Thursday, April 16, 2009

Quick Look: G1000 PC Trainer V9.03

Here's a quick review of Garmin's new G1000 PC trainer Cessna Nav III version 9.03 with Synthetic , albeit a bit later than promised. I ordered this software over a week ago, but Garmin sent me the old version. After sleuthing around on the Garmin website, I uncovered a support phone number and explained the problem. The correct version was on the way, but that would take a few more days. So a friend loaned me his CD (he got the correct version on the first try) and I installed it on both my PC and my MacBook under VMWare Fusion. Both installations are running Windows XP. The next day, my CD arrived.

The G1000 PC trainer can be launched in one of two ways: As a single window (either MFD or PFD) or in a dual-screen mode. This new version seems to launch more quickly on both my PC and under latest version of VMWare Fusion. One change in version 9.03 is that reversionary mode seems to be automatically selected in the single-screen mode. I checked the pull-down menu and reversionary mode was not selected, so I tried cycling it on and off. No change. This was not the behavior in the previous version of the PC trainer.

So I exited the application and launched the dual-screen version. Since my PC has two graphics cards and two monitors, I positioned the PDF on one screen and the MFD on the other. Powering on the PFD, it looks the same as earlier version for the first few seconds. Then the SV kicks in. Here's I've positioned the aircraft just south of Mount Diablo, near SALAD intersection.

Below, notice the autopilot is activated which displays the magenta command bars and the yellow airplane symbol. With SV, an additional green Flight Path Marker is displayed at ground speeds above 30 knots as is a white horizon line. The FPM depicts the approximate projected path of the aircraft, accounting for wind speed and direction. Point the FPM where you want to go and the plane will go there, within the limits of the aircraft and the laws of physics. In this shot, I've pointed the FPM at the radio tower on top of Mt. Diablo. The FPM seemed pretty accurate and I got terrain warnings as I got closer to the tower, but you gotta admit the PFD display is getting pretty crowded. And we haven't even added pathways to the mix.

In classic Garmin fashion, the SV options are buried - you access then by pressing the PFD softkey on the PFD (hey, it's their terminology, not mine!). Next press the SV softkey and you'll see four options: SYN TERR - toggle SV on and off, PATHWAY - toggles on the 3D perspective of desired route, HRZN HDG - toggles the display of heading along the horizon, APTSIGNS - toggles airport marker. Here's a shot that shows the heading displayed along the white horizon line and the airport sign for Livermore (KLVK).

The pathway display is most helpful on departure, arrival, and approach, but one huge drawback is climbs and descents (except on a glideslope or glidepath) are not depicted, at all.

Granted, my processor has a clock speed 1.8Ghz and 2.0Ghz is recommended for dual-screen mode with two monitors, but the PFD exhibited some weird behavior. The heading would abruptly shift left about 15 degrees and back every 5 seconds or so. After a few cycles of this behavior, the autopilot would disengage. The good news is that I didn't see this problem in the single-screen version (though I was restricted to reversionary mode). Another problem in dual-screen mode was that to pause the application, I needed to select this from the pull-down menu on the MFD - most of the time. The behavior wasn't completely repeatable, so I suspect this is a bug.

One thing I forgot to mention is that you can now enter the baro min (minimum descent altitude or decision height) when you load an approach. You can still access baro min through the timer softkey (which always struck me as odd), but this new approach loading scheme is a much more logical approach. I hope this gets added to no-SV G1000 systems as an software update.

Too bad that Garmin doesn't provide a more efficient way to acquire and upgrade this product, but it's not a bad deal for US$24.95 (plus shipping). And Garmin deserves high marks for making this sort of product available since it gives people a low-cost way to practice using the product without burning any gas. I don't think the two G1000 C172 owners I know will be springing for the US$10,000 upgrade, so this simulator is a relatively inexpensive way to learn about the latest developments. Check it out!


Nick said...

Hi, where can I purchase the G1000 v9.03 trainer from? I live in Australia and can`t find it anywhere.

John Ewing said...

In the US, the link is:

I believe there may be export restrictions on the software, so it may not be available in all countries.

Ben said...

I recently got this and it works great, but i cant figure out how to choose an aerodrome I would like to depart from. When ever i power it up it always starts in Kansas. Is there any way to then choose an aerodrome to depart from?

John Ewing said...

From either the PFD or MFD display, press the MENU key TWICE. You'll see a initial position field. Scroll to that field using the large FMS knob, then use the small FMS knob to enter the name of an airport, waypoint, intersection ...