You can have lots of flying with nothing more than old steam gauges in your cockpit. In fact, sometimes all of the technology can bog us down from enjoying the actual flying itself. That being said, there are a couple of pieces of equipment that can make your life easier in certain situations. We’ll look at the second one tomorrow.
For the eighth day of Avgeek Christmas we will take a look at a couple of different GPS units available for flying. I should mention that it is possible to buy an attachment for your favorite tablet, phone, or laptop and use that as a GPS device. That is generally the cheapest choice, and in some ways the best because then you can have the GPS interact with any other flight related apps you may have also purchased.
When it comes to actual handheld devices there are two companies that essentially own the market, iFly from Adventure Pilot, and Garmin. I’m sure many pilots will talk your ear off about why one is infinitely better than the other, but I would venture to guess, like most things, it is personal preference. Garmin is definitely the more widely recognized name, as well as what I have the most experience on.
Both systems offer many of the same features like aviation charts, terrain avoidance alerts, and airfield maps/directories. Some of them will even give you a map of the airport to help you taxi more effectively.
Both companies also offer the ability to use your GPS on the roads too, so once you land you can still figure out where you are going with turn by turn directions on some models.
The iFly system comes in both a 5″ and 7″ touchscreen model. They are also somewhat cheaper than the Garmin models likely, because they are not as well-known. The 5″ model starts out in the $450 range, and the 7″ comes in closer to $700.
There is also a subscription fee involved to keep your charts updated which comes in at $69 a year for the basic package, and an additional $40 a year for IFR charts. Compared to buying all of that in paper that is a very reasonable deal.
Garmin on the other hand offers a whole range of shapes, sizes, and complexities that range anywhere from about $600 to $15,000 or more if you get some of the in-panel models. Even some of the higher end handhelds will be in the thousands of dollars, but they do offer some pretty cool features.
One of the coolest features that is on some of the higher end models is the ability to look at a 3-D view of you flight. In essence you can watch a little window on the screen that will give you a 3-D rendering of your plane in the airspace. So you can essentially watch your 3-D plane land as the real one does. Kind of cool, just don’t watch it instead of the real ground. I could see that as being very reassuring in IFR conditions though.
I would go into the pricing for their update subscriptions, but let’s just say it is a 16 page document on their website, so I will spare you. In simple terms, a single update will run you around $50, with yearly subscriptions starting in the low hundreds, and going up into the thousands for the higher end models. Just keep that in mind as you are deciding what to buy. A GPS receiver can be a great tool, but if it is out of date, it quickly becomes less valuable as accuracy is paramount in aviation.
The last thing I will mention is the upcoming need to have ADS-B in your aircraft. I won’t get into what exactly it is capable of doing, but it is their to help make the airspace safer and more efficient. It is also going to be a requirement in the not to distant future (2020 in the US). So it might be worth considering a GPS unit that also has ADS-B capability. There are a number of different units out there that do one or the other, or both.
12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:
Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane