G5000 is intriguing choice for new Citation Ten

 - November 30, 2010, 5:25 AM

Cessna’s announcement at the NBAA Convention in October that it will bring Garmin’s new G5000 integrated avionics system to a stretched version of
the Citation X–now called the Citation Ten–came as something of a shock to those who had assumed the logical replacement for the airplane’s Honeywell Primus 2000 cockpit would be Honeywell’s LCD-based Primus Elite avionics system or perhaps a ­version of Rockwell Collins’s Pro Line Fusion integrated cockpit.

With the surprise contract win, Garmin has at last ascended into the upper flight levels for good. In a way, Cessna ­probably owes a debt of gratitude to Brazilian competitor Embraer for the arrival of the G5000 ­avionics system so soon. After all, the Garmin Prodigy flight deck developed for the Embraer Phenom 300 laid the groundwork for G5000, Garmin’s first avionics system developed for large-category Part 25 business jets. By the same token, of course, Embraer should tip its hat to Cessna, since it was the Wichita business jet maker’s big bet on Garmin’s G1000 cockpit in the Citation Mustang in 2002 that marked the Olathe, Kan. avionics maker’s rise from light piston airplanes into business aviation’s big iron.

But since Cessna and Embraer are likely to exchange praise only begrudgingly, maybe we should be putting the focus where it really belongs: on Garmin, the $2.95 billion consumer electronics giant that suddenly has senior executives at some of the world’s biggest avionics firms fearing for their bottom lines.

Garmin can do a lot of what Honeywell, Rockwell Collins and other avionics makers can, and it can do it at a lower cost and with better overall reliability. The company has proved it time and again, ever since it rolled out its first product, the GPS 100AVD portable aviation navigator, in 1991. In the 20 years since, Garmin has been working toward the goal of introducing an integrated avionics system for the top tier of business aviation. There have been twists and turns along the way, but with the debut of the G5000 avionics system Garmin has finally achieved that long sought after goal. Now the hard work begins.

Developing avionics for Part 25 airplanes (generally defined as those with an mtow of 12,500 pounds and higher) means certifying level-A software and adhering to more stringent standards than the Part 23 world, which encompasses everything from Cessna Skycatchers to the aforementioned Phenom 300. The Phenom is certified under class 4 of Part 23, the strictest set of regulations short of Part 25.

The G5000 avionics ­system can meet FAA Part 25 requirements, and thanks to the introduction of TCAS, Taws, synthetic-vision technology and weather radar from Garmin it will almost assuredly prove to be a highly capable avionics system from the moment it hits the market. The question is, can Garmin keep up with Honeywell and Rockwell Collins as each rolls out ever more advanced technology?

The answer so far appears to be a resounding yes. The G5000 cockpit will incorporate a 4-D FMS capable of RNP 0.1 ­navigation and RNP Saaar approaches.

In the Citation Ten’s nose, the newly introduced GWX 70 turbulence-detection weather radar will provide 300-nm range and include wind-shear alerts. The G5000 system’s GTS-8000 TCAS II, meanwhile, will be compatible with future ADS-B applications. And the displays will be compatible with third-party infrared enhanced-vision systems, meaning that it’s quite possible Garmin will one day introduce a primary flight display incorporating blended SVS and EVS forward views similar to those Honeywell and Collins are working on.

Of course, what has many pilots excited is the G5000’s new infrared touchscreen vehicle management system (VMS). Garmin introduced the VMS first in the G3000 cockpit for the HondaJet and Piper Altaire and is now carrying the same technology over to the G5000 system. Cockpit touchscreens have actually been used for years in military aircraft and even some airliners, but this would be their first integration in a business jet cockpit. The 5.7-inch LCD touch controllers eliminate the need for dozens of cockpit buttons, greatly simplifying the user interface.

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

Pilots transitioning from G1000 to the G5000 cockpit should have no trouble learning their way around the new system since the bizjet version of the cockpit takes all the familiar features of the original and makes them easier to use, according to Garmin officials. The G5000’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.

The G5000 certification schedule calls for the cockpit to hit the market in 2012. For pilots who don’t anticipate they’ll be behind the controls of a new Citation Ten after that date, they may still be in luck. Garmin says it has lined up four customers for the avionics suite so far.