Is Chelton EFIS superior to G1000 and Avidyne?

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I've been reading about the Chelton Flight-Logic EFIS for the past
year and I'm wondering why manufacturers haven't flocked to this
system? Chelton is the only glass panel that offers WAAS approaches.
Theirs is the only system to offer Highway in the Sky (HITS). Theirs
is the only system to offer real-time terrain modeling on the PFD.
Garmin has said that WAAS and terrain modeling are coming to the
G1000 but they're vague as to just when. The FAA seemed to love
Chelton's performance in the Capstone Project in Alaska and gave them
a solid endorsement with their blanket STC covering over 600
aircraft. Yet Raytheon recently announced that Bonanzas will offer
the G1000. Mooney has chosen the G1000, and Piper has chosen the
Avidyne flightmax for their planes, including the Meridian.

Why isn't the marketplace rewarding Chelton for being the first with
this advanced technology?

-- Mike Sikich, September 1, 2005

Answers

All reports indicate that the Chelton system is much better than the Avidyne or G1000. Unfortunately it is also much more expensive, costing something like $90,000 to upgrade an old plane. The Chelton is cheaper than the stuff that goes into a Boeing 777 but has fancier gyros and is inherently more costly than what Avidyne and Garmin are selling.

-- Philip Greenspun, September 2, 2005

I think Chelton is aiming a little higher in the market than Garmin or Avidyne. Avidyne has a very nice system, which I think is targeted at the high end singles. Also, Avidyne has limited resources. Garmin has a good reputation, moderate resources and seems to be targeting more towards the very light and light jet market. Chelton is targeting the same market as Garmin and up. They seem to be the most innovative, doing things like 3D synthetic, Highway in the Sky and WAAS capability. Chelton also has the most impressive resources, being part of a $2 Billion organization, although not as much of a household word as Garmin, who built their excellent brand image, mostly through consumer products. Also, Chelton just won a major contract with Bell Helicopter for factory EFIS in their light single 407. The press release I saw, indicated that this could be worth $100m over the life of the contract. I don't know about that, but it is a very significant win for Chelton. Ultimately, I think Chelton will do very well in both the general aviation and lower business jet/regional type markets, Garmin will continue to do well at a point below and Avidyne a little lower still. In my mind, all three manufacturers are doing some amazing things, in slightly different market segments. I hope they are all successful. It took a long time for some innovative people to address these segments, but now they are leapfrogging the big guys. I think their systems are also dramatically improving situational awareness, and thus safety, for many pilots that are not flying 3000 hours per year.

-- Larry Warren, October 6, 2005

As a Chief Instructor for a Part 141 school, I have frequently had the opportunity to fly the G-1000 in the Cessna, and the Avidyne in the Cirrus. I just logged my first 30 hours behind the Chelton Flight-Logic EFIS installed in an MS-760 Paris Jet, and no amount of reading the manual or viewing their CD could have prepared me for how incredible the system is. WAAS GPS together with the HITS (highway in the sky) allowed me to effortlessly program a VFR or IFR approach from my current position to any airport or user defined waypoint, with tremendous accuracy and confidence in low visibility night approaches to unfamiliar airports. I even practiced 0/0 landings under the hood with a safety pilot and although I would never bust minimums in actual conditions, it sure gave me some confidence that in an emergency situation I could get the airplane and passengers down safely using the HITS in approach mode and utilizing the "Zoom" feature to magnify the airport and landing environment. I successfully completed over 10 such approaches and landings during a trip from Atlanta to Reno and return.

The TAWS and synthetic ground mapping feature are vastly superior to anything offered by Avidyne or Garmin and provide realistic simulated terrain and obstacle views on takeoff and landing. When making turns, the TAWS looks ahead to where you will be in one minute and actually gives you terrain warnings for your future path (even behind the aircraft in a 180 degree turn) Many, many additional features such as low fuel warnings that only come on in cruise and descent to avoid giving you that incessant false warning we all come to ignore in take off situations. Very smart engineering all around.

Don't get me wrong; I love the Garmin and Avidyne. Therefore, I have to ask myself if the extra money Chelton costs is worth all of the bells and whistles.

After 30 hours behind the knobs of Chelton, I guess I have concluded the first time it saves my life it was worth whatever I had to pay. Frankly, it is not that much more than other alternatives and is more readily available for after-market installations. Garmin wouldnメt even talk to me about installing a G-1000 in my Paris Jet, and although Avidyne was very nice, they wanted to pass on their certification costs in my Type. I could not have been more enthusiastically welcomed or professionally treated than I was by the Chelton team, and they didnメt charge me a dime for certifying their equipment in my aircraft.

I think the marketplace will certainly respond and reward this technology and outstanding customer service!

-- Greg Webster, October 22, 2005


I recently read on the Cirrus Pilots web site that Chelton is planning a reduced price for piston engine planes that install the Chelton system. If this is true (I have not been able to confirm) it would open a tremendous market for them. There are a lot of older but capable single and twin engine pistons that could benefit from a Chelton avionics upgrade. This would keep them competitive with newer models. Imagine a FADEC Piper Malibu (see www.malibumods.com) with a Chelton glass cockpit. This would be a very capable airplane. Chelton is being rewarded and their market will expand with a pricing structure the better serves the different market segments.

-- Timothy Coomer, December 4, 2005

I've been comparing manufacturers and stumbled across another that seems to warrant further study called OP Technologies. Their webisite is http://optechnologies.com/ They already have WAAS and the ADS-B is slated for later this year. They also have a forward looking infrared camera system for seeing through clouds and fog etc. They're applications are for general, commercial and military aviation applications.

-- Shane Henrie, February 1, 2006

Dear Shane:

I checked out the web site of OP and it was very interesting, and I appreciate your bringing it to my attention. The first thing I noticed was how similar their terminology is to Chelton. Which raised a question in my mind; who came up with what first? Not having flown the OP, I did a little checking around��. What I found was very interesting.

First and foremost for me, they're not certified, which immediately blows them off the list because I fly a certified jet. They claim to be "going through certification" (like everyone else) but I have extensive experience with FAA certification process and it ain�t easy or quick. Chelton is certified, and seems to have a significant number of aircraft on the STC list, including jets which require LEVEL A (the same certification required for the airlines). This means that their software is ultra reliable (I forget who told me but they said one-in-a-billion failure rate - could that be right?). I do not know of any other EFIS in Chelton�s price range that has their STC�s and LEVEL A quality control.

Even in the experimental market, I don�t think they have sold many units compared to ANY of the other experimental EFIS manufacturers (including Blue Mountain, Dynon, Direct-To Avionics/Chelton, etc). According to my research, even Grand Rapids Technologies has out-sold them probably 20 to 1, and they only released their EFIS two years ago! So it seems OP�s claim to fame is that the owners are ex-Honeywell employees. Also, they designed an EFB for Boeing, which is impressive in certain circles.

In trying to figure out which came first, the chicken or the egg, I heard about some Lancair pilots who have time behind the OP glass. The impression I got was that OP seems to emulate Chelton and mirrors anything that Chelton does. For instance, they have HITS...but no flight path marker! In my airplane that is a lifesaver and I can�t imagine flying anything without it again. They haven't finished their first iteration at EFIS, so they keep adding "stuff" as Chelton comes out with improvements and features. (Blue Mountain did this for a while too.) OP�s large display has so much "stuff" cluttered on it that it is difficult to fly behind. Their software is glitchy and hasn't gone through any valid certification process. I have no idea how Chelton does it, but imagine the size of the database for topographical features. I can see compressing and storing that database within the computer of the system, but the trick it would seem, is how to uncompress the data directly in front of the airplane and then recompress it as soon as the airplane passes by - in a seamless way that doesn�t create glitchy movement on the map. It must take some enormous amount of RAM to do that or some magical twirling whirly-gigs, but it is amazing how well it works. All I know is no one else has been able to figure out how they do it, including some of the heavy hitters like Honeywell who is about 20 times bigger than Chelton.

I like the concept of FLIR, but until OP gets it working reliably in a certified box, it does me no good. Furthermore, my understanding from folks who have flown OP, the layout is just too cluttered and gives a bit of information overload. I flew FLIR in police helicopters and to do it right it takes one guy to really focus on what they are seeing (much less add flying and navigating to the workload). In my opinion the FLIR is a fancy bell and whistle, but in a single pilot application it probably adds to the information overload situation. But hey, I guess it is whatever you get used to.

OP has been working on their EFIS just about as long as Blue Mountain, and little success. Here is some third hand information from a reliable person I know in the industry, so I believe it to be true: EPIC originally installed OP in their factory prototype and after a bunch of software and hardware changes, time and flight hours, completely removed it and installed Chelton. Epic's first customer installed Chelton on the left side and OP on the right side. The aircraft has less than 50 hours on it and the OP equipment has been removed. Lancair Avionics installed the best OP has to offer, with 2 large displays, integrated radios, etc., and Lancair was not able to make the OP work as advertised, and after several visits from the OP folks and over 2 weeks of troubleshooting on the bench, Lancair sent the panel to their customer in non-working condition. Suffice to say nobody was too happy

I was unable to find any OP equipped aircraft owners (other than OP) that would purchase it again, and man, I spent some time searching. Hey, if you have a certified aircraft, it doesn't really matter. OP doesn't qualify.

I didn�t mean to be too wordy, but this looked very interesting to me until I did a little research. For me, Chelton is still my avionics of choice, even though I would like to pay less (of course), nothing I have found out there comes remotely close to what their radios do for the money - I guess I just want the best I can get on a beer budget. I have decided however, that some things are worth the price and Chelton has spoiled me forever. Good luck! Greg

-- Greg Webster, February 3, 2006


Greg and Shane -- great information. This confirms my growing interest in Chelton and my perception that they are the leaders. Now, lets hope that price drop comes through before I am ready to buy a plane and install the system!

-- Timothy Coomer, February 3, 2006

I'm a dealer for both Garmin and the Chelton EFIS system. I hope its alright, but I'd like to post an opinion from a dealer standpoint. To start off with, I just about agree with all of the comments made regarding the Chelton EFIS system. In fact, I don't disagree with any of the comments thus far.

I'm not a pilot. But having been in the avionics industry for over 30 years, I was totally blown away when I was first exposed to how the system operates. I also looked at the installation hardware and manuals. Not only was I impressed by how it operates, but I was also impressed by the hardware and documentaion. They put a lot of thought into it. I was so blown away, that I knew I wouldn't be able to sell these systems from a brochure, so I bought a system to have on hand to demo. I don't really want to say how long I have had it, but needless to say, I have not sold a system yet. I also consider myself a pretty good salesman as well. But I am totally disappointed that I haven't been able to sell a system yet. You are right, the price of admission is high, just like anything else, you get what you pay for. And now, they have increased their pricing (RME). I view this as conterproductive.

If you guys ever saw the video, where the unit went through testing, it would blow your mind. Its truly amazing. The interfaces available with this system with other avionics is just unbelieveable! The displays are incredible as well. You have no idea how happy I was to stumble across this forum, and find other people that really like the system. I was starting to feel all alone.

Some day................... :-)

-- Dan Neil, May 25, 2006


There's one critical thing that helps to sell new airplanes that Chelton lacks. It's the WOW factor of all that glass. A new G1000 Mooney or Avidyne-equipped Cirrus has a lot of glass in it, while the Chelton system doesn't offer as many square inches. Of course, that's judging a book by its cover, since everything I've ever read says that the Chelton is the better system. I have been privileged to sit in a Lancair IV-P with a two-screen Chelton system, and while I didn't get to demo the avionics, I thought that it looked plenty big enough. It would be my choice over the new G600 Garmin system if I was retrofitting a valuable aircraft.

-- Clifton Rybick, December 6, 2006

Clifton:

I had the same impression when I first saw the boxes. Once you get a little time behind them it is better than a large display because your scan is limited to a smaller space, making it an easier transition from "steam guages" and more natural to see all of the information depicted.

I am a DPE and CFII who teaches and does checkrides in Chelton equipted aircraft. If you are serious about these avionics and you are ever in Southern California or the Atlanta area, let me know and I will set up a demo for you. You can e-mail me at skyking2@sprintmail.com for further information. Best regards, g

-- Greg Webster, December 6, 2006


While I have only seen Chelton at trade shows and liked what I saw, and no Avidyne experience, I have been flying a G1000 T182 for a couple years. The pilot display took a little getting used to, but in the final analysis, initially it's mostly a replacement for steam guages. The big plus for me is that the attitude representation is such a huge part of the display, that I can almost sense attitude changes peripherally, without having to concentrate on a little patch on the panel. Overall, it makes flying instrument much less intense. ( now, if they only had a type font for the over 50 crowd) My main point is that eventually, all of these products will tend to merge in their feature sets, because it's all software. Garmin is a good company, and does a great job at what it does, and will probably add HTS and terrain in the near future. Chelton is a great company as well, and won't live or die on its low end EFIS business. (Incidentally, I believe Collins and others had the "HTS" display for quite some time) Chelton may have been the pioneer EFIS wise, but Garmin established itself as a provider of thousands of little panel mount GPS navigators and movingmap units in the past decade, which for the most part were well supported, trouble free and easy to use. Now they are able to bank on their reputation, having built their business at a grass roots level.

-- Mike Voort, January 18, 2007

I have read on the Commander Premier website that when they start production in 2007 they are going to offer the Chelton system on the 115 TC and 115 as standard equipment. In another news release I read that they will start taking orders sometime this summer. Since the aircraft will also have the tried and tested vacuum pumps for the steam gauges as well as a stand alone auto pilot, this approach seems to me to be the best overall choice.

Getting back to the original question though, I called Chelton and they sent me a complete POH hardcopy for free. After reading it there is no comparison with the competition. I mean "hands down" no comparison. They will also send a DVD will the manual and some other information for free if you go to their website (as a general course of doing business). But since I hate reading manuals on the computer screen, they sent me a hard copy of the manual.

-- chris gregory, April 17, 2007


I have enjoyed reading all the comments about how great the Chelton system is, but my question is more basic. Garmin is now offering to support the WSI weather system. I think that means one can hook up the weather to existing Garmin 530/430 combos in advance of buying the Chelton system. Also, the Chelton website indicates that it supports the Garmin MX20 (GMX-200). This would lead me to believe that you could buy a Chelton PFD and have it talk to the MX-20 and have WSI weather on both without compromise. Does anyone have an opinon about that?

-- Michael Plante, May 10, 2007

Michael:

I am no expert on the subject, just a satisfied Chelton user. According to my understanding, you can not put in a single WSI unit and have it display on all three units. The Garmin Com-Nav GPS (430-530 requires WSI AVX-5, while the Chelton EFIS and MX20 use the AV200.

If you display WSI on the Chelton and MX20, the Chelton must be the controlling system. The MX20 is just a display.

If you need further clarification, the guy who knows this stuff inside out is Tim @ Chelton Flight Systems,(208)389-9959.

The REALLY good news is that if my information is correct, I expect a price reduction in the system for GA aircraft like the Bonanza and Cessna. This should make it a very attractive alternative!

Let me know if that is helpful, g

-- Greg Webster, May 21, 2007


I'm considering buying a 2001 Meridian and upgrading it with a Chelton system. Anyone happen to know if there's an STC for such a configuration? I called Chelton today but everyone is at Oshkosh.

-- Don Brown, July 24, 2007

How about EFI-890R Universal ? is it more affordable than Garmin 1000 and Avidyne ?

Anantia

-- Anantia Prakasa, July 26, 2007


I have a diamond DA 40 with G1000. I have been flying the aircraft for two years and greatly enjoying the capabilities. Unfortunately there are some drawl backs to the system. The traffic is ground-based dependent which usually does not work unless you have a proper radar our support. I also found some other gremlins that I do not like. I'm now starting a new project building a Lancair Legacy and I'm looking for the proper instruments. After reading what everyone had to say it sounds like Chilton is the way to go. I need to do further research on comparing the two systems. speaking to G900 guys at air venture gave me the indications that they were going to have synthetic view in the near future. If this is true the G900 is a strong candidate for my aircraft. also Chilton is offering a strong discount for systems purchased up to August 30 2007. What is there anybody's opinion about Chilton's dropping the ball when their major distributor went down the tubes taking multiple deposits for orders that were not filled?

-- Russell S, August 13, 2007

I have been reading about Chelton and I am convinced it is superior technology over G1000 and Avidyne despite less 'glass'. I have a few questions however. I would like to build Lancair ES and equip it with Chelton:

1. can I go through IFR training using such aircraft or my instructor will tell me I am having too much fun? 2. Are the latest WAAS LPV, etc. approaches built into it? 3. subject of redundancy - there is but one inertial system (per 2 boxes) so if I lose it I lose the AI info. So I need some artificial horizon backup, correct?

thanks. Michael from Oakland, Ca

-- Michael Jastrzebski, October 6, 2007


The answer to the question has been answered by looking at how many airplanes come with a G1000.

-- john jones, November 1, 2007

John Jones: what sells better is not always what "IS" better. We know it from every day life.

-- Michael Jastrzebski, November 4, 2007

This is a great conversation, which confirms my interest in Chelton PFD / EFS combo for the 182P retrofit I am starting. If there was a way to post a JPG file here, I could show the planned layout, but as I do not know how, I will attempt to describe it. Chelton PFD and MFD on the left side Airspeed, AI and HSI below as backups Garmin 530, Garmin 330, S-Tec 55x, Garmin SL30 in the center JPI 930 and Chelton PFD (option, depends on cost) on the right

Does anyone know if all of the above can "play nice" in the same panel. Can PFD data be displayed on the MFD screen in case of a screen outage?

Anyone with experience building similar panels, please write me at avb177@gmail.com.

-- Alex Beylin, December 23, 2007


Hi All, I am the Tim mentioned in Greg's May 21, 2007 posting. As a Technical Support Representative for CFS I have a biased view. As a former Avionics Installation Technician, Interface Engineer and Avionics Salesman I feel I can speak with a balanced view. Chelton offers the best all around retrofit system. It is pricey for the small aircraft owner, but we have recently experienced a price reduction which may help some. I can compare one manufacturer to another all day and present valid arguments for each but the redundancy aspects of the Chelton system is by far greater. For instance, in all reality when you install a 2 tube system you are also installing dual TAWS Systems (certified from Class C to Class A w/Flaps and Gear) and dual Flight Management Systems. The system is redundant in the fact that if the PFD fails the next Display (MFD1) takes over all the functions of the PFD and is switchable between the PFD view and MFD views. Chelton Flight Systems has also developed or is currently developing our own peripheral equipment, ADAHRS, GPS, Helisas etc and making many improvements to our existing equipment either via software or hardware improvements. I am happy to talk to each and everyone who would like to give me a call, (208)389-9959 or Email, tannis@cheltonfs.com, after all, Chelton Flight Systems Technical Support or our sales staff are here to answer your questions.

-- Tim Annis, April 17, 2008

As a long time reader of this website, I have signed up to question how does the G1000 stack up against the Chelton EFIS kits now Synthetic vision and Highway in the Sky has been installed.

Would be good to hear a debate about this, does the G1000 now offer all of the benefits of the Chelton, in a more popular package, or is it still lacking in some areas of functionality?

-- Howard Joseph, May 24, 2008


Just read the comments by Tim Annis. He is very objective and experienced. I have just spent the last 6 years as Chief Pilot for Chelton. Both Tim and I were laid off in May 2008. I had the opportunity to fly the Chelton from Alaska to South Africa and many points in between. It proved that synthetic vision is where all systems will go in the future. I have met many fine pilots who are alive today simply because the increased situational awareness led them out of trouble. It is hard of course to put a price on that. I have no idea where Chelton is going. I was given no reason for my termination. They may focus on helicopters more, now that Garmin has announced synthetic vision. At any rate, I look forward to seeing the progress in software on all platforms. This should lead to more affordability as well. That will open the door to a level of safety that is long overdue. I welcome your comments. Nick Cain-flightlogic@msn.com

-- Nick Cain, July 29, 2008

Boy, I cannot believe this even comes up for a question. The Chelton is a total peice of shit. It is a kludge. The interface takes so much time to operate that you can end up missing parts of your flight plan. Example. Plug in an arrival. The Chelton gives you waypoints as well as the published altitudes. ATC always gives you different altitudes. Then, you get direct to another waypoint on the arriveal. The stupid VNAV button softkey actually covers the ACT button preventing you from directly accessing the flight plan so to go direct to another waypoint. The chelton is dangerous and from a safety perspective, is woefully substandard compared to the G1000, which I have approx. 500 hrs. behind. I have 300 hrs. behind the chelton.

-- jerry caroom, November 29, 2009

Ive read very different comments on the Chelton EFIS. The last one is devastating. Anyone else with actual experience on it can give a perspective? Im looking at an Aero Commander that has a Chelton EFIS and wanted reviews. Thanks.

-- Martin Antranik, October 12, 2010

I'm curious about how, or if, this answer has changed in the years since the original post. The G1000 has been upgraded to provide WAAS and synthetic vision, plus a bunch of other goodies; I can't find much information on the Chelton systems' current state, or on cost information for aftermarket Chelton installations. Consider this a bump to the topic...

-- Paul Robichaux, April 2, 2012

Most of the information on the web concerning the Chelton EFIS seems to be old. Only thing I can determine is a company named Cobham bought Chelton out in recent years. Cobham's website seems to indicate that they're are primarily a defense/aerospace company, with not much interest in GA. Finding recent info on the Chelton EFIS is difficult. I wonder if the product is still available? Most folks buying retrofits these days, seem to be going with the Garmin G600. I don't think the 600 was available when some of the early responses were written in this thread. I think the G1000 was around then, but not available for retrofit. If true, the Chelton would have been one of the few options available. Perhaps Garmin's success with the aftermarket retrofit of the G600, drove Chelton out of the market, and they were absorbed by Cobham, who wanted the technology for military applications.

-- Brent Staulcup, February 25, 2014