Garmin has launched a series of flat-panel multifunction displays for the homebuilt and LSA market that will give owners of these airplanes the same kinds of capabilities that owners of the 696 portable now have.
The GDU 370 and GDU 375 are based on the same display, case, front-side interface, and GPS/WAAS technology as the 696, but they are optimized for panel mounting, with rear jacks for external GPS and XM antennas, as well as a connector for external power and other interfaces. (The 370 is identical to the 375, except that it lacks the XM interface.) The 375 has several connectors, including a 50-pin input for integration with other systems and ship's power, as well as a secondary power input, for external battery backup. The 375 does not have an internal battery, as the 696 does.
Want to put a 375 in your old Bonanza? Forget about it. The displays are noncertified, meaning that you can't mount them in the panel of your certified airplane. They are, however, hardware upgradable, a first from Garmin to our knowledge. With the addition of yet-to-be-released upgrade hardware, the MFD can transform into a PFD, an engine monitor, or an MFD/PFD/engine monitor hybrid. The software upgrade to the new platform will be free.
Because there are few rules governing avionics in homebuilts and LSAs, Garmin has been able to engineer the system to go from MFD to PFD with the addition of hardware down the line. This includes the solid-state ADAHRS (for heading and attitude); an EIS module for engine instrumentation and the magnetometer and temp probe. The cost of that hardware package is $9,995, and Garmin expects it to be available in the second half of the year.
Without the add-on hardware, the displays feature everything you get with the 696, IFR maps, obstacles and terrain awareness, approach charts, Garmin's great SafeTaxi airport diagrams and more. And with its large size, the screens are perfect for displaying approach charts and moving maps.
While the timing of the announcement was unusual-with only part of the system being available initially-it will likely give pause to many LSA buyers or homebuilders planning their avionics, many of whom might be willing to wait a bit to get Garmin in the panel.