -- WAS helpful. The process was painful but not insurmountable. In the end, the box is installed to my satisfaction, was certified and works fine.

The 800 pound Gorilla makes fine equipment but overly protects it's dealers and locks out those of us in the field who DO know what they're doing. I had words with them over this. They don't seem to care. So I predict that if and when the G3X STC's for certificated airplanes appear, the same MO will prevail. Accordingly, I applaud what Dynon is doing and told them so at Airventure 2018.

I'd go a step further. I'd recommend that they produce premade instrument panels to alleviate A&P/IA's having to make these. CAD/CAM produced standard panels would be a snap and make the installation easier. There's a revenue stream there, I'd say. If Dynon doesn't want to do it, they should find shops who could work with owners to do it. Dynon's idea of premade cables and hub and spoke wiring is great,too. I predict they'll own the market ... especially if the Gorilla continues to operate in the manner they're operating in now.

As Jonathon said above, this idea is long overdue. Few folks can afford or justify new airplanes so avionics upgrade of older machines is their only alternative. It's still expensive but for anyone with a good machine they like and enough time to enjoy them ... I think this is the way to go.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 5, 2018 3:27 PM    Report this comment

Dynon does make complete ready to install panels, at least for experimental aircraft. The jump to a "Quick Panel" for a C-172 shouldn't be too terribly far. I tried to link to the Quick Panel portion of the Dynon web site, but "THEY" won't let me.

Posted by: Steve Rush | September 5, 2018 4:21 PM    Report this comment

This is the only way to get into the certified marketplace. As Larry has said, the 800lb Gorilla has made most avionics shops comfortable only giving 800lb Gorilla quotes.

While many shops claim to represent a variety of avionics manufactures, most customers would be hard pressed to get a quote outside of the Gorilla's. And if brand X is quoted, it is usually very heavily padded to make up for the learning curve that is required for a new install.

Shops are accustom to one brand over another and rarely move out of that comfort zone. So, the consumer is forced to find out what the shop is comfortable with. The consumer must find the shop that is comfortable with the installation of the chosen avionics or capitulate to the Gorilla's offering. Many aviation consumers end up capitulating because the options are few in a practical sense.

Since the consumer normally has a very limited access to shops outside of the Gorilla's network, either the consumer conforms to the prevailing industry standard, whatever that may be, or gets pro-active on an individual basis and searches out who wants and will install the consumer's choice .
Dynon recognizes these facts and is encouraging the aviation consumer who has this kind of initiative, to make the decision of installation. If the consumer is happy with the outcome, Dynon has a dealer and a loyal customer. Plus the installer gets a recommendation from both Dynon and the consumer. Once this process is started, and a few new Dynon "dealers" are added, there will be the inevitable snow ball effect.

Very savvy business marketing in what it might take to remove the 800lb Gorilla from the room.

Posted by: Jim Holdeman | September 6, 2018 9:15 AM    Report this comment

Just to be clear. I don't begrudge the "Gorilla" just because they're successful or to be contrary. I think their equipment IS among the best, I have some and will have more. What I object to is their business model MO. Every time I think about how long I had to wait before I could get, what I had to go through to do it and the less than helpful attitudes of their dealers ... it peeps me off.

From the time I learned how to fly nearly 50 years ago until the early 2000's, King Kong was the avionics name of choice. If you owned a Cessna without it ... it wasn't as desirable. Now, you'd be hard pressed to find any in a new airplane. And, some of their equipment is now rebranded from other company equipment. How did that happen, you ask. They got cocky, overpriced their stuff and made it all far too hard Along comes the 'miniature cow' -- now known as the Gorilla -- who ate their lunch and grew into 'the Gorilla.' If they're not careful, maybe Dynon's new MO will eat theirs? If nothing else, there'll be a food fight. That'll be good for all of us.

When I examined the 1090 transponder I bought, I found that they designed a 62 pin (sic) connector into it. In the end, all I minimally needed was to use the power and ground pins. What genius did THAT? And, every time I think about the fact that I wanted the full up out and in box but couldn't get it ... it angers me. I WANTED to give them more money but their "MO" wouldn't allow it. Later, I found I needed a software upgrade to use the GPS position info ... can't get it direct. Good job, Gorilla.

And at Airventure, I came across a Company in the Innovation kiosk who has a new product which will be competing with both the Gorilla and Dynon and I predict will -- ultimately -- drive the price of horizon and DG replacement instruments down. Let's just see. I plan on buying some.

If I was a younger man and not retired (and enjoying the heck out of it), I'd establish a small dealership to install the stuff. Where I spend my summers, there's only a couple of places to have avionics installed and guess who owns that market. Unfortunately, I'm not interested in taking on more work so ... aside from work for friends ... I ain't hanging my shingle out. But ... I'd love to give 'em a run for their money ... same money they won't accept from me :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 6, 2018 2:12 PM    Report this comment

I wholeheartedly commend Dynon on there amended approach to installation. Having IA credentials allows me to inspect and approve the work, yes, I remain responsible for the installation but believe me there are very talented folks out there that I can employ who have no desire to work for an avionics shop. I have a friend who owns an avionics shop, he only sells the "Gorilla's" products because they allow him a 25% margin on their goods. My guess is Dynon isn't doing this, so the big shops are going to push what they can make the most profit from.
I do not like the Gorilla's business model. Their products are way over priced, always have been. The majority of small airplane owners that I deal with simply cannot afford to use their products. Moreover it just doesn't make any sense to install 60k worth of equipment in a 30k Cherokee only to see the boxes become obsolete in 10 years, because the gorilla deems they "have reached the end of their service life"!! When in reality they just want to sell new stuff. If Dynon will stick to their commitment to keep the price down, I believe they will do very well. And hopefully force the gorilla to get competitive.

Posted by: John Fenoglio | September 8, 2018 10:35 AM    Report this comment

I understand your not liking the 800 lb Gorilla. But the dealerships do make the investment to buy the required equipment and take the liability. Where an A&P as you say are newbys and may not have the experience. Nobody is looking over his shoulder. The IAs can do most but not what a repair station does. So while you have valid points the 800lb Gorilla does too..

Posted by: Roger Gormley | September 10, 2018 10:23 AM    Report this comment

John F ... I just bought an aviation product via direct from the OEM and got a 50% discount from retail. I realize we're dealing with a specialty and limited marketplace here but ... at some point, they're gouging. (BTW ... not the 'gorilla').

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 12, 2018 9:54 AM    Report this comment

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