For King Air owners considering a flight deck upgrade, the G1000 NXi delivers on all accounts.
Early last year, Garmin announced the heir to the G1000, which is the long-running king of the integrated flight decks in general aviation. While at first glance the changes may appear subtle, the G1000 NXi boasts powerful performance, new features and several safety enhancements. With its polished, virtually glitch-free user interface, it’s easy to imagine Garmin extending its dominant rein well into the next decade.
NXi In Flight
Recently, Garmin provided a demonstration of its King Air G1000 NXi solution on board their King Air 350. For this flight, we would depart New Century Air Center (KIXD) home of Garmin’s flight test facility, for Park Rapids, MN. We would shoot an approach there, land for a meeting, and then head back to New Century.
What is immediately noticeable is how fast the system boots up. Thanks to a faster, dual-core processor that boasts 16 gigabytes of memory, the
system initializes in under 10 seconds. The faster processor also means the system responds immediately, renders the maps faster, and provides for smoother panning throughout all the displays. Readability is improved as well, due to new LED backlighting. The increased brightness and crispness of presentations is markedly better than the prior-generation G1000. The 15-inch MFD, which is sandwiched between two 10-inch PFDs, delivers a higher-resolution, super-sharp depiction.
Dave Brown, Garmin’s manager of integrated flight deck retrofit programs, flew from the left seat, but gave me free rein to enter the flight plan and configure the right-side PFD to my liking. Having extensive experience behind the G1000 in a number of platforms, the familiar menu system and architectural logic are the same, albeit with some handy shortcuts and intuitive features.
For example, the optional Flight
Stream 510 allows you to pop your pre-planned flight plan and routing from your tablet to the NXi, or vice versa. You can also wirelessly transfer aviation databases from the Garmin Pilot app. That alone is a tremendous time-saver.
On the taxi to Runway 18, the Garmin SafeTaxi provided guidance for the ground operations portion of our flight. Using georeferenced charts, it will display runways, taxiways, buildings, hangars and even the names of FBOs. While all of this is useful for situational awareness, SurfaceWatch is the real safety game-changer. Originally found on the G3000 and G5000 avionics suites, the monitoring technology is a great tool for preventing runway incusions, or to warn you that are lined up with a taxiway or the wrong runway.
Since we had added the departure runway to our flight plan, SurfaceWatch ensured we lined up with the correct runway and that we had enough pavement for our particular performance profile. If any of these things didn’t check out, the system would have alerted us with aural and a message on the display. It can also keep tabs on ADS-B traffic. During the takeoff roll, SurfaceWatch reported runway remaining during this critical phase of flight. You can easily imagine how useful this would be in a short-runway scenario or takeoff abort.
Once we were settled into our cruise climb, I began to explore some of the nifty features of the NXi. One the first things Dave showed me was the ability to customize the map presentation inset within the PFD HSI. In addition to map features, I could overlay traffic, FIS-B weather, terrain, Sirius XM weather or radar. Depending on the phase of flight and conditions, the pilot can easily add and subtract features that have the most relevance.
Moving to the MFD, we took a look at the radar overlay on the moving map (although there wasn’t anything to see on this severe-clear day). One option is the addition of Garmin’s GWX70 radar, which features ground clutter suppression and turbulence detection. We also viewed the system’s ability to display the moving map on a VFR or IFR map. The NXi-redesigned joystick made navigating the map features much easier than the old up-down, left-right cursor movement. We then selected the Vertical Situation Display that incorporates a terrain profile view, taking into consideration the active flight plan, altitude constraints and winds aloft. It presents a profile view of your flight, allowing you to plan ahead and make adjustments as necessary.
Fully Automated Approach
As we started our descent to Park Rapids, we loaded in the RNAV 13 approach with the plan to fly the course reversal. We pulled up the approach plate on the MFD and entered in the minimums data. Even without vertical approach
guidance, the system will fly the vertical profile to the initial fix, fly the course reversal and descend to the LP altitude without the pilot needing to touch anything but power and configuration.
After Minneapolis Center cleared us for the approach and released us from frequency, we tuned in the CTAF for Park Rapids. Another nice feature is that the nav/comm frequency boxes provide identification so that you confirm what navaid or comm frequency you are currently using.
As we flew the parallel entry and intercepted the final approach course, the TCAS 1 overlay lit up with three targets all inbound at the same time, including a Gulfstream and two small single-engine pistons. For aircraft without TCAS, the system supports ADS-B In (FIS-B) and Garmin’s TargetTrend technology that displays a more intuitive method of judging target trajectories and closure rates.
Inbound on the approach, I switched my HSI overlay to display terrain and traffic. The NXi has new three-color terrain shading with improved contouring. Green signifies 2,000 feet, yellow, 1,000 feet and red is 100 feet. On short final, the SurfaceWatch once again confirmed we were line up with the right runway and provided us runway remaining info on the roll-out.
On the return trip to KIXD, Dave promised to demonstrate the NXi’s most impressive and particularly useful feature: the visual approach guidance. Once we were cleared for the visual to Runway 18, Dave activated the visual approach mode. The MDF now displayed the magenta visual approach course line and the PFD showed lateral and vertical guidance.
With the GFC700 autopilot still engaged, the aircraft intercepted the course line and descended on a three-degree glidepath, which set us up right on the VASI. Just like an instrument approach, the visual approach can be flown via vectors or as a straight-in approach with the initial and final fixes added in automatically. It is easy to see how useful this could be, especially when flying to an unfamiliar field. Once again, SurfaceWatch kept us honest by identifying our runway followed by Taxiway Alpha, which led back to Garmin’s hangar.
The G1000 NXi, now certified as a retrofit on a number of platforms,
including the King Air 200, 300, 350, as well as a forward-fit on many factory-new aircraft from the Cirrus, Textron Aviation, Piper and others. List price for an upgrade from a legacy G1000 to NXi is $52,995 plus labor. The kit includes three new displays, the GCU 477 keypad controller, SurfaceWatch and Flight Stream 510. New installations of NXi typically run from $350,000 to $450,000 depending on the aircraft type and options chosen.
Just like when upgrading from one smart phone to another, anyone who has spent any time behind the G1000 will instantly be able to navigate the NXi with ease and quickly fall in love with its added capabilities and features. The G1000 NXi is an impressive successor and is proof-positive of Garmin’s continuous efforts to improve the safety, utility and capabilities of their products.
Considering the Upgrade: What the Experts Say
Over the last five years, the general aviation aircraft market has made a slow recovery, with the values of preowned aircraft steadily stabilizing and steady improvement in the deliveries of new aircraft. One very bright spot in the industry is the surge in avionics sales and installations. Spurred by the ADS-B mandate and demand for WAAS, retrofit avionics sales in 2017 grew more than 20 percent over the previous year, according to the Aircraft Electronics Association’s recently released 2017 Avionics Market Report.
Of the more than $2.3 billion in avionics sales, the retrofit market represented nearly 58 percent of all sales, recording an all-time high. By contrast, the forward-fit sales (avionics installed by aircraft manufacturers during original production) marked the lowest dollar amount recorded in the last five years.
A walk through the hangar of Elliott Aviation, one of the largest retrofit avionics installers by volume and sales, provides direct evidence of those trends. In total they have installed more than 300 King Air Garmin G1000 retrofits and are on track to do 50 full installs and as many as 20 G1000-to-NXi upgrades in 2018.
According the Elliott’s Vice President of Avionics Programs Mark Wilken, the company is bullish on the demand for full flight deck retrofits, such as the NXi. “The cost of keeping old avionics systems operational is expensive and finding parts is getting harder. We ask our customers, do you plan to keep your aircraft for at least the next five years? If the answer is yes, we recommend they upgrade. While they will spend more in the short term, over the course of five years, they will most likely end up spending the same. It’s a ‘CFO-friendly’ upgrade program.”
The question many owners ask, will I get my investment back when I sell my aircraft? While traditionally it is unlikely that you will recoup 100 percent of the money spent on an avionics upgrade, retrofitting older turbine aircraft with the latest technology definitely makes them more desirable in the marketplace.
According to Tim White, president of jetAVIVA, the largest reseller of preowned turbine aircraft, planes that have already been upgraded to WAAS and ADS-B will sell quicker and at a higher price than those that have yet to be upgraded.
“Older Citations, King Airs or any high-end turbine aircraft that have already been upgraded with something like a Garmin retrofit – whether a GTN-series or G-1000 derivative – are the first choice of owner-pilots making the transition into their first jet or turboprop. They have most likely been flying behind Garmin for most of, if not all, of their flying experience. We see this as a significant attraction. For example, we have seen the straight CJ, CJ1, CJ2, markets be relatively brisk for those aircraft who have already undertaken these upgrades,” he said. “A year ago, it was a rare occurrence that aircraft were upgraded with any type of advanced flight deck. Now it is the expectation and a value detractor if not upgraded.”
Elliott Aviation’s Wilken concurred. “People who have experience with the G1000 don’t want to deal with learning and maintaining older autopilots and avionics. As the owner of an older turbine aircraft, if you are going to spend the $75,000 to upgrade to ADS-B and $75,000 for LPV capability, it makes good sense to go forward with an integrated flight deck upgrade. Yes, you’ll spend a little more, but you’ll get a whole lot more capability, not to mention the safety factors with better situational awareness and weather tools.”