Why the Dynon EFIS D-10A STC is a Big Deal

You may have missed it, but Dynon, the EAA, and the FAA made a major announcement at Sun n Fun this year...an announcement that has the potential to make life significantly better for GA pilots everywhere:

The FAA has awarded an STC allowing aircraft owners to install the Dynon EFIS-D10A in certified aircraft. (Currently just the C-150/172, PA-28, and PA-38 for now with more to follow soon.) Dynon is one of many avionics manufacturers that have been making outstanding systems for many years. They rule the experimental aircraft market and have a great record of safety and reliability. Sadly, they've been off-limits to the certified aircraft market. It's frustrating as an aircraft owner...it's cost-prohibitive to do significant avionics upgrades because the certified products just cost too much. Here's a comparison:

Garmin makes a flat-panel display suite called the G500, intended as a refit for older aircraft. I've flown with it and it's outstanding. Unfortunately, it lists at $15,995 on their website. That doesn't include installation or a lot of the associated hardware you'll need to mount it and make it run. That'd be a lot to ask for a '70s Cessna or Piper worth $35K.

On the other hand, Dynon has a suite called the Skyview. The system does everything the G500 does, but the equivalent display is listed at $5,735. For the price of the G500, you could get a dual-screen Skyview system with an integrated transponder, radio, and more.

What's the difference? The mountain of bureaucracy and regulation that the FAA currently requires companies to climb to get avionics certified makes the process so expensive that they have to charge a lot. Experimental aircraft aren't required to use avionics that have gone through that process. The idea is that the certification process "proves" that the expensive avionics are safer. (Naturally, companies like Garmin seem to be at least implying as much, as you'll note at the end of this article by Flying Mag.)

This announcement is such a big deal because the FAA has finally admitted that by having their EFIS-D10A flying thousands of hours in lots of different aircraft, Dynon has in effect "proven" that it's safe enough for certified aircraft. This saved Dynon thousands, if not millions, of dollars and opens up the D10A to the most popular certified aircraft.

While the D10A seems like a great instrument (I'm looking at getting one,) this is just the tip of the iceberg. This one case sets a precedent for the FAA to allow more systems from Dynon and others in certified aircraft. It'll make it affordable to upgrade the fleet of tens of thousands of GA aircraft to make them safer, more efficient, more capable, and more attractive to young people growing up in an age of smart phones and iPads. That is a big, big deal.

For the record, I have nothing against Garmin, Avidyne, Aspen, Bendix-King or other makers of certified equipment. I've flown with many of their products and they're great. I absolutely understand that they have to recoup the costs of FAA certification. It's the regulations, more than the manufacturers, pricing the average Joe out of General Aviation. I understand that they're at least raising concerns about non-certified equipment going into certified aircraft, but I think companies like Dynon have proven themselves. We're also heading in that direction anyway...we've been looking forward to a promised re-write of Part 23 for years. When that finally goes through, it'll have an effect on aircraft certification similar to what this STC is going to have for avionics. Thankfully, the FAA has finally admitted that we don't need the same level of certification for a C-172 as we require for a B-787. Let's hope this trend picks up quickly!