Will Dynon's Skyview HDX Be A Market Shifter?

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I heard a comment the other day from a researcher at one of the big flight academies: “Cessna competes with Cessna, not with Piper or Diamond.” He was directly referring to the $400,000-plus price tag for the new Skyhawks that still constitute the mainstay of the training fleet.

Consider that stratospheric number against a good used model that can be had for $50,000, with no penalty in performance and probably not much in reliability if the older model is refurbished. In that context, he figured Dynon’s newly announced soon-to-be approvals for its Skyview HDX in certified airplanes could be market shifters. (I am constitutionally restrained from using the phrase “game changer.”)

Well, maybe. But in order for this to be true, the big academies will have to show interest, as will the smaller schools that form the backbone of Part 61 training. A smattering of interest from private owners would help.

Let’s look at some numbers. Bluebook values for mid-1980s Skyhawks (P-models) are in the mid-$50,000 range. Mid to late-70s versions are a little less. Add to that a thorough refurb to include an engine, paint, rewiring, upholstery and upgrades like LED lighting and improved panel lighting and you’ll spend another $60,000 to $70,000. Dynon says the Skyview HDX will come in around the mid-$20s, so not to cheap it, call it $30,000. That yields a range of $135,000 to $155,000 or right in the $150,000 sweet spot flight schools tell me they’re willing to spend.

That’s less than half the price of a new Skyhawk. Conversely, if you’re willing to spend $150,000, what else can you buy? How about a mid-2000s pre-G1000 Skyhawk, or maybe even a high-timer with early glass? That budget will also buy a Piper Archer III of similar vintage or a Diamond DA40 with some change back. But those models will be either pre-glass or original G1000 airplanes. Modern avionics may have more appeal. (Or not. I don’t pretend to know what buyers really want and they often don’t either until the market options are presented.)

There is a test case here and it’s Redbird’s Redhawk 172 introduced in 2013. It’s a ground-up remanufacture of the Skyhawk, converting it to a Continental CD-135 diesel with Garmin’s G500 and digital comms, plus an autopilot. At $250,000, it has achieved modest but not spectacular market success. I think there are several reasons for this and one is that North American buyers don’t see compelling advantage in the diesel engine’s fuel economy traded for less payload and slower climb.

I keep hearing that U.S. buyers are warming to diesel and I keep not seeing significant sales numbers to support this. The backdrop of diesel trending out of favor for cars might not help. The upward diesel trend in aviation, such that it is, is a trickle, not a torrent. It’s not lost on me that Diamond, the diesel pioneer, acknowledged this by announcing the Lycoming TEO-540 as an option for its planned DA50-VII. That airplane is aimed at North America.   

You probably noticed that AEA reported a massive increase in retrofit sales among its members. The data lacks the granularity to show if this is due to ADS-B installations or upgrades of other types, but it does show owners are again willing to spend money. The appearance of six new retrofit autopilots suggests that manufacturers are sensing demand out there. Then again, demand is often indistinguishable from blind hope.   

So the intriguing question of the day is this: Will a downward trend in the cost of full glass panels coupled with an upswing in training demand ignite refurb demand greater than what Redhawk has seen? And the follow-up question: Does a $25,000 glass panel upgrade appeal to you enough to actually order one? You can answer that in today’s question of the week.

And while you’re contemplating that, consider this: CubCrafters announced that Garmin’s non-certified G3X Touch will be an option in the XCub. (Except that putting it into a Part 23 airplane is certification, after a fashion. A fine point.) This further substantiates the trend toward less expensive major avionics suites. It also raises the question of whether Garmin will offer the G3X as a retrofit for certified aircraft.

I asked and the answer was a noncommittal statement about Garmin always looking for ways to leverage its products into additional markets. That’s what the late Ben Bradlee would have called a non-denial denial. It’s not a no, so I take it as a probably. I think Garmin will have little choice but to offer the G3X to compete with Dynon. Little did we know what far-reaching effects would transpire when Jack Pelton announced the D10A STC in conjunction with Dynon last year.

Interesting times.    

Today’s Important Date

Although you might not read this until August 7, it’s being posted on August 6. Any student of World War II history will remember that date for the Enola Gay’s historic mission to bomb Hiroshima with the first nuclear bomb used in combat. Today is the 72nd anniversary of that event.

With B-29s making such a high-profile appearance at AirVenture this year, I thought the date was worthy of mention. Here’s a brief interview with Paul Tibbets, who commanded the Enola Gay, on his thoughts at the time. Some who had the pleasure of not living through World War II, much less fighting in it, often seem to fault Tibbets as being cruel and thoughtless of his role that day. He was anything but. Like all World II vets, he deserves commemoration.  

Comments (10)

If most flight schools can't readily justify $400K for a new Skyhawk but DO find $150K for a clean refurb job as their "sweet spot," the Skyview HDX and -- hopefully -- the G3X will probably enjoy some success in that market. Wonderful to see this happening. And refurbs catching on, too.

I spoke with Dynon about their smaller box ... hopefully that'll be an option, too. Lots of folks don't know that only the '76 M model Skyhawk and newer have enough room in the L panel for the larger system. I've owned a '75 Skyhawk for 32 years but I did not know that the yoke's feed through location on the '75 and older Skyhawks is higher ... that's why the horizon and DG are offset to the left. In the '76 Hawk, et sub, the primary instruments are right above the yoke's shaft because Cessna lowered the behind the panel control column stuff. That's why the refurb shops are only doing "N" model refurbs and newer.

For myself ... I couldn't justify $30K but I could probably justify about half of that for a smaller, less able system. A nice pair of G5's along with some other updates would be superb for me.

At the Membership meeting, I challenged Jack Pelton to try to put the power of EAA behind reinstituting the idea of a new category of Airworthiness for older certificated airplanes. In the final version of the ARC recommendations for the FAR23 rewrite, there was an appendix allowing normal category Class I airplanes to become "Primary" category (not to be confused with the existing Primary category). Essentially, this would mean that someone like myself could relicense my airplane and turn it into a pseudo E-AB and, therefore, install anything I wanted if it met the performance standards. It wasn't in the final rewrite at all. He said they'd consider it and one of EAA's staff said they were working on it. If THAT happens ... Katy bar the door !!

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 6, 2017 10:09 PM    Report this comment

Is it REALLY that hard imagine this outcome after the first Dynon STC? I'm pretty sure the same smart people that have racked up some SERIOUS policy/legislative wins knew EXAXTLY what they were doing. LSA was implemented, BasicMed and Part 23 rewrite (that makes 2 and 3) were a direct result of LSA (it proved people weren't dying in the cockpit and the avionics worked just fine). I think EAA/AOPA have some smart/hard-working folks that are playing the long game.

Posted by: JEFFREY SMITH | August 7, 2017 8:12 AM    Report this comment

I hate to say this but if the Dynon HDX forces Garmin's hand to release the G3X on a AML for many aircraft them it truly will have been a market shifter.

Posted by: STEPHEN MALKINSON | August 7, 2017 10:02 AM    Report this comment

The Dynon initiative puts Garmin in the uncomfortable position of competing with itself, just like Cessna. Pushing the G3X into certificated aircraft puts pressure on its own higher tier products. I know a couple owners of higher performing aircraft (Cardinal, Arrow, etc.) that are seriously considering the HDX, so it is not just for Skyhawks. Had I not already upgraded my panel, I would be joining them.

This also puts significant pressure on other companies products, such as Aspen. I have noticed they are suuddenly advertising significant discounts and "special offers" on their panels - presumably as a result of the Dynon announcement. Interesting times.

With regard to Paul Tibbits and the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, it is not our place to judge his actions from the calm distance of 70+ years. We know things they did not back then, and we do not have the emotional baggage that they carried after years of a bitter and costly war that had already claimed so many American lives. What falls on our shoulders is the responsibility to recognize the horrific impact of a nuclear weapon and to work to see that they never get used again.

Posted by: John McNamee | August 7, 2017 10:35 AM    Report this comment

$30k for the Skyview HDX (I'm assuming that's an as-installed price)? Is that really much cheaper than a Garmin G500, which would seem to do basically the same thing? Or am I missing something here?


"Some who had the pleasure of not living through World War II, much less fighting in it, often seem to fault Tibbets as being cruel and thoughtless of his role that day."
"We know things they did not back then, and we do not have the emotional baggage that they carried after years of a bitter and costly war that had already claimed so many American lives."

WW I was still mostly a ground war, with only limited aerial war machines. WW II saw big improvements in all war-fighting machines (aerial, ground, nautical), and had thousands (millions? my war history trivia is pretty weak) of civilian deaths. Given the advancements between WW I and WW II, and a seeming reversal in nuclear disarmament, WW III will almost certainly include nuclear weapons and see far greater civilian deaths. Just the two relatively small nuclear bombs dropped on Japan was devastating, and I really hope we don't see a WW III, but I fear such an event is something I could potentially see in my lifetime.

Long story short, I agree with the statement "Like all World II vets, he deserves commemoration."

Posted by: Gary Baluha | August 7, 2017 1:09 PM    Report this comment

The ADS-B conundrum has compelled pilots to confront and evaluate this proposition: "Can I justify spending half (or more) of what my plane actually can command in the re-sale market - just to comply with an FAA mandate?" What's the value proposition?
For less than $4,000 (un-installed), Dynon's gear offers full dual-frequency ADS-B "in" plus Mode-S / Extended Squitter ADS-B "out." That's a pretty good price, but what's the value proposition?

Being able to tap into the integrated WAAS GPS receiver, and couple it to Dynon's SkyView HDX.

For an additional $4,400 (uninstalled) you get a 10-inch display with all of today's modern conveniences, including remote tuning of modern nav and comm radios and transponder. That's far less money than it costs to overhaul the classic three gyro instruments, and replace a vacuum pump and filter. Toss in a D2 "Pocket Panel" backup for $1,100 and you have a tempting - if not compelling - "value proposition." Comfortably under 10 grand, before installation.

With their autopilot servos priced at $750 per axis... You get the picture.

So, do you:
1. Do nothing; stand down after 2019.
2. Buy ADS-B gear that satisfies the Feds, but leaves you feeling abused.
3. Pop for the whole Dynon enchilada, and feel like you actually got something for your money - to say nothing about preservation or improvement of your bird's re-sale value.

New choices; new conundrua. Ain't technology grand?

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | August 7, 2017 1:27 PM    Report this comment

The Dynon HDX announcement should be music to the ears of many aircraft owners. Especially owners of aircraft like Cardinals, Skylanes, Centurions, Mooney's, Bonanzas, etc. What's that line in Jimmie Buffet's song Volcano, "Ground she's moving under me, tidal waves out on the sea. Sulfur smokers in the sky, pretty soon we learn to fly."

I've spent the last couple days identifying the components, cabling and estimated costs to install two 10" HDX displays, redundant ADHARS, autopilot, Mode S 2020 compliant transponder, GPS, ADS-b receiver, as well as replacing both comm radios. (i.e. A total instrument panel replacement.) Dynon component and cable costs come to just under $21K. Add in the STC cost and fairly generous installation costs, should result in total costs under $30K. (The installation costs for the Dynon system should be considerably lower than other alternatives. Most of the Dynon components interconnect via their Skyview Network using a single, pre-wired DB9 cable. No more point to point wiring of components, performed by avionics shops, that adds so many labor hours to installations.)

Previously, the costs to obtain comparable functionality with a new autopilot would have been over $90K, before installation costs. And, that functionality would have been on screens less than 1/2 the size of the HDX, and require annual subscription costs of $1K - $2K for synthetic vision, maps and charts.

I do know where I'm going when this volcano blows; this Cardinal RG owner will be ready with a checkbook as soon as Dynon gets their STC approved.

Posted by: Jerome Olson | August 7, 2017 2:00 PM    Report this comment

Don't care. I'll use my Ipad with ADS-B in and moving map. No need to drop $20K for no added benefit.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 7, 2017 9:21 PM    Report this comment

I spent the afternoon in an avionics shop rough wiring my new ADS-B transponder. The owner commented that he's seeing more and more people equipping. He feels that a combination of the mandate deadline AND BasicMed is doing it. He says "greying" clients are parting with their $$ now that they know they'll be able to fly enough more years to justify the investment.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | August 7, 2017 10:12 PM    Report this comment

Speaking of notable Airventure appearances, readers of this blog need to check out Paul's new video "MY OSH Life: Low Passes in a DC-3". Watch carefully about 30 seconds after takeoff and you will see Paul break into an uncontrollable sly grin! Ha! Love it! There is indeed a cure for jaded cynicism :-) ha ha and it is spelled D-C-3!

Posted by: A Richie | August 8, 2017 10:49 AM    Report this comment

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