Flying the Avidyne R9

I just did my conversion to the new Avidyne R9 avionics on the Cirrus I fly regularly at Denham (EGLD). I trained with the excellent John Page from TAA.

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John Page at RGV, Gloucershire

The system is a big improvement on the regular Avidyne system that I normally use; like going from Windows XP to Windows 7. It’s not quite as good as the Garmin Perspective system that I flew in January with Max Trescott in San Francisco. I suspect that the Garmin system benefits from a few years’ headstart and that the R9 will continue to improve with future releases. I hope so because it’s already very nice.

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Avidyne R9 in N147LD

Things I like about the R9:

  • Keypad and Geofill makes it easier to enter flight plans.
  • Feels very intuitive; it feels like it was designed by pilots. The press-rocker switches are especially elegant.
  • Good response rate and higher resolution – this is important and will make accurate instrument flying easier with a glass screen.
  • Vectors mode in GPS is a smart idea especially when you use it intercept mode so you can fly headings into your flight plan segments and have the autopilot automatically transition from one to the other
  • Duplication and redundancy
  • You can split the screens in lots of different and flexible ways.

There are some defects which may be fixed in future releases:

  • Autopilot integration with the S/Tec isn’t as good as with the promised integrated digital autopilot
  • It’s great when everything is GPS but it slightly fails with radio navigation – DMEs and VORs. For example, it doesn’t autodetect every VOR or ILS because the ident transmissions are slightly different in Europe than the US, which means that it can throw up an error message at the last minute rather than auto-sequencing from the enroute GPS navigation onto an ILS.
  • Geofill isn’t so good if you have duplicate waypoint idents. For example, BNN is a VOR near Denham but there’s another one in Norway or something. This confuses the system even though it should be ‘obvious’ which one I’m going to.
  • The go-around from a missed instrument approach is hideous. Not like the one-button TOGA button on the Perspective Cirrus. Here’s the sequence you have to follow at 200’ if you want the autopilot to fly the missed approach: press VS on the autopilot, dial up 800 FPM on the climb bug, throttle up, disarm the approach on the PFD, change the nav input on the PFD from the ILS to FMS, go back to the autopilot and press NAV twice to re-engage GPS steering. Ouch.
  • I got caught out by the intercept mode on the vectors mode. After going missed, I forgot to disarm it and it takes quite a few key strokes to delete the approach from the flight plan, so the plane decided to go off and try to reintercept the approach. If I had been in IMC and not quite on the ball, the plane would have flown right back over the airport or something. Ouch. I think the default for vectors mode should be not to intecept – I’d rather be asking myself ‘what do I do next’ than asking the plane ‘what the hell are you doing?’
  • I wish we had satellite weather in the UK. One of the planes I fly has a satphone in it that downloads weather and I would say that it is a huge safety benefit.

After a long day of flying, we did some night circuits for currency and to get on the night list at Denham. A friend of mine used to be a US Navy pilot and he said that landing on a carrier at night was the scariest thing he ever did. Denham’s a bit like that, but at least the runway isn’t moving. But all you see is runway lights in a black hole. But flying at night on a clear evening is one of the great joys of flying – still, smooth, different and familiar at the same time.

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One Response to Flying the Avidyne R9

  1. Uwe Nitsche February 10, 2012 at 19:49 #

    The Auto-Ident now works flawless since the last software upgrade.

    Its adjusted to all the European permutations.

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