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The Price Tag Associated with Certified Avionics

5 June 2015 @ 5:00 PM  / Aviation Blog / Lucy's Logbook /


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The cost of certified avionics is not widely understood or appreciated and is one worth taking into consideration, particularly when making a purchasing decision. It’s certainly no secret that the cost of the certified avionics we install in the panel of our aircraft hold a higher price tag than the portable or non-certified avionics we install in experimental or amateur-built aircraft. So, what gives? 

Three major pieces make up the cost differential between certified TSO’d avionics and non-certified Screen Shot 2015-06-03 at 11.05.04 AM
equipment, including the initial and recurring costs to develop, maintain and enhance our certified equipment. Our avionics must meet a set of stringent regulatory requirements that are the same standards required for commercial airliners carrying hundreds of passengers. In addition to those requirements, we develop our own set of requirements and from there, design and develop the product and demonstrate that we comply with all of those requirements – those set forth by the regulatory agencies and by ourselves. Even more, this process repeats itself with each and every single software update we issue for our certified equipment. This cost is then amortized into the final price to account for non-recurring engineering costs. Extensive environmental testing such as vibration, temperature or lightning, contribute to the overall cost of the final product. Finally, once FAA certification is achieved, this process is again repeated with various worldwide regulatory agencies, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the National Civil Aviation Agency of Brazil (ANAC) so pilots around the world can install Garmin avionics in their aircraft.

The cost associated with software lends itself to be a significant driver of finalized pricing. Software development and quality assurance is highly structured and monitored to ensure that it meets safety standards that are set in place, which carries a tremendous amount of overhead. Additionally, hours upon hours of flight testing are conducted both during the initial development of a product, as well as throughout each individual software update, which adds to the finalized price of our certified avionics. Again, the cost of software approval continues to grow as it is approved by several different regulatory agencies.

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Finally, there’s no question the hardware cost of manufacturing a product contributes to the price of any product. However, the volume of each certified product we produce is rather low, particularly compared to other mass-produced products that Garmin manufactures. Aviation is very niche and while a number of our certified GPS/NAV/COMs and glass flight displays are among the most popular in the aviation industry, they still represent a small number as it relates to total volume.  Smaller, mass-produced quantities undoubtedly have an impact on total cost to the consumer. 

While these cost-drivers are associated with regulatory requirements, our own internal requirements, non-recurring software development costs and of course, the cost of hardware, customers get much more than just that.  At Garmin, our goal is to design higher quality products, which offer lower cost of ownership for a superior value. We intend to continue as a leader in innovation as we seek new markets and uses for our products that make flying easier and the act of navigating our skies, more intuitive.  So, as natural as it is to ask, “Why are certified avionics more expensive than non-certified avionics?” Garmin customers can trust that they are receiving state-of-the-art avionics that exceed stringent requirements and offer industry-leading safety benefits – all for a great value. 

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