A place for pilots to chat and exchange information about their planes, flying, transports, etc....


Postby Jon on Wed Nov 12, 2008 8:35 pm

I'm curious about what other pilots think about as their best addition to their cockpit.

I stated flying about 32 years ago and have see the definition of a full panel go from two navcoms and an ADF to the current glass panels. By todays standards I fly steam gauges, but I still consider my plane well equipped. It is certified for known ice, has dual navcoms, ADF (you all do know what one of them is don't you?) certified GPS, Strikefinder, Radar, DME RMI and dual HSI. With all my "stuff" the single box that is the most versatile, can be used for normal flying, for emergencies, and can literally guide me to a zero-zero deadstick landing is my Garmin 396 with terrain and weather.

As a steam gauge guy I am amazed at all the capability jammed into that little box, that when not used in the plane can be used in automotive mode.

What's your favorite or most valuable device????


Postby ccameron on Thu Nov 13, 2008 4:07 pm


I have to agree on the Garmin portable GPS. I purchased the 496 this year and it has really allowed me to expand the use of my plane. Previously, I was hesitant to fly longer distances during thunderstorm season in the south. I am probably over-cautious about weather, but with the addition of airborne radar courtesy of the 496, I am now comfortable flying around weather or when t-storms are predicted.

My other "must have" is the Lightspeed Zulu headset. I had an older ANR (active noise reduction) headset from Lightspeed and at the time it was awesome. My co-owner bought the Zulu in April this year and I couldn't believe the difference in performance/noise reduction! In my opinion, this is almost as good as the addition of the 496. Being able to listen to XM radio on long trips is nice too! The Zulu headset is "smart" and kills the music when a radio call (in or out) is received/transmitted.
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Postby Jon on Thu Nov 13, 2008 5:38 pm

This is just a general comment and I can only make it because I have used all three thunderstorm detection devices simultaneously.

The Garmin 396 and 496 are fantastic for long range planning. If you need to adjust your routing using the Garmins to see the big picture is an excellent application for the device.

But on the frequency I have heard guys discussing the weather with ATC as though their 396 and 496 was being used to guide them through a system. I get scared when I hear that. Each device has its strengths. The Garmins like the Strikefinder and Stormscope are historical. Before the weather is downloaded to the GPS it has been massaged by the provider. So when it is downloaded it is already old news. 6 minutes doesn't seem that old, but combine that with the minimum refresh times of 6 minutes and the weather depiction can be 12 minutes old. I have also found the worse the weather, the longer the refresh times, so when you need it most, it is the least accurate. Great for planning, and in fact it is unbeatable for that purpose.

The Strikefinder and Stormscope is similar in that they also depict lightining strikes after they have occurred. It is good for showing an area of active weather, but like the GPS is is historical.

Radar on my size plane has a limited range with 40 miles being the practical limits. But working the tilt I can track the build up and elevation changes in the top of the precip and I can quickly see an area of weather develop in minutes and based on its rate of climb I can use radar to stay away from serious stuff. I can thread the needle with radar safely, something I would never do with the GPS or the SS.

If you have weather on your GPS by all means use it as a guide but give yourself a wide margin because of its shortcomings. Every weather detection device available to us has flaws. The key is understanding which one is best for the intended purpose. The GPS weather is unbeatable for planning, but not so good for close in work. In the life of a developing thunderstorm 10 minutes is all it takes for a small area of rain to develop into a full blown thunderstorm.


Postby JERRY S. on Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:10 pm


Couldnt agree more, with on board radar & with knowledge of how to use it. I thought I did until someone who really knew showed me. You can thread a needle with it when used properly. The 396 & 496 are great when I fly airplanes with out radar, the garmins are amazing. The key is giving yourself a WIDE bearth.
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Postby Amelia on Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:25 pm

I had radar in my Mooney, and removed it to make room for a Garmin 530. Don't miss it a bit. Its little in-wing banana-sized dish wasn't up to the job of penetrating more than 50 feet or so into the nearest cloud, and what was on the other side was anybody's guess. My Anywhere Map with WX is a godsend. Now I see more than the leading edge fringe of that black cloud dead ahead. I see the whole system, and how best to go around it. It has its limitations, but it tells me much more of what I need to know than the old radar did. Most useful? I'd have to say that G530W. What a joy to be able to shoot an approach to 250 feet at so many airports that will never have an ILS. And if ever push comes to shove, it's dead-on-accurate right down to the centerline.
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Postby patthepilot on Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:28 pm

Not having quite the panel it sounds like the others here have, I completely need to have my 496 on any trip over 50 NM, just because it has all the information I need. When flying from OK to Denver in August, if I had listened to ATC 3 times about convective weather and where to go-I would have ended up in extreme weather with hail, but by telling ATC what I intended to do based on the massaged data on the 496, I stayed in MVFR instead of "can't see the nose" clouds. The other thing I would definitely need is a very good audio panel. I currently have 2 music inputs and a cell phone input on my audio panel, and if I hop in the company 172 with no music input, I really miss my XM. But I'm currently looking to trade the 172 up to a 210, and one of the requirements is not having a 430/530W or any sort of glass paneling, but rather a good audio panel and an autopilot. If the plane has those, and I bring the 496, I'll have everything I need.
-Patrick L
Based south of Raleigh, NC
Available most weekends and holidays
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Postby N7655W on Tue Jan 13, 2009 4:56 pm

I upgraded from the Garmin 196, which I really loved to the 496. I then integrated the Zaion XRX Traffic Collision Avoidance System into the Garmin. This set up is just amazing. I have everything going through my entertainment system so I get the voice alerts for traffic, terrain, obstacles and altitude. This sure has made flying easier and fun!

Central California
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Postby wolftimj on Fri Feb 20, 2009 4:39 pm

The pilots brain, and his skepticism in anything electronic.
With that said, my 696 + Stormscope + 530w combination. ;)
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Postby Tom N. on Mon Mar 09, 2009 7:10 pm

A slightly different take on the whole portable GPS thing.

1. My preferred tool is Seattle Avionics Voyager + Fujitsu P1620 tablet laptop. I considered the 696 and was about to shell out the $3+k price until I found out the cost of a full subscription to keep the charts/plates up to date (something like $1400 a year, without XMWX). The Fujitsu P1620 + Voyager works very well. The tablet itself can be had factory refurbished for about $600. The EFB level package for the software is another $499, with which you get 6 months of data (including geo-referenced plates). USB WAAS enabled GPS is another $50. Annual subscription for the EFB level data is $299. For that, you get an EFB platform, that will go 5 hours on battery power (so two batteries will get you through the day), and has an 8.9 inch screen (so NACO plates display comfortably). The system will take you from initial flight planning (with downloaded weather), through filing via DUAT, to in-flight situational awareness. Think less-than-Garmin-495 cost for better-than-695 capability. And if you so desire, you can always add an XMWX Worx receiver afterwards for about $1000 for software and hardware (which would make it less-than-Garmin-496 cost for better-than-696 capability).

2. Backup to 1. Reader Plates. $9.99 per revision for a full set of NACO approach plates for the Sony Reader.

3. And lest you think that I'm crazy enough to be willing trust my life to all the electronics in 1 & 2, a set of relevant VFR and IFR paper charts, the print outs of the relevant approach plates, and recurrent training on VOR nav.

Tom N.
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Postby rainsux on Sun Mar 29, 2009 8:38 pm

I'll agree about the utility of the 396/496 ...

I'm also surprised that many pilots are not fully utilizing
all the capabilities. Consider using:

- Low-voltge warning

- Fuel timer

- Audio alerts (Terrain, Obstruction, Sink Rate)
If you connect a Zaon XRX traffic unit, it will
also display & audio alert re: traffic. All this is
avail to those without needing one of the new(er)
audio panels ... I inject the audio from my 396 into
my headset using a PS Engineering Muse.
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