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Mon, Dec 28, 2009

Aero-Eval: The Best FBOs We Worked With In 2009 -- KVNC's Sarasota Avionics

In Well Over 400 hours Of Flight Time, ANN Sure Got Around This Year

Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Avionics Geek, Jim Campbell

As previously noted, it was a busy and wide-ranging year for ANN. Since taking the plunge and buying a Cirrus G3 Turbo in the wee hours of 2008 (literally on New Year's Eve), we've been spending a LOT of time on/over the road and with some 300 hours in our aircraft and nearly 200 more in a few others (including a long/great trip in a Columbia/Cessna 400) and quite a few hours in a really sweet Turbo-Aztec (with all the ice-fighting goodies... one of the most rugged workhorses in the M/E world). In so doing, we've been to a number of airports, FBO and maintenance facilities in the course of the year... many of which truly distinguished themselves... and a few that truly did not.

That being the case, we wanted to recognize some of the better experiences we had this year in the hope that the word will get out that these are aviation business worth frequenting and have demonstrated their ability to earn our business... and a return visit when the opportunity arises.

Last spring, after enjoying the charms of the first generation Avidyne Entegra for the better part of 100 hours, we were seduced by the promise of Avidyne's latest flat-panel wunderkind, the Release 9 upgrade for the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 series. While the decision about making the upgrade was an easy one, the means by which to accomplish this aero-brain transplant was not. We've worked with a number of local FBOs and Service centers and they all seemed to be "OK" but having been through a massive upgrade like this once before and having had a less than perfect experience, we were kinda gun-shy and decided that maybe it was OK to look as much as a few hundred miles away to find the right shop to work with... and boy, did we. 

KVNC: Sarasota Avionics, Venice Municipal Airport, Venice, Florida

It was the recommendation of a trusted friend (Thanks, Tom) that brought our attention to Sarasota Avionics and Kirk Fryar's industrious gang of avionics nerds -- and it was easily one of the best pieces of advice we got all year. Our massive R9 install was the first that they would accomplish (and indeed, we were among the first in the world to get the gear to do so), and we had the added time pressure of wanting the job done in time for Oshkosh -- just a few weeks off. We got R9 installed as well as a number of other mods, including a PMA 8000B, Becker Remote transponder, an S-Tec Roll Servo mod, and the full Avidyne goodies (the TWX-670 is a particularly notable and welcome addition, BTW) to support the best that R9 had to offer. The airplane was torn limb from limb... to the point where early visits were painful to view... it was like watching a surgeon start brain surgery on a loved one... and it kinda was.

Kirk's gang (under the direction of GM, Bill Thompson) tore into this project with more organization and professionalism than we have previously seen on any such installation.. they built a HUGE manual from scratch with all the drawings, specs, notes and info acquired during the job, documented EVERYTHING, took great pains to get it right -- and then the bird was delivered to us as Oshkosh 2009 started. We were amazed to note that there were NO serious squawks and in well over 100 hours since then, the only issues we've had to deal with, by and large, are operator error (yup, guilty as charged).

Sarasota, and their partner Leading Edge Aviation (out of Vandenberg Field, KVDF) did an amazing job in just about three weeks.. and under the pressure of a truly formidable deadline. Even with some new antennas and the necessary paint matching... there was nary a scratch, blemish, mismatch or gizmo out of place.  I've never had as overtly a positive experience on a project this massive/critical and to say the least, we can't recommend these guys highly enough. In the East Coast avionics community, which is filled with some of the best (and worst) companies in the nation, Sarasota stands taller than all the rest. We were pretty damned impressed.

Aero-Verdict: Outstanding Service, Great Value, Our Highest Possible Recommendation.

FMI: www.sarasotaavionics.com

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