Pilot Journal
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Flight Management Systems

Airline and bizjet pilots have been using flight management system (FMS) technology for almost 30 years, but it’s new to general aviation pilots. From the beginning, the FMS has appeared to the pilot as a control unit with at least two features: a keypad to enter waypoints and an alphanumeric display to show navigation and performance data. That’s still true for most FMS displays, though some now provide graphical features, and not all GA installations include a keypad. The FMS can also drive navigation instruments (or the PFD on a glass panel).
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flightHoneywell Bendix/King
Honeywell Bendix/King offers a wide range of FMS equipment, including descendents of the original 1982 Sperry FMS for airline use (see “History Of FMS” in this article). Of more interest to private pilots are the Honeywell GNS-XLS and KSN 770. The former is aimed at the higher end of the owner-flown market (and the lower end of the bizjet and regional airline market), and provides something of a compromise between traditional FMS and modern, digital looks, combining a color display with a full keyboard for data entry. The GNS-XLS includes a built-in GPS receiver supporting en route and terminal navigation; it can blend position data from other sensors. For entry-level applications, Honeywell offers the KSN 770, a WAAS-enabled GPS/NAV/COM combined with a 5.7-inch MFD, which includes a number of FMS features from the higher-end product lines, notably graphical flight-planning. List Price: $44,225 base price for the GNS-XLS; $13,995 for the KSN 770. Contact: Bendix/King, (800) 601-3099, www.honeywell.com/aero.

mustang g1000Garmin
Offering some 5,000 G1000 glass-panel systems (each of which has an FMS knob), Garmin probably has the lion’s share of the GA glass-panel and FMS market. Indeed, if an FMS is considered to be any navigation device combining inputs from multiple sources, Garmin may have a larger installed base than Honeywell. By the time you read this, the 100,000th GNS 400/430/500/530 GPS/NAV/COM will have shipped. Many pilots don’t consider any of these to be a true FMS, but Eclipse Aviation disagrees—the company recently touted its decision to add dual GNS 400Ws to E500 light jet panels as providing long-overdue point-to-point navigation and FMS capability. Garmin Director of Flight Operations Tom Carr says the 400/500 series was originally intended as a NAV/COM replacement, “But Garmin included so many additional features that it became as capable an FMS as many other systems—and with the G1000, we’ve really provided all the features of an FMS.” Whether a G1000 implementation includes a keyboard depends on the aircraft manufacturer—most piston singles don’t have room for it, though Columbia (now Cessna) is an exception. Cessna also provides keyboard access to the G1000 in its Citation Mustang. Regardless of how data is entered, the G1000 offers a wide range of FMS features, including WAAS-compatible GPS navigation, automatic NAV tuning, VNAV (vertical navigation) and storage of multiple flight plans. List Price: In most cases, the G1000 is sold on an OEM basis through aircraft manufacturers, though one exception is a G1000 retrofit package for the Beech King Air C90, which sells for $350,000 installed. Contact: Garmin, (800) 800-1020, www.garmin.com.

flight managementL-3 SmartDeck
L-3 Communications doesn’t describe its SmartDeck glass panel as an FMS, but after flying a Cirrus SR22 with it, I have to say that it sure seems like one. Navigation waypoints are entered, and NAV/COM frequencies are tuned on a central control unit (CCU) that replaces the conventional radio stack. Although the SR22 I flew didn’t have a full alphanumeric keyboard, the CCU did offer a numeric keypad that can be used for both NAV/COM frequencies and transponder codes. Uniquely, in my experience, SmartDeck will automatically look up the nearest facility associated with a NAV/COM frequency. It also offers a “scratchpad” for buffered data entry similar to that found on high-end airline FMS displays. Other SmartDeck features include WAAS-compatible GPS guidance, context-sensitive menu architecture (including a graphic that shows you exactly what the outer- and inner-tuning knobs will do depending on the mode selected), automatic NAV tuning for approaches and VNAV. List Price: TBA. Contact: L-3 Communications, (800) 253-9525, www.l-3avionics.com.

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