Garmin Releases Major GTN Software Upgrade

 - July 27, 2014, 4:18 PM
Garmin’s new Flight Stream devices connect cockpit avionics to mobile devices running Garmin’s Pilot mobile app.

On the eve of EAA AirVenture 2014, Garmin unveiled a major software upgrade to its GTN series navigators, new devices for the Connext wireless cockpit communications system, a new WireAware wire-strike avoidance feature for obstacle databases and new seven-inch touchscreen displays in the G3X experimental avionics line. All are being demonstrated at the Garmin exhibit (Booth 4089, Hangar D). Garmin is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year as well as the 20th year since it introduced the first IFR GPS (the 155) and 10 years since the debut of the G1000 integrated cockpit.

The version 5.1 software upgrade for the GTN touchscreen is free, although it needs to be installed by Garmin dealers. In addition to enabling the Connext features for the GTN, the upgrade adds many new features that pilots had been requesting, including database syncing, FastFind predictive logic for airport and waypoint suggestions based on current GPS location, altitude overlay information on airspace depictions and Garmin’s WireAware wire-strike avoidance technology in the obstacle database.

The Connext capability allows pilots running up to four devices using the Garmin Pilot iPad or Android app to make use of position, weather, traffic and other information from the GTN and connected GDL 88 ADS-B and GDL 69 SiriusXM receivers.

Connext requires installation of a Flight Stream wireless gateway device, either the Flight Stream 210 or 110, which connect via Bluetooth. The 210, available in August for $999, has a built-in attitude sensor and thus support’s the Pilot app’s attitude indicator display. This eliminates the need to carry a separate portable attitude sensor device.

Pilots will appreciate the wireless two-way flight plan transfer capabilities that Connext and the Flight Stream 210 enables. After planning a flight on Garmin Pilot, once at the aircraft the pilot can Bluetooth the flight plan to a GTN or WAAS GNS 430/530. This is even more useful when ATC changes the flight plan because Garmin Pilot allows receipt of flight plan amendments from ATC. Once in flight, any updates made to the flight plan on either the GTN/GNS or Pilot app can be shared so changes need be made on only one device.

With a GDL 88 ADS-B receiver, the Flight Stream 210 enables display of ADS-B IN weather and traffic on the GTN or Pilot app. With the GDL 69 SiriusXM receiver, subscription weather information becomes available on the tablet, and pilots and passengers can access remote audio controls within Garmin Pilot using the GDL 69A. For global weather capability, Connext works with Garmin’s GSR 56 Iridium datalink, which also provides voice and text messaging, as well as position reporting services, anywhere in the world.

The Flight Stream 210 is available this month, with GNS compatibility coming in September. A future software update will allow Garmin G500/G600 systems to provide the attitude information to Garmin Pilot, even if the 210 is installed.

The $549 Flight Stream 110 doesn’t offer flight plan sharing nor the attitude sensor but does provide the GDL 88 and GDL 69/69A connectivity as well as GPS position data from installed Garmin avionics to Garmin Pilot, and this unit is available this month.

Wire-strike Avoidance

Garmin has developed its own powerline location database, called WireAware, and this is available with the purchase of obstacle databases. The WireAware powerline location and altitude information is displayed as an overlay on moving maps, with both msl and agl depictions to help pilots identify power lines relative to the aircraft’s path. Visual and aural alerts are provided for aircraft equipped with Garmin TAWS/HTAWS. Fixed-wing pilots might find the hazardous obstacle transmission (HOT) line database (lines near airports and that span rivers and canyons) useful, as a significant number of powerline-related accidents involve fixed-wing aircraft.

The basic HOT U.S./Europe database, including obstacles 200 feet or higher, costs $49.95 for a one-time purchase or $195 per year. The full database with all powerlines, most useful for helicopters, costs $124.95 or $495 per year. The helicopter WireAware database and other GTN software upgrades will be available in the fourth quarter of this year for the Bell 206 and 407, Airbus AS350B2/B3 and EC130B4/T2 and MD 369E/F/FF.

GTN Improvements

Other features that are part of the version 5.1 for the GTN include database synchronization, which allows cross-loading of databases from one unit to another. With sync, pilots need to update just one database card, then load that card into one GTN and cross-load into the other. Sync doesn’t mean that a single database purchase will work with two GTNs, however, and each GTN will require buying its own subscription, although pilots can save money by purchasing a PilotPak from Garmin. Sync works with the following databases: navigation, obstacle, SafeTaxi, airport directory, FliteCharts and basemap.

The new FastFind feature employs predictive logic to suggest airports and waypoints based on the current GPS position, and these make flight planning quicker. Another Fast feature is the simplified frequency function, which allows pilots to enter a frequency without a leading “1” or trailing zeros. Station ID and frequency type of the nearest airport or navaid is now displayed automatically.

Checklists for the GTN series can be customized on a PC using Garmin’s Aviation Checklist Editor then added to a Garmin data card and uploaded to the GTN, according to Garmin. This can also be used to upload flight plans and waypoints. The GTN update shows altitude overlays on airspace depictions, including maximum and minimum altitude limitations. And pilots can now customize data fields on the GTN 750 map page and on the default navigation page on the GTN 650.

The one feature that pilots have been requesting that isn’t included in the GTN upgrade is user-defined holds, but that is on the road map eventually, according to Garmin.

New G3X Touchscreen

Complimenting its 10.6-inch G3X Touch displays introduced earlier this year, Garmin unveiled the seven-inch G3X Touch just before the start of AirVenture. The Connext capability is also built into the G3X displays and this will be available in the fourth quarter. The G3X coupled with a GDL 39R can share GPS, attitude, traffic and weather data with Garmin Pilot on Android or iPad tablets, according to Garmin. The 7-inch G3X Touch equipped with synthetic vision, video input, WAAS GPS receiver, ADAHRS, magnetometer, OAT probe and interactive mapping starts at $4,599.

The seven-inch display mirrors the capabilities of the 10.6-inch display, including control of Garmin’s VIRB action camera, display of angle-of-attack information from Garmin’s GI-260, optional connection to GTN navigators and an active traffic system, and touchscreen control of Garmin’s experimental autopilot, GTX 23 ES transponder and GTR 20 remote com/intercom.