Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garmin Introduces The Touch-Screen 650 And 750

The Garmin 430 and 530 revolutionized the avionics world in 1999. Now, Garmin hopes to do it again with the even-more-talented 650 and 750.

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I've been fortunate to have access to many of the avionics innovations introduced in the last 40 years. When Paul Ryan premiered his first TCAD, he sent me a demo TCAD 7000 unit, and I was able to see its capabilities in real time. When GPS came along in 1991, Garmin's Tim Casey loaned me an engineering prototype of the first portable GPS 100AVD to help guide the number-one Swearingen SJ30 business jet across the North Atlantic, from San Antonio to the Paris Air Show and back.

Recently, I was granted another real-world sneak peak at a new avionics system. While I was attending the Sun 'n Fun Show in Lakeland, Fla., Garmin gave me a two-hour introduction to the new GTN 650 and 750 systems in the company's 2001 Mooney Ovation. Garmin product specialist and keeper of the Ovation's keys, Dave Brown, was in the right seat to demonstrate the two radios' capabilities, and I was flying left, enjoying the impressive combination of a great airplane and what certainly appears to be a truly innovative avionics system.

The major innovation on the 650 and 750 is the touch screen, and I was initially less than enthusiastic about the concept. Two years ago, when Garmin introduced the touch-screen, portable aera 560, I wasn't that impressed. The company loaned me a demo unit in 2009, and I preferred the old-fashioned knobs of the 496. If you're like me (and I know I am), and you have apprehension about the touch screen, the new 650 and 750 will change your mind. The touch screen is simpler and less troublesome than you could have imagined, but perhaps more importantly, data input and operation aren't the 650's and 750's only talents.

The new GTN 650 and 750 are the company's replacements for the old 430 and 530 (hard to think of 12-year-old avionics as "old"), and the new models incorporate an interesting combination of touch-screen and conventional controls, plus enough new features to help endear the new input method to practically everyone.

The 430 and 530 took the industry by storm at the dawn of the new millennium, and quickly became the standard by which all other avionics were measured. I installed a 430 in my Mooney in 2001, and I've been suitably impressed with its ease of operation ever since. Apparently, so has the rest of the industry. Garmin has sold something like 110,000 430s and 530s in the intervening years. There are only about 180,000 airplanes on the American civil aircraft registry, so 110,000 units represents a market penetration well over 50 percent. (Yes, I'm aware that many airplanes are exported, but I can personally attest that the 430 or 530 is installed in a major portion of international deliveries.)

The 650 or 750 is the logical next step in avionics development. If you're determined to keep one foot firmly entrenched in the last century, you can do most functions twisting dials as you did with the 430 and 530, but it doesn't take long before you begin to appreciate the new system.


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