From the Cockpit, Behind the Glass, Unravelling the Electronics Mystery

For now 27 years and counting, veteran repair station owner Ronny Salamon has been helping customers enhance the value of owning and operating their airplanes, all directly from the cockpit. In part, his efforts have involved addressing the seemingly complex mysteries of avionics, resolving issues with finicky electronics, and verifying and certifying required instruments and related equipment.

Today, Salamon is consumed with assisting operators in retrofitting new instrument panels into their aircraft, thereby making new the capabilities and functionality of airframes with time to spare. Avionics services are a win-win for the pilot and aircraft operator, putting more tools in the places they need them the most.

With today’s frenzied focus on the electronic cockpit, nearly every pilot-owner has some amount of wanderlust for a glinting new glass cockpit. Digital instrumentation for pilots has progressed lightyears since the pre-silicon era of analog gauging and assessment.

Salamon transitioned into his latest business venture in San Antonio, Texas, somewhat by chance, if not by good fortune (though not without recognizing his achievements to back it up). It all started in Laredo, Texas, in 1980, largely due to his twin brother getting married there, he concedes. Originally from Israel, Salamon built an extensive resume prior in his Eastern Mediterranean homeland.

Texas was a good choice, admittedly, as the state is a major market for aircraft ownership. In fact, it’s among the top three states for private aviation. These include California, Texas, and Florida, all home to more private aircraft and the accompanying support businesses than any other U.S. state. For what it’s worth, California and Texas are at a near tie for first in the ranking.

Graduating from university as an electronics engineer, Salamon would go on to serve in the Israeli Air Force. His assignments in aircraft maintenance included work on F-4s and F-15s, the world renown tactical fighters and pursuit aircraft of military celebrity, among others. Following military service Salamon was employed with commercial airlines in Israel and later in bench tech services where he solved a broad range of electronics related issues.

Salamon established Avionics Services International in 1988 whereupon he obtained a FAA Part 145 Repair Station certificate, No. S78R151N, for his firm Platinum Aviation LLC. He relocated from Laredo to Kerrville (both in South Texas) in 1996, then to San Antonio in 2018, in part due to opportunities of the larger market there, but also related to his growing role as an authorized Garmin dealer. Avionics Services International (ASI), under the aegis of Platinum Aviation, serves as the sole Garmin aviation dealer for the greater San Antonio area. As a service center dedicated to avionics, ASI performs work on aircraft of all sizes and equipped with avionics from a variety of manufacturers.

Ronny Salamon discusses product delivery with Garmin’s Kelly Keller.

Electronics Technology

If of the mindset that all technology sprouts from silicon valley, or perhaps up and down the U.S. West Coast, say Seattle (Boeing) or Los Angeles (Lockheed, Northrup, etc.), maybe even Kansas (Textron) or Cape Canaveral (NASA), well think again. Aerospace world leadership, in terms of innovative technology, specifically the majority of satellite, defense and electronics technology development worldwide, springs by and large from Israel.

Israel’s Ministry of Economy and Industry boasts that Israeli technologies integrate the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-16, Boeing F-15 and F/A-18, Eurofighter Typhoon, and more. The country also leads in UAV production and space-launch capability. Israel Aerospace Industries, a manufacturing concern established 70 years ago, delivered the country’s first tactical aircraft, and today produces aerial and astronautic systems for both military and civilian use.

Going Digital

Whether supplementing, or replacing entirely, primary flight instruments, from portable electronics to panel-embedded touch screen displays, the go-to standard today is digital. In truth, the wide range of options available to pilots can be disorienting. It takes know-how, in addition to experience, to sort through what’s best for any given combination of pilot, airplane and, importantly, mission.

Being an authorized Garmin dealer for over 20 years, ASI has both the knowledge and proficiency to tackle the often complex issues of cockpit maintenance. Salamon and his crew are specifically dedicated to the avionics arena and, moreover, their professionalism shines. Providing innovative solutions for all of general aviation including business aviation and rotorcraft, advanced air mobility, government and defense implementations and, indeed, commercial air carrier customers, their list of satisfied customers is extensive.

Without a doubt Garmin’s current aviation product line has revolutionized flight and its systems are now quintessential to pilots, aircraft owners and operators worldwide. ASI knows well Garmin’s aviation lineup, and that’s where a healthy part of the company’s focus remains. As an example, ASI recently completed legacy Beechcraft, turboprop Piper, and classic Mooney panels with all new touch screen flight displays. The new installations completely transformed the cockpits of these early model, revered airframes.

Mooney panel upgraded with Garmin GTN 750Xi GPS/Nav/Comm/MFD and 650Xi touchscreens.

Veterans in Avionics

Being well established in the avionics services industry, Salamon’s team at ASI is able to inspect, repair, overhaul and replace instruments, radios and related airframe components. The company is supported by knowledgable avionics veterans, including Roel Rogerio, a U.S. Army veteran and former employee of San Antonio-based firms Ahr Aviation and Hawker-Beechcraft (both now defunct). Another is Ryan Busby, previously associated with Salamon in the Rio Grande Valley (Laredo-McAllen) where he worked at McCreery Aviation in McAllen. In the interim Busby refined his avionics knowledge at Bombardier in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, before returning to Texas.

Ryan Busby looking on as equipment is prepped for installation.

ASI’s services run the gamut of cockpit electronics, and in summary include…

  • Panel design and installation
  • IFR / RVSM certification (including altimeter and transponder validation)
  • Integration of new and legacy avionics
  • In general, equipment testing and diagnostics, radio, navigation, autopilot, engine, etc.

According to ASI, “Bench level repairs are made when appropriate, as well as needed equipment changeovers.” Additionally, equipment can be sent out to OEM or specialized technicians, with which ASI is long familiar, to ensure manufacturer’s compliance and implied guarantees.

The Big Move

In their most recent relocation, ASI chose San Antonio as it is a prominent hub for aviation. The city has, in fact, a long aviation history. It is the birthplace of military aviation, notable for the army’s first, and only at the time, airplane that flew on March 2, 1910, at Ft. Sam Houston there.

The rest is history, as they say, including that of San Antonio legend Dee Howard who was an innovator in converting used military aircraft into cabin class conveyances suited for corporate consumption. Many of the outstanding aviation businesses that exist in San Antonio today, including numerous smaller shops, have sprung from the city’s military and corporate roots. One such shop was Ahr Aviation (a.k.a. Ahr Avionics) that operated out of San Antonio International Airport (KSAT), beginning in 1984, until its namesake retired.

While ASI serves San Antonio exclusively as a Garmin authorized dealer, the company’s reach extends beyond the central U.S. The company offers mobile services and facilitates owners and maintenance operations practically anywhere demand calls. Salamon follows a mobile service mantra, “We will come to you. We work with many local maintenance shops in San Antonio, also in Laredo, Georgetown, and Corpus Christi, for example. However, if a project takes us out of state we are able to do that, as we have done in the past.”

Roel Rogerio, an avionics veteran, lays out an instrument panel at ASI.

Skyplace FBO at KSAT

Every new project presents a challenge to ASI, and every day its unraveling is exactly what you see in their bustling offices at KSAT. Skyplace is the name on the hangar, and it shows prominently on the ramp side which is in fact San Antonio’s newest FBO (skyplacefbo.com). The facility is quite expansive, and was formerly the headquarters of Sino-Swearingen Aircraft Company. At present it’s filled with aircraft both transitioning through or based there.

A discernible vibe is present amidst the activity in and out of the two large hangar doors. From a visit to the Platinum/ASI offices, to taking delivery of freshly updated or overhauled cockpit, collectively it’s energizing. If full service and complete satisfaction are what you expect, at ASI that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Legacy in Concert with Modern

The glass panel avionics boom emerged from the airlines in the 1990s. “Glass,” perhaps more aptly touchscreen, has become pervasive in the general aviation cockpit ever since. Through the years Salamon worked extensively with legacy avionics manufacturers, including Collins. From this period he maintains a wealth of knowledge on integration, coupling that with new generations of products.

Ronny Salamon, president of Avionics Services International at KSAT in San Antonio, Texas.

Part 145 Approved

To be in the avionics business, one must be a repair station. This is a maxim that applies worldwide. “Avionics is what we do, it’s not a sideline to maintenance and repair. And for us, this is the most important thing to getting the job done right,” says Salamon.

A directive of Part 145 approval is maintaining a quality management system with specific capability to perform the “maintenance” task. What this means is that an organization is both certificated to perform the work, while being capable and qualified to do so. Namely in the area of avionics, ASI is focused on this as its core business.

The Cockpit of the Future

Tomorrow is going to be about more than the digital cockpit, ADS-B, or moving maps for that matter. Meanwhile, though, the emphasis is on the technology that we have at our fingertips. Tools in the cockpit have become paramount to the owner/operator/pilot, and perhaps in ways not yet imagined.

Aircraft electronics is a burgeoning industry and it will continue to address many of the problems with aviation today, not the least of which are fuels, traffic flows in increasingly diverse airspace, artificial intelligence, and access. Whatever the cockpits of the future bring, ASI is prepared to help its customers realize them.

One final thought offered by Salamon, that is decidedly traditional in a business sense, “It is important for us to see the work through to the end, that is until the customer is satisfied with their new panel, its functionality and beneficial operation.” Prepared to unravel the electronics mystery, Ronny Salamon with his team at Avionics Services International are putting new capabilities and added functionality into the cockpit for today’s aviators.

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