It’s hard to believe that Garmin’s current G3X Touch integrated avionics suite was born from the company’s GPSMAP696 portable GPS. The original G3X utilized the 696 portable GPS control set and display, but was connected to a remote ADAHRS system.
When LSA models first hit the market, the early G3X panel was an option to the stark avionics arrangement that was standard in many aircraft. The industry marveled at the G3X in the Legend Aircraft Cub, among other models.
Still, Garmin’s G3X never gained traction in the LSA and experimental market dominated by Dynon Avionics, a company that remains on the cutting edge with affordable avionics that are easy to use, easy to install and have generous cross-brand compatibility. In our estimation, Dynon still dominates today, reinforcing its mainstay in the LSA and experimental market with its recently introduced Skyview Touch integrated suite.
But Garmin, with its third-generation G3X Touch, attracted a lot of attention at this year’s Sun ‘n Fun. The system was chosen by five light sport manufacturers—encompassing 13 aircraft models—that are offering the G3X Touch as standard or optional equipment. If Garmin is setting out to dominate the LSA and experimental avionics market with its new G3X Touch, we’d say it’s off to a tremendous start.
When Garmin assembled Team X last year (that’s the forward-looking engineering group that focuses primarily on designing products for experimental and LSA applications) its first project was to redesign the first-gen G3X. Improvements included a new digital autopilot interface, a redesigned ADAHRS and an advanced engine instrument interface, to name a few. The G3X redesign was a huge boost to the system and to Garmin’s position in the experimental and LSA market.
While the new G3X Touch uses many of the same components found in the last version of the G3X (known as LRUs, for line replaceable units), the outgoing display and control set is replaced with a larger one with a touchscreen feature set.
The new face of the G3X Touch is the GDU46X—a 10.6-inch high-resolution touchscreen color display. The suite can be configured with one, two or three displays, which house WAAS GPS receivers, in addition to an optional SiriusXM receiver.
Garmin designed the system with an open architecture, at least when it comes to interfacing with its own certified equipment. There’s the option of connecting the displays with the GTN750 or GTN650 navigator, in addition to older GNS-series navigators. This gives the G3X Touch full IFR capability.
With a basic single display configuration, there’s a split PFD and MFD presentation, but multiple displays are configured for dedicated PFD, MFD or a combination of split screens on all. In a multi-screen configuration, it’s easy to compare the system to a G1000 or the G900-series for experimental aircraft.
The new displays are compatible with previous G3X air data and AHRS computers. This makes the G3X Touch a plug-and-play upgrade for second-generation G3X systems. There are new components, too, including the GSU73, an ADAHRS LRU that also provides for an engine/airframe data interface, plus an ARINC429 data hub for connecting the GTN navigators. It also connects with the pitot and static system for computing flight instrument data.
There’s also a remote magnetometer for heading resolution, a temperature probe and the GAP26—a pitot tube that senses AOA (angle of attack). If it sounds like the G3X Touch is a complex system with many subsystems, it is. In many respects, it follows the lead of the G1000, which also uses multiple LRUs.
Unless you want IFR capability, you don’t have to use the G3X Touch with a GTN or GNS navigator. Earlier comm radios including the SL40 and SL30 transceivers can be utilized as standalone radios. But for integrated communications, the GTR20 is a 10-watt comm LRU that’s tuned in a dedicated window on the GDU46X display. Like the panel-mounted GTR200 transceiver, the GTR20 has standby frequency monitoring, frequency storage and a Find function for searching frequencies for nearest airports, based on GPS position.
The G3X Touch is capable of channeling several remote transponders, including the GTX23ES ADS-B transponder. The transponder control window is in the main data bar at the top of the display, logically located next to the radio tuning window. Transponder tuning for panel-mount transponders, including the popular GTX327 Mode C and GTX330/ES (for TIS-B and ADS-B traffic) is also supported.
While primarily a touchscreen feature set, the G3X Touch also has dedicated control keys for performing common functions, including direct-to navigation, finding nearest waypoints and accessing a main menu. Two rotary knobs—one on each side of the bezel—can be used for frequency tuning, scrolling and a variety of other functions.
The G3X Touch data card slot on the lower portion of the bezel accepts standard SD cards. The SD card can be used for a variety of functions, including software updates, storing checklist files, flight data logging, exporting track logs and user waypoints and importing/exporting flight plans.
Like other Garmin navigators and the G1000, the system has a page navigation bar displayed on the lower portion of the MFD. You can touch the desired page on the page navigation bar or turn the large knob associated with the MFD to cycle through the pages. Main pages that are accessed on the MFD include the map, electronic charts, waypoint information, active flight plan, optional SiriusXM weather, terrain, traffic and optional engine data, which we’ll get to in a minute.
You can enter a waypoint identifier on a dedicated onscreen data entry keypad and simply press the OK checkmark on the screen to activate it. We found simple navigation chores to be straight-forward and the touchscreen performance was flawless. Like the GTN touschsreen navigators, the G3X Touch uses a capacitive touschscreen.
There’s an interactive audio alerting system, including a pilot-adjustable audio output setup for adjusting the volume of warning messages, including “approaching airspace” and “arriving at waypoint,” for example. There’s also audible altitude alerting that interfaces with the flight instruments on the PFD, plus a fuel tank reminder alarm for switching tanks.
The PFD (primary flight display) can be viewed in a full-screen presentation or split screen. As you would expect, the PFD is full-featured and includes configurable Vspeeds on the airspeed tape display and at the bottom of the airspeed indicator.
We like the interactive glidepath presentation. For instance, the VDI (vertical deviation indicator) appears to the left of the altimeter during an GPS approach. The glidepath display is analogous to the glideslope for GPS approaches supporting WAAS vertical guidance, including Garmin’s LNAV+V, in addition to L/VNAV and LPV guidance. The glidepath indicator appears on the PFD as a magenta diamond. If the approach type downgrades past the final approach fix, a “NO GP” message is annunciated.
The system has a full EHSI (electronic HSI) with the ability to display two bearing pointers for traditional nav and GPS sources, plus bearing to the nearest airport. When a bearing pointer is displayed, its associated information is displayed in a bearing data window at the lower side of the HSI. This takes the guess-work out of figuring out which nav source is associated with a given bearing pointer.
The system will automatically slew the localizer course pointer to the correct final approach course when an ILS, localizer, back course, LDA, or SDF approach is active in the external navigator. Once inside the final approach fix on an approach, the course pointer will change from magenta to green and the course pointer will slew to the appropriate final approach course as received from the external GPS.
The HSI may be configured to provide directional information in either magnetic heading or automatic track-up modes. Heading mode orients the HSI to display aircraft heading in a conventional manner, with the current heading value shown at the top of the compass card as indicated by the lubber line. In automatic track-up mode, the aircraft symbol and lubber line move to indicate heading and wind correction, while the current ground track is shown at the top of the compass card. That’s smart and provides useful data that’s also customizable.
Speaking of smart, whenever the G load on the airplane goes above +2.1G or below -0.5G, the HSI is temporarily replaced with a large graphical G-meter. You can acknowledge the condition and remove the G-meter by pressing the Clear key. Regardless of the current G load, the HSI can be replaced with a G-meter by changing this setting from the PFD setup page.
You can also display the optional trim and flap position sensor to the left of the EHSI. This shows the current position of the elevator, aileron and rudder trim, if equipped, in addition to current flap position.
Other windows for display on the PFD include outside air temperature, wind data—including direction and speed—or the headwind and crosswind component.
There’s also an AOA (angle of attack) display. The AOA functionality is defined in the system setup. For instance, when the AOA is below the calibrated minimum visible AOA threshold, the angle of attack gauge is not displayed on the PFD. When AOA exceeds the calibrated caution alert threshold, an intermittent audible tone will be heard. The tone will increase in frequency until the stall warning AOA is reached, where it sounds continuously. There’s also the GI260 AOA indicator that’s mounted on top of the aircraft glareshield—where it should be—for referencing during the approach to landing.
A major add-on to the G3X Touch is Garmin’s flight control system. The integrated autopilot brings many of the advanced features found in the certified GFC700 and utilizes the compact GSA28 digital servos that Garmin calls a “smart servo.”
The GSA28 servo is considered smart because it contains the software drive logic and doesn’t rely on a remote computer for roll and pitch commands. Weighing only 1.4 pounds, Garmin says it is more than 40 percent lighter than most autopilot servos for experimental and light sport applications. Unlike other brands, the servos are made of die-cast, machined metal components—not plastic.and the autopilot is commanded through and annunciated on the G3X
Touch display. It also works with the optional GMC305 autopilot control panel. The autopilot offers envelope protection, with a Level mode, to help restore the aircraft to straight-and-level flight.
Another major option is the GEA24 EIS engine interface module. The module enables aircraft-specific customizing of system data input for display of engine gauges and color bands, alerts, fuel data, flap and trim position and other primary and secondary sensor data for overlay on the G3X display. The GEA24 EIS interfaces with most popular engine models, including the Rotax 912-series, although interface kits are available for other popular engines.
Trick video, ADS-B
The G3X Touch has a video composite input channel that’s compatible with Garmin’s $500 VIRB Elite HD action camera. Aside from displaying real-time video in a dedicated window on the MFD, the interface allows you to start and stop the camera’s recording directly from the G3X Touch.
The G3X Touch is compatible with Garmin’s GDL39R remote ADS-B receiver. This was born from the portable GDL39 and enables Garmin’s TargetTrend relative motion traffic technology on the screen. It’s also a source for receiving FIS-B weather.
For subscription-based broadcast satellite weather, Garmin offers a version of the G3X Touch display that has an integrated SiriusXM receiver, which also provides entertainment input to the system. It’s a $500 option.
Build your suite
A single-screen G3X Touch starts at $5499 and includes the GSU25 ADAHRS, GMU22 magnetometer and GTP59 temperature sensor. A dual-display system is $9399 and the triple-screen suite is $13,699. The GEA24 engine indication system is an additional $600 for all configurations.
There’s also the $995 GTR20 comm transceiver, $2199 GTX23ES transponder and $249 GI260 AOA indicator. Garmin’s SVX synthetic vision is standard on all systems, in addition to VFR sectional and IFR enroute charting.
If you want to connect a GNS or GTN-series IFR navigator, you’ll need the $425 GAD29 IFR navigation adapter.
None of the systems include the autopilot interface as standard. The roll axis interface that uses a single GSA28 servo is $750, or $1500 for dual-axis roll and pitch. The GMC305 remote autopilot control panel is $750. There’s also the heated AOA probe, at $299.
If you add all of that up, a dual-screen G3X Touch suite—with autopilot—tricks out at $15,421. That’s an entire glass cockpit that’s priced less than one Garmin GTN750 touchscreen navigator. It arguably has more features than the G1000 suite.
The major snag is the lack of certification, making the system off limits for installation in Part 23 certified aircraft. But that could change. As we explain in the First Word commentary on page 2, proposed changes to the regulation could eventually allow the installation of non-certified equipment in certified aircraft.
If that happens—and we have no idea if and when it will—the G3X Touch could well be the inexpensive mass-retrofit glass cockpit of the future. Contact www.garmin.com, 800-800-1020.