What Would You Recommend to Upgrade a Basic IFR Aircraft?

I hope to start in earnest on my instrument rating soon, and I will be flying a very basic IFR Cherokee 180C: VOR, glideslope, dual KX-175B radios, heated pitot tube, inoperative ADF. I also have an AnywhereMap Quadra portable GPS. If you were inclined to upgrade this package, where would you spend your dollars first in order to get the biggest bang for the buck? Some ideas:

1. DME.
2. Better digital radios.
3. Sporty's handheld radio with glideslope.
4. Vacuum warning.
5. Garmin 430W.
6. Backup vacuum.
7. Electric attitude indicator.
8. ADF repair.
9. Autopilot.
10. Other.


  • mini_MLB-3-21-10.JPG

    Get a 430. I have a 530 WAAS and it is wonderful. You will get a good portion of any investment in a 430/530 back if you sell... not true of most other stuff at this time.

    Ditch the ADF. Put in an autopilot if you intend to do any real IMC flying. I have an electric Castleberry AI for back up if my vacuum goes down. Can't buy life...
  • Some of the items on your list duplicate function. The 430WAAS should handle most everything on your list. How good are your "LOC/GS" receivers, do they need upgrading or replacing? An AP is good for X-country especially if it can be coupled to your equipment and this should be a consideration. (Everything needs to play nice together). XM or other satellite based weather is also a nice have.
  • 530W & coupled A/P (GPSS not required). If you don't have an MX-500 or similar, the larger display of the 530 is worth the extra $$ and panel space. XM WX a big plus, either in a Garmin 496 or right into the 530.
  • Thanks for the feedback, folks. A Garmin 430W or a 530W coupled with an autopilot are definitely on my wish list, and I sort of anticipated that would be the most popular recommendation. So many of the non-GPS approaches in my region require either DME or ADF coupled with VOR or glideslope, so my basic VOR-glideslope configuration doesn't seem all that useful -- unless I'm mssing something. My CFI strongly recommends dual glideslopes (for backup purposes), but maybe I'll spring for the Sporty's handheld instead because that would also provide a backup for radio or electrical failure. Electric AI and XM WX are tempting for immediate purchase as well.

    For those of you who have Garmin 430s or 530s: how confident are you that the technology will be supported L...O...N...G term? If I'm going to shell out that kind of money, I need to know that I'll still be using the equipment years down the road. Is there any real competition out there, and, if so, will it bring prices down at all?
  • I think the GPS is here to stay... as the FED talks of replacing the VORs and airways with GPS moving forward.
  • Agree that GPS is certainly here to stay. I was wondering more specifically about the 430 and 530 models. What do Garmin and its competitors have up their collective sleeves in terms of newer and, perhaps, cheaper models, and how long will they support the "legacy" models when the new stuff comes out?
  • If you're talking "How long before they turn off GPS like they turned off LORAN?" I agree wholeheartedly with Don--GPS won't be going the way of the dodo for a long, long time.

    If you're talking "How long will Garmin continue to sell and support the 400/500 line of panel GPS units?" the answer is less clear. The venerable 430 was introduced in 1997...that's about a million years ago in terms of consumer electronics, but of course advances in the GA world come glacially slowly. Considering the extensive installed base of 400/500-series GPS units, I would expect Garmin will continue to support them for quite some time to come, but that doesn't mean there won't be a box coming out next year that makes the 430 look like...well, a 15-year-old piece of electronics (i.e., a dinosaur).

    For what it's worth (probably not much!), it seems to me that ADS-B is "the next big thing" that might drive a new generation of avionics to market. I'm no ADS-B expert, but if my limited understanding is correct, the WAAS-enabled 430W is capable of providing ADS-B-compliant position info to an ADS-B transponder. If that's correct, then I think if you got a 430W today, it would not become obsolete when ADS-B requirements became mandatory.
  • Thanks, j. My concern was the second issue: how long will Garmin support the 430. I knew it was getting long in the tooth, but I had no idea it was introduced in 1997. That's kind of what scares me. If I should happen to fall into a pile of cash today, would I want to spend north of $10,000 for purchase and installation of something that is that old in its lifecycle? It's all academic for now, though, since I'm not in a position to buy.
  • I hear you, and it's a worthy concern. I was hoping someone else might pipe up with a more authoritative story, but in the absence of that, here's my summary: From strictly a GPS perspective, I don't think the 430W will go "obsolete" any time soon. In my opinion the device shows its age in only two significant ways: One is the dated looking display--if the model were released today, I'd expect to see a high-res screen akin to today's smartphones. The other is (possibly) its user interface. I find the device to be non-intuitive; I'm forever getting confused about when I should push the right dial button vs. Enter, have trouble navigating through screens, etc. I think this interface is similar to other Garmin products, though, so I think it's probably me that needs to improve!

    Functionally, I think the 430W has the chops to carry it along indefinitely. Devices are WAAS-capable or they aren't...the 430W is. Devices can send/receive data over standard interfaces to other high-tech devices in the cockpit, or they can't...the 430W supports the important standard avionics interfaces. Garmin has demonstrated support for the product via hardware (WAAS) and software (multiple versions) upgrades over the years, and there's a large base of installed units in the field, so there's reason to be optimistic that they'll continue to support it for some time to come.

    Newer boxes may (or may not!) appear on the market that are prettier, easier to use, or have niftier features. But that won't make the 430W any less useful. I don't think it'll go obsolete like your LORAN box in the foreseeable future.
Sign In or Register to comment.