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Garmin G900X Glass Cockpit

Glass Cockpits have been taking general aviation by storm, ever since Cirrus started shipping their SR20 and SR22 aircraft with the Avidyne Entegra glass cockpit in 2003. Within two years, virtually all new GA aircraft were shipping with either the Garmin G1000 or the Avidyne Entegra. Starting in 2007, glass cockpit hardware virtually identical to that shipped in certified aircraft is becoming available in experimental aircraft. Homebuilt aircraft will never be the same again!

The G900X, which is physically identical to the G1000, will start shipping around April, 2007 for a limited number of aircraft kit models supplied by Epic, Lancair, and Vans. Traditionally, most home-built aircraft have been low cost, and wouldn’t have justified adding $70,000 of avionics. However, there's a recent trend toward more expensive kit planes, particularly Van’s RV10, with average finished costs of $100-200,000 to complete.

One avionics dealer tells us that previously, the average RV10 panel was costing owners $60-90,000, and that “99% of the panels” going into RV10’s are IFR. The Garmin G900X, with a selling price of just under $70,000, will sell well into this market.

We will talk about the features of the Garmin 900X, the aircraft into which you can install it, and where to find a dealer. Of course if you want to learn more about the Garmin G900X, we’d be remiss in not mentioning the wide range of training materials available. Glass Cockpit Publishing offers the widest range of training materials available including books, online courses, and two CD-ROM courses.

New Max Trescott's WAAS and GPS CD-ROM Course


The best way to learn these systems is to buy our new Max Trescott's WAAS and GPS CD-ROM Course. This new interactive, multimedia course which runs on Windows, Macintosh and Linux, teaches you to fly these approaches step-by-step, and shows you how many feet of obstacle clearance you have at ever point on the approach. Learn from two Master CFIs how to avoid the "gotchas" that can trick even experienced GPS pilots. Read more about the CD-ROM course and order it online. Or, you order the CD-ROM course, which runs more than 4 hours, by calling 800-247-6553. The price is $99.95 plus shipping.


Our Max Trescott’s G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook was ranked by Aviation Consumer as the “overall winner” when they evaluated G1000 training materials and is available for $34.95. VFR and IFR G1000 courses are available online for $59 each. The Aero-News Network listed the book and our Max Trescott’s Garmin G1000 CD-ROM Course as one of the “Top Dozen Best Products of 2006.” The CD-ROM course includes over six hours of training on using the G1000 in VFR and IFR and sells for $99.95.

Garmin G900X Features
Ironically, the buyers of the G900X will be flying around with more capability than most G1000 owners. Because of the timing of the introduction, Garmin was able to leverage much of the work they’ve done for the Cessna Mustang jet and the 2007 Cessna 172, 182 and 206, and G900X owners will get almost all of these new features! Most of the aircraft manufacturers have yet to announce plans for how and when they’ll upgrade both the Garmin G1000 systems in both new aircraft, and their installed base. So today, the only way to get the latest WAAS capable glass cockpit from Garmin is to buy a 2007 Cessna, or to install a Garmin G900X in your experimental aircraft.

The Garmin G900X uses essentially the same architecture as the Garmin G1000. A pair of identical 10.4 inch displays are used for the PFD and MFD. Savvy pilots will recognize that since the displays are identical, that means that the Garmin G900X does not use the Garmin integrated autopilot available in Cessna, Beechcraft and Columbia aircraft (the MFD display differs in these aircraft in that they include autopilot function keys). Instead, the Garmin 900X provides interfaces for a number of autopilots popular with kit builders.

The Garmin G900X does include two WAAS capable GPS receivers—something that most current G1000 owners do not have. That means that builders who install the Garmin G900X can fly the hundreds of GPS approaches that can only be flown with the newest WAAS capable, TSO-C146a certified GPS receivers. Many of these approaches provide vertical guidance that allow GPS approaches to be flown much like an ILS. Currently, some of these approaches can be flown with minimums as low as 250 feet. Later in 2007, the FAA will begin charting approaches with minimums as low as 200 feet. The major benefit of WAAS is that it allows instrument approaches to be designed for almost any airport. You can learn more about WAAS on our WAAS page.

The Garmin G900X also includes a pair of COM receivers and a pair of NAV receivers. You can tune these radios by using controls on the PFD, so you never have to look away from the instruments when tuning a radio. A second set of radio tuning controls are located on the MFD display. A separate digital audio panel, which incorporates a digital clearance recorder, is used to select radios for use.

Two features included in the Garmin G900X that you won’t find in older G1000 systems are Garmin’s “SafeTaxi” diagrams and the optional electronic instrument charts. If you’ve ever had problems on the ground finding your way around a strange airport—particularly at night—you’ll instantly understand the benefit of having the more than 650 airport diagrams available. Not only do these SafeTaxi diagrams show all of the runways and taxiways at an airport, they also show the location of your aircraft. Thus, as you taxi around the airport, you can watch the miniature aircraft icon—representing your plane—move from one taxiway to another. FliteCharts allows you to subscribe to electronic version of the instrument approach procedure charts. This makes it easy to locate a chart, and display it for reference.

Other features included in the Garmin G900X include a complete engine monitoring system, terrain and obstacle database, and a mode-S transponder. The latter displays nearby traffic, using the FAA’s Traffic Information Service (TIS), when within about 55 nautical miles of one of the roughly 100 appropriately equipped approach radar sites. Optional features include a Terrain Awareness and Warning System (TAWS) and XM satellite weather and XM radio for entertainment.

Garmin G900X Eligible Aircraft
Unfortunately, you can’t take the G900X and just put it in any aircraft. As you can imagine, the system’s firmware is customized for each aircraft and engine configuration. For example, the engine monitoring system is customized depending upon the maximum rpm and manifold pressure permitted, and is configured differently for aircraft with turbines or turbo charging. Fortunately, Garmin has cleverly targeted the most popular experimental aircraft, so there’s a good chance that one of the planes you’re considering building is supported by the Garmin G900X.

Vans Aircraft
If you know anything about experimental aircraft, then you know that Van’s is probably the most successfully supplier of aircraft kits in the world. Currently, aircraft builders are completing Van’s aircraft at the rate of about one a day. If these were certified aircraft, that would make Van’s the third largest seller of aircraft, behind Cessna and Cirrus.

Currently, Garmin supports the Garmin G900X in the Vans RV-7, RV-7A, RV-9, RV-9A, RV-10, and RV-10A. Of these aircraft, the largest number of G900X installations are likely to be in the RV-10, since this aircraft is more expensive, and hence can more easily support an instrument panel cost of $70,000. Also, according to one dealer we spoke with, a number of RV-10 builders are current owners of King Airs and Barons. While some of these people will upgrade to the Eclipse 500 VLJ or the Cessna Mustang jet, many of them, as they get older, are interested in a very stable IFR platform, and the RV-10 fits this need. In the past, builders have installed a number of glass cockpit systems from Chelton Systems into these aircraft. We think it’s a good bet that many builders will now consider the Garmin G900X as well.

If you are looking to build a four seat, 345 mph, pressurized aircraft, then you’ve probably considered the Lancair IV-P. You can also build the non-pressurized Lancair IV, though according to Lancair, most builders opt for the pressurized version. As you’ve probably guessed, you now have the option of installing the Garmin G900X in your Lancair IV or IV-P. Builders of the Lancair ES and ES-P can also choose to install a Garmin G900X into their aircraft.

Although we’ve seen no formal announcements anywhere, we’ve received calls from Epic builders interested in our Max Trescott’s Garmin G1000 CD-ROM course. A close examination of the Epic aircraft website, under options for the Epic LT, reveals that it lists the Garmin 900X as an avionics option. If you’re unfamiliar with the Epic LT, it’s a six seat aircraft with a 1200 hp PT-6 turbine that’s capable of flying at 350 knots. Even with full fuel, it claims a useful payload of 1,200 pounds and has a range of over 1300 nautical miles.

Authorized Dealers
Garmin has always limited distribution of their avionics products to a set of full service avionics dealers that can provide installation, service and support of their products. For distribution of the Garmin G900X, they’ve chosen a set of ten dealers specifically trained on the installation of these products.

The dealers will supply customized mounting brackets for the AHRS and magnetometer, and can also approve the installation of these sensitive instruments. The dealers will also supply wiring harnesses and installation drawings.

Learning to Fly the Garmin G1000
Now, there's finally a comprehensive guide to the popular Garmin G1000 glass cockpit: Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. Written by a Master CFI, this book makes it easy for you to quickly become an expert on operating and programming the G1000 system in any aircraft.


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Learn more about Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook



March 2010:
New iPhone GPS Guides available for the Garmin 430 GPS and for the Garmin aera 500, 510, 550 and 560. Use as self-learning guides and quick reference checklists.