Garmin’s G1000 suite gains traction with Piper

 - April 30, 2007, 10:07 AM

Garmin is encroaching on rival Avidyne’s turf with the announcement last month that the G1000 avionics system will be offered as optional equipment in the Piper Saratoga II TC and 6X.

Both airplanes currently feature Avidyne’s FlightMax Entegra integrated avionics system as standard equipment, as do the Seneca V, Malibu Mirage and Meridian. All other Piper models offer the Avidyne system as optional equipment. Last month’s announcement at the Sun ’n’ Fun fly-in in Lakeland, Fla., marked the first time Garmin G1000 avionics have been offered in a Piper airplane, but it might not be the last.

“We are fully focused on providing our customers with the best possible options technology has to offer our industry,” said Piper president and CEO James Bass. “We have a long and valued relationship with Garmin and have been working behind the scenes to debut the G1000 in our aircraft.”

The battle for supremacy in lightplane avionics deserves close attention since a number of in-development very light jets don’t yet have named avionics suppliers.
Piper hasn’t said which manufacturer will supply the avionics for its single-engine PiperJet, and neither has Cirrus Design announced a cockpit supplier for its forthcoming single-engine VLJ. Avidyne seems the clear choice for both given the company’s close relationship with Piper and Cirrus, but Garmin has to be considered a strong contender.

Avidyne Ready for Garmin Juggernaut

Cirrus also chose the Avidyne Entegra system for its single-engine piston models. There was speculation that Cirrus last month might join Piper in naming the Garmin suite as an option in the SR20 and SR22, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Cirrus announced that owners of its older-generation airplanes with six-pack instrument panels can add the Avidyne glass cockpit through an upcoming retrofit program.

Besides Piper, only Columbia Aircraft gives buyers a choice of Avidyne or Garmin avionics, again with Avidyne as the standard-equipment supplier and Garmin as the optional suite.

The Cessna Citation Mustang, HondaJet and Embraer Phenoms all will fly with the G1000 system. Conversely, Avidyne just lost its biggest VLJ position, having been supplanted by a large supplier team on the Eclipse 500 program. It remains the avionics supplier for the Adam A700, now undergoing certification testing.

It’s unclear at this point whether Avidyne can hold its ground against Garmin and the G1000 system’s strong momentum, but the certification of Avidyne displays in the King Air C90 and 200 provides a glimmer of hope for the Massachusetts supplier.
The news that Garmin is delaying the introduction of its G600 glass panel for the retrofit market also gives Avidyne some breathing room.

In the Saratoga II TC and Piper 6X, the G1000 system is configured with two 10.4-inch XGA screens, one used as the pilot’s primary flight display (PFD) and the other as a multifunction display. The G1000 suite replaces traditional mechanical gyroscopes with Garmin’s GRS77 attitude and heading reference system. Integrated navcom radios and WAAS GPS receiver provide a nicely integrated package. Because the G1000 is WAAS certified, pilots are able to fly lateral precision with vertical guidance approaches, allowing them to descend to as low as 200 feet on approach.

The G1000 also integrates built-in terrain and navigation databases with an optional class-B terrain awareness and warning system and optional ChartView subscription service available through Jeppesen. Garmin SafeTaxi, a built-in database of more than 750 U.S. airport diagrams, provides a view of aircraft position on taxiways, while Garmin FliteCharts is an electronic version of U.S. Government terminal procedures, including standard terminal arrival routes, approach charts and airport diagrams.

With an optional subscription to the XM WX satellite weather service and the addition of the GDL 69A datalink receiver, pilots can access high-resolution weather maps as well as Nexrad graphics, metars, TAFs, lightning and other data. XM Audio Infotainment is also available, bringing 170 channels of music, news, talk, sports and information to the cockpit.

So which system is “better”? There are actually more common features than differences between the G1000 and Entegra cockpits. Both are based on lessons learned from NASA’s small aircraft transportation system research. Each includes options for charts, XM weather, Stormscope, terrain warning and other most-wanted features. Among pilots, the Avidyne cockpit is generally considered the more user-friendly, while Garmin’s G1000 is thought of as more capable. However, pilots of each system agree that either of these glass cockpits beats steam gauges.