Garmin reveals first retrofit packages for popular G1000

 - September 13, 2006, 11:01 AM

Garmin in late July announced plans for a retrofit version of the G1000 avionics system in the Beech King Air C90 through an STC program with Executive Beechcraft in Kansas City, Mo. Scheduled for certification by the middle of next year, the cockpit will include the G1000 system’s glass displays, air-data computers and a long list of standard features.

The G1000 system made its debut more than four years ago when Cessna selected it for the Citation Mustang. Since then more than 2,100 airplanes, mostly piston singles, have entered service with the avionics, and another 400 shipsets have been produced and are ready for delivery to OEMs. In all that time, light aircraft owners and operators have had the “R” word on their minds, pressing Garmin officials at every turn for details about a retrofit version of the cockpit.

At EAA’s AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wis., in July Garmin at last revealed plans to offer not one but three versions of the popular system for the retrofit market. Designed to serve a broad cross-section of customers, the priciest retrofit cockpit from Garmin will be the full G1000 system for business turboprops and light jets. A second cockpit, the G600 system, will be marketed to light-piston and turboprop-single owners. A third retrofit version of the avionics, G900X, is
intended for installation in high-end kitbuilts.

Garmin plans to bring the retrofit G1000 cockpit to other business aircraft, probably beginning with the King Air 200 series, according to Carl Wolf, senior director of aviation marketing and sales for Garmin. He said a firm price for the upgrade would not be announced until the NBAA Convention next month. Another official involved in the program, Scott Tychsen, director of sales and business development at Executive Beechcraft, quoted an installed price of $330,000 for the system at EAA.

The G600 system will sell for $29,772 and the G900X for around $67,000 before installation, Wolf said. The higher price for the retrofit G1000 cockpit reflects the
inclusion of more standard components in the twin-turboprop version as well as the relative difficulty of replacing the King Air’s old Collins Pro Line 4 hardware with the larger Garmin displays, modern air-data sensors and a new electrical system.

More details about the retrofit G1000 cockpit will emerge at NBAA, where Garmin also plans to announce the final list of installation centers approved to perform the
upgrades, culled from 20 to 30 candidates, Wolf said.

The STC in the King Air C90 will cover about 700 aircraft and the King Air 200 another 2,000 airplanes, although what percentage of operators will actually select the cockpit is hard to predict. Garmin had a mockup of the system at its EAA exhibit, and partner Executive Beech took “two or three” orders at the show, Wolf said.

Now that it has made the official announcement, Garmin expects inquiries from King Air operators–and operators of other business airplanes–to rise sharply.
“We understand that Oshkosh maybe isn’t the strongest for us in terms of the turbine retrofit market, but we thought it would be a good launch point to give buyers a chance to start thinking about G1000,” Wolf said. “We’re hoping to see a lot more excitement and activity around the program at NBAA.”

Few Optional Upgrades Needed

So what can buyers expect for $330,000? The short answer is just about everything imaginable for the front office of a business turboprop.

According to Garmin, the G1000 package for the King Air C90 brings a compendium of features to the airplane, including two 10.4-inch-diagonal primary flight displays; a 15-inch multifunction display in the center of the panel; a pedestal-mounted FMS control panel; Garmin’s GFC 700 autopilot; dual attitude and heading reference systems (AHRS); dual RVSM-compliant air-data computers; integrated engine indication and crew alerting system (EICAS); digital airborne weather radar; mode-S transponders with traffic information service (TIS) capability; integrated class-B terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS); dual digital audio control systems; dual WAAS GPS receivers; dual navcoms; temperature probes; and a stack of two-inch backup instruments from Mid-Continent Instruments.

So complete is the standard package, in fact, that just about the only optional upgrade to the system is XM satellite weather/radio. XM will add about $6,000 to the base price of the system, a sum Wolf said nearly 100 percent of buyers are expected to pay for access to near-real-time datalink weather information. Garmin might decide to add an enhanced-vision system to the options list and likely will offer software upgrades for synthetic vision at some point, but apart from these items the options list is anticipated to remain short, he added.

When it made the announcement at Oshkosh, Garmin inadvertently created confusion for some King Air operators by mentioning that the airplanes undergoing the G1000 upgrade must have a Collins APS-65 autopilot. This led some operators to conclude that the airplane would retain the old autopilot after the upgrade, but Wolf said this is not the case. The existing APS-65 servo brackets that were certified in the original King Air C90 remain, but everything else, including the servos and the flight-control computer, is new.

The G1000 package in the King Air will also include the full complement of Garmin nav charts as well as a new feature called SafeTaxi that presents digitized airport diagrams of controlled airports on the multifunction display referenced to aircraft position.

SafeTaxi will provide a digital view of the airport surface that Garmin engineers believe will be useful for situational awareness, but it will not warn of other
aircraft on the ground or the airplane’s proximity to active runways, nor will it be capable of receiving taxi instructions from the flight management computers. Wolf said Garmin is exploring all of these technologies for future releases of SafeTaxi, but it could take years before they are integrated with the system.

Executive Beechcraft’s King Air C90 with G1000 components first flew last month. Installation took more than three months as designers worked to sandwich all the various LRUs and avionics components behind the panel. Upgrading to such a complete package is not expected to be a simple process, and typical downtime will be around two months.

Beyond the King Air models it has named as appropriate candidates for the G1000 system, Garmin has said little else about additional retrofit applications. The company plans to be selective in choosing other business aircraft that might receive the upgrade, Wolf said. In a best case, he estimated it will take Garmin around 10 months to complete other STC programs.

“Because it takes so long to do one, we want to make sure we understand the market properly and are sure that owners would want to commit to it.”

G1000 in the King Air C90

Standard features:
• dual 10.4-inch primary flight displays
• 15.4-inch multifunction display
• pedestal-mounted FMS control panel
• GFC 700 autopilot
• dual attitude and heading reference systems
• dual RVSM-compliant air-data computers
• integrated engine indication and crew alert system
• digital airborne weather radar
• dual mode-S transponders with traffic information service (TIS) capability
• integrated class-B terrain awareness and warning system
• dual digital audio control systems
• dual WAAS GPS/navcom receivers
• two-inch backup airspeed indicator, altimeter, artificial horizon

Optional equipment:
• XM satellite weather/radio