March 7, 2011
By Alton K. Marsh
So you have avionics with all the whistles and bells, and you are the envy of your fellow pilots. Your system has wide area augmentation system accuracy, and it has synthetic vision. Hold on a minute, you don’t have all the latest capabilities. Wait until you hear what Garmin’s new audio panel can do.
Garmin International developed the G1000H (H for helicopter) glass cockpit for the Bell Helicopter 407GX, and in the process, came up with new features. One is a more shock-absorbent mount that will make its way into future panel mounting hardware for all aircraft. The other features are software related, and are contained in the new audio panel: three-dimensional audio (we’ll explain that in a minute), voice recognition, and smart audio leveling. All the features are in Garmin’s new GMA 350 audio panel (fixed-wing aircraft) and the Garmin GMA 350H (helicopter) audio panel.
Will it be available in newly manufactured fixed-wing G1000 aircraft? It would need to be certified by each manufacturer, and that requires money most are not willing to spend. For those of you who don’t have a factory-installed system, all you need do is buy the Garmin GMA 350 audio panel for $2,395, or if you have a helicopter, you may want the Garmin GMA 350H audio panel for $2,695 .
Three-dimensional sound is probably the neatest of the new features. Currently all your radio communications come in as one jumble of sound. The airport information, for example, may be playing on a monitored radio when the tower calls to clear you to land. With the new audio panel and a stereo headset, the tower would be heard mostly on one earcup while weather would be heard mostly on the other. You are able to more easily focus on the more important communication.
Voice recognition allows you to keep your hands on the flight controls, hold a push-to-command button, and switch radios or operate other switches on the audio panel by voice. It does not tune frequencies. Smart audio leveling refers to the audio panel’s ability to adjust volume based on the sound level of your surroundings. Didn’t turn the radio up loud enough before applying full power? Not to worry, the auto-level will take care of it for you. Just concentrate on your flying.
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.
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