Educational

Ashland Municipal Airport
433 Dead Indian Memorial Road
Ashland, OR 97520
Office: (541) 488 1964
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Guide To Choosing Your Avionics Shop

You wouldn’t take your vehicle to the first auto mechanic in the book would you? You’d take some time, do some research and then make a decision. Well, the same should be true of finding an avionic shop. Finding an establishment that you can build a long term relationship with is beneficial to both parties. The shop gains a repeat customer and you gain someone who knows your aircraft inside and out, which in turn means potentially lower troubleshooting bills! Yes, it might take a little time and effort, but basing your decision on something more than the shop with the lowest price will save you plenty of headaches in the long term. Before you even start researching shops, you need to think about what it is you are looking for in a shop.

For example is it important that:

  • You get guidance on choosing the right equipment for your flying needs and budget requirements
  • The shop uses high quality products from reputable manufacturers
  • Work is completed on budget and on time
  • Your installation is well thought out
  • Your installation is warrantied and operates as it should
  • You get training and support on your new installation

The saying ‘you get what you pay for is very true’ and high quality work which encompasses the above points often comes at a price. Choosing a shop based purely on the lowest bid rather than the standard of service and quality of the finished product can be a mistake.

Once you’ve decided what qualities you are looking for how should you go about your search?

Ask Around

The easiest thing to do is to ask other pilots for their avionic shop recommendations. Other people to ask for recommendations include local flight instructors, the FBO and your mechanic. None of these are going to risk their reputations by recommending a poor quality shop. Do remember though that no shop is ever going to please all of the people all of the time. But, if the majority of people you speak to give glowing reviews, the shop is definitely one you should consider.

Go Visit!

Once you've got a few names contact the shops directly and arrange to visit them. I know first impressions count, but don't always judge a shop by its appearance. Large hangars with painted floors are impressive, but not every business can afford these things. The majority of shops have much more modest surroundings, but are still producing high quality work with great service. When you visit the premises try looking past the initial building appearances and ask yourself instead: were the staff friendly and knowledgeable? is the shop clean and well organized?, overall what was the feeling you got from the shop and its staff?. It’s also worth asking for customer references – a reputable shop with satisfied customers should be able to do this fairly easily.

Don’t forget to ask questions of the staff. Do they belong to any professional organizations? Have they done the type of work you require before? Are they authorized dealers for any manufacturers? What is their warranty policy? etc.

Ultimately you are looking for a shop you can feel comfortable and build a long term relationship with. Why is this important? Well, manufacturers are not always able to deal directly with their customers, referring them back to the dealer/avionic shop who sold the item. The avionic shop (acting as the interface between you the customer and the manufacturer) will therefore be the one providing you with the answers to any questions or technical problems you might have, so it’s important you are comfortable with them and that they will support their work and the products they install after the sale.

Most avionics shops have years of specialized training, experience, knowledge and resources. As a result, the right avionic shop should be able to properly assess your needs based on factors such as your currently installed avionics, your aircraft, the type of flying you do and how open you are to learning new equipment. As we have mentioned in our other article (A Buyers Guide For New Avionics), they should be able to foresee any conflicts between your new equipment choice and your existing equipment and offer you solutions – at least, this is the approach we like to take. Beware the shop that is too busy, unwilling, or unable to give you the product assistance you need before you make the purchase – ask yourself, if this is the service level now, what will it be like after the sale is completed?

Hopefully, after all this effort you have found the shop you feel most comfortable with, and will be on your way to a long term relationship!.

Our philosophy at JLC Avionics is that we want to develop relationships with our customers that will continue for years to come. We’ll give you an honest assessment of the work you need done, with the options available to you, and the prices involved. We don't provide low-ball quotes only to vastly inflate the final invoice with lots of additional extra charges - nor do we hard sell you into equipment you don’t need. We don’t see any of these things as a successful business model in customer building, so with us the quote you get is the price you will pay. If something unexpected is found we work with our clients to find the best solution that meets both parties needs, and if the job takes less time than we estimated, you’ll pay a lower price! We feel that our company provides high quality services and produces a product we will stand behind for years to come.

If we can be of any assistance please contact us at our main office number (541) 488-1964.

A Buyers Guide For New Avionics

Generally, the only source of new avionics is from an authorized dealer, and unless you have an experimental aircraft it’s also the dealer who has to install the equipment. Obviously panel mount products also need installation, which will involve a closer working relationship with the shop you choose - and that is why it’s important not only to find the right product, but also the right avionics shop – one that you are comfortable working with as well as one that is reputable.

Reputable Manufacturers

Whatever type of equipment you are considering, invest in equipment from reputable manufacturers. You’ll get a better unit in terms of performance and quality, and you’ll find that the resale value is higher. Factory support and parts availability are also assured when you use reputable manufacturers. Manufacturers that spread themselves thin by trying to supply all things to all customers are often unlikely to do anything well, so our advice is to choose products from a manufacturer that specializes in avionics.

Choose Your Shop & Make Use Of Their Knowledge

As with manufacturers, we would suggest choosing a company that specializes in avionics. Most avionics shops have thousands of hours of specialized training, experience, knowledge and resources. As a result, the right avionic shop should be able to properly assess your needs based on factors such as your currently installed avionics, your aircraft, the type of flying you do, how open you are to learning new equipment technologies and other factors. As we have mentioned in our other article (Guide To Choosing Your Avionic Shop), they should be able to pinpoint any conflicts between your new equipment choice and your existing hardware and offer you solutions – at least, this is the approach we like to take. Beware the dealer who is too busy, unwilling, or unable to give you the product assistance you need before you make the purchase – ask yourself if this is the service level now, what will it be like after the sale is completed?

A Word About Warranties

Don’t forget to ask about the warranty. Most equipment (whether used or new) comes with a warranty, but it is worth finding out about the shops position on the installation itself. It’s not uncommon for installation warranties to vary widely from lifetime of ownership to only a few months.

A Note On Quotes

For as many shops as there are, there are as many styles in quoting! It’s the total cost you are obviously interested in, but make sure that every shop is quoting on the same installation. Shop quotes will vary slightly on equipment costs, but they should generally be very similar. Installation costs can vary however, and this is usually where you will see a difference due to the estimation of each shops’ installation time, and the installation supplies required.

For example:

  • Shop A: Equipment $15,000 Installation $3,500
  • Shop B: Equipment $15,000 Installation $4,350

I’ll choose Shop A you say. But what if I told you Shop B was building you new wiring harnesses rather than utilizing the old wires in your aircraft, removing all the obsolete wiring (saving you space and weight behind the panel), using new cables and connectors, cleaning and reseating your old antenna, supplying you with wiring diagrams of the installation, and guaranteed to get the job done within the specified timeframe. Now which looks like the better deal? These are specifics the shop may not detail in the quote, so it pays to ask.

Our philosophy at JLC Avionics is that we want to develop relationships with our customers that will continue for years to come. We’ll give you an honest assessment of the work you need done, with the options available to you, and the prices involved. We’ve heard many tales of shops that gain business by providing low-ball quotes only to vastly inflate the final invoice with lots of additional extra charges - we don’t do that. Nor do we hard sell you into equipment you don’t need. We don’t see any of these things as a successful business model in customer building, so with us the quote you get is the price you will pay. If something unexpected is found we work with our clients to find the best solution that meets both parties needs, and if the job takes less time than we estimated, you’ll pay a lower price! We feel that our company provides high quality services and produces a product we will stand behind for years to come.

If we can be of any assistance please contact us at our main office number (541) 488-1964.

Buying An Aircraft? Don't Forget To Consider The Avionics

You’ve found your perfect aircraft, right price, right condition, now what’s your next step? Our suggestion - take the time to really look closely at the avionics. Obviously what’s installed in your potential new aircrafts panel can play a big part in the price being asked, and for that reason it really is worth making sure your pre-purchase inspection also includes a trip to an avionics shop.

Presumably you’ve already tried all the avionics yourself and as far as you can tell all appears to be working correctly, but it’s advisable to look a little closer and get the advice of an expert just to be sure. Why you might ask? Well, firstly an avionics professional has the proper equipment to be able to test your equipment, and this can tell you if your instrumentation is a few degrees off, is out of tolerances or requires updating. They can also tell you if your equipment is the subject of manufacturer AD, service bulletin or software update. All of this attention before you purchase the aircraft could save you a large repair bill in the near future.

An avionics shop can also advise if the installed equipment is obsolete and/or how easy repairs will be to facilitate based on availability of replacement parts.

Most aircraft avionic inspections should take about 2 - 3 hours and will include a written report on each unit and the aircraft avionic systems as a whole. Costs are usually a few hundred dollars, but that’s money well spent as it could end up saving you thousands.

Questions To Ask Yourself

  • Is this equipment working correctly?
  • Is this equipment appropriate for the type of flying I intend to do e.g if you want to become IFR trained does the aircraft have 2 radio’s and 2 navigators? What about a Marker Beacon receiver?
  • Does this aircraft, with this avionics suite, meet both my requirements as a pilot and the aircrafts capabilities?

For more information on our avionics pre-purchase inspections please contact us at our main office number (541) 488-1964.

A Buyers Guide To Pre-owned Avionics

If you had a choice of buying a piece of new equipment from your local avionics shop or used on EBay for $5,000 less which would you choose? Buying a used piece of equipment for your aircraft from an unknown source may seem like a good idea and many clients often contemplate the idea, but there are pitfalls to be aware of.

To clarify, we are not talking about the used equipment that we as an avionic shop can supply - we have access to used equipment that comes from reputable sources (such as other shops) with the necessary documentation. Rather, we are talking about that bargain you found on-line, on the FBO’s noticeboard, or something another pilot wants to sell you that "works just fine”.

Get As Much Information As Possible

Firstly, make sure you find out as much as you can about the units past before you make a decision to buy. Questions you should attempt to answer are:

  • Why is this unit being sold?
  • What’s the serial number? – from this you can ascertain the age of the unit and if it has been reported stolen.
  • Get as much additional information as possible e.g. if the unit has been overhauled get a copy of the tear down report, get pictures of the unit etc.
  • Ask about warranties
  • What’s the Mod and software status? Find out what mods and software updates are available and which have been done.
  • What extras come with it? Ask if the manuals, connectors, trays etc are included.

Paperwork? What Paperwork!

Find out what documentation comes with the equipment you are considering and how the used equipment is classified. Is it ‘overhauled’, is it ‘serviceable’ or is it ‘as-removed’.

  • If it is ‘overhauled’, it will have an FAA 8130 form with it. This will specify the latest work done on the unit, including repairs and updates. The unit will have been tested to the manufacturer’s original specification, thereby verifying the units’ serviceability. Testing will have been carried out by an authorized repair facility.
  • As a ‘serviceable’ unit, it should have a maintenance release (sometimes called a ‘yellow tag’). This means the unit was tested either before removal from a panel or on the bench and was found to be working properly.
  • ‘As-removed’ units are exactly as described. There will have been no testing or operational checks performed on the unit, and it is unlikely to come with any warranties.

Don’t Forget To Consider The Dates

Pay attention to your warranty information - warranties often start from date of sale or repair, not the date you install it. Similarly, look at the actual date an overhaul was performed. An overhauled unit that has been on the shelf for 10 years is not the same equipment as an overhauled unit from a month ago. Parts can deteriorate if they remain in an unused state and this is especially true of gyro units.

Can Your Instruments Talk?

Another thing people often forget when they get caught up in the excitement of getting a bargain, is whether the equipment they have bought will actually talk to the existing equipment they already have installed. Don’t forget to make sure that everything can communicate with everything else!

Economics Do Make Sense!

We had a customer who came in with an ARC transponder they had purchased on-line which they assured us was in “perfect working order”. The unit was 40 years old, missing the rack and connectors and upon testing we discovered that the signals were out of tolerance. The unit needed repair and additional parts, and as you can see from the costs below this was not such a bargain when you consider that for $1,750 the customer could have had a piece of modern technology in the form of a brand new transponder with full warranty.

    $650 - 40 year old ARC transponder, bought online, missing connectors and rack, and found to be out of tolerances. No warranty

    $600 - Repair costs to correct out of tolerance signals

    $350 - Purchase of rack and connectors (which included 18 very expensive pins)

    $1,600 - Total costs for unit to be repaired and in an installable condition

    Compared To...

    $1,750 - Brand new transponder with full 2 year warranty

Age Does Matter

Here’s another example for you to ponder...

The Narco unit you are considering is over 20 years old; that means it’s got 20 year old technology. On equipment of this age it is often getting harder to find replacement parts as the supplies are not available from the manufacturer, existing stocks are becoming depleted, and as such are getting harder to find, and the likelihood is that pretty soon it will fail just due to it’s age. Even if repairs are possible, no one will warranty the unit for more than a month or so - in another few months you could find yourself in the same position you are right now – looking for another unit. A new Comm unit would have modern technology, comes with a 2 year warranty and is likely to serve you without problems for the next 10 –15 years. So how does this look monetarily?


    KING KY197 COMM
  • Cost: $1,295
  • Repair Cost: $300+
  • Warranty: < 90 day
  • Life Span: < 5 years
  • Technical Age: 25 years
    GARMIN SL40 COMM
  • Cost: $1,750
  • Repair Cost: $450
  • Warranty: 2 years
  • Life Span: 15+ years
  • Technical Age: Current


The sad truth is that if it’s too good to be true, it unfortunately probably is! If the price is too low be additionally cautious as the unit could be: missing parts, accessories, racks, connectors or cables etc; inoperable or requiring repair; or worse still – stolen. This is not to say that you can’t find bargains in used equipment and buying used parts through an avionics shop can save you many a headache. If you are going to do it on your own just remember, you can never ask too many questions or get too much information.

For more information on our current list of pre-owned avionics for sale please contact us at our main office number (541) 488-1964.

Troubleshooting Guide

Print out and keep a copy of this guide in your aircraft. It will help in the troubleshooting of problems and assist your avionics shop in the diagnositic process after more common issues have been ruled out.


Avionics Definitions

Cambridge Dictionaries defines avionics as “the science and technology of the electronic devices used in aeronautics and astronautics.”

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines avionics as “electronics designed for use in aerospace vehicles.”

The FAA publication FAA-P-8740-18 defines avionics as “a term used to describe electronics equipment in aircraft. It includes radios, instruments, and flight control equipment (i.e., autopilots) and all of the components required to make up each individual system.”

Avionics include electronic devices, such as radios, instruments and integrated systems, as well as mechanical systems used to show visually or aurally the attitude, altitude or operation of an aircraft or aircraft part.

The term avionics is a portmanteau of the words aviation and electronics.


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