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If you're an aircraft owner, it's a good chance your passion for flying started at an early age. It did for me. I can still remember our weekly trips to the beach at age 8. We passed a gas station on that trip that had an old "warbird" fuselage on the side of the building. I always looked for it. It seems my passion was hereditary. My father told me this story years ago. His parents were at a parent/teacher conference and the teacher, referring to my Dad said that he was a great student "until an airplane passed over and then he lost all concentration". He took me for my first airplane ride when I was about 6 in a Piper Tri-Pacer at Wiggins Airways in Norwood, MA. That was 1956. I held onto that "dream" until the day I could act on it. I'm Bob Hart and I help aircraft owners get avionics "right"!
In 1972, at age 22, I decided to get into action. Being the "romantic" that I am, I decided to take glider lessons and get my glider ticket. The thought of owning a plane (or glider) seemed unreachable by my perception at the time. After about 15 lessons, I was ready to solo and expected to on the next Saturday morning. The tow pilot didn't show! My strong sense of independence kicked in and I investigated the used power plane market and much to my surprise found a nice used, mid-time Piper Colt for $2800 … at my local airport! I bought it and soloed on my fifth lesson. When I got my ticket, I had only 13.8 hours on instruction. This was before the FAA starting requiring 20 hours minimum. Two years later, I traded up to a Stinson Voyager. Later, I would go on to purchase a Cherokee 140, Cherokee 6, Grumman Trainer (with 160HP conversion) and a Corbin Baby Ace experimental. Today, I have about 1000 hours and my flying has always been "fun" based.
In 1997, prompted by divorce at 47, I moved to Florida which was a fresh start for me and that included seeking a new profession. I scoured the Sunday paper with nothing in mind. I was looking for something that matched my skills. Eastern Avionics was the dominant avionics company in 1997. If you were flying in 1997, you knew Eastern Avionics. Unlike your typical "mom and pop" local avionics shop, Eastern Avionics had the first avionics internet website on the worldwide web (www.) and not only catered to the local market but reached a broad market throughout the U.S. and beyond. You needed sales experience which I had lots of but … you also needed to be a licensed pilot. I got the job and soon found that I was in my element. I held sales consultant and sales manager roles during my 16 years at Eastern (new owners in 2007 and name changed to APG) and guided countless owners in over $20 Million of avionics sales during that time. One important thing I learned at Eastern/APG was that aircraft owners, especially "Legacy" aircraft owners, struggled to get the answers they were looking for from local avionics shops. If you were not someone who could respond positively to "throw it all out and but in a Garmin stack", they didn't want to talk to you. There was no shortage of avionics shops but there was a shortage of good, unbiased advice!
In March of 2013, I launched my own website: www.AvionixHelp.com and in the early days I spread the word by participating in a number of avionics forums and answering avionics upgrade questions from aircraft owners and operators. My vision for AvionixHelp.com was a resource for aircraft owners to get unbiased, independent advice before attempting an avionics upgrade. I discovered my service is unique and in the words of other avionics professionals "Very needed"! Here's how I work. Aircraft owners contact me often before they have visited an avionics shop. I find out who they are, how they fly, how long they plan to keep their airplane, what their upgrade goals are and I get an estimated budget figure. Note two things: I get this information before I start working and before the meter (so to speak) starts. Also note, these are questions that avionics shops almost never ask. How can you advise a customer without knowing these things? I then provide a written "Avionics Report and Recommendation" to the customer. I wait until the customer has had time to absorb it and once I know the client has what they expected, I issue an invoice @75 per hour through PayPal. Most clients have questions after the report and I usually answer off the clock. Clients leave the discussion educated in many ways. They know what they should buy to meet their goals and as close to their budget as possible. They know approximately what it should cost installed and in many cases, I can recommend a shop I trust that can do the work. Clients will then get quotations from shops and I encourage them to send them to me so I can review. In short, my clients are happy clients. The average cost of my service is between $300-$450 (4-6 hours) but they all save more than that on the other end!
Kevin H. from Illinois contacted me in March 2017. He had just purchased a 2001 Piper Archer III and needed some upgrades. The Archer was nicely equipped but did not have WAAS. His local airport did not have an ILS so he felt he needed WAAS GPS approach capability. He also needed to address ADS-B out. He already was using an iPad with ForeFlight and had a Stratus II ADS-B receiver. I reviewed a quote he got from an avionics shop that I had always considered as a good one. I did not like the quote. He was being overcharged for some items and the labor hours quoted were too short. Short means the actual bill will likely be higher! I advised him and told him to get a few more quotes. Kevin's project was relatively simple and I billed him for 3 hours ($225). I asked Kevin for a quote I could use on my website. Here's Kevin's feedback: "Bob helped clarify my avionics needs. I needed an honest, unbiased opinion from someone knowledgeable with this stuff and he fulfilled that role and he helped me stay close to my budget. I ended up with better equipment for less money. I'm not exaggerating when I say I spent a couple hundred with Bob and saved a couple thousand. I also have the peace of mind that I made good decisions based on his advice. " Kevin H. 3/17 I can't say it any better than that! That's what I do. I've helped lots of clients find the right piece of used avionics for their upgrades. I have four clients who bought Garmin GNS-480 Integrated Navigators. I helped them locate and purchase these units. They were purchased "as removed", with no guarantee and we sent the units to Garmin for Factory repair and recertification. The 480's came back from Garmin repaired, software and data updated with a one year factory warranty. With new install kit and certified antenna, these clients all paid less than $6500 complete for a factory repaired and warranted unit. FYI, Garmin expects to support the GNS-480 for at least another 5 years. I also help clients locate equipment from approved vendors who "I know" are honest and who will support the equipment they sell at a fair price.
When you're ready to do an avionics upgrade with all new equipment, you can get lots of information from the internet but you're still left with a lot of questions. Your avionics shop may or may not be able (or want to) answer your questions. Where do you get those answers and how do you find the equipment from an honest vendor at a fair price. I do both of these things and frankly, helping the legacy aircraft owner fly affordably with affordable avionics is what I do best.Fly Safe!