November 11, 2009
Apr. 26 - The progression from VOR to Loran/RNAV to handheld GPS to early panel-mounted GPS units were steps in the right direction, but compare these fairly recent progressions (we're only talking about 20 years) to the amazing user-friendly capabilities of the Garmin GNS 530.
As the kids say today, Garmin's GNS 530 rocks! And you can experience it firsthand if you win the Sweepstakes Bonanza. Those that have been using panel-mounted GPS units have been until recently slaves to the struggle of setting up a GPS flight plan. During one flight with the owner of a panel-mounted GPS, I watched as the pilot went through the step-by-step process of entering a four-leg flight plan. It probably really didn't take half an hour to key in all the identifiers in the proper knob-twisting button-pushing sequence - it just seemed like it. It probably was logical to the pilot, but not to me. That was three years ago. Those were days of baby steps in GPS technology, when it was really hard to see much progress-at least by looking at the faceplates of units installed in instrument panels.
In 1998, Garmin introduced their GNS 430, which stretched the panel-mounted GPS envelope to the point of bursting overnight. Then about a year ago, the GNS 530 came on the scene and blew up the envelope.
In one panel-mounted unit (6.25 inches wide by 4.6 inches high by 11 inches deep), the 530 combines a GPS, VOR, LOC/GS, VHF com transceiver, a bright moving map, and a Jeppesen database. This combination of features, and the easy to use menu-based operation makes creating an IFR flight plan simply a matter of keying in an airport identifier, punching a procedure key, highlighting the desired selection as it's shown in a menu, and pressing the ENT (enter) key.
The Jeppesen database automatically supplies every bit of data (identifiers, SIDs/STARs, all nav and com frequencies, etc) on each menu. It makes using the powerful database a no-brainer. One of the automatic features that makes the use of this system (yes, it is a system) so seamless is the one button-stroke loading of frequencies. For instance, to prepare for takeoff, or when approaching a new airport, the frequencies can be entered by selecting the airport menu, highlighting the ATIS frequency (off the list of frequencies that appear when the airport page comes up on the screen), and pushing the ENT (enter) button. Voila, the highlighted frequency is transferred to the standby window of the VHF com radio. The same process works enroute during clearance changes or when a hold has been issued.
It's impossible to tout every feature of the 430/530 units in a few words. The lucky winner of the Sweeps Bonanza will be fortunate to have a full Garmin avionics stack including a GMA 340 audio panel/marker beacon receiver/intercom, a GTX 327 solid state transponder with an on-screen pressure altitude readout, flight timer and a count-up, count-down timer. These panel-mounted units support the brains of the stack-the GNS 530 and a GNS 430-two units that will certainly help the winner get the most out of his or her twenty-first century airplane.
For more information, go to Garmin's home page www.garmin.com. There you'll be able to download the 214-page owner's manual for the 530 (or a manual for any other Garmin avionics product). If you want to play with a GNS 530 or see one in action, you can contact your local avionics shop (if they have one-the demand for these units is off the charts), or download a free 13 MB 500 series simulator www.garmin.com/products/gns530/ and learn about all the capabilities of this twenty-first century avionics system.
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