Avionics News July 2017 - 19
Garmin and the G5
Introduced at the 2016 Sun 'n Fun, Garmin's G5
offered an ideal compact solution for light sport and
experimental aircraft operators seeking an affordable,
compact all-in-one primary flight display. Of course, part
of the appeal - and design smarts - came from the G5's
compact, lightweight form factor.
The G5 fits in a standard 3-inch instrument hole and
provides a 3.5-inch (diagonal) liquid-crystal display
screen offering everything a pilot wants in a PFD:
attitude, airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, a slip/skid ball
- even GPS-derived heading and ground speed. The G5
also provides a compatible control alternative for Garmin
autopilots, including a handy flight director.
Certificated-aircraft operators could install the G5 as
a backup to installed attitude instruments - but not as a
replacement. That was the status as of Sun 'n Fun 2016.
That changed within the span of three months.
By the time AirVenture 2016 was rolling, Garmin
announced the availability of the G5 for certificated
aircraft, along with an extensive AML STC covering 562
But, again, there are limitations. The G5 approval
covers it as a stand-alone primary source for aircraft
attitude or turn coordination information, but a secondary
information source for airspeed, altitude and more.
Added approvals since achieved authorize use of
the G5 as a replacement directional gyro or horizontal
situation indicator in type-certificated fixed-wing general
aviation aircraft. When paired with select VHF NAV/
COMMs or GPS navigators, the G5 can be considered
primary for displaying magnetic heading, VOR/LOC
guidance and/or GPS course guidance, as well as
distance and ground speed.
Other beneficial options include the ability to
eliminate any dependence on aircraft vacuum systems
for attitude and heading information - with dual G5s
And Garmin gave the G5 the option of installing a
backup battery in each unit providing about four hours
of standby power in the event of an electrical-system
A dual G5 package can both allow the elimination of
an aircraft's vacuum system while also providing the
security of knowing the instruments will continue to
work should the electrical system fail.
Approval to use as an air-data source should ultimately
follow. The logic is simple: The FAA says such systems
deliver what's needed in experimental aircraft and have
for years; the new attitude at the FAA, spurred ahead by
the EAA's work with Dynon and TruTrak, points up the
logic that what works in experimental aircraft will work
in certificated aircraft. After all, the avionics don't know
the approval basis for the airframe in which they fly,
So there's still more to come.
Meanwhile, there's more than a few concerns among
more-traditional avionics makers - the ones with
equipment TSO'd and PMA'd for use in type-approved
Striking a fair balance
Earning a supplemental type certificate or parts
manufacturing approval is neither easy or simple. But
avionics makers from Aspen to Avidyne, BendixKing to
Garmin, Rockwell Collins to Universal Avionics know
and understand the drill.
Garmin's success in advancing the G5 comes as no
real surprise; Garmin has been designing and winning
FAA approvals for its avionics for two decades. Dynon's
recent experience gained help from the EAA, which won
its first STCs for certificated aircraft about 35 years ago
- the autofuel STC on which thousands of piston singles
fly on automotive unleaded fuel today.
The FAA is working to strike a balance that benefits
the end users - without disadvantaging established
avionics makers in favor of makers of nonapproved
systems. Garmin stands as an exception with one foot
in each camp, making avionics for both certificated and
Let there be no doubt - thousands of owners of older
piston singles and more than a few twins would leap at a
chance to go all glass if the costs matched with the value
of the aircraft they fly.
Many other pilots covet these new systems solely for
their superiority over air-driven gyro instruments, the
frail air-moving pumps powering those gyros, and the
limitations of the rest of the traditional analog six pack.
No pilot blessed with surviving a suction-system loss
in instrument meteorological conditions ever wants to
repeat that experience; and no surer way exists to avoid
that prospect than chucking the analog panel for a glass
replacement - and installing a stand-alone standby
alternator where that vacuum pump once resided.
Now the main question is how far can pilots and
owners expect the FAA to go toward making available to
certificated-aircraft owners those panel systems that the
agency already allows to fly in IMC conditions - without
benefit of TSO, STC or PMA?
No one seems to believe the FAA can go too far. q