ADS-B: No Thanks
I am the skinflint Bonanza owner referred to in ADS-B Buy or Wait?, in the August issue of Aviation Consumer and what I found out is that theres no free lunch in avionics. After much teeth gnashing, I purchased an MX20/GNS480/GTX330/GDL69 set-up from Garmin. After looking at the GDL90, I just couldnt bring myself to believe the FAA will follow though with a free-lunch program for GA.
This was reinforced by a discussion I had with an FAA official at Oshkosh over breakfast at the hotel where we were staying. He spoke in flowery terms of ADS-B as the future of GA for $300 per airplane. He evidently hasnt visited his local avionics dealer lately.
When I pointed out that the FAA is backing away from Mode-S TIS after pushing it so hard, he said early adopters have to accept some risk. Well, I am not going to be an early adopter again if I can help it, thank you. With the current fee-for-service mentality now being espoused by the FAA, how sure can anyone be of getting weather uploads for free?
Not very, were sorry to say. See the “Why TIS Is Still A Good Bet” sidebar in this month’s “Airborne Traffic” article for more discussion on Mode-S TIS versus ADS-B.
PDA Pro and Con
I have an Anywhere Map attitude indicator. It generally works fine as long as it has external power. When external power is disconnected/lost, my unit shows a climbing turn, which would be extremely dangerous in IMC. I made sure the internal batteries are fresh and charged.
I have sent the unit back twice and it still fails. The companys Web site offers a tell it to the boss option. I wrote to him explaining my frustration and concern but never received a reply. It may just be my experience, but for me, it was a waste of money and, thankfully, I tested it on the ground before relying on it in the air.
I read your review on the Garmin GPSmap396 and it sounds terrific. When you mentioned the exposed wiring clutter, you hit a nerve with me. About a year ago, I bought an iPAQ and equipped it with Control Visions Anywhere Map. It works OK, but it hangs up and requires reboots at inopportune times, so I wouldnt trust it as my primary navigation aid by any means.
Control Vision informed us they are aware of some technical issues with the attitude indicator feature of the Anywhere product line. Were told that the product is being redesigned to address these issues. Control Vision says that many lock-ups are caused by lack of memory. Although the iPAQs will run all of the Anywhere applications simultaneously, they wont always do that with other applications, say an address book, running in the background. These should be shut down when not needed.
Drool and Gush
Paul Bertorelli certainly summed up his feelings quite well when he gushed over the Garmin GPSmap396, so much so that he almost slipped on his own drool. A lot of what he had to say in the article was accurate. The screen is nice and visible in the sunlight. The 396 has a lot of features that a pilot who has never owned an XM-based unit would appreciate.
But you failed to mention the magnet in the antenna. Another gush-clouded comment is about the wires compared to the PDA or laptop versions. In reality, the 396 has no fewer wires that my current back-up Anywhere Map XM system running on a 4700 iPAQ. In fact, the 396 would have three wires coming from the yoke-mounted unit (power, GPS antenna for high wing and XM antenna), while the PDA has one.
As the author indicated, the entry cost of the AWM systems is about $300 less than the GPSmap396. How about life cycle costs? The updates for AWM are $115 per year, versus $490 for Jepp updates and obstacles on the 396. After a few years, this will make the 396 even less attractive. AWM includes private airports, while the 396 omits those. The neat integration of the 396 becomes its poison when one wants to upgrade.
Take that compromise screen that the author ironically alludes to with his thumbs-up accolade. If the PDA user wants to expand when more funds are available, just replace the PDA with a Motion Computing LS800 mentioned in Aviation Consumer as the next generation of screens for navigation software. Not so with the Garmin. My upgrade cost to a mini-laptop (FL210 Flight Cheetah) did not require the replacement of a $2500 unit by starting from scratch; the GPS, XM radio and software were transferable.
Entry into the moving map arena can be done for less than $1000 for a color map on a PDA, which has as much or more functionality. When funds become available, upgrade to weather. With the 396, its now or never. The author was wishing for the display of approach plates. Where has he been? AWM has these and they display very nicely on my primary system that was upgraded from a PDA to a big, view-anywhere 6.5 inch screen; no compromise here. Additionally, one can geo-locate the airplane on the diagram during taxiing. Not too shabby.
The last gush is the authors ravings about the XM music. Hey, everyone to his likings. Music in the airplane would be nice but how about using a USB jump drive in the laptop or SD card with music in the PDA? Besides, I dont have to pay $10 per month to listen to the classics.
Now for the most understated gush. The author mentions that its easy to navigate around on the 396. Easy is relative. My experience personally and with friends is that anyone who uses a touch screen never wants to go back to the key-driven method. It takes more heads-down time with the 396 than with a touch screen PDA.
Hey, just another perspective from a Garmin panel-mount owner who loves his easy-to-use mini-laptop. Now Im gushing, but for good reason.
Charleston, West Virginia
On the other hand, where have you been? We reviewed Control Visions Pocket Plates in the July 2004 issue of Aviation Consumer. The plates comment referred to the GPSmap396.