N833DF has been updated: I’ve recently updated my comms and cleared up ALL of my squawks in the panel. The engines are running great and I have an awesome machine. I’ve done 5 or so flights since the IFD550 was installed to replace the Garmin 530WAAS/FlightStream 210 combination, and I’m still trying things out.

I’ve learned enough that my personal minimums are back to that – minimums.

Advice: If you want to get up to speed quickly on the basics of your new IFD540/550, I suggest you start by watching Martin Pauly videos on YouTube (link below). This guy puts the time in and produces quality videos that are easy to watch and listen to. After you’ve seen what quality video editing looks like and begin to understand what the IFD550 unit is capable of, you can then search for AirDorrin and watch my own videos as I implement his suggestions. You’ll see that the devil is in the details. you can learn from my mistakes, and send suggestions.

I began my journey in learning this new equipment by reading the pilot guide, and then loading the IFD100 and IFD540/550 Trainer on my iPad. I had done all that before my radio installation was complete. While I flew the trainer and read the book, I also surfed YouTube and found Martin Pauly’s video, 12 Favorite Things [that he likes about the Avidyne units]. This stood out as a great starting point after the very basic stuff was mastered.

This blog will be a discussion of what I learned trying to implement Martin’s top 12 things he liked about the unit. I agree with him on most of it, but found effective testing while flying an approach in a light twin to be challenging at best. Be careful and take someone with you to be eyes up if you can.

In my opinion, the radio is not necessarily intuitive to the Garmin crowd. The steps in each process are not vastly different than other FMS systems or the old Garmin units I have used. They are different enough, however, to cost you precious button pushing and head scratching time in the middle of critical flight processes. In other words, flying a light twin on an approach while trying to observe subtle differences in radio Idiosynchronicity can be challenging.

Bullshit – it is challenging and my hands were full.

What follows here is a focused discussion of the features Martin called out. I’ll add my own opinions on each one, and more importantly, tell you how I tested and implemented them in the training app and in the airplane. Keep in mind that Martin has had his unit since 2019 and I’ve had mine for maybe a month or so. I’ll give myself time before I declare myself competent.

12 things Martin Likes about the Avidyne units:

  • QWERTY KEYBOARD: On the screen primarily. Small bluetooth keyboard is mentioned.In general, I’ve had to get used to touching my radio’s screen. The kids that worked for me in energy trading used to chuckle at my lack of tolerance for people touching my screen while they leaned over me to make a point. Back then touchscreens did not exist, and I just hated people putting their hands all over my clean screen to explain anything. I just hated it. Do that and I generally stopped listening.
    They learned.Fast forward to today – I use an iPad all day long and touch my phone screen constantly. I’ve had to adapt.  I’m getting used to it because I had to. I’ll have to learn to effectively and safely clean my screen now, but that will happen.I have only one Avidyne unit, so the QWERTY screen appears on my one screen.
    Martin has two Avidyne units, so entries on one screen pop up the keyboard on the other. Cool feature. In order to minimize screen touching on my brand new radio, which I aspire to, I will use the Avidyne IFD100 app on the iPad. It works fine, but I’m not in a routine yet.The mini bluetooth keyboard is a footnote. It is a joke, in my current estimation. I can’t see mounting this in any other place than the yoke where my iPad sits, which I won’t do. I can’t see using this thing in turbulence – ever. I could be wrong, and I will try it eventually, but I doubt anyone uses it. Ever.   Yes – I jumped to this conclusion and put it back in it’s box.
    Scheduled Flight Testing: Nothing specific. I’ll be using this from iPad and from the box as required, and you’ll figure it out too. I’ll report back any issues or useful findings.
  • Datablock Customization:This is over the top outstanding, in my estimation. I’m not sure what ultimate selections I’ll make, but holy S$h!t this is freakin’ cool. I have a traffic radar embedded where I want it, and just found out I can add a CDI in there too. Very Very Very excellent feature.Easy to configure. Tremendously useful.
    Scheduled Flight Testing: I want to have traffic, the CDI, ground speed, vertical descent rate, and next waypoint items up and ready. On longer flights I’ll have the opportunity to play more with these.The trouble with a PA30 is that it is so fast that you don’t have much time to fiddle with radios while you are preparing for an approach that is only 30 minutes away. Flying professionally while also learning and being solo is not easy.
  • Multiple Approaches:  I’d never thought of this nor heard of this capability in any other system until I saw Martin’s video. The user manual documents it, but do not try it in the air for the first time.In order to make this work, you have to enter in a route or flight plan that includes two approaches to the 33N airport. In my example, I initially enter the RNAV 9 into 33N airport from the JOSEM intersection with a procedure turn. After the missed,  I wanted to fly the RNAV 27 from JODSI to the same airport.Martin says you can do it, and the book verifies his assertion, calling it a ‘Cool Feature’. I don’t see the steps required to do it anywhere, however, so I tested the process and have documented the steps to make it work.
    Note: Bonus points if you find details in the documentation that I missed.You basically follow the normal process for the first approach. Add the same airport as a waypoint after the missed approach (bottom of the active route). Then enter the data block for that airport and directly enter the next approach you want. In other words, DO NOT try to use PROC to manage the second approach.
    Note: If you fly this approach and go missed, you may not get auto sequenced to the missed approach waypoint on the first approach. I’m currently attempting to document what happens on each page, but finding it difficult while flying solo. Manual sequencing may be required.
    Note: If the first missed approach waypoint from the initial approach calls for a turn, you might get busy trying to over-rule it by activating the second approach waypoint. In my example, the second approach was in the opposite direction.
  • AHRS and Synthetic Vision:  This is what sold me on changing out the Garmin 530W/FlightStream 210 combination. Not primarily, but useful in emergencies.The display is beautiful and packed with information. The sidebar data is retractible and very useful. The lateral and vertical direction indicators are very useful as an emergency backup and alternate approach display.
  • Airway Navigation:  I was so bedazzled by the features and functions in the basic demonstrations I’d seen that I fully expected to see low enroute charts for planning. For awhile there I was even thinking that Foreflight, the preeminent aviation application might be threatened by the power of this thing. Fear not, however, that hasn’t happened.
    The IFD550 data subscription includes Jepp charts along with SIDs, STARs, and airport diagrams. The low and high enroute charts are not included, so I’ll use the powerful ForeFlight app to get that done.
    I do have to consider whether I need to buy a Jepp chart subscription for the iPad or just use live with the free NOS charts. I can use them for work to be consistent, but I haven’t done that just yet.
    I do have to figure out the why and when I need to switch from the SVS, FMS, and MAP pages. There are messages related to missed approaches and such that pop up when you are on one page versus another, and I just managed to notice the differences there. More work to do.
    * SVS to get lateral and vertical guidance.
    * FMS to change the route or activate a leg or approach (I think)
    * MAP to monitor flight progress
  • Custom Holds: Present position hold easily done. The other holds are readily implemented, and I did manage to reprogram an approach I’d entered at the last minute to include an extended hold.Note:  One challenge with this new equipment is that things done infrequently will not come to me quickly in a pinch. I’ll focus on the basics that will allow me to stumble through anything when I have to, including a manually flown hold if I cannot get it programmed in time. It’s all possible, but flying a twin in weather gets busy.
  • Vertical Navigation: I like seeing the top and bottom of descent. You get to see a Green Banana showing where you’ll achieve your altitude goal (up or down). It is not driving the autopilot, but it is useful already.
  • Ease of Database Updates: I’ve done this once so far by using the Jepp JSUM application I already had for the 530waas, but downloading the data to a simple USB. You get all the obstacle, nav data, and charts that way.
    One difference with this process – uploading data into the radio instead of Garmin’s approach where the data stays on a static card – is that I have to power up the airplane to update the radio. Minor thing but it changes my process.
  • IFD100 and iPad: This free additional application works directly with the radio via wifi. I’m very surprised by how useful this can be, and have been playing with it quite a bit. It’s early yet, but this is a game changer for N833DF.
    In order to use this I’ve learned to run dual apps on my iPad side-by-side. Foreflight on one side and the IFD100 on the other with the iPad oriented in landscape. I’ve changed from mounting my iPad in portrait mode on the yoke with just ForeFlight, so I can try this out and develop a process.
  • Flight Plan transfer via wifi: Thus far I’ve tested and shown that I can plan my flight on ForeFlight and upload in the airplane directly. Shorter flights can be developed on the IFD100 by itself and that new route will be available on the airplane’s radio when they link. Foreflight uploads and downloads, but on demand and not automatically.
    It’s early, but I think I already have everything I need and I’ll continue to find more capabilities there. I’ll evaluate what displays to have up enroute as we go.
    Note: I run in split screen with an iPad mini5, so half screen is pretty small for controlling the IFD550.  Controlling this way keeps wear down on the radio, so I like that approach. More playing is required.
  • Weather and Traffic on the map:  GTX345 does a nice job passing along the weather. Another decision I have to make at this point is how effective the weather displays at this point. The higher resolution on both the IFD550 and the IFD100 is noticeable.  I am wondering again if I need to continue with Sirius XM weather.
  • Fuel Endurance and range rings: The primary page I’ve been using is better than the Garmin equivalent. Truth be told, I never really researched the 530’s full capabilities since I had so many other new things going on in the airplane since the new engines went in.
    Note: I see Martin zooming out to see fuel range limits, so I’ll try that this afternoon. I carry almost 7 hours of fuel and move at 175 kts, so I’ll have to scroll out to see those ranges.

Martin also calls out a wish list of things he’d like to see added to the software. Automatic Syncing would be nice between ForeFlight and the IFD550. It’d be nice to have the radio signal the autopilot to fly the VNAV profile, and it’d be nice to be able to build custom holds at waypoints along the track. I’d like to see present position hold done more easily.

My next steps are to reposition my radios to provide better information on actions page by page. The excellent simulator they provide does not do everything the same as the radio, so you can’t do all your testing on the ground.

Enough for now….   Fly Safe and thanks for reading along.


By fdorrin

Fully retired now, unless something interesting comes along. I’ve enjoyed a lucrative career as an Electrical Engineer, Certified Software Solutions Developer, and Project Manager. An excellent and fun career that I’m very proud of. I began flying commercially in Dash-8 aircraft for Piedmont Airlines, and moved on to instruct in the Gulfstream 280; WestWind; and Astra jet aircraft. I’ve also been blessed with a type rating in the B-25 bomber in a fortunate turn of events. My wife, Beverly, and I currently own and operate a beautifully restored PA30 Twin Comanche, which we use to explore the CONUS.