For those pilots who cut their teeth on airplanes outfitted with the Garmin G1000 avionics suite, the coming of the next-gen G2000 touch-controlled avionics deck seems a mixed bag. G2000, which is currently installed only in the Cessna TTx, seems a long way from widespread acceptance in light airplanes and like a big change in ways pilots don’t need a change. I’ve flown the G2000 suite and its relatives, the G3000 and G5000, in a number of new-production planes, and I like it a lot. But that doesn’t answer either of the concerns many pilots have about it. So many pilots want to know what will become of their beloved G1000.
Garmin has the answer, a new flight deck called G1000NXi, which has been announced in new Cirrus SR22 piston singles and as an aftermarket program for King Air 200 and 300-series turboprop twins. The new system has two big advantages over G2000. Because it can use the same form factor screens as G1000, it’s a lot easier to retrofit the system into airplanes with G1000 (or eventually by OEMs upgrading their G1000-equipped models), though it's unlikely you'll see a retrofit program for your Cessna 182 any time soon. NXi uses the same basic user interface as G1000, albeit with a number of big improvements, so King Air pilots transitioning to it from legacy Garmin flat-panel suites in other platforms will have a much easier time of it.
I flew with the new panel in two airplanes a couple of weeks ago, a Cirrus SR22 G6 and a King Air 350, which was Garmin’s development platform for the system. On Tuesday, Garmin announced its retrofit program for King Airs, including the 200-series and the 300/350-series. Interestingly enough, the prime candidates for the upgrade are not the later model Rockwell-Collins Pro Line 21 airplanes, but models with earlier avionics suites, though Garmin stresses that Pro Line 21 airplanes are good candidates, too, and they would love to accommodate those customers, too. The G1000 NXi will give all of those King Air owners the goodness of a G1000 upgrade, of which hundreds of King Airs have already received in the form of a Garmin G1000 avionics upgrade. NXi will add a lot more capability to boot.
The King Air for my demo flight was a Model 350, the biggest, buffest King Air. The installation features three flat panels, two standard sized PFDs and a monster 15-inch MFD that can be segmented various ways, including having the approach chart at the ready throughout the approach. Visually, G1000NXi has brighter, more colorful displays, and the brawn behind the beauty is badder than ever. With more powerful processors, everything on the NXi displays happens faster. There is virtually no lag as you zoom in and back out again. Nice.
And the look and feel of it is better than ever. The interface has new fonts (some of the style reminiscent of Garmin’s high-end G2000/G3000/G5000 suites. There’s also an inset map on the HSI, a first in the field, to our knowledge, though it’s hard to assess its value. It was distracting to me and I wound up turning it off during my flight in actual instrument conditions and sticking with the standard HSI presentation. A little more time and who knows.
Other features include SurfaceWatch, a terrific on-the-ground utility that moves with you and rotates to show track up as you go, something I found makes it much easier to orientate myself on the taxiways.
Other new features include visual approaches, which calculate a 3-degree glideslope to the touchdown area—it’s for use in visual conditions, it should go without saying. There’s also new digital moving maps for both IFR and VFR flying. Finally, the system comes with the optional FlightStream 510, so you can connect your Garmin Pilot app with it and send data, including weather, either back or forth between the units.
Some King Air Owners will see a weight savings of 250 pounds with G1000NXi, which equals a big occupant and/or a bunch of bags. The FAA has already granted STC approval for the mod in King Air 200s, and Garmin plans to have NXi available for first King Air 300/350 installations soon.
Learn more at Garmin.