Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Next Step In Glass Panels

Garmin’s new G2000 flat-panel display introduces total touch screen—almost

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.

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