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  #1  
Old 12-05-2019, 01:12 AM
RhinoDrvr RhinoDrvr is offline
 
Join Date: Jun 2014
Location: Lemoore (Fresno), CA
Posts: 174
Talking EXP Aircraft Services Panel Upgrade Experience ***VERY POSITIVE***

As I’ve posted earlier on the forum, I am the happy owner of N88MJ, Michael Robbin’s RV-8 built in 2002. I bought the airplane from Mike in 2017, and have been flying it for 2 years all over the Western US, and to Oshkosh twice. It’s been a terrific airplane, and dispatch reliability had been excellent.

With the upcoming 2020 ADS-B mandate, I wanted to bring the airplane into the 21st century with a glass panel, and see how much weight we could scrape off her somewhat portly 1177lb empty weight. I did countless hours of research during my two trips to Oshkosh, and settled on a Garmin G3X touch system for the airplane.

Once I had chosen a system, I had to choose someone to do the install. I had originally planned to do the install myself, but as I began to research the cost of the components, I realized that one mistake could cost thousands of dollars. Unwilling to take that chance, I decided to go with a professional install. I have had friends take their airplanes in for avionics work and come out with horror stories, so I was somewhat cautious moving forward. In doing some research around VAF, I discovered that Walt Aronow of EXP Aircraft Services at 52F in Fort Worth, TX was a Garmin dealer. I already used Walt’s condition inspection checklist for my last condition inspections, and was impressed with some of his knowledgeable posts on VAF, so I reached out, and we set a date for the install in late summer. I sent payment to get the avionics boxes ordered from Garmin, and started watching YouTube videos about how to use a G3X.

I scheduled the drop-off to coincide with the end of my trip to Oshkosh this year. Oshkosh was spectacular (as it was the year before), and the airplane performed great except for a starter solenoid that would render the airplane unable to start when it was hot. This was the third SkyTec I’d had on the airplane that exhibited this behavior, but it only became a factor once on the entire trip.

Following the trip from Ridgecrest, CA to Oshkosh, my fiancé & I took the airplane to Michigan to visit family, then down to Walt’s place in Fort Worth. I had built in an extra day to accommodate any unforeseen weather or maintenance issues, but neither occurred, and I ended up landing at 52F a day before I was supposed to bring the airplane to Walt’s shop. I didn’t communicate my earlier arrival time with Walt ahead of time, so I landed at an empty 52F.

I gave Walt a call and asked if I could drop the airplane off a day early. He dropped what he was doing and arrived at the airport in 15 minutes, gave the persnickety SkyTec a whack with a wrench so the airplane would start for the taxi, and told me to follow him to his hangar. Once there, we took a look around the airplane, and discussed the upgrade plan in detail. My mission statement for Walt was simple;

1. 100% dispatch reliability
2. Weight Savings
3. Simplicity
4. G3X install / ADS-B
5. Day / Night VFR with the occasional light IFR through a marine layer etc.

This would require a complete rewire of the airplane, panel upgrade, LED lights, and some other things I had planned to bring the airplane up to 2020 standards. Walt had some good suggestions for how to accomplish my goals. His personal RV-7A sits in the corner of his shop, and is gorgeous. A beautiful airplane inside and out. This, and his extensive experience working for a major airline’s maintenance operation gave me quite a bit of confidence that I’d chosen the correct shop. After we discussed the work to be done Walt invited my fiancée and I to dinner the local BBQ joint (great food!) and then gave us a ride to the hotel.

Over the next 2 and a half months, Walt and I discussed different panel layouts, and electrical switch positions. Walt patiently explained to a non-builder why certain layouts would interfere with aircraft structural components, and we went back and forth until we decided on a layout that I liked, that would also not require any modifications to Van’s structure.

I had told Walt that I didn’t have a timeline to get the airplane back, and to take as much time as he needed to do all the required work right. Total time from dropoff to pickup was 3 months, and the airplane I arrived to was a work of art. The wiring bundles behind the panel are a thing of beauty. I almost wish the panel was transparent so you could see the work behind it.

The final result was a complete upgrade of the cockpit, LED lights, completely rewired electrical system, removal of the second aircraft battery, fresh condition inspection, prop balance, engine driven fuel pump replacement, starter & alternator replacement, forward stick replacement (the aircraft had an articulating stick that increased stick forces dramatically and made the aircraft fairly difficult to land), and replacement of all engine hoses with Teflon steel braid hoses from TS Flightlines.

Danny King was kind enough to come over and complete a quick test flight on the airplane (I was flying in from the west coast and wanted to ensure the airplane was set prior to traveling out). After a good Functional Check Flight, I loaded up the old avionics and new paperwork, and headed west.

The airplane is 40lbs lighter than it was when I dropped it off at Walt’s shop. Removal of the old gyros, second battery, strobe power supplies (3), and STEC autopilot servos I believe made up most of the weight loss. It flies like a dream, and is much easier to land now with the standard Van’s stick installed. I couldn’t be happier with the work Walt did, and in addition to being a world-class avionics technician, he is a true gentleman. Every minute I was in Fort Worth, Walt was very welcoming, and all my questions via phone call, email and text were answered in an extraordinarily timely manner. I couldn’t be happier with the entire experience, and would highly recommend EXP Aircraft Services for any panel upgrade to a Vans RV.

Thanks, Walt!!

Also, a thread like this is worthless without pictures, so:

Before:


After:
__________________
Evan Levesque
RV-8 N88MJ (Built by Michael Robbins)
Lemoore, CA

Last edited by RhinoDrvr : 12-05-2019 at 01:14 AM.
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  #2  
Old 12-05-2019, 06:27 AM
Walt's Avatar
Walt Walt is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Dallas/Ft Worth, TX
Posts: 6,340
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Thanks for the review and kind words Evan, what great folks I get to meet in this hobby, and like to think of all my customers as friends not just customers!

I'd also like to add that although I like to think I'm 'perfect', after a big job like this a loose connector on the G5 caused a few issues on the CAN bus on Evans trip home. Evan was super professional dealing with the issue and the problem was quickly resolved over the phone when he got home with some basic troubleshooting. Evan is an F18 driver and that professional pilot stuff was evident in his handling of the problem.

Here's another pic of the panel with it all lit up just before it left.

__________________
Walt Aronow, DFW, TX (52F)

EXP Aircraft Services LLC
Specializing in RV Condition Inspections, Maintenance, Avionics Upgrades
Dynamic Prop Balancing, Pitot-Static Altmeter/Transponder Certification
FAA Certified Repair Station, AP/IA/FCC GROL, EAA Technical Counselor
Authorized Garmin G3X Dealer/Installer
RV7A built 2004, 2000+ hrs, New Titan IO-370, Bendix Mags
Website: ExpAircraft.com, Email: walt@expaircraft.com, Cell: 972-746-5154

Last edited by Walt : 12-05-2019 at 12:28 PM.
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  #3  
Old 12-05-2019, 07:57 AM
TS Flightlines TS Flightlines is offline
 
Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Ridgeland, SC
Posts: 2,928
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Awesome job Walt! Evan---you chose a great guy to do your upgrade.
Tom
__________________
Tom Swearengen, TS Flightlines LLC, AS Flightlines
Joint Venture with Aircraft Specialty
Teflon Hose Assemblies for Experimentals
Proud Vendor for RV1, Donator to VAF
RV7A Tail Kit Completed, Fuse started-Pay as I go Plan, on hold while we develop new products for RV builders
Ridgeland, SC
www.tsflightlines.com, www.asflightlines.com
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  #4  
Old 12-08-2019, 01:16 PM
flyinhood flyinhood is offline
 
Join Date: Aug 2015
Location: 52F
Posts: 214
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I have only been in the RV life for 2 years and more and more I'm reminded that not only are the Vans airplanes great but even more are all the great people.

I was able to stop by Walt's shop on several occasions during your build to visit and ask questions. You had a wonderful airplane than but now even more so.

How lucky we all are with great airplanes and great people to give us great life experiences.
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46 Luscombe 8a Rag Wing, Armstrong starter

RV-6, IO-320, Catto, G3X Panel (Thanks Walt!)
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