Adding wireless connectivity to your instrument panel is easier now than ever, thanks to Garmin’s growing line of affordable avionics upgrades. Garmin’s system, collectively known as “Connext”, offers solutions for just about every airplane type from single-engine experimental to brand new midsize jets.
Connext allows you to wirelessly connect your iPad using Bluetooth to the Garmin avionics in your panel, and sends ADS-B weather and traffic, GPS position data, flight plan information, AHRS and more right to the ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot apps.
Not all of the Garmin Connext hardware configurations support all of these features, which can lead to a little confusion when first exploring the options. Here’s a quick review of the most popular Connext-capable avionics from past iPad Pilot News articles and the functions they support:
Garmin GTX 335/345 ADS-B Transponders – send GPS position data, ADS-B traffic/weather and AHRS to your iPad
Garmin Flight Stream 210 – two-way flight plan transfer between iPad and Garmin panel-mount GPS receivers; send GPS position data, ADS-B traffic/weather and AHRS to your iPad
Garmin Flight Stream 510 – two-way flight plan transfer between iPad and GTN GPS receivers; send GPS position data, ADS-B traffic/weather and AHRS to your iPad; wireless database updates for GTN receivers
Most of the new Garmin glass-panel systems installed in new aircraft support the full suite of Connext functions as well, like the G1000 NXi system found in new Cessna single-engine airplanes, and the Garmin Perspective+ glass cockpit installed in new Cirrus SR20/22 models.
Outside of Garmin’s retrofit and new OEM market, the next biggest segment of Garmin-equipped airplanes are those with the original G1000 system (referred to as legacy now) installed in thousands of single-engine Cessna, Beech, Piper and Diamond airplanes. To keep these airplanes flying after the 2020 ADS-B out deadline, Garmin developed the GTX 345R transponder as the sole solution for ADS-B compliance.
About the GTX 345R Transponder
The GTX 345R is a remote version of the popular panel-mount GTX 345 1090Mhz ADS-B In/Out transponder and is controlled by the same G1000 transponder softkeys on the PFD.
In addition to ADS-B Out regulatory compliance, the GTX 345R includes ADS-B in and several Garmin Connext features, significantly expanding the capabilities of the legacy G1000 avionics.
The compromise with this system is that the ADS-B weather products available for display on the G1000 are limited to the 250NM FIS-B regional radar and text METARs and TAFs on the airport information pages. You’ll see a gray bounding box on the MFD weather screen showing the limits of the radar display centered on your current position.
To view all the ADS-B weather products, like the nationwide radar picture, PIREPs, AIRMETs, TFRs and more, connect your iPad, iPhone or Android device to the system and open up ForeFlight or the Garmin Pilot app. In addition to the FIS-B weather, the system also sends GPS position data, ADS-B traffic and AHRS (pitch/bank) information to a connected mobile device. The only feature really missing when compared to other Flight Stream products is two-way flight plan transfers and wireless database updates.
iPad setup and pairing
Garmin’s Connext system relies on Bluetooth for wireless connectivity and take just a few seconds to set up. Unlike other Garmin Connext systems that require you to enable pairing from a menu on the MFD or panel-mount GPS, all that’s required is selecting the GTX345 from the list of Bluetooth options on your iPad. You can connect up to two devices (iPad, iPhone or Android) simultaneously to the system.
If you’re flying with ForeFlight, head over to the More tab and select Devices. This will show full connection details, weather/traffic update stats and settings.
The Garmin Pilot shows similar data in the Connext section of the app.
Weather and Traffic
Once connected and in-range of an ADS-B ground station signal, both ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot will display weather and traffic in the apps the same as if you were connected to any other ADS-B receiver, like Stratus, Sentry or a GDL 50.
One thing to remember in Garmin Pilot is that you’ll need to select the FIS-B option for several of the weather overlays, like Radar, Clouds and Icing, to differentiate the source from the internet or SiriusXM. Garmin’s dedicated traffic display is excellent, especially when used in the split-screen mode. Intelligent features like TargetTrend show a more realistic view of where the traffic is going relative to your aircraft, using green vector lines.
AHRS and Attitude Display
The final piece of information sent over from the GTX 345R is pitch and bank data. The transponder includes an independent solid-state AHRS that will drive the attitude and synthetic vision displays in ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot. This serves as a third source of attitude information in the legacy-G1000 airplanes, adding to the G1000’s primary AHRS and vacuum-driven mechanical attitude indicator.
We found that the system does not always self-level after power-up, so you may need to use the AHRS calibration function in your app to zero-out the pitch and bank when getting started.
The GTX 345R brings new life to the thousands of airplanes equipped with the legacy G1000 glass cockpit and may lead many owners to transition away from the SiriusXM on the panel and start relying on the subscription-free ADS-B weather feed. The combination of radar imagery on the MFD and Connext features on iPad is tough to beat, especially when you consider this system first hit the market nearly 20 years ago.