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Engine Monitoring Today
In 2009, engine-monitoring products
continue to evolve−no revolution in sight.
BY STEIN BRUCH
Virtually all modern engine monitors
provide a plethora of information to the
pilot. All basic functions are expected to
be included with the offerings for our
airplanes—you could say we’re information spoiled. I’m happy to say that most
builders with a sizable investment ahead
of the firewall are seeing the value of allinclusive monitoring. It’s not just for the
retentive types anymore.
At a minimum, you’ll be monitoring these temperatures: exhaust (EGT),
head (CHT), turbine-inlet (TIT) outside-air (OAT) and oil (OT). You’ll also
be watching these pressures: manifold
(MP), oil (OP) and fuel (FP). And you’ll
have displays for fuel level, volts, amps,
engine speed (rpm). The list grows to
include checklists, weight-and-balance
calculations as well as external inputs
for various inputs such as a CO detector, landing gear and flap position, trim
indication, data logging and more. It’s
possible with today’s best engine monitors to watch and annunciate just about
everything in the airframe, ridding your
panel of extraneous displays, meters and
dials (if that’s what you have in mind).
Advanced Flight’s engine monitor can be displayed on an EFIS screen (left). A weightand-balance screen helps loading (right).
Photos: Courtesy the Manufacturers, Richard VanderMeulen
For the old-schoolers in the crowd who
prefer discrete gauges for fear of putting
all of their eggs in the same basket—and
ending up with an omelette—in my
shop’s experience, the modern engine
monitors are dully reliable.
Public Displays of Attraction
Most systems present the information
graphically on color LED or LCD type
screens, though a good many monochrome (single color) displays that are
completely useful remain. (The market
has voted overwhelmingly for the living
color versions.) Size varies from small
to large. User interfaces are similar, and
most allow the user to configure some or
all of the parameters in the system such as
limits, trends, minimum and maximum
limits, colors and more. These functions
vary by manufacturer and model, but
all we’ve used and been exposed to are
designed to be pilot- and user-friendly. I
generally prefer instruments that can be
fine-tuned by the builder, so things like
operating limits and color arcs can be
determined by the pilot through simple
programming. Units that require a trip
back to the factory to reset limits are a
lot less useful, I think.
KITPLANES March 2009
17
All About Avionics continued
We’re seeing the maturation of the
products as they gradually add features
and improve reliability—all of the popular choices today were around last year.
(And some, like Sensornetics, which we
featured last year, just haven’t shown up
in the marketplace yet.)
Dynon’s EMS-D120 is functionally identical
to the smaller EMS-D10.
The current market leaders are
Advanced Flight Systems (AFS), Dynon
Avionics and Grand Rapids Technologies (GRT). These three companies
still account for the majority of Experimental engine monitors being sold and
installed throughout the world. The reason for these three companies getting out
front and staying there is easy to understand: They all make EFIS displays, and
in this part of the market, consumers
are choosing like brands because of the
interoperability. (Kind of like the heady
days of the 1970s, when it was desirable
to have an all-King stack.)
Grand Rapids Technologies
The leader in terms of units sold for the
Experimental market is Grand Rapids.
The company’s venerable EIS (Engine
Information System) probably has more
systems flying than any other. While
the EIS box by itself isn’t as flashy as the
competitors’, it is affordable and easy
to install thanks to the company’s premade and provided wiring harnesses.
Grand Rapids now has an optional LCD
screen that couples with the EIS box to
display the engine information graphically on a dedicated screen or interface
to its popular EFIS.
18
KITPLANES March 2009
The EIS box may also be purchased
with an air data computer built into it
that feeds other EFISes such as Chelton,
or to provide a rudimentary VFR flight
instrument for many ultralights. A complete engine-monitoring system including probes and sensors starts at less than
$1000. Optional probes and sensors can
increase the cost, but it’s still one of the
most affordable systems available today.
Grand Rapids is one of the few companies that supports automotive and alternative engine conversions, as well as
radial and turbine installations. It also
supports integration and interfaces with
the Vertical Power system and Chelton
EFISes. It’s worth noting that the GRT
engine monitor display has undergone a
major overhaul in its screen resolution
and display layout.
trim and flap-position sensors and have
them read out on the EMS as well as a
linked Dynon EFIS. Last year, the company released a new piece of soft ware
that included a percent-of-power meter
that takes into account whether you’re
running rich or lean-of-peak EGT. Data
logging is standard, too.
Dynon Avionics
Dynon had one of the first small and
affordable graphical engine monitors
with the introduction of its 3.125-inch
EMS-D10. Sized to fit into a standard
instrument cutout, it has been a very
successful product. Expanding on the
10, Dynon also offers a larger screen
D120 as a standalone engine monitor or
to combine with its EFIS in the FlightDEK-D180. These units, like their competitors, are easy to use, pack in a ton of
information and are also user-friendly
to install with the provided installation
harnesses. Dynon has expanded its support team and has a dedicated online
support forum for its users, which has
proven to be popular.
Dynon has also made inroads with
many of the Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers, and its systems have become
some of the most popular OEMinstalled graphical engine monitors
in LSAs. Like most of its competitors,
Dynon offers complete probe and sensor packages for a multitude of engines
options, but at the moment the company does not support turbine or radial
engine configurations. The basic EMSD10/D120 currently supports both
four- and six-cylinder engines—including Rotax and Jabiru—with all-cylinder EGT and CHT, plus the usual other
measurements. You can hook up your
Interactivity is important. The Grand
Rapids models can be connected to share
engine information with the EFIS.
Advanced Flight Systems
Early in the new millennium, RV builder and electronics guru Rob Hickman
desired a fully functional and affordable graphical engine monitor. When he
found there were no options that met his
requirements, Hickman simply made his
own. Advanced Flight Systems was born,
and was one of the first to offer a color
Vision Microsystems VM1000C.
www.kitplanes.com
Xerion AuRACLE.
graphical engine monitor. As demand
grew, so did the product line, and now
the AFS engine monitors are some of the
most popular systems around.
These monitors have several features
that are not in competitors’ units such as
a backup battery, Ethernet cable connection to its other products, as well as data
recording/logging direct to a front loading SD card, and AFS is one of few companies to provide a complete “no hidden
charges” package of probes and sensors
without making some of them available
at additional cost. (Most other companies make some probes/sensors such as
a fuel flow sensor optional at additional
cost). It should also be noted that AFS
systems will integrate with other EFISes and products from companies such as
Vertical Power and Chelton. AFS also
offers online support.
Electronics International
Electronics International has created a
niche as one of the highest quality premium engine monitors available. Its
history with a respected line of digital
engine instruments led to the creation
J.P. Instruments EDM-930.
of its flagship product, the MVP-50.
With a mid-sized LCD screen, EI’s
MVP-50 is frequently found in highend and high-performance aircraft. It
is one of the few companies that has
experience supporting complex turbine and jet installations as well as radial engines and other alternative engine
configurations. It is also one of the only
companies I know of that designs and
manufactures its own probes and sensors, and they’re even used by other
engine monitor manufacturers. EI has
many optional configurations and supports outputs for some other EFISes by
offering an air-data module. Its products
are FAA certified, and the company has
an excellent reputation for outstanding
customer support and strong support of
Experimental aviation.
Advanced Flight, Dynon, EI and
GRT compose the majority of units
installed by homebuilders, but they are
by no means the only options available.
Other companies have offerings for aircraft from ultralights to Bonanzas.
J.P. Instruments
J.P. Instruments is arguably the biggest
player in the certified market, and its
3.125-inch round engine monitors are
ubiquitous in the store-bought fleet. The
company’s products are widely seen in,
for lack of a better term, pre-EFIS homebuilts—that is, the aircraft built, say, five
to 15 years ago. In addition to its line of
round instruments, JPI has the EDM900 and EDM-930, which are all-inclusive systems. The 900 is a gas-discharge
single-color (with color overlays) display,
while the 930 is a full-color LCD.
In the last three years, JPI purchased
Vision Microsystems and its line of
engine monitors. The news now is that
Vision’s founder, Lance Turk, has left the
soggy Northwest to work at JPI headquarters in Southern California. Vision
Micro was one of the first companies to
offer a graphical engine monitor, and
they were quite popular for some time.
However, with the introduction of modern graphical engine monitors, the popularity of the VM systems languished.
Nevertheless, there are many VM installations out there, and they remain via-
MGL Avionics/
Stratomaster E-3
ble. Under JPI,
the VM systems have been
adapted to use
JPI
probes.
With Turk back
in the fold, we can expect some exciting
new products in this lineup.
MGL Avionics
MGL Avionics is a relative newcomer
to the mainstream homebuilding community, but it has been quite popular
in ultralight aircraft for years and has
delivered many units worldwide. Based
in South Africa, the company is run by
Ranier Lamers, whose small business
offers some of the most affordable units
available. The Stratomaster is popular
and is offered in various configurations
for many types of aircraft. MGL also
offers a suite of 2.25- and 3.125-inch
instruments that cover a wide range of
functions such as pressure instruments,
electrical measurement, CHT/EGT,
temperatures and more.
In fact, the smaller Infinity singles
have been redesigned this year. Instead of
the angular front panel, the instruments
have a round bezel so they fit handsomely in a 2.25-inch hole. As before, MGL’s
singles line includes a “partial” engine
monitor in the E-3, though it doesn’t
display all of the engine parameters at
once, and can watch only a limited number of EGTs and CHTs. The E-3 has
I-K Technologies AIM-Lite.
KITPLANES March 2009
19
All About Avionics continued
And the Rest...
I-K Technologies is another small business that, like MGL Avionics, offers a
number of systems at affordable prices. Several options are available with a
unique display that mixes an LCD readout along with a number of LED bars
in red, yellow and green. With the I-K
Technologies engine monitors it’s easy
to quickly glance at your display and
notice the status of all of your parameters. The I-K systems are somewhat cus-
essentially four inputs plus rpm. If you
choose to watch a pressure and temperature, then two are left for your choice of
EGT or CHT or one each. The Infinity
line also includes a fuel computer, dedicated temp/pressure gauges and others.
You could build a modular engine monitor from the components, but for many
with simple engines—the Rotax 912 in
particular—the E-3 probably fits the bill
just fine.
Manufacturer
Model
Price
Includes
Probes/
Sensors
Advanced Flight Systems
AF-3400
$2541$2741
AF-3500
tomizable, and they provide a number of
possible configurations.
Xerion has received FAA certification for its Auracle graphical engine
monitor, and though not focused on
the homebuilt market, it has some systems installed in Experimental aircraft.
With the focus on certified aircraft, its
costs are a bit higher than its competitors. The Auracle is a graphical engine
monitor that offers most of the expected
functionality.
No. of
Screen
Cylinders
EFIS
Compatible
LeanFind
Mode
MP/Tach Displays
HP Computer
OAT/Carb Temp
N
4-6
Color LCD
Y
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
$2965$3165
N
4-6
Color LCD
Y
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
AF-4500
Deck
$4465
N
4-6
Color LCD
Y
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
D10
$1700
N
2-6
Color LCD/TFT Y
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
D120
$2000
N
2-6
Color LCD/TFT Y
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
Electronics International
MVP-50
$4995$5485
Y
4-9
Color LCD
Y - option
Y
Y/Y
Y
Y/Y
Grand Rapids Technologies
EIS-4000
$995
Y
4
Color LCD
Y - option
Y
Y $60 option/Y
Y with graphical
screen
Y/Y
EIS-6000
$1185
Y
6
Color LCD
Y - option
Y
Y $60 option/Y
Y with graphical
screen
Y/Y
AIM-1
$1499
N
4
Backlit LCD
Y / $100
option. **
N
Y /Y
N
Y / $100 option
AIM-2
$1499$1799
N
4-9
Color LED
Y / $100
option. **
N
Y /Y
N
Y/Y
AIM Lite
$749
N
4
Color LED
Y / $100
option. **
N
Y /Y
N
N/N
AIM 3000 $1749
N
6
Backlit
Y / $100
LCD/Color LED option. **
N
Y /Y
N
Y / $100 option
AIM 4000 $1999$2299
N
4-6
Backlit
Y / $100
LCD/Color LED option. **
N
Y /Y
N
Y / $100 option
EDM-900
$4910$5141
Y
4-6
Color plasma
N
N
Y /Y
Y
Y/Y
EDM-930
$4910$5141
Y
4-6
Color LCD
N
Y
Y /Y
Y
Y/Y
E-2
$750
N
2-4
Backlit LCD
Y
N
Y/Y
N
Y/N
E-3
$295
N
2-4
Backlit LCD
Y
N
Y/Y
N
Y/N
Dynon Avionics
I-K Technologies
J.P. Instruments
MGL/Stratomaster
Vision Microsystems
VM1000C $2870$3038
Y
4-6
Color transre- N
flective
Y
Y /Y
Y
Y/Y
Xerion Avionix
AuRACLE I $5650$5925
Y
4-6
Color LCD
N
Y
Y /Y
Y
Y / Y-$65 option
AuRACLE
II
Y
4-6
Color LCD
N
Y
Y /Y
Y
Y / Y-$65 option
$6000$6300
* Optional in place of manifold pressure on all units except AIM-Lite.
20
KITPLANES March 2009
** All units can be configured to output serial RS-232 data stream.
www.kitplanes.com
Why We’re Here
Fuel Flow
Fuel Level/ Vacuum/
Pressure
Hydraulics
Y
Y/Y
Y
Volts/
Amps
offer three main rules for purchasing an
engine monitor.
1. Purchase the same brand engine
monitor as your EFIS if you’re going to
use an EFIS.
2. Don’t buy more than you need. If
you’re building an ultralight, you simply
don’t need 80 different data points for
your engine (like fuel flow, fuel pressure,
OAT, etc.).
3. Don’t buy an engine monitor and
then install backup engine instruments.
you have a complete and integrated system. Some mixing and matching can
take place, but it’s generally wise to stick
with the same manufacturer. It’s getting increasingly difficult to differentiate systems because most are offering
expanded functionality, great displays
and affordability. All of them are almost
universally far more accurate than their
outdated steam-gauge counterparts and
will offer greater reliability over the long
term. Ultimately, as I said last year, I can
The market has none-too-subtly shifted to a “one manufacturer” philosophy
at the mid-level and up, and that’s so
the engine monitor and EFIS can communicate, share data and provide information across multiple displays. If you
intend to install an EFIS in your airplane, then it’s a natural fit to install
an engine monitor from the same company. Many of them are even available
integrated into an EFIS, so in the end
Checklists
Data
Logging
Width
(in.)
Height Depth
(in.)
(in.)
Weight
(lb.)
Remote Comments
Sensor
Module
Through
Y/Y
general-purpose
inputs
Y
Y
6.6
5.7
5.5
3.3
N
Y/Y
Not specified
Y/Y
Y
Y
7.8
6.8
5.5
6.0
N
Y
Y/Y
Not specified
Y/Y
Y
Y
8.6
7.6
5.8
6.0
N
Y / $200
option
Y/Y
Through
Y/Y
general-purpose
inputs
Y/Y
Y
4.1
3.4
5.3
1.3
N
Y / $200
option
Y/Y
Through
Y/Y
general-purpose
inputs
Y/Y
Y
7.0
4.9
4.5
2.4
N
Bright screen option $200.
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
Y
5.5
5.2
2.4
5.3 /5.6
Y
MVP-50T available for turboprop and jet engines.
Both include Chelton interface. Tie-ins for CO
detectors. Customer configurable.
Y / $375
option
Y/Y
N
Y/Y
N
N ***
5.9
2.75
2.4
N/A
N
Special versions available for Rotax 912, Jabiru
2200. 4000TT available for turbine/turboprop.
Y / $375
option
Y/Y
N
Y/Y
N
N ***
5.9
2.75
2.4
N/A
N
Special version for Jabiru 3300.
Y
Option / Y
Y / option *
Option
/N
Y / $100 N ***
option
6.25
2.5
1.8
< 2.0
N
FADEC interface option is $100.
Y
Option / Y
Y / option *
Y/N
N
N ***
6.25
2.5
1.8
< 2.0
N
FADEC interface option is $100.
Y / $300
option
N/Y
N/N
Option
/N
N
N ***
3.6
3.6
1.8
< 2.0
N
FADEC interface option is $100.
Y
Y/Y
Y / option *
Y/N
Y / $100 N ***
option
6.25
3.0
1.8
2.0
N
FADEC interface option is $100.
Y
Y/Y
Y / option *
Y/Y
Y / $100 N ***
option
5.0
5.5
1.8
2.0
N
FADEC interface option is $100.
Y
Y/Y
N
Y/Y
N
Y
5.1
5.0
2.0
2.0
N
Y
Y/Y
N
Y/Y
N
Y
6.0
4.0
2.9
2.0
N
Y/$185
Y/N
N/N
Y/N
N
Y
8.0
3.6
3.8
1.3
Y
Y
Y/N
N/N
Y/N
N
Y
NA
NA
NA
NA
Y
Fits into a 2.25-inch instrument hole.
Y
Y/Y
N/N
Y/Y
Y
Y
5.1
5.0
1.5
0.8
Y
Price is for carbureted engines. Vision Config
system allows user to program on laptop and
upload.
Y
Y/Y
Y/Y
Y/Y
N
Y
6.25
4.5
2.0
1.8
N
Y
Y/Y
Y/Y
Y/Y
N
Y
6.25
4.5
2.0
2.5
Y
Front mounted tray.
*** Data logging through serial data output to another device.
KITPLANES March 2009
21
All About Avionics continued
I-K Technologies AIM-3000.
If your engine monitor were to fail, the
fan on the front does not immediately
stop. You generally cannot share sensors, so that means extra sensors, extra
wiring, extra complexity and little extra
functionality or usability. Trust me, it’s
not worth the effort.
Overall I encourage everyone to get
an engine monitor. If you haven’t used
one before, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Stay tuned for more changes in
what becomes available! CONTACTS
Advanced Flight Systems Inc.
www.advanced-flightsystems.com
503/263-0037
Dynon Avionics
www.dynonavionics.com
425/402-0114
Electronics International
www.buy-ei.com
877/318-6060
Grand Rapids Technologies
www.grtavionics.com
616/245-7700
I-K Technologies
www.i-ktechnologies.com
818/302-0606
J.P. Instruments, Inc.
www.jpinstruments.com
800/345-4574
MGL Avionics
www.mglavionics.com
877/835-9464
Vision Microsystems
www.visionmicrosystems.com
830/755-6330
Xerion Avionix
www.xerionavionix.com
800/405-8608
22
KITPLANES March 2009
Vertically Integrated
It’s hard to put the Vertical Power system into one category, because it touches and integrates with so many different areas of your airplane. In short, the VP system is a sophisticated, computer-managed electrical distribution system married to an external engine monitor.
In the high-end version, the VP-200, the engine monitor is presented on the VP screen,
integrated with the electrical-system specifics. It’s slick.
It’s been just about a year since we had our first direct exposure and experience with the
VP system. We’ve installed both the VP-200 system as well as its little brother, the VP-100.
The display of the VP-200 system is large, big enough to prominently display several
different things at once. For example, the engine monitor section intelligently displays a
different set of engine parameters depending on the mode of flight. The instruments that
are displayed in each mode (Preflight, Before Start, Start, After Start, Taxi, Run-up, Take-off,
Cruise, Maneuver and Landing) can be custom configured and chosen by the builder.
Where the VP system really shines is in the management of your electrical system. While
most engine monitors will display your volt or amp draw (based on an installed shunt or hall
affect sensor), the VP system takes this functionality to a whole new level. It keeps track of
current draw by each unit that it is controlling and monitoring. This means that not only can
you see represented on the graphical display the entire system load in real time as you turn
components on and off, but the system allows you to see the current draw of each individual
component.
Because of this core functionality, there is a neat feature on the VP system. If a component such as a landing light is burned out, the system will alert you (it expects that
component to draw X amps, and if it doesn’t then it’ll tell you)! Marc Ausman of Vertical
Power says, “It’s important that a graphical display of the electrical system shows overall
electrical system health and be able to show specific problems, like battery contactor failure
or over-voltage conditions. With an all-electric aircraft, it is important to monitor the electrical system just like you monitor the engine.”
Our experience with installation of the VP system has been good overall. It’s imperative
that as a builder you spend the time to accurately put together your load-planning worksheet. This is the core of the entire installation, and without it you will find yourself scratching your head. Perhaps the most difficult part of the installation is the same as with other
EFISes and engine monitors—setup and programming. If you are relatively comfortable
working with electrical devices, this won’t be difficult. However, it still takes a fair amount
of time to set up each and every device, give
it a physical name, assign the appropriate
loads/amperages to it, and then assign it to
a circuit. This can be tedious, but once it’s
done you can save that information to a USB
thumb drive.
We’ve been pretty happy with the VP
systems. The wiring is not difficult because
of your previously completed load planning
worksheet, but it is different than traditional switches and circuit breakers.
—S.B.
www.kitplanes.com