When I heard that Friendly Panels had released an Aspen based avionics package, I was keen to try it, since I’ve been reading a lot about this new low-cost (real world) glass cockpit avionics package.
What is particularly interesting about these gauges (apart from the price point) is that they fit into the existing 3 inch holes in the cockpit panel that are left behind when you rip out the original steam gauges that are typically mounted in a GA aircraft.
Here is a picture of the original Aspen unit, where you can see that the part of the panel that sticks out behind the flat screen is shaped like an analogue gauge housing.
In the Aspen marketing videos, much is also made out of how easy these gauges are to use and of the fact that having two panels side by side allows for a backup option where you transfer one set of gauges over to the alternate panel at the push of a button. Pretty slick!
In addition, Friendly Panels chose the default FSX Baron for their conversion. I’ve always liked this plane, and never found a way of installing as much as a GPS in the panel, let alone a complete gauge refit.
So, let see what you get when you order this package. Here is what the Friendly Panels documentation has to say:
“This pack includes two panels for the default Beechcraft Baron 58, with ASPEN EFD 1000/500 equipment, including a complete virtual cockpit, totally adapted to the new gauges.
Installation & Documentation:
You can find the Baron EFD pack at the Friendly Panels site .
The installation is straightforward, and indeed, you end up with two new Baron models, one equipped with a Bendix KLN GPS and one equipped with a Garmin 530.
The documentation is divided into four manuals: an overview manual, and one for each for the Garmin GPS and for the Aspen PFD and MFD panels. Clearly the intent is not to use these gauges in other aircraft, but rather to fly the Baron aircraft “as is”. The manuals are well laid out and fully illustrated and certainly support the Friendly Panels motto.
Being familiar with the Garmin GPS, I decided to take the GNS530 equipped Baron for a test flight.
I do most of my flying from the virtual cockpit, so that is where I started. Friendly Panels have done a nice job of modifying the default Baron with not only the new gauges, but also a removable yoke. This makes it easier to see the switches and is a welcome modification. Also, the engine gauges have been replaced with more readable units.
The EFD panels are nicely rendered and by clicking on them, you can pop up a larger, higher resolution window. This is useful when you want to see the map in more detail. The overall impression is quite nice. The Baron is not up to the latest standards in FSX add-ons, but certainly still enjoyable to fly! And, the lower texture resolution makes for good frame rates.
I had a small issue with the fact that you have to click the VIEW button on the MFD, before you can adjust the map range. This seems overly cumbersome and is not as shown in the real EFD documentation and videos. After some discussion with the author, I made a slight modification to the Gauge XML code which will hopefully appear in an upcoming Service Update. This allowed me to operate the map buttons with a single click and also brought the smart button menu on the right into view.
Compared to the standard steam gauges, the EFD panel gives you a wealth of information, complete with moving map. The panel also has a GPS (Garmin or KLN) installed, so you can program and follow GPS flight plans. I added my trusty Reality XP GNS530W and was happy to see that the avionics also support fully linked LPV approaches for the ultimate in flexibility.
I can well see why real Baron owners would choose to upgrade their airplane with this glass cockpit option!
The Garmin GPS that comes with the package, is an enhanced FSX GNS500, with radios added, and without the irritating flaws of the original (popup now stays in synch with the panel mounted unit and the Range buttons operate like the real thing). Well done!
Last, but not least, the package also includes a 2d panel which for some users is still the preferred way to fly.
So where does that leave me? Well, simply put: This package is a real bargain! Here is what you get: A nicely upgraded Beech Baron with the newest in glass gauges, and a handful of radios that can also be used to upgrade other airplanes in your fleet. If you do not want to spend the money for a Reality XP GPS, you get a Garmin and a KLN unit included, that would be a welcome upgrade for most FSX default planes in your hangar. And all that for less than the price of a take-out pizza.
Yes, there are more detailed simulations of the Aspen PFD out there, but for a higher price. If you are curious to experience the Aspen EFD avionics, this is the least expensive way to try it out! And if you always wanted to add a GPS to the Baron panel, here it is, included in the package!
What I Like About The Baron EFD Package
What I Don't Like About The Baron EFD Package
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