EAA’s STC Initiative


As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, the biggest story here at Sun ‘n Fun this week was one we didn’t even expect: EAA’s announcement that it has partnered with Dynon Avionics to bring less expensive, non-certified avionics to the cockpits of certified aircraft. The first AML-STC list is modest: Cessna 172s and Piper’s PA-28 and -38 series airplanes. I don’t want to overstate the importance of this development because this is a modest first step, but it’s a step that represents a meaningful realignment in general aviation economics.

As mentioned in yesterday’s storyand accompanying video, EAA Chairman Jack Pelton said there will be more to come—more avionics packages and more approved airplanes. That likely means EFIS, comm radios and ADS-B systems. Dynon’s Robert Hamilton said as much in this interview. Frankly, we don’t see much good news in general aviation that really is good news and not just us pixel-addled wretches putting top spin on a train wreck. But this really is a bona fide positive step that supports, if not growth, than a removal of a barrier that will encourage some owners to stay in the game. And by the way, if you were wondering if the Part 23 rewrite we’ve been reporting on will ever have any teeth, this development is the leading edge of that revision’s effect.

This market shift operates at two levels. One is that if this project advances as Pelton says it will, more owners will be able to afford more sophisticated and capable avionics. That has implications for safety, for sure, but the larger order effect is economic. Owners will notice when an avionics upgrade they were dreaming about is suddenly half or a third the price they thought it might be.There may be casualties. If something like the Dynon D10 costs less than half the price of an Aspen or Garmin G500 install, sales of those products might naturally erode. On the other hand, a cost Delta this great might very well expand the market at the lower tiers, enticing upgrades that might never have happened at the higher prices. Egalitarianism has never been a free ride, if such a thing can even be conceived of in the rarified world of general aviation.

The second level is a potentially new directionality in how advocacy groups can operate. Traditionally, the alphabets have undertaken lobbying and promotional efforts whose efficacy is sometimes difficult to see, much less measure. EAA’s STC project may be different indeed. It wasn’t lost on me that Pelton pointedly observed during the press conference that EAA and Dynon did the heavy lifting on this project with the FAA and in as many words, he told the other avionics manufacturers they’ll have to do the same for themselves if they want to participate in a new, lower-cost business model. He said EAA is not about to give away the special sauce.

This represents an organization taking direct, narrowly focused action in a realm normally reserved for private industry. I’m sure there’s going to be some grumbling in the boardrooms about that. But if that’s what it takes to coax green shoots out of this wretched GA market we’re suffering through, I’m all for it. You can call it a lot of things, but I call it leadership. Kudos, EAA.