In last month's column, I debated with myself whether to upgrade the hodge-podge steam gauge panel in my Comanche to a glass/partial-glass solution, or to keep the steam gauges going. The math was (seemingly) a no brainer; glass can run upwards of $130k, while keeping the legacy gear running can be a couple thousand per year. It's obviously far less expensive to just keep it going.
I was quickly surprised by the flood of emails that were completely consistent with each other - upgrade! I thought my logic was fairly sound...though, I usually do. Each of the emails I received were just as logical in support of a full upgrade. While I won't yet say I'm convinced, I am definitely convinced they did it for the right reasons that best met their use cases.
I am becoming more convinced that a glass upgrade may actually be cost-effective. Bear with me and I'll use big round numbers. Since I already own the airframe, I'm not out that cost. A glass panel upgrade of $130k will give me pretty much every bell and whistle available. Now we have to upgrade the interior to match the panel, so another $15k. Ugh, that paint! Another $15k. Just to be careful, let's overhaul the O-360 while I'm at it for another $30k. Assuming the rest of the airframe is still airworthy, I'm now out a whopping $190k! Well, rather than do all that, let me just find a new aircraft that will do 150mph at just over 8gph with a 900 mile range carrying adults and baggage. That's odd, that list doesn't have any airplanes on it (queue the email inbox now...). I mean, I'd have a nearly new aircraft at that point, but there's no production aircraft that can meet that performance at anywhere near that cost.
This project would be quite an undertaking, but I've been shown in the past few weeks that many of our members chose that path and are thrilled with the results. The idea of refurbishing a fantastic airframe and making it even better for the next couple of decades actually makes a pretty sound business decision. While I'd love to see production lines cranking out affordable performance aircraft again, it seems those days are well behind us. The best option may be to restore and modify what we already have. Yikes, another dilemma. And please, keep the emails coming.