This Week I installed an iLevil AW unit which provides pitot-statically driven AHRS information, GPS, and ads-b to the iPad.

Some may view it as a frivolous expense, but here's why I felt it was worth it:

  • Attitude Indicator-  I concluded that an attitude indicator was essential after an accidental albeit brief encounter with IFR conditions.  I didn't want to add the weight and complexity of a vacuum system and found that electric attitude gyro's are ridiculously expensive for what you get.  Synthetic vision with terrain avoidance isn't as necessary here on the coast where everything is flat, but will be nice to have on trips.  
  • Accurate Magnetic Heading-  My card compass has too much interference and only works when heading southwest to northwest. I needed something with a remote magnetometer that could be placed in the aft fuselage to give accurate magnetic heading info.  
  • GPS-  My Nexus tablet has been my primary flight instrument and has on-board GPS, but the signal took forever to connect and was frequently lost, so it wasn't reliable.
  • ADS-B-   This is really just a bonus in my mind, not a necessity.  Now that inexpensive DIY ads-b units are capable of being made for $150, it doesn't add a ton of value to the package except that having it included in the one device means that I can pick it up at the same time as everything else without having to swap between multiple devices are manage bluetooth AND wifi connections.  Having flown with a different ADS-B unit in the past, I really appreciate the ability to pick up metars in the air.  That, along with radar is, to me, the greatest benefit.  In fact, I think the traffic is almost more distracting because I have a hard time keeping my head out the window and not looking at it...
  • Hard-Wired in-  I tried an iLevil SW for a few months.  It worked great except for the fact that it had to be suctioned onto the rear of the canopy behind my head where it would be free of magnetic fields so as to give accurate heading info, and where it would be visible to the sky because it didn't have remote antennas.  It would occasionally fall down, and always needed to be taken inside and charged between flights.  In and out, back and forth...  always readjusting to get the heading right before taking off...   and, of course, I often didn't remember to grab it until after the plane was tied down, the cover was on, and I was headed back to the car... No thanks!  Forget the benefit of the pitot-static inputs on the AW, i'd pay the $200 just to avoid all that headache....   

Cost Comparison:

-the iLevil is $1300 and works with both my iPad mini and my Nexus (more on these below).  I don't include the cost of the tablets because most folks these days fly with an Ipad anyway.  if you insist on adding the costs, I got the iPad mini 2 for $200, and the Nexus 7 for $150.  The ram mount which was modified to work with both was about $25.  

 

-Dynon D10/100-  $900-1500 used on Ebay, (the larger screen of the D100 is a better comparison, and costs $2500 new) but doesn't give GPS, ADS-B, or Synthetic Vision, so you're using an iPad to navigate anyway which means more $$$

-GRT Mini X-  $1800+/- when equipped with remote magnetometer and moving map software.  GPS included. Should have better brightness and glare properties than the iPad.  Meets most of my requirements, but it looks to have an awfully small display (4" diagonally).  It doesn't include ADS-B for that price either, and I'd also still likely have an iPad in the cockpit for charts and trip planning.   This seems to be the best competitor to the current setup but costs more and doesn't have as much functionality.

Con's:

Gotta be fair, right?  An actual EFIS is made to be sunlight visible in the cockpit.  The iPad is prone to glare and the screen can be washed out in full sunlight.  It also gets pretty hot and I've heard that they can shut down due to heat, although that's never happened to me.  That's why I usually fly with the Nexus 7 (2013 model) which I have never had a problem viewing in the cockpit.  It is vivid and bright, and doesn't seem to get as hot as the iPad does.   The apps available to drive the AHRS and Sythetic Vision are far superior on the iPad, though....  

The best app for flight planning with the Nexus (Andriod OS) is AvNav EFB (in my opinion, of course), but it doesn't offer an AHRS display, it's just moving map with ads-b.  Naviator has both AHRS and Synthetic Vision, but it's mapping/flight planning software is atrocious.  

With the iPad, I LOVE the FlyQ EFB for flight planning, weather, airport info...  in flight with ADS-B it is the easiest to use.  It works with the iLevil to display synthetic vision in full or split screen, but only reports GPS data for heading, altitude and ground speed.  It will accurately report pitch and bank, but leaves off a bunch of really great qualities that the iLevil AW has to offer.     The Levil tech AHRS app supplements this, however by offering a large AHRS display alongside battery, satellite, and antenna info.  It, of course, displays the pitot-statically driven airspeed, altitude and vertical speed indicator.   It is easy to swap back and forth from one app to the next, and is a workable solution, but I don't love it.  

The problem is the display on the Levil Tech app. For some odd reason, they chose to use three small animated round guages for all of the speeds instead of the tapes one would expect to see at the sides of an AHRS display.  It works, but it's small, it's not intuitive, and it doesn't make the best use of the screen real-estate.  Take a look at pictures online and then compare them to the iHud Remote app that used to be available for the g-Mini ahrs unit.   It's not available anymore, and wouldn't work with the AW anyway, but it's exactly what I'm looking for in a display.  

Finally, I found the Xavion app.  It has a sweet AHRS display, works with the AW's pitot static inputs, shows the flight plan's course right on the AHRS screen, and even helps find an emergency place to land.  It's exactly what I was looking for.  I don't use it for pre-flight planning, but it's perfect for in the cockpit.   Oh.  Wait...   The sun is shining at just the right angle to wash out the iPad....  if only Xavion worked on the Nexus...    

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Comment by Jon Reddick on January 10, 2016 at 12:14pm

Yes, Darryl.   One must have a grt engine monitor and make a harness to output the data to the iLevil box, but then it is sent wirelessly to the tablet.    I believe the proprietary app is the only one which currently is able to display the info.   

Comment by Darryl Legg on January 10, 2016 at 3:11am

Is it possible to display engine info on the ipad as well, wirelessly somehow?

Comment by Marvin W Miller on December 26, 2015 at 3:39pm
That is exactly what I'm using 2 years now.
Comment by Loren Warner on December 26, 2015 at 1:19pm

Thanks for the information.  We have a long way to go before CH 750 is ready, but keeping our eye on iPad mini's with iLevel AW.

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