Letters: June 2000

Garmin Woes
All of the press rants and raves about the Garmin 430 and now the 530 units. I traded in my KLN 89B, Argus 5000 CE-equipped Mooney MSE for a new Mooney Bravo with dual Garmin 430s in December.

There’s no question that the 430s software architecture is light-years ahead of the competition when it comes to approaches. However, I believe your readers should hear a few negative comments about Garmin and the 430s.

On the return flight from the Kerrville Mooney factory to my dealer, East Coast Aviation near Boston, I noticed that the Shadin fuel computer fuel to destination readout was way off. East Coast Aviation said that the problem was with the Garmin units, not the Shadin.

Garmin gave me the runaround stating that the problem was with Shadin. The engineering staff at Shadin were very helpful. They had received other complaints on this issue, and took the time to explain why the problem was with the Garmin units. A follow-up call to Garmin armed with the Shadin input was fruitless.

Later, East Coast installed a JPI EDM 800 engine monitor with a fuel computer function tied into the number two Garmin unit. Same problem. This is a safety-of-flight issue. Garmin should address the problem just to satisfy customers who are dropping $20,000 for a dual 430 installation.

I had an Argus 7000 CE installed in the pilots primary instrument scan. The Argus maps are far superior to Garmins. The vertical position of the map screen alone in the Argus makes a world of difference.

The Argus units have the floors and ceilings of Class B airspace right on the screen. The airspace lines change color from green to red when you are 500 feet from busting airspace. The Garmin units show the airspace but you have to click cursors and scroll through windows to figure out the floors and ceilings of the airspace. I am having squelch problems on one of the Garmin radios. I was told that this is a software problem.

Bob Anderson
Via e-mail

We asked Garmins Bill Stone to reply: The RS232 protocol used to transfer information from various manufacturers GPS units to other devices was defined many years ago.

Unfortunately, this protocol was rudimentary and provided only a limited dataset. It was not designed to support distance-to-final destination via the active flightplan. Fuel flow computers use a relatively simple (DIS/GS x Flow) calculation to derive fuel requirements. As the RS232 protocol only broadcasts distance to the active waypoint, the fuel-required display was relative only to the active waypoint. Recently, the RS232 protocol has been enhanced to support additional data, including distance-to-final destination.

Garmin has updated the GNS 430 firmware to support these additions, which may be installed into a customers unit by a Garmin service center via Service Bulletin SB0003. This is a warranty item.

I wonder how many of your readers have found it necessary to call up for support from Garmin? I had to recently and the experience was less than pleasant.

First off, I tried their toll-free number and after waiting 11 minutes for a representative, I gave up. Then I tried the toll number, hoping for a quicker response. No better; another long wait only to be greeted by an individual who had all the graciousness of a storm trooper. All I wanted to do is send my 195 back for service, because it has never been accurate, providing amusement for ATC when I relied on it.

I pointed out to this person that I was a good customer, having bought another earlier model Garmin, plus a GMA 340 and I may have a Garmin transponder on order. Then again, after this encounter, I may change my mind.

Garmin has two problems: They need to reduce their response time and screen who they have greeting their customers. They have good products. But the others will catch up and will be sensitive to the people who keep them in business. I don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to be treated rudely.

Cal Simons
Marshall, Minnesota

Continuing National Beat Up Garmin month… we addressed these issues with the companys marketing and customer service departments. (Youre not alone; weve had trouble getting through Garmins phone system, too.)

We were told that the company plans to upgrade its incoming phone system and to add more customer service representatives. We would be pleased to hear comments on how these improvements work.

Gyro Notes
Look, all of us single-engine types (I own a Cessna 210) would like unlimited redundancy of all critical systems, especially the one pulling the airplane. But, weve made peace with the unaffordable and the uncritical and go on. Your intimation in the February Aviation Consumer that loss of the attitude gyro in real IMC is a dangerous and marginally manageable situation is, I submit, a bit far out.

The turn-and-bank and VSI serve we’ll as back-up. In fact, the combination provides better information in one respect: It rivets your attention as to whether youre going up or down, irrespective of attitude.

William S. Lyons
via e-mail

Headsets, Inc.
I just finished your report on the Headsets, Inc. ANR modules. I havebeen flying with them for three years, and am very satisfied, with oneexception. The cord to the battery box breaks. I have replaced the power cord on both sets I own.

Second, I got my inserts before the current slide-cover battery box was introduced. The original box had a screwed on cover that seemed a problem if the battery died, so I went to Radio Shack and got parts for a box which holds two batteries and a DPDT switch. Now when one dies in flight, I just flip the switch. I told the company about the set-up but they seemed uninterested.

The sets are as comfortable as the original so I don’t consider them binaural vise-grips. Also, be careful about when you switch to ANR. I made the switch one week before my planned IFR checkride. Because everything sounded different, I flew the worst flight of my life. My instructor had to delay the checkride. But now, I wont fly without them.

Ted Noel
Maitland, Florida