Garmin on a roll, unleashes G5000 cockpit

 - October 27, 2010, 6:10 AM

Garmin, the Olathe, Kan. company that pioneered glass cockpits and synthetic-vision technology in small general aviation airplanes, is stepping up into the bizav big leagues with a Part 25 integrated avionics system called G5000 that will square off against business jet cockpits from industry heavyweights Honeywell and Rockwell Collins.

Garmin’s move into the Part 25 ­cockpit market, formally announced at last month’s NBAA Convention in Atlanta, has been anticipated ever since the company broke into the lower echelon of business aviation with a version of the G1000 avionics system in the Cessna Citation Mustang. After Garmin added to its cockpit repertoire with improved versions of G1000 for the Embraer ­Phenom 100 and 300 and then at last year’s NBAA Convention unveiled the G3000 cockpit–the baseline system for the developmental HondaJet–many observers predicted it was only a matter of time before Garmin moved up market into larger business jets.

Garmin’s G1000 and G3000 ­avionics systems are intended for Part 23 ­airplanes, defined by FAA ­regulations as those weighing less than 12,500 pounds. The company’s decision to advance into larger and heavier airplanes from light business jets to ultra-long-range models means the certification requirements also become more difficult to meet. Universal Avionics has done it with its EFI-890R retrofit avionics system for business jets, but until now no other avionics manufacturer besides Honeywell and Rockwell Collins has succeeded in developing an OEM glass cockpit for a Part 25 business jet. Garmin’s launch customer for the G5000 system is Cessna for its Citation Ten.

G1000, G3000 Guide Development

“We started looking ­seriously at expanding the capabilities of G1000 about three years ago,” said Bill Stone, Garmin’s ­avionics product manager. “Our work on the G3000 system will allow us to bring G5000 technology to the market more quickly than we might have otherwise.” G5000 development, he said, is about halfway done, with ­validation testing just now starting. Its certification, he added, is targeted for early 2012.  

The G5000 system will share the multifunction touchscreens originally developed for the G3000 cockpit. In the new ­cockpit there will be a dedicated touchscreen for each display connected through a common network. The configuration will be scalable, allowing the installation of between three and five displays, depending on the application, Stone said.

The new cockpit will also ­feature larger displays than those found in the G1000 or G3000 system, measuring 14.1 inches diagonal for the new GDU 1400 display and 12.1 inches for the GDU 1200 display. For the first time, Garmin is using a wide-format 16:9 aspect ratio (versus 4:3), which should improve the synthetic-vision presentation on the primary flight display. The display will provide 1280- by 800-pixel resolution and LED backlighting for excellent brightness and sunlight readability, Stone said.

The 5000’s MFD will have split-screen capability so that two separate vertical pages can be viewed side-by-side. Pilots may simultaneously view maps, charts, Taws, flight planning, weather or video input pages. In addition, aircraft synoptics can be graphically depicted on the MFD to simplify monitoring and troubleshooting.

Behind the scenes the G5000 cockpit will feature new backend sensors that can meet the stricter requirements of Part 25. G5000 components now undergoing flight testing include new attitude-heading reference systems, air data computers and an enhanced weather radar. Garmin is also developing a new TCAS for the G5000 system. Introduction of an inertial navigation system or head-up display, however, is not currently on the company’s product roadmap, Stone said.    

With the G5000 avionics system, Garmin is hoping to rewrite the rules for what a business jet flight deck can be. The touchscreen controls are being designed to reduce the amount of training and memorization required to become comfortable with the system. The G5000’s touchscreen incorporates a variety of icons for performing flight management tasks, radio control, audio adjustment, synoptics and other functions that, when pressed, provide access to system pages arranged by phase of operation. “Back” and “home” buttons will let pilots quickly retrace their steps or return to the main screen.

Like the G1000 and G3000 systems, the G5000 cockpit will feature Garmin’s synthetic-vision technology, which creates a compelling virtual 3-D view of the world on the PFDs using an internal terrain and obstacle database. Stone said Garmin will also introduce technology to fuse synthetic views with infrared enhanced-vision camera images, similar to concepts demonstrated by Honeywell and Rockwell Collins. The EVS view will be fused within the SVT view to give pilots a “window into the real world” on the flight displays.

Honeywell dominates the large-cabin, ultra-long-range business jet market with its Primus Epic cockpit, known as PlaneView in large Gulfstreams and EASy in Dassault Falcons. Rockwell Collins controls much of the rest of the bizjet cockpit market with its Pro Line 21 cockpit, which is standard in the Beech Premier, Learjet 60XR, Challenger 300 and 605, Gulfstream G150, several Hawker models and the Piaggio Avanti II. Rockwell Collins has also won several cockpit competitions in the last few years with its new Pro Line Fusion integrated avionics system, which will fly in the Bombardier Global line, Learjet 85, Gulfstream G250 and Embraer Legacy 450 and 500.

All of which begs the question, is there room for a third player in the Part 25 business jet cockpit market? Garmin certainly thinks so, and points to its strong product support track record, excellent reliability, low cost and light weight as reasons OEMs will, too. “We’ve delivered more than 8,000 G1000 systems and currently spend a third of our R&D budget on aviation,” Stone noted. “It is our trajectory of innovation that differentiates Garmin.”