I was scanning the ‘ULM’ ads on Le Bon Coin the other day as I frequently do, when I came across an ad for a Rotax 912 rev counter.

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What was particularly interesting was that, as shown in the image above, not only was this an 80mm diameter one but that it was also labelled ‘ICP’ showing that it came from a Savannah. I missed one just like it a year or so ago and could have kicked myself, so seeing this one which the seller said has only had about 100 hours of use, I immediately got in touch and said that I’d like to have it. I sent my cheque off yesterday and am now awaiting its arrival in a few days time.

If you take a look at the picture below you can see why I’m so interested in having it.

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My Savannah currently has an Icom handheld installed (4) interfacing with two headsets via an Alphatec intercom (3). Not only does the installation look very scruffy (on the whole I don’t think that French ULM pilots are as concerned with appearance as much as UK ones are) but when I visited the UK in 2016 I had complaints about the quality of my transmissions which was something that I was not in the least happy about.

Now couple that with the facts that the Alphatec intercom is obsolete and a bit laughable, actually, when you think how things are done in the UK, that there is a requirement to switch in France from the current 25kHz standard to the new 8.33kHz one by the end of next year and that the changeover has already occurred in the UK, which I intend to visit again shortly, and it becomes clear that I need to think seriously about how to make the change in my Savannah in the most effective and economic way possible.

If you take another look at the picture of 77ASY’s panel above, you can see that the 80mm hole that would normally be filled by the rev counter has an electric turn coordinator (1) installed in it instead. I’ve stated my views about this on several occasions, and to be clear, I think that in an ULM it is about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

It’s great for your image if you’re a budding Airbus pilot (I think a previous owner of my Savannah saw himself in that light from some of the other useless pieces of kit that I’ve removed) but it’s of no practical value if you fly your ULM as you should and remain legal ie in VMC. And it’s also heavy. The original 80mm rev counter has been replaced by a 57mm one (2) in another hole in the panel.

The more I think about it, although I know that’s it’s the more expensive option, I’d like to switch the Savannah radio fit from a handheld to a panel mount. Not only will this markedly improve the panel’s appearance but I expect that performance will also improve. And also panel mounts have useful additional features, like being able to have a second frequency set up ready for an easy and quick changeover.

After getting some useful feedback from pilots both in the UK and in Europe, the model I’ve decided on is the F.U.N.K.E ATR833S, a picture of which appears below.

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Not only is this model very economically priced but it’s also very light and a simple ‘one hole fit’. So here’s my plan, which is simple, yet should be very effective and also gives me a path for further future developments.

The electric turn coordinator (1) comes out and is disposed of. They seem to sell for 100-200€ on Le Bon Coin, so say 120€ to be conservative. The current 57mm rev counter (2) is also removed and sold – that one should go for 50€ on Le Bon Coin, possibly a bit more. The Icom handheld (3) is removed together with the Alphatec intercom (4) – I already have one left over from when I revamped my old X-Air’s panel – and if I’m lucky I might get, say 80€ for the pair on Le Bon Coin as they can’t now be used for a new install in an ULM here in France.

This gives me the 80mm hole into which the original-type rev counter that I’ve just bought will fit, leaving two 57mm holes in the panel. One of those I’ll use for the new F.U.N.K.E that I’ll shortly be ordering and the other will take a spare slip ball that I have in my kit somewhere but can’t presently find, although they’re cheap enough to get hold of so it wouldn’t be the end of the world if I’ve lost it.

But now what of the future? Someone has drilled a ruddy great hole in the Savannah’s panel to take the Icom’s cables and that’ll be left when the above work has all been done. For now I’ll have to either leave it, or more likely cover it with a small aluminium panel, but it can’t be left like that forever.

What I’d then like to do is completely revamp the Savannah’s panel. In the general area in the middle of the panel where the hole in question is located, there’s enough room with a revised layout for another 57mm hole that will be perfect for a transponder. Not only will it make for safer flying but it will also make flights back to the UK shorter and more direct as there’d be no need to fly around Class D airspace, and that’s the route that I’d like to go down.

So what of cost? The radio and cable will be subject to the DGAC’s 20% refund for switching from a 25kHx radio to an 8.33kHx one and will therefore net out to just over 1000€ and the only other expenditure will be the 70€ on the rev counter that I’ve just found on Le Bon Coin. Adding up the above figures for the items that I hope then to be able to sell on, my total outlay (excluding a transponder, of course) will come out to 800-850€, a reasonable amount I think to swap from the Savannah’s scruffy 25kHz Icom set up to a cool 8.33kHz F.U.N.K.E one. And all of those plans come from finding an 80mm Savannah rev counter on Le Bon Coin 😉

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