So far, I’ve logged about 12 hours in SIU’s brand new 2012 Cessna 172R aircraft with Garmin G1000 avionics. All I have to say about them is wow. It’s absolutely amazing how much information the system provides. Overall, it makes pilots more aware of their current situation. For those who have not flown the brand new aircraft (and experienced that brand-new-airplane smell), here is a rundown of flying the G1000.
The preflight inspection is almost the same as the regular 172R with the exception of the actions performed in the cabin. When you get in the cabin, the PFD (primary flight display) needs to be checked to ensure there are no red x through the engine systems. The annunciator section and voltage information also need to be checked for abnormalities. Starting the engine is the same. Before taking off, the pilot must set the fuel totalizer which adds accuracy to the fuel system. The totalizer determines the fuel remaining in the system by using the fuel flow sensor. In order for this to work, the pilot needs to tell the system how much fuel is initially in the tank. Usually, one gallon is subtracted for startup, taxi, and runup. There is no need to set the transponder to altitude reporting since the G1000 automatically does it for you. When ground speed is above 30 knots, the system automatically switches it.
In cruise, the G1000 really shines. The system’s lean assist feature allows the pilot to fine tune the lean procedure. A dialog displays the current cylinder head temperatures along with the peak temperature. 50 degrees lean of peak can now be accurately achieved. At first, the PFD can seem overwhelming but once you know what to look for, establishing a scan becomes easy. If you need it to declutter information, there’s a button for that. Six second trend information is displayed for airspeed, altitude, and heading. The trend is represented by a pink bar and lets the pilot know where the aircraft will be in six seconds. Wind information is also displayed to the left of the heading in multiple views. The wind can either be displayed in heading and velocity form or directional arrow and velocity. This information drives a small pink diamond on the heading indicator. Simply put, turn to the diamond (which will account for the current winds) and you’ll stay right on track. Another really cool feature is the traffic display. The G1000 uses data from center controllers and displays traffic, its altitude relative to your position, and its direction. Note that traffic information is not available in all places. Right now, it seems like traffic can only be displayed if you are north of the airport. Traffic can be displayed on either the larger map or the inset on the PFD. Hands down, the coolest feature is the playback button. If you missed the last transmission, simply press the play button and listen. Be careful, though, of instructors that try to trick you with it.
Although the G1000 is a great piece of technology, pilots need to ensure that they do not rely on it exclusively. It is still important to learn techniques like pilotage and dead reckoning in the event of equipment failure. One final note I will offer is to make sure to set the barrometric pressure in both the PFD and the backup altimeter. Also, note the tachometer time before you shut the system off. I can’t tell you oh many times I’ve forgotten to do this. If you’d like to learn more about the system, I strongly recommend getting Max Trescott’s book about the G1000. Blue Skies!