Stick wigglers vs. glass panel geeks

After flying more than 350 different aircraft models, I’ve become reasonably adept at what some pilots call “stick wiggling.” The reference is for all the actions you take to physically fly the plane. This is about what’s required on very basically-equipped ultralight aircraft that I still love to fly. Modern LSA, however, typically offer loaded instrument panels and, while I check out stalls, flight qualities and landings of a LSA, I rarely get any time to play with the panel goodies.

Fortunately, a recent experience in a brand-new Flight Design CTLSi provided a three-hour window to wiggle the stick, plus a whole lot more. Like a majority of late-model LSA, this aircraft was equipped with a full glass panel, comprised of dual 10-inch Dynon Sky View screens on either side of a Garmin aera 796. If you know Garmin’s touchscreen aera 500-560, you already know how to work the 796, though it offers much more than the smaller units. Checking me out was Brian Boucher, an airline pilot who operates Florida Light-Sport Aircraft from my home airport at Spruce Creek. Brian will be a dealer for Flight Design models, as well as providing maintenance and other services.

I took a four-hour Dynon SkyView class almost a year ago and it felt like I’d forgotten everything. Some of it stuck, but it was helpful to have Brian showing me around these highly capable devices. SkyView incorporates the usual mind-boggling array of PFD/EMS/GPS with Synthetic Vision, but this CTLSi also had the Dynon transponder and autopilot. The Garmin aera 796 offered traffic alerts, XM weather, every chart you might need, and so much more. Frankly, the whole setup was sensory overload and three hours of actual use is still not enough to master all it can do.

Dynon2By the time we completed the round trip I was feeling good. I made two good landings proving my stick wiggling skills were intact. I greatly refreshed my understanding of CTLSi’s dazzling panel. Both activities are fun, but they are separate skills and each needs constant polishing for best results.

Dynon Avionics is now shipping its ADS-B unit that coordinates with the SkyView system. A remotely mounted module provides easy — and free! — access to weather and traffic information. Selling for $995, the new unit is an affordable and permanently mounted ADS-B “In” device designed specifically for experimental and LSA.

Paired with Dynon’s Mode-S transponder, you also get ADS-B “Out” that wakes up the ADS-B ground stations and causes them to send a traffic portrait that includes all known ADS-B targets around the SkyView-equipped aircraft. The new ADS-B capability only functions in the USA.

Coordinating with the new hardware, SkyView Software Version 5.0 was recently released to support ADS-B weather, traffic and more. Version 5.0 is a free upgrade for all existing SkyView owners.

Complementing permanently-mounted panel instruments is the Dual Electronics XGPS170 panel-top unit with ADS-B receiver that works with iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. Dual’s tiny device currently works with WingXPro from Hilton Software and the company said it will soon be able to use apps from Jeppesen, Flight Guide, and other developers. XGPS170 features a high-accuracy WAAS GPS receiver, plus an ADS-B receiver that can present weather and traffic. The receiver, which sells for $799, connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, and can link to two tablets simultaneously. A built-in rechargeable battery lasts up to five hours in continuous use, and a 12-28V charger is included.


  1. says

    As an instructor, the nicest thing about big glass panels is that I can dim them all the way down to black and force my students to LOOK OUT THE #$% WINDOW. My students won’t get signed off for solo until they’ve had a dozen trips around the pattern with the panels black. Stall training in particular is done without the panel because as I tell them, “The plane doesn’t know what it’s got in the cockpit and it doesn’t care. The only thing it cares about is where its nose is pointed and how much air is going over its wings.” I have yet to have a student that doesn’t do steep turns BETTER with the panel black than they do with its “help”.

    Rod Machado said it best when he said, “The best view-limiting device ever invented is the Garmin G1000.” Give me a cork with a piece of metal sticking out of it for a fuel gauge and that’s all the instrumentation I or any pilot needs to fly around the world and back.

  2. Jim Klick says

    I agree with Julian. We have too many pilots that do not know how to fly by looking out the window.When was the last time you flew your single engine, Day VFR airplane
    around the pattern with everything except the airspeed covered?
    Now try it with the airspeed covered.
    If you don’t trust your skills, try and find an Instructor to fly with you and do it.
    Bet you won’t find one, because most of them could not do it.
    As I said on another forume, a Super Cub with a glass cockpit and electric trim
    is a symptom of what is wrong with GA.

  3. says

    I have 20 yrs teaching the MD-11 and the automation ( pilots heads down) was big problem we had to overcome, that said I see little
    benefit in all the glass in day VFR airplanes. One of the reasons LSA are so expensive is they are loaded with glass panels, also I might add that this is a big problem with safety in VFR day only LSA air planes. We need to LOOK outside, NOT at a glass display.
    Julian Smith
    ATP LR JET B727 & MD-11

  4. Glenn Darr says

    I guess because the FAA does not want something as efficient as the
    dynon in certified aircraft because it is inexpensive. It is too bad that the things that can be put in your experimental or lsa cannot be put in a “certified” airplane.
    the technology is wonderful.

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