FLIGHTDECK TECHNOLOGY

Garmin SVT

Integrating synthetic vision with the PFD.


Garmin Senior Flight Test Pilot Tom Schaffstall shows off the new SVT hosted in a King Air C90. The retrofit for the King Air also includes an autopilot, weather radar and full SVT capability with SV PFD, MFD and XM weather service option.

For the traffic alerts, typically we get an ATC call or TCAS alert that tells us generally where to look.

With a standard TCAS, though, you have to integrate in your head the plus and minus elevation numbers from the head-down display and the nose of the aircraft, then look out the window.

In SVT, the classic TCAS symbol is shown in perspective mode, and above or below the horizon line on the PFD where you should be looking. With your head already looking forward, and the target displayed relative to your altitude, location and direction of flight, you quickly sort out the threat.

If the target gets too close and is threatening, the symbol will grow to the point of becoming a big yellow dot in the middle of the PFD. For the pilot flying, just get above/below and around the dot-the kind of simple plan you need in a real situation.

Another subtle and helpful planning feature is the top-of-the-descent cueing. In attempting precision flying with legacy equipment-pushing levers, talking with ATC and trying to get some respect by crossing fixes correctly-takes some work, but mostly not forgetting or being distracted.

But inserting low-grief tools like this widget, Garmin puts you back into a more reduced workload cockpit-a quick glance at the prompt and start on down without sorting out time and DME or distance to the guess point.

SV for the King Air C90

For those who missed the recent announcements, this advanced SVT cockpit is now also available for the King Air C90, and soon others.

The basic flightdeck platform for the SVT using the G1000 offers a full PFD and MFD ensemble, including autopilot, radios, XM Weather and ADS-B functionality. But what is significant to this new flightdeck is that SVT is mostly a software upgrade-you don't throw your 4-year-old avionics out to get new again.

For its first venture into the retrofit business, Garmin took clear aim at a fleet that will be here for a while, and was open to a competitive upgrade. The Garmin SVT, based on the G1000, offers a pilot and copilot 10.4-inch primary flight displays (PFDs) and a center-mounted 15-inch multifunction display (MFD).

At the core of the flight instruments is the Garmin advanced dual integrated solid-state attitude and heading reference system (AHRS). But the big item in the G1000 and SVT is the complete autopilot integration of the GFC700 with the navigation system and displays that support nearly all (and I am not sure what was left out) of the enroute, arrival and even missed approach procedures.

Garmin SVT showing an obstacle underneath the flightpath marker symbol. Highway-in-the-Sky symbology is also provided and shows the aircraft's projected flightpath.

As said by many, all done with the automagics. Whether single-pilot or with a crew of 2, instrument operations are simplified dramatically.

Garmin has taken control of its destiny with development of its own autopilot. The GFC700 is a true 3-axis, fully digital, dual channel, fail-passive automatic flight control system (AFCS).

The GFC700 runs the aircraft easily using all data available to G1000 SVT to navigate, including the ability to maintain airspeed references and optimize performance over the entire airspeed envelope. In other words, it's a big-boy system much like you would find in any high-end corporate or widebody transport aircraft-but at a fraction of the cost.

G1000 for the King Air C90 also includes Garmin's upgrade communication and navigation capabilities, dual 16-watt VHF communication radios with 8.33-kHz spacing capability, dual VOR/localizer/glideslope receivers and dual TSO-C146a WAAS-GPS receivers. Garmin also offers XM WX Satellite Weather as a service, but you will need the addition of the GDL69 or 69A datalink receiver.

But what you get for this service is the envy of all the other glass cockpits flying around you-up-to-the-minute, high-resolution weather for the US right in the cockpit. Weather information includes Nexrad, Metars, TAFs, and my favorite-lightning reports.

The G1000 is also integrated with Garmin's own GWX68 digital color radar, making you a complete and modern King Air for the NextGen and NowGen airspace.

The future, now

Sophistication levels, maybe some of the most modern in flightdeck developments to date, are now very affordable, and can be attributed to Garmin's technology base and youthful exuberance.

The availability of an advanced glass cockpit flightdeck that includes an autopilot is big news, and at an affordable rate. So how did this happen? Well, Moore's law states that the speed of computing by new machines will double every 18 months.

I wonder if there is a corollary law that governs the rate of invention. On my trip to Garmin headquarters, I visited the company cafeteria by chance, and noted that the place was filled with very young faces-on average no older than mid-20s.

On checking, I found that, during the time America was getting a man on the Moon-a time of great innovation and out-of-the-box thinking-the average age of NASA engineers was 26.

Today it's 47. Garmin's innovations have begun to challenge establishment models in both product capabilities and costs, and I'm guessing it's the combination of youthful exuberance, practiced wisdom and consistent long-term leadership. I just can't wait for those 26-year-olds to bring us that Part 25 cockpit.

Glenn Connor is the president of Discover Technology Intl and is a researcher and pilot specializing in the development of enhanced vision systems and advanced avionics.

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