November 2007 Issue

Handheld Six-Pack?

Garminís late-model GPS navigators feature a built-in virtual panel to use when the real one soils the bed. What it can do, how it works and how to use it.

While it is unlikely youíll ever have to use your hard-earned partial panel flying skills in a real emergency, critical systems do and will fail at the worst possible times. The good news is there are several relatively inexpensive tools on the market that can make the ordeal more manageable for a single pilot in IMC. The Garmin GPSMAP 396 and 496 handheld GPS receivers retail for under $2500, plus about $50 a month for the databases and XM weather subscriptions. In addition to a color moving-map display loaded with terrain and weather graphics, a "five pack" of virtual instrumentation provides most of the information one needs to accomplish partial-panel instrument flying. (There is no attitude information, hence itís not a "six pack," but more on that in a moment.) The 296 and monochrome 196 units each offer the panel page, too, but not the XM weather.

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