Avionics News - October 2011
Avionics News - Point of Communication

Database Updates Need Manufacturer Support

Actor Peter Falk of the hit TV show “Columbo” recently passed away. If you remember the show, you know that his famous line as he left a room was “just one more thing.”
Just like the bad guys in “Columbo,” I really don’t like to hear the words “just one more thing” from a customer. It certainly is never followed with a work order to add a glass display or another high-end ticket item. Rather, it seems 99 percent of the time those words are followed with a request to update the database while we happen to have the aircraft in the shop.

Database updating is one of the services we provide for customers with little or no profit, but it can take a huge amount of shop time. Let me be clear. I fully supported the manufacturers in their move to make the database procedure an owner-vendor process. That is the way today’s equipment is designed, and it makes sense. Additionally, I supported the legislation to change the Federal Aviation Administration regulations so a Part 135 crewmember could perform this function. This was discussed by the GRA committee and appropriately endorsed by the Aircraft Electronics Association.

Greg VailMy issue is with the manufacturers and third-party vendors that have not been educating or helping the customer with database updates. Some manufacturers and vendors have not provided the level of information and guidance they should. If you buy a portable GPS or a new aircraft with a glass panel, you can watch a very nice video on how to update it on the manufacturer’s website. However, there is not this kind of help available for retrofit product owners from a number of companies. There are no “how-to” videos to update geo-references charts, or other databases, on your new glass-upgraded cockpit or navigation unit. So, the aircraft owner is out of luck, and you guessed it – they call the dealer.

The shops are left to answer questions and guide the aircraft owners through the database maze. If you have not done this with a customer, you’re missing out on a huge waste of time.

Yes, the dealers sell and install the systems. We should, and do, support our installations. However, I believe that we, as dealers, are not getting the support needed to assist customers with the database process. The manufacturers and vendors could make a much better effort to help.

Even though the database process has improved in the last few years, a number of issues still arise when doing database updates. For example, the data loader does not work, a different drive is needed on the computer, we have the wrong version of the operating system on our computers, the chip is bad, and on and on.

I may be way off base, and if so, please let me know. But, if you agree with me, take some time to submit feedback to manufacturers and vendors, and ask them to do a better job in this process.

The dealers used to make a profit in the install part of the process, and there was a time when customers expected to pay for labor on database installs. Unfortunately, those days are gone, and on-going support of database updates is no longer a profit center for us.

Time is one of our most valuable assets, and I would prefer to use my time selling equipment and services, not installing databases.

Greg Vail, Chairman
Greg Vail

Chairman, AEA board of directors
Bloomington Avionics