Pilots who attended the 2011 Sun 'n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla., were introduced to the newest generation of Garmin avionics installed in the Cessna Corvalis 400TTX. For those who may have been living on the dark side of the Moon, the Corvalis is Cessna's version of the innovative Columbia singles originally produced by Columbia Aircraft of Bend, Ore., (formerly Lancair). The Corvalis 400TT is a turbocharged four-seater that can scoot cross-country at 220 knots at 25,000 feet, quite an accomplishment for a fixed-gear single.
While there was some surprise that Cessna would choose the Corvalis line as a launch customer for the new avionics (Cessna sold only eight Corvalis models in 2010), the new G2000 system seems somehow appropriate to the semi-space-age look and concept of Cessna's only piston, composite, low-wing design.
Cessna calls the new avionics the Intrinzic flight deck, and the G2000 will incorporate a number of features not seen before in general aviation, and rarely installed even on more upscale aircraft. Though new-generation airliners do include many of the same features, a surprising number of aviators who fly only the heavy iron are often amazed at the level of sophistication evident in our "little" airplanes. I talked to a Delta captain at the Corvalis display at Lakeland; he had come up through the military and had only recently decided to buy a four-seat single. He was startled at the performance and avionics technology available to us, if at a price.
Indeed, many experienced airline pilots are surprised at the level of sophistication manifested by general aviation. I witnessed graphic proof of this attitude a few years ago when I was delivering a Piper Mojave from Florida to Germany. I hadn't stopped for fuel in Narsarsuaq, Greenland, and an Iceland Air pilot who had been stuck at BGBW for two days asked if I was by any chance headed across to Reykjavik. The next airline flight to Iceland wasn't scheduled for two more days, and he was eager to get home after two weeks on Ice Patrol duty.
I offered him the right seat, he settled in and immediately began to ask about the airplane's avionics package. The Mojave had a fairly standard Garmin 530/430/330/340 deck, plus the usual King KFC200 autopilot and like that. As we taxied out, I promised to show him what the airplane could do.
Accordingly, I programmed the rate-of-climb/altitude preselect, engaged the autopilot right after wheels up, and the airplane followed the recommended departure procedure to the west of the airport; then, turned back east toward the ice cap and climbed out per the preprogrammed flight plan. The big Piper leveled at FL210, I adjusted power and trim, and watched the icebergs drift by below as we drifted along at 220 knots.
When Iceland control cleared us for descent, I punched in the numbers, and the airplane descended to the runway 19 glideslope and tracked inbound. I had only to adjust power, deploy the wheels and flaps for the landing, disengage the autopilot at the DH and land. The Iceland Air captain was dazzled. He had obviously seen the same capabilities flying the line, but he had no idea an eight-seat medium twin could perform the same tricks.
I spent some time testing the new G2000 system and discussing the concept with the company's West Coast Marketing Manager, Mike Young. The new avionics system is designed to operate along the lines of a smart phone, a feature that should help endear it to new pilots.
Pilots privileged to fly Garmin's predecessor G1000 either complain about the complexity or boast about its simplicity, and that may be partially a result of all the well-marked knobs and switches. The G2000's move to touch screen is a significant leap ahead in technology, and it's now become even more telegraphic.
Borrowing on the introductory toe-in-the-water Garmin touch-screen aera portables, the G2000 takes touch screen to the next level, with larger, more readable icons, and that should make it irresistible to many manufacturers who have enthusiastically embraced the G1000.
That system is installed in the vast majority of Beech, Cessna, Diamond, Mooney, Pilatus, Piper and Socata aircraft built in the last half-dozen years, and Garmin hopes most of those same manufacturers will embrace the G2000 as the replacement avionics suite.
If you cleverly surmised that the G2000 is intended to fill the gap between the predominately, piston-installed G1000 and the more upscale G3000, you're correct. (The three-screen G3000 is installed in a variety of light jets and other Part 23 turbine equipment with a second PFD mounted directly in front of the copilot.) The G2000 uses only two rectangular screens, but they each measure 14 inches diagonally. On the Corvalis TTX installation, the G2000 covers practically the entire panel.
The right MFD may be employed in vertical, split-screen mode to display the usual engine-system gauges at far left, the normal moving map in the center and an approach plate or NEXRAD weather depiction to the far right. Alternately, you can use most of the screen to present a large moving map.
One difference you can't help but notice in the TTX panel is that the usual analog two-inch diameter backup instruments are missing. Garmin is confident the FAA will approve the G2000 as a standalone system without the necessity of backups. (Pilots still determined to fly by steam gauges with a glass-panel installation will no longer have the option to cheat with the analog instruments.)
More than coincidentally, Garmin also chose Sun 'n Fun as the venue to introduce the touch screen 650/750 GPS/VHF NAV/COMs. These are updated replacements for the talented 430/530 systems that have dominated the industry aftermarket business since 1998. (I flew the new systems at Sun 'n Fun in Garmin's Mooney Ovation; see July, 2011, P&P)
The common complaint about touch-screen control is that it can become more difficult to operate when the airplane is bouncing through any level of choppy air. Pretty obviously, the larger the screen, the more potentially difficult the task of anchoring your hand, so you can direct a finger at the proper electronic "button." That's exactly the reason Garmin installed stabilization rails on the new 650 and 750; to provide the pilot with an artificial grip and help stabilize control inputs.
To shortstop this problem on the G2000, Garmin provides the GTC-570 touch-screen controller, a smaller, 5.7-inch unit that mounts below the two main screens at center panel. The small control panel allows a pilot to input frequency, navigation and mode information, plus the controller can also regulate the environmental control system. The G2000 also incorporates a speech recognition system similar to that installed in many high-end cars.
In keeping with the touch-screen philosophy, the new system accomplishes its mission with a minimum of controls. Basically, the only knobs on the G2000 are the radio volume and squelch control, the usual dual concentric data-entry knob and a joystick for on-screen panning, all mounted on the GTC-570. Garmin would just as soon you don't touch the beautiful 14-inch PFD/MFD, so all functions are accessible on the controller.
The icons on the G2000 are large and easy to identify, but since I was flying a G2000 simulator, firmly attached to the floor of the building, there was no opportunity to test the system in turbulence. Still, there would seem to be plenty of grip capability adjacent to the controller to help anchor your hand.
The G2000 is driven by either one or two AHRS (attitude heading reference system) computers, and Garmin hopes most customers will opt for the redundant system. Terrain and traffic alerts will be standard.
Of course, the G2000 will offer all the same upgrade potential as the G1000, featuring Synthetic Vision, a virtual, 3D replication of terrain features ahead, and Enhanced Vision, Garmin's version of the standard infrared FLIR system.
As before, Flite Chart and Safe Taxi will help with positional orientation, and you can even add Garmin's new Enhanced Stability and Protection (inevitably ESP) system that monitors a number of flight parameters and can adjust the aircraft attitude accordingly. ESP monitors airspeed, altitude and attitude, and can recognize when a pilot exceeds normal pitch and roll limits, and will recover the aircraft to straight and level flight. If a pilot enters a dive that exceeds normal airspeed limits or a bank beyond reasonable requirements, the ESP feature will nudge the controls with progressively more insistent corrections as airspeed/attitude becomes farther out of bounds.
The system also can monitor a flight at high altitude, recognize when a pilot becomes unresponsive from hypoxia, and descend to a lower, more breathable altitude. ESP is designed to function when the pilot is hand-flying the airplane and the autopilot is turned off.
Garmin expects certification on the Corvalis 400TTX by the end of this year, meaning the G2000 will be incorporated on the 2012 Corvalis TTX. Cessna hasn't announced a price for the 2012 models yet, though it will probably be just south of $700,000. (The 2011 Corvalis TT has a base tab of $644,000. Cessna will no longer offer the normally aspirated Corvalis 350.)
Since the G2000, like the G1000 before it, is intended for OEM installation only, Garmin won't be announcing pricing on the G2000. That's because the system won't be offered for retrofit. In other words, there's no way you can buy a G2000 package and have your local shop do the installation in your 20-year-old Bonanza or Mirage, no matter how much money you have.
At this writing, Garmin has introduced the G1000, G2000, G3000 and the G5000, the latter for installation on Part 25 turbine equipment. No one knows what the plans are for the unused G4000 designation, if any. Similarly, Garmin hasn't announced whether they'll introduce a non-TSO'd version of the G2000 intended specifically for experimental aircraft as they did with the G900X based on the G1000.
I wasn't a big fan of touch screen on the original aera portables, but the execution on the new Garmin G2000 is so intuitive and professional, the system should be a guaranteed replacement for the G1000 on hundreds of new GA aircraft.