The Essential GPS Handheld
Many pilots are now carrying a portable GPS as a standard tool in their
flight bags. Garmin’s GPSMAP series of handhelds has an impressive group
of features at a reasonable price. The GPSMAP-396, 496 and the new 696
all have GPS with color moving map, terrain, simulated flight instruments and
the extremely useful XM weather datalink. They revert to their internal battery
if aircraft power is lost. They even include XM radio.
pieces of equipment can be mounted in many aircraft radio panels as a
reference-only system using a panel dock; the
XM radio interfaced with the
intercom for your listening pleasure.
One thing to remember is that the XM features
are not free. There is a one-time activation fee of $175.00, a monthly subscription rate of about $50.00 for weather and about
$13.00 for music. You should also figure the cost of data base
updates into the budget.
The 396 and 496 sport a high resolution 3.75 inch
diagonal color display. The 696 has an enormous
7-inch diagonal display. The size of the 696 allows you to split the screen; for example, simulated flight instruments on top with the
moving map below. The 696 is big enough that it doesn’t easily fit into some cockpits. A yoke mount or knee mount may be the
solution in these situations.With price tags of $1,795.00, $2,395.00 and $3,295.00 respectively, they are a reasonably priced
alternative to an on-board XM weather system that typically runs between $5,000.00 and $7,000.00 to install.