Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Bringing Whiskey 7 into the 21st century

When the NWM first started exploring the possibility of taking Whiskey 7 back to Europe, one of the first issues that needed to be tackled was her aging radio and navigation equipment ("avionics"). While the equipment had been upgraded in the 1990s and worked well for our operations in the US, advances in technology meant that W7 was well behind the times. More critically for our Return to Normandy, European airspace requires a newer kind of transponder, a device that identifies an aircraft to air traffic control radar, as well as communications radios that can tune more frequencies.

W7's cockpit in 2012

The new Garmin equipment ready to be installed
We approached Garmin at EAA Airventure Oshkosh in July and they generously helped us to acquire new GTN650 navigators, a GTX-33ES transponder, and GMA-340 audio panel. The GTN's combine GPS, radio navigation, and communication in a single box, controlled through a touch-screen interface. The new transponder will keep W7 in compliance with current European regulations as well as new FAA requirements scheduled to go into effect in 2020. The new equipment will also allow W7 to take advantage of GPS-based instrument approaches, allowing the flight crew more flexibility when landing at smaller airports in poor visibility. Having two independent GPS systems installed in the aircraft as well as a mobile Garmin Aera 796 will provide redundancy in case of a problem during the trip.

W7 with her new Garmin avionics
We were also introduced to Fred Katterman, owner of Islip Avionics, at Oshkosh. Fred generously agreed to donate his services to install the new equipment. Installing new electronics in a 70-year old aircraft is no small feat, but Fred and his team were able to get the job done in less than a month and a half. In addition to installing the new avionics, Islip installed a power jack, external GPS antenna, and an external communications antenna for handheld units and put in a new door curtain (made by Global Aircraft Interiors) to help keep the cockpit warm during the cold trip across the North Atlantic. Fred's son Rick was kind enough to fly back to Geneseo with the aircraft to flight check the new equipment and train pilots Chris Polhemus and Naomi Wadsworth on their use. Both pilots were amazed at the capabilities and features of the GTN650's. We truly cannot say enough nice things or thank Fred and his team enough for the work they did on W7.

Rick Katterman of Islip Avionics showing pilots Naomi Wadsworth and Chris
Polhemus the ins and outs of the GTN650s

 We would also like to thank Sandia Aerospace for their donation of our new altitude encoder and Jeppesen for providing database updates and aeronautical charts for the trip.

Fred Katterman and his amazing team from Islip Avionics