Awesome Panel Makeovers - A point of view.

edited February 21 in Member Restorations

In reviewing some of the awesome panel makeovers on Piper Owners and reading several new avionics ads deprecating “steam gauges” and “failure prone” vacuum systems, I think something needs to be said for the benefit of new pilots or new aircraft owners.

Let me begin by saying these thoughts are not meant in any way to detract from the awesome upgrades and makeovers that can be found in this forum. Each was carefully planned, executed, and paid for, to satisfy each owners personal goals.

But new pilots, and especially new aircraft owners and those balancing the costs of ownership with other family expenses, and who see these makeovers and read the rhetoric regarding legacy equipment, may feel that the aircraft they were finally able to afford is too old, unsafe, and inadequately equipped.

I offer the following perspective as a GA pilot for nearly 50 years:

Since the day the aircraft rolled off the assembly line, in whatever year it was built, and with whatever instrumentation it had, it flew just fine from point A to B, both IFR and VFR in the hands of capable pilots who experienced no less joy in the view out the window or flying adventures to be had. My point is, yes, there is a time to move on with technology, especially in today’s space based navigation environment, but there is a VERY substantial cost to doing so.

Be aware of the fact that thousands of aircraft, with basic vacuum instruments, whisky compass, with first or second generation navcom radios have been used safely FOR DECADES on missions much more critical than the now $200 hamburger. For those that have elected to invest heavily in both the convenience and perhaps necessity of advanced avionics, the truth is that the aircraft takes off, cruises, and lands exactly the same way it did before the expense. Your view out the window is exactly the same.

To new pilots and new aircraft owners; consider the benefits of channeling financial flying resources into the annual inspection, good insurance, timely oil changes, keeping up with and repairing safety issues, fending off corrosion, purchasing more fuel to fly more places, to fly more often, or perhaps to earning another rating.

These impressive makeovers are just that. Impressive applications of modern technology. But you can have awesome, memorable, and educational flights just as thousands of pilots before us had, with original instrumentation provided it is all operational. In many cases, even having the original instrumentation repaired will give many years of good memorable flying experiences for the dollar, while you contemplate later improvements.




  • This may be the best post of the year.

    New pilots and/or owners take note; MikeJJ's advice is sage, relevant, and spot on.

    Jim "Griff" Griffin
    PA28 - 161
    Chicago area

  • Mike, good post. I would also add that good instruction is almost always going to be a better investment vs avionics. If you do purchase a significant panel upgrade take the time to learn it well in the hanger and with an instructor or co-pilot in flight. I have seen pilots focus 100% on the plane panel. Fine if you are IMC on an IFR plan but not VFR....

    Eric Panning
    1981 Seneca III
    Hillsboro, OR (KHIO)

  • Excellent add-on Eric.

    As a student pilot, I had a great instructor who taught me old school to stop staring at the instruments and learn to fly the plane by looking out the windshield. He'd slap an inop sticker over the instruments one at a time until I put my eyes outside the cockpit.

    RIP Pete.

    Jim "Griff" Griffin
    PA28 - 161
    Chicago area

  • If this isn't the best post of the year, it's definitely in the top five. You remind me that our equipment and skill as pilots provide us some degree of performance and safety, and we can spend our $ upgrading our performance (flight training is a great example) or we can spend it on other things. And it's not just as pilots and aircraft owners we make these decisions.

    Last night my neighbors invited us over to see their newly-remodeled kitchen. When we were there a year ago I remember their garbage disposal didn't grind, and worse it leaked so that when you ran water the underside of the sink cabinet flooded. Well, gone are the old cabinets and Kitchenaid appliances, replaced with Viking, Thermador and new custom cabinets. But you know what? They kept the old garbage disposal, and it still leaks! And I'm still shaking my head....


  • Too funny. :)

    Scott Sherer
    Wright Brothers Master Pilot, FAA Commercial Pilot
    Aviation Director, Piper Owner Society Forum Moderator and Pipers Author.

    Need help? Let me know!

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