The rest, as you know, is history. The 400 and 500 series navigators have gone on to unprecedented success in the GA market. There are by a recent count more than 100,000 of the units in service at this time. And the momentum of those navigators propelled Garmin to the creation of the G1000 avionics suite, which has gone on to be the de-facto standard in new airplane avionics.
In fact, it has spawned a new word, one that I use from time to time, “Garminized,” to describe the way that the sometimes-peculiar logic of the 430 and its offspring can affect the mind of the user. I have on many occasions had an instructor tell me a certain feature of the G430 was simple only to have them whiz through a dozen screens and submenus to execute a function as though a pilot sliding into the seat could have figured it without even trying. When you think doing vertical nav on the Garmin is easy, your mind has clearly been Garminized.
Then again, up until the introduction of the 430 most of us who had used long-range navigators before were used to arcane menus and logic. I loved the KLN series Loran and GPS navigators. But easy to use? Try again. The product was a direct descendent of the FMS units in large bizjets and airliners … and of the regulatory framework that covered their certification. In its defense, Garmin’s approach to the software and symbology was in many cases dictated by the FAA, which had little or no experience with this kind of technology. Even when the unit was capable of doing something simply, the regulators sometimes insisted on an extra step or two, simply because that was the way it had always been done before. This was true for the installations of the equipment, as well.
Regardless, the capability of the equipment more than made up for the less than perfect user interface. It was, in simplest terms, great equipment to have in the cockpit. It made flying easier, safer and more fun.
That’s not a bad requiem for a product that, with more than 100,000 installed units in the fleet, isn’t going away any time soon.