King course eases transition to Garmin’s G1000 cockpit

 - February 8, 2008, 5:11 AM

If you’re planning on flying a Cessna Mustang, Embraer Phenom, HondaJet or Diamond D-Jet, you’ll have to learn how to run Garmin’s G1000 avionics system. And while you might already be used to modern EFIS with tape displays for altitude and airspeed and widescreen ADIs, HSIs and moving maps, the Garmin system has its own design philosophy. Most pilots new to the G1000 will find that it takes some time to get comfortable.

Having spent way too much time renting a G1000-equipped Cessna 172 in an attempt to transition to the new glass cockpits, I learned an important lesson: It’s much cheaper to spend time on the ground with G1000 training programs before climbing into the airplane. And not all instructors who say they are approved to teach in technically advanced airplanes know in detail the systems that they are teaching.

For Mustang pilots who will be training at FlightSafety International, a Mustang G1000 course is available for online learning before the pilot enters the type-rating program. Other manufacturers will likely follow suit. Studying how the avionics work before traveling to Wichita for the Mustang class will save time and make simulator sessions much more beneficial.

Familiarization Training
In the meantime, it wouldn’t hurt to spend some time flying the G1000 in a new Cessna 172, 182 or 206, Diamond DA40, Hawker Beechcraft Bonanza or Baron, Cessna 350 or 400 or a Piper 6X or Saratoga. But before blasting off with an instructor, it makes sense to learn how the G1000 works so that you aren’t spending all your expensive airplane-rental time with your head buried in the avionics, trying to figure out what’s going on at hundreds of dollars an hour.

John and Martha King provide an excellent introduction to the G1000 in the King Schools “Flying the Garmin G1000” multimedia training system. At $249, the G1000 course is well worth the price and full of useful information. The course comes on CD-ROMs and runs on Microsoft Windows.

After more than 10 hours in the airplane with two different instructors, I never felt confident about flying the G1000 by myself. But after studying the King program, I immediately flew a good-weather IFR trip from the Washington, D.C. area to White Plains, N.Y., easily storing and modifying flight plans, following ATC instructions and putting the G1000 through most of its paces.

After studying the King G1000 course, I learned so much useful information that were I the owner of a flight school, I would require my instructors to watch the King program and teach the comprehensive and effective King G1000 training process. One instructor I flew with, for example, didn’t understand why the Bendix/King KAP 140 autopilot in our G1000-equipped Cessna 172 wouldn’t couple to the glideslope or localizer even though we had selected the approach in the flight plan.

It wasn’t until I studied the IFR section of the King DVDs that I learned what we did wrong. To couple to the localizer, you have to reselect the nav button on the autopilot after the nav source switches to the localizer from GPS input. This is a weakness in the 2007 and earlier G1000 Cessnas with the KAP 140 autopilot. Newer Cessnas include Garmin’s GFC700 integrated autopilot, eliminating this problem.

John and Martha King star in the training course and deliver a comprehensive learning experience that is interesting enough to keep students awake. Unlike other G1000 courses that use screen views of the system coupled with narration and text delivery, the King DVDs show the narrator interacting with the G1000 system, pushing buttons, selecting frequencies and building flight plans. The King video production team skillfully makes it look as if John or Martha is pushing a giant soft key while standing in front of a huge G1000, which makes it easier for the student to see what is being discussed.

Where these DVDs shine is in the Kings’ explanation of something as basic as frequency changes on the radios. They understand that many pilots are transitioning from traditional radios with typical flip-flop frequency displays, with the com control and display on the left side and the nav control and display on the right. The two-screen G1000 provides nav frequencies in the upper left corner and com in the upper right corner on both displays. If you’re not used to seeing the frequencies in those positions, then you’ll do what I did the first few times I flew the G1000: constantly look for a frequency that I could instantly find in almost any non-glass airplane.

When using the G1000, the Kings advise, “focus on the center panel; you can control almost anything from the center.” What they suggest is drawing an imaginary box around the center edges of the two displays; this is the center panel. If you focus on just that center panel, you can quickly see that the com frequencies and knobs are on the left side (upper right corner of pilot’s display) and nav on the right side (upper left corner of copilot’s display). This instantly cured me of the need to hunt to make a frequency change because it offered a simple way to associate the familiar with the new.

The King G1000 course is full of these effective tips. Another one explains the Garmin knob philosophy (something I had not noticed earlier or been taught by the instructors I flew with). The outer or big knob is for changing big things like the full-megahertz increments on a com or nav frequency, and the small inner knob is for the little things like the portion of the frequency to the right of the decimal point.

VFR and IFR flying, including the new G1000 wide-area augmentation system capability, are among the topics covered in the King course. Each section is followed by an interactive test that lets the student push buttons and twist knobs, almost as he would on the real unit. A practice scenario puts all the information together and allows the student to simulate planning and flying a real flight.

The Kings, both highly experienced jet pilots, emphasize that when learning a new system like the G1000, it is important to understand how the system works before blasting off into the skies. For pilots not used to glass cockpits, Martha King warned, “They’re going to mesmerize you. If you’re not careful, there will be times when no one is flying the airplane.” She recommends that pilots new to glass cockpits and the G1000 start flying with a safety pilot “until your eyes and hands go to the right place without hesitation.”