When Aspen Avionics first announced its Connected Panel at Oshkosh three years ago, most pilots intuitively understood the idea: everyone is carrying more and more portable devices (especially iPads), but they are totally disconnected from the panel-mount avionics that we use for primary navigation. If someone could connect all those iPads with all those fancy GPS navigators, good things would happen.
Executing that idea has been a tough job, thanks to some FAA hesitation, but Aspen is now shipping the product. This week, Garmin has joined the movement–and in a big way. Whereas Aspen’s product was a bit of a workaround, with portable data going through an Aspen glass cockpit before making it to a Garmin GPS, Garmin’s Connext offering is a direct link between installed Garmin avionics and the Garmin Pilot iPad app.
Garmin officially announced two new products this week, the Flight Stream 110 and 210. The 110 is a small Bluetooth bridge that is installed behind the panel, and it links Garmin’s panel-mount GDL 88 ADS-B receiver or GDL 69 XM weather receiver with up to four mobile devices running Garmin Pilot. This allows pilots to stream weather, traffic and GPS information from the panel to an iPad. And since the GDL 88 is an ADS-B Out transponder, you’ll be receiving a full traffic picture on your iPad.
The Flight Stream also makes your iPhone a remote control for the XM Radio receiver in the GDL 69, so you can tune channels without messing with the panel. Finally, the Flight Stream can integrate with the GSR 56 Iridium receiver. Basically, you bring your iPad into the cockpit and rely on the panel avionics to drive the app.
The Flight Stream 210 adds even more features, including two way flight plan transfer between the Garmin Pilot app and GTN or GNS WAAS series navigators. This is a major time saver for IFR pilots, and something pilots have been asking for: now you can use the Garmin Pilot app to find the best route (using the recent ATC routes feature), load that as the active route in the app, then transfer it instantly to your panel-mount GPS. This is also great for last-minute route changes, since you can receive expected route notifications in the app.
The 210 also adds a built-in AHRS so you can view synthetic vision on your iPad without buying a portable GDL 39 3D or installing a full glass cockpit. This makes the Flight Stream 210 plus a GDL 88 a really complete solution: weather, full ADS-B traffic and backup attitude on your tablet. It’s worth noting that you could fly with this setup even without a display in the panel (like a GTN). Just blind-mount a GDL 88 and a Flight Stream and let the data be displayed on your iPad.
What if you don’t have a GTN or GNS WAAS navigator? Garmin’s new G3X Touch, a glass cockpit for experimental aircraft and LSAs, has the Connext features built in. The company’s popular G1000 panel, though, is not yet compatible.
What does this mean for pilots? It certainly makes Garmin Pilot a more powerful and unique app. For years, pilots have asked whether they should use the Garmin app if they have Garmin avionics in their panel. Up until now, the answer has been “not necessarily.” There wasn’t much integration at all. But with Flight Stream, the answer may have changed–now all the pieces work as an integrated system. For pilots who rent or are in a flying club, this announcement may be less important, but it still shows Garmin’s focus in the months ahead: use panel-mount avionics to drive portable devices. It’s a strategy that only Garmin can execute.
The Flight Stream 110 is $549 and the Flight Stream 210 is $999. The units are compatible with the GDL 88, GDL 69/69A and GSR 56, plus the GTN series navigators starting now. Compatibility with GNS series navigators is expected in September.