There were few major product announcements at the NBAA Convention this fall, but the launch by Garmin of a brand-new flat-panel avionics system, the G3000, was one we might remember for a long time, as the system might very well change the way that pilots interface with their avionics from this point out. The advance: touch screens.
The G3000 system that Garmin was showing off in its booth is intended for Part 23 turbines, and a pair of airplane makers announced that they would be launch customers for G3000. Honda will put the system in its light twin-engine HondaJet, and Piper will make it standard equipment on its single-engine PiperJet.
While Garmin was focusing on its NBAA launch customers, it's clear that the technology behind G3000 is scalable. Gary Kelley, Garmin vice president of marketing, said that the G3000 system "promises to be one of the most intuitive and powerful flight deck systems ever designed for Part 23 turbine aircraft." But he also joked that one of the most common questions he was asked at the show was, "Where's the G2000?" the presumed light GA version of the touch-screen suite. Kelley was mum on that point, though there's little doubt such a system will appear down the line.
The interface is much of the story with G3000 and, regardless of how pilots feel about touch screens, they're clearly part of the future of avionics development. And Garmin seems the ideal pioneer, with vast experience in touch-screen technology. According to Kelley, Garmin has delivered 45 million to 50 million touch-screen navigators and other devices in a variety of markets, including marine and automotive.
G3000 doesn't use touch-screen main displays but innovative touch-screen controllers. Designated the GTC 570 (Garmin Touchscreen Controller), the 5.7-inch diagonal twin units act as the flight management interfaces, replacing a cursor control device and/or keypad with the touch screen. Simply by selecting an icon that corresponds to the desired function, the pilot can intuitively and quickly enter all the information required to control the airplane's systems — radios, audio, autopilot, weather system management, systems and more — with just a few touches. The technology behind the touch screens are cutting edge too, employing infrared technology with extensive feedback to the pilot (audio, visual and animation) to make the selection process easy and obvious.
Unlike portable touch-screen electronics, the GTC 570 relies on infrared beams, not the actual pressure of a touch. When your finger, stylus or even gloved finger breaks the intersecting beams and then pulls away cleanly, an entry is made with audible confirmation. If your finger slides as it might in turbulence, there is no double entry, or entry of any kind to prevent errors.
The displays themselves, while not touch-screen, are revolutionary too, using super bright and sharp, wide-aspect-ratio (16:9) screens to present a great deal of information. Pilots will get all the features of the G1000, including synthetic vision and dual video input, with the G3000, while being able to split the screens to show two vertical pages side by side.
Garmin expects to get FAA approval for the system in the second half of 2011.