Departing the Alliance Class D airspace, we dropped down and looked at the helicopter specific TAWS installation in the 407GX. Previously, when flying a helicopter low level, you just inhibited the terrain warning to avoid constant nuisance alerts. With the 407GX, there are three modes, OFF, normal, and a low-level mode that avoids most nuisance alerts while highlighting obstacles like towers on the PFD. The display of terrain, obstacles and traffic is amazing on the Garmin synthetic vision, and the targets grow as you approach the conflict. The 407GX is also equipped with Garmin’s new directional audio panel, that among other features, broadcasts a traffic alert from, for example, your right side through the right ear cup of your headset. A neat helicopter-specific feature is that you can push a button on the cyclic, and with voice commands do many things on the audio panel that previously required a free hand. Since two hands are often required to control a helicopter, the voice control feature is a major benefit.
There is also an optional Iridium kit that allows you to place sat phone calls in flight, and access weather information in remote areas not covered by XM service. Since we live in Alaska, and XM does not provide Alaska weather, the Iridium option is attractive to us. The MFD allows you to easily access information concerning the 407’s fadec system, and wirelessly transmit that information from the helicopter for maintenance purposes. The MFD also has an SD card, where the flight can be downloaded and then displayed in Google Earth.
In flight, unlike on a legacy 407, where you monitored torque, MGT and gas producer for the first limit, the single limit display looks at all three parameters and flashes yellow or red depending upon what limit is reached and for how long. The airspeed tape adjusts for the Vne of the helicopter at different density altitudes, and even knows for example, that the Vne goes down for torque above max continuous. In the event of an engine failure, a large depiction of rotor rpm and the engine instruments automatically appears on the MFD.
While the 407GX is not certified for instrument flight, we decided to test the capability of the G1000 for an inadvertent IMC encounter by shooting a full procedure ILS back into Alliance. The PFD showed a series of boxes called Pathways that took us around a procedure turn course reversal, and down a stabilized ILS into Alliance. As someone that did their ATP Rotorcraft rating flying raw data on an HSI, I can confidently say that the ability to shoot an approach with the Garmin Pathway boxes is a major workload reducer in a helicopter.
After getting back on the ground, and reflecting on the test flight, I was incredibly impressed with the G1000 installation in the 407GX. Where I had envisioned just G1000 dropped into a rotorcraft, the GX installation does so much more, and it is far and away the most exciting avionics advance in helicopters that I have seen.