ACK E-04 Upgrade Lessons Learned
Finally finished my ACK E-04 ELT (406 MHz) upgrade. Here are the lessons learned for future upgraders:
-I was upgrading from a standard AmeriKing 121.5 ELT that was installed in the right wingtip. The AmeriKing remote control panel indicator was installed in the instrument panel.
-ACK E-04 replaced the old ELT in the right wingtip. I thought a lot about the easiest/best installation for the new ELT, and settled on the wingtip again. Here were the considerations, both pro and con, for that location:
1. It was easiest to install it there because the remote-control wiring was already run, the antenna mount was already drilled, and a conduit is installed for running the GPS signal cable. Much better than crawling around inside the fuselage.
2. The antenna is also located inside the wingtip, mounted horizontally on the last rib. This location is NOT compliant with the directions to install close to vertical, which is a con. This probably decreases the efficiency of the broadcast to the satellite receiver.
3. I still like the antenna in the wingtip as the best compromise in location. RVs often end up upside down after emergency landings in rough terrain. If I put the antenna on the top of the fuselage, it could end up buried underneath the aircraft and block the signal to the satellites.
4. In the wingtip, the antenna can see the sky rightside-up or upside-down. It was easy to keep the antenna cable run very short there as well, hopefully maximizing the chances that they stay connected in crash-landing scenario.
5. Its a nice bonus that the antenna is hidden inside the wingtip, making for a low-drag and clean installation.
1. ACK originally advertised that the new E-04 would work with existing AmeriKing Remote Control Indicator Panels. Turns out that they often do NOT work and ACK is no longer recommending it. Mine did not work, and ACK graciously sent me a new remote control head free of charge.
2. My GPS signal is from an Apollo GX65 GPS/COMM. I got a successful test signal after some consternation. You have to go into "setup" mode on the GX65 and select MovingMap mode for your serial output, make sure you have good a GPS fix, and then you should get a good test response. If you have a solid light in your test fixture, you are hooking up the LED backwards!
3. The connector and cables for the RCPI are the same style (RJ11) as my old AmeriKing, but the ACK uses a male connector out of the ELT where the AmeriKing used a female connector. That necessitated a female-to-female telephone adapter (RJ11) from Home Depot to connect the cable to the ELT - except the wiring in a standard telephone adapter is backwards. You can reverse the connectors on your cable if you have the right tools, or you can take apart the female-to-female connector and reverse the wires inside that fairly easily.
4. Also, the mounting holes in the AmeriKing RCPI were about 1/8" farther apart than the ACK - so I had to elongate the mounting holes in the panel to make the mount screws fit. The primary square hole worked fine, though.
5. The battery in the ACK RCPI is different than the old AmeriKing, too - so you can't reuse it.
I strongly considered buying a small puck GPS from Byonics and installing it in the wingtip as a dedicated GPS source for the ELT, and as a bonus I could use it for APRS tracking if/when I get to that. Might be something to consider if routing a GPS signal is problematic for your installation, for whatever reason.
Hope it helps someone,
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