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.

You can scroll left or right, up or down, by simply swiping your finger across the screen. You also can insert an off-course vector by simply sliding your finger to the new checkpoint; the course line will follow automatically, and the flight plan will be corrected on the planning page. (One feature Garmin didn't incorporate was "pinch range capability," which allows you to increase or decrease range by simply squeezing two fingers together or opening them up to expand or contract the image on the screen, another iPhone technique. Look for that as a possible improvement on a future iteration.)

Predictably, the approach to Avon Park was near perfect. The only duty for the pilot was to adjust power to maintain a proper approach speed, and extend the gear and flaps. The system drove the airplane down a pseudo ILS glidepath on a GPS approach, just as if we were flying a standard three-degree descent with a real ILS.

If I had any objection to the new systems, it might be that they seem to demand more head-down time than previous units. With the old concentric knobs, you could reference the old frequency (for example), look back outside, and count the number of clicks to reach the new number.

Just as the 430 and 530 came to dominate the avionics aftermarket, the new GTN 650 and 750 are virtually guaranteed to become the retrofit NAV/COMs of choice. To that end, Garmin has already certified the new models in several hundred GA airplanes. There's a good chance manufacturers may select the systems for production airplanes, as well.

Garmin was actively selling the systems through several dealers at Lakeland, so they should be readily available by the time you read this. The GTN 650 has a suggested list price of $11,495, and the GTN 750 has a retail price of $16,995. Garmin's GMA 35 remote audio panel sells for an additional $2,995.


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