April 2008

N4142G Taken Apart for Avionics Upgrade

N4142G torn down for Radio Installation

Click on Picture to see more pictures!

Well change is a good thing, or so I have been told. Right now, 4142G is down hard. Its down hard because I decided that I like a lot of things about being a fixed wing pilot, and one of those things is the more radios and screens, the better. The more information I can get at a glance, the better. The more I can see about my engine, the better. So I set out to improve on Frank’s design and add a few goodies of my own.

So you ask, what would you want to add to a fine helicopter like an R44..? Well, let’s start with some valuable information on how well our $100,000 IO-540 engine is doing. Now, I am all for an affordable helicopter, but come on, a single CHT and a single EGT for the powerplant keeping you in the air..?

Not liking the limited information that I was getting from these two gauges and an oil temp and oil pressure gauge, I decided to add the EDM-800 Engine monitoring and trending instrument. Not only does this give me all 6 EGTs and all 6 CHTs at a glance, its also tied into my GPS and provides continuously updated fuel usage information based on your current flight plan, waypoints loaded into your flight plan and endurance information for each waypoint with the speed and distance info fed from your GPS into the fuel computer part of the EDM-800. Not only does the 800 provide all of this, but it monitors just about every other parameter of the IO-540 including oil temp, oil pressure, fuel flows, % engine power in use, manifold pressure and much, much more. Basically its everything that I, as a pilot, would like to know about my engine. I can trend this information every 5 minutes and using a thumb drive download it into the EDM software to watch for good, or bad, trends in my engine performance.



The EDM-800 installation required the addition of 6 EGT and 6 CHT probes (actually only 5 since we had one EGT and one CHT already), fuel flow transducer, oil pressure and oil temperature probes, manifold pressure probes, connection to the Garmin 430 GPS. All of these wires had to be run from the front where the instrument will be installed to the back where the engine is located.

These are the EGT probes added to each exhaust manifold

EGT Probes

Click Image for Larger Picture

So now that we can actually see what is happening to the engine and record all the different temps, pressures and flows, what is next?

Well, next we are going to add the Garmin GMX 200 (old Apollo MX20) multifunction display to the helicopter.

Garmin GMX 200

This multifunction display will ad all kinds of capability. First and foremost, its much larger that the screen on my Garmin 430. Second, it will be located directly in my line of sight above the pilot’s feet, and third, we can add all kids of wonderful information over the top f it to include Weather, Terrain, Traffic, and of course, Jepp approach plates. This unit interfaces with the Garmin 430, it is not a stand alone GPS unit itself in the configuration that I have it in today.

I toyed with the idea of installing the 200 in the center of the instrument console, right exactly where the clock, hobbs meter, fuel gauges, oil pressure and temperature gauges and of course, the EGT and CHT gauges. But once my avionics guy got the panel apart and we saw how much stuff would have to be moved, I opted for the pilot’s side console. I didn’t really want it there mostly due to the fact that the co-pilot cannot access, but the idea is that we will install it in the console and if I don’t like it there after a hundred hours, we can always redo the panel.

Back of instrument cluster

Back of Instrument Cluster

Next, we are adding a Garmin GDL69A to the lineup. The 69A provides continuous, real time XM weather to the multifunction display. It also provides all the XM stereo channels to the audio system for entertainment.

The GDL69 is a “hidden” box and will be placed under the seats.



Next, we are removing the AAC12 audio panel and adding the Garmin 347 audio panel. This audio panel adds features such as 2 minute digital recorder with playback, pilot, crew and passenger isolation and inputs for three different radios.

Garmin 347 Audio Panel

Next, we are removing the King 196 comm and adding a King KX165A flip-flop radio with 30 memories. Not only does this add a second, more powerful communication radio to 42G, more important it adds a second navigation radio to 42G.


To drive the NAV side of the new 165, I choose the Garmin GI-106.

GI-106 CDI

And finally,I am adding the ICOM ID-800 2 Meter/440 ham radio so that I can keep in touch with all my ham friends out there!

Icom ID-800


So besides all of the cool radio and avionics upgrades that are getting done, I am also having the Bose Lemo connectors (single point power and audio) installed, a transponder ident button installed on the collective, and additional strobe light mounted on the belly and maybe some PreciseFlight HID lights added as well. To turn all of this equipment on and off all at once, a Avionics Master Switch is being installed as well.

There is a lot of work to be done, and It will be interesting to see it when its all done. Stay tuned here as I will be posting more about the project as it progresses.

I have a friend flying into LAX next month and it had been quite some time since I had flown a helicopter into the west complex near the Tom Bradley International terminal, so I loaded up my instructor and Big Red and Little Red and off we went to LAX.

The trip up was fantastic, we even saw the Goodyear Blimp. We utilized the South Industrial Arrival which puts us about midway down the South complex runways at 1500′ MSL before crossing the runways and descending for the West Helo Pads.

Once we arrived, we went into the Tom Bradley terminal and had dinner :-)



This past weekend, I joined my neighbors and went camping at the Agua Caliente Camp Grounds located in the desert of California. I was fortunate enough to be able to fly out in 42G as opposed to having to tow a large 5th wheel or trailer, or even to drive a motor home.

When I arrived, I flew towards the camp ground to get my friend’s attention and they came out and picked me up at the Agua Caliente Airport (ok, ok – no lights, no taxiways and fixed wing folks that don’t know how to park (thanks to whomever was flying the 210, I appreciated parking in the dirt) but still an airport)!

The interesting thing was that upon arrival, the wind sock was straight out solid with winds in the 35 knot range gusting 15 degrees either side of dead on the runway! Needless to say I had to be light but quick on my controls. There were some tie downs, but as is the case with SOME fixed wing guys that are more lazy than anything, I was unable to park on the asphalt due to a Cessna 210 that decided to park RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE tie down instead of to one side or the other next to the other fixed wing folks. As a side note, a V-Tail Bonanza flew in later that day or early the next and he was kind enough to park at the open T to the end.

(As a 20+ year fixed wing guy I can say this – Fixed Wing Folks – Wake up and realize that people also fly helicopters!! When you run up, don’t do it with the tail of your plane pointing towards a helipad. When you park, try and park next to other fixed wing aircraft so those of us with helicopters and park as well. Try and give some consideration to us rotor guys (or in my case, rotor and fixed wing. Please think about the fact that you are not the only aircraft on the planet!!! WAKE UP and remember that your prop or jet wash can be very dangerous to a hovering helicopter. If you fly around Palomar (KCRQ) and do this, expect to hear me on the radio!) In any case, the majority of fixed wing pilots are great folks, but every single person in aviation has something to learn, if they tell you otherwise, never get into an aircraft with them!! And we can all learn to be more respectful of others.

After a very comical 30 minutes where myself, my friend Steve, his 10 year old son Andrew and his friend Chris figured out how to put the R44 cover and blade tie-downs on the helicopter (don’t ask), we headed over to the camp ground for much needed rest and relaxation.

So the following day, with weather reported for KCRQ to be windy and rainy, I decided to depart the desert and get home before the weather kept me from landing. Upon departing, the winds were somewhere near 40 knots head on to my helicopter. (Indicated airspeed was over 40 KIAS while in a dead stop hover into the wind.) I made a nice liftoff, moved over to the airstrip off the dirt, hovered for a few seconds to verify that my flight and engine instruments were in the green and then headed towards the Julian VOR.

WOW…was it windy. At 100 KIAS, my ground speed on my 430 was indicating somewhere around 40 Knots!! The turbulence was impressive and I could only do two things: 1) Be thankful that I decided against taking passengers and 2) SLOW DOWN and remain calm and light on the controls, not reacting to the violent up and down drafts due to the wind and mountain range.

Of course, mother nature was not done with me yet. As I approached the Julian Mountains, I realized that there was a solid cloud layer covering the mountains. Not one to temp fate, I choose (in my mind) the easier of two choices: 1) Try and get under it and hope it did not go all the way to the mountain tops, or 2) Go Over. I choose to go over the cloud layer. At 10,500′ MSL, I was just over the cloud tops and (thankfully) also out of the turbulence. Now I am sure there are many rotor folks out there that have been to 10K and higher in their birds and are laughing at my sense of wonderment at being up that high in a helicopter, but let me tell you, it was a new experience for me. No wings anywhere in my field of view, just lots and lots of windows and a huge amount of space between me and the nearest landing spot and a ton of turbulence. I was racking my brain to try and remember just how much turbulence the R44 could take before the rotor removed itself from the ship and I plunged to the earth….luckily I arrived intact and according to my instructor, was no where near the limit of the R44. Whew….

I had a great time of course, and I learned a little bit more about myself and the R44. I am also very thankful that every time its windy, my instructor Attilio calls me and gets me into the air to practice. Those days of doing crosswind take off and landings at Ramona with 28 knot gusting winds paid off – I was calm and knew I could handle the takeoff and hovering with a strong wind. The flight back gave me more confidence in both myself and the R44 and the satisfaction of a great, if not somewhat tense, flight home.

Here is a video of the takeoff taken by my friend Steve, notice the left quartering headwind upon liftoff and the sound of the wind after I depart.