About 5 years ago, right after purchasing the A36, I retrofitted the original panel with a Garmin 430 GPS navigator and coupled it to an Avidyne EX500 Multifunction Display. I also installed an XM weather unit that displays precip and lightning on the EX500. The original factory panel had a dated, yet functional, King KLN 94 GPS unit, and an RNAV box.
The panel-mount EX500 presents navigation, radar, datalink weather, lightning, traffic, and terrain data in an easy-to-interpret format, dramatically improving situational awareness. In addition to graphically depicting instrument approach overlays from the Garmin box, the unit shows real-time TFRs and all airspace, as shown on a paper chart. Additionally, it shows current text weather and METARs for the nearest airports, or those along your flight-planned route. This feature has eliminated a lot of in-flight calls to FSS for updated weather at the destination. Small colored icons, shaped like little flags, indicate at a glance if the weather at that reporting station is VFR, IFR or marginal VFR.
The display unit is 5.5” Diagonal with 616×350 pixels, and shows 65,535 colors, so it is very crisp and readable even in sunlight conditions. While not flight critical, I have come to rely on the EX500 as an important piece of avionics for flying IFR.
On one of my trips to Arizona and Utah in the A36, this photo was taken east of New Orleans at 8,000 feet. I was headed westbound towards area surrounded by thunderstorms.
Now for the bad news. The EX500 performed flawlessly for about 4 years. Then, a year ago the knob that controls the ranging function stopped working, leaving me unable to zoom in or out on the moving map. Fortunately I had purchased an extended warranty for the unit through Avidyne. (Normally I am not a buyer of extended warranties because most technology is throw-away these days.) My local radio shop, Central Florida Avionics, sent the box back to Avidyne for a reconditioned replacement.
Then, a few weeks ago, when I powered up the EX500 for a local flight, the display screen looked like it was on a bad acid trip, with lots of swirling colors. If you have ever seen a Peter Max painting, you will know what I am talking about. Then the display went completely blank.
After a quick two-day turn-time, Avidyne supplied another reconditioned unit. This one worked all of 5 minutes before that display went “tango uniform” as well.
The new unit was diagnosed with a corrupted software file, and a third unit was installed. After several flights locally and to south Florida, I can report that all is well.
Avidyne and Central Florida Avionics have been great to work with. Kris at CFA has been most responsive, and I would recommend them for installation and service.
Hopefully this EX500 is a keeper.