Merlin Avionics Review: Oshkosh Trip

My Oshkosh trip report is likely to be lengthy so I thought I would start by breaking out a blog about the panel and instruments I used on this trip. Note that I have a few thousand hours of flying over 35+ years with several trips to and from Florida to Oshkosh. I thought having a Garmin 296 was a big deal and it was 10 years ago. But now I am really impressed with what is available and a lot of it for very reasonable prices.

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Starting with the new Lightspeed ANR and wireless headsets: Wow, these are great! One frequency is slaved to the transceiver for audio in and out. Plus there is the Bluetooth frequency to communicate with the phone. In the photo you can see my phone holder on the top left of the panel but no phone of course as I used it for taking the photo. The headsets are super soft and comfortable even after 2 hours. No ‘head clamp’ sensation. The noise cancelling works very well. And the music-in from the phone is perfect. I listened to an audio book and a lot of classic rock. Plus once in a while ATC. I turn on the headsets with a one-click button on the left side of the headset. I can prioritize ATC over the music if I want with one-click button on the right side. I can adjust the volume by clicking a big rocker switch on the right side. All very easy and effective. And contributed significant entertainment to the 25 some hours of flying on this trip. Batteries are good for 12+ hours and easy to recharge in the hotel room or even plug into the Merlin’s charging ports if I needed to.

Next is the MGL EFIS/EMS. This instrument even has 3D GPS which I did not use. Like I need 4 GPS’s on board. The EFIS provided the basic flight instrumentation like ASI, altimeter, VSI and ball. Plus the artificial horizon if I am stupid enough to put myself into a position to need it. And the split screen to EMS gives me the RPM and engine temperature info. Plus OAT and TAS and about 100 other features. This is the MGL Xtreme model which packs a lot of features in such a small instrument.

The transceiver is the new Flightline 760a model which does all I need and more with much improved audio even with the 2 cycle engine in front of it and all at a great price from Aircraft Spruce. Then comes the Trig TT22 transponder. The interesting part is that it has an ADS-B out port which if I had the time before the trip I could have slaved to the Garmin 660 GPS and had a traffic screen enabled. Nice, but until I arrived at Oshkosh I hardly ever saw another aircraft.

Now I am getting to the good stuff. 1) The new Garmin 660 has a beautiful screen which is very easy to read in all light. It is a touch-screen and is loaded with useful features including terrain warning which happen to come in handy (see next blog). One super nice feature is the included AOPA airport database which gave me instant access to everything I needed to know about any airport which makes it easy to choose a stop for fuel or maybe select an airport with a courtesy car and nearby hotels and restaurants. Plus it had live airport weather information. And I can slave it to the TruTrack ECO autopilot when I find a moment.

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Here is a photo of my last 2 legs to my home base of South Lakeland Airport (X49). It was taken a day after my return but that storm system was sitting there for a few days and stopped me in Georgia for a day or so. What you see is a basic Android tablet. Mine is an LG G-Pad I bought during a T-Mobile promotion for only the cost of the tax ($35) and adding $10/month to my plan for a few Gs of data. What a bargain! The nice tablet holder for $19 from Amazon also worked perfectly. The Garmin app costs more than the tablet! But well worth it as I now have the Garmin app on my phone and my tablet and of course it is part of the GPS 660. This tablet has overlay options so I selected lightning and radar overlays and can see what is in front or around me close to real time. And that was really a huge contribution to a safe flight considering the system in front of me! With a quick touch on an airport icon I received current weather so I could plot a course basically connecting airports reporting VFR plus keeping plenty of distance from those nasty T-storms.

A couple things out of the picture include 4 charging ports so I could keep my tablet and phone at 100% plus have open ports for anything else. The spar has a swing-down sun screen that you can buy for a Cessna for $150 or for an auto from Amazon for $11. Plus a simple stop watch for fuel management. The Newton fuel valve combined with the stop watch gives me pretty good fuel management. Fly one hour, switch tanks, fly another hour and land for refueling with as much as an hour reserve. And if I forget to monitor the stop watch the Garmin GPS pops up a SWITCH TANKS message at 64 minutes! Wow, I didn’t expect that! I simply added the Merlin specs to the GPS when I set it up and it came up with that message automatically. Cool.

Oh, one last thing, my coffee/drink holder mounted on the seat front came in handy. So now that you know what I had to work with I will move on to the next blog about the flight itself.

CWE