Selecting the right avionics package for your airplane can be almost as stressful as selecting the aircraft itself.
You’ll probably ask your friends what they have and if they recommend it. It is just that kind of word-of-mouth advertising that helped Dynon Avionics expand from the homebuilt market into the realm of Light Sport Aircraft.
The Washington state-based company, which manufactures Electronic Flight Information Systems (EFIS) and engine monitoring systems (EMS), opened for business in 2000 selling EFIS to the experimental market. An EFIS is a glass depiction of the information that steam gauges supply, but in a space about the size of a copy of the FAR/AIM.
In 2004, when the Sport Pilot/LSA rule was established, the company’s familiarity with the need to do a lot with very little panel space made it a natural to fill the avionics needs of LSA manufacturers, noted Michael Schofield, product manager.
“During the LSA Expo in Sebring, Florida, I went around and looked in all the cockpits of the LSAs,” he said. “I would say roughly half of them had our system in it, and a great many of the ones that didn’t have our units were the very basic bare-bones VFR panels that you’d expect to see in some LSAs.”
Companies using Dynon Avionics’ products include Flight Design, Legend Cub and CubCrafters, he said.
Avionics evolve quickly, Schofield commented, remarking that the company’s customers are critical to helping it come up with refinements to its units.
“Customers, I would say, are our biggest assets. The homebuilder customer base helps us with suggestions as to behaviors that can be improved,” he said. “We also have a dedicated core of beta test pilots who are allowed to experiment because they fly experimental aircraft.”
Staying ahead of the development curve can be a challenge, he noted. “We have taken a more deliberate development path in that we add features through software,” he explained. “We target a release cycle that tends to be about two times a year in software updates. We try not to be in perpetual beta test mode.”
Schofield noted that the units are easy to learn because they are not terribly complex.
“We don’t yet do moving map or autopilot,” he said. “They have a row of six buttons and the buttons have text above them that tells you what they do. Once you learn which buttons flip to which page, all the rest falls into place.”
Dynon’s success in the LSA market fell into place because of the work the company has done in the last eight years, he added.
“We proved there was a market for low-cost EFIS — period,” he said. “In contrast to the way other people have approached it, we build everything instead of integrating off-the-shelf items. That allows us to enter the market at a lower price point. That has been a huge driver of our success,” he said.
“With the LSA, reputation and cost has a lot to do with our success,” he continued. “Also, we already had volume in the market so the LSA manufacturers were not dealing with a completely new company. Many people already knew us through their experiences in the homebuilt market.”