Now here’s something that a lot of flight simulation enthusiasts have been waiting for. Glass cockpits for GA aircraft have been the talk of aviation since the turn of the century. The two leaders in this industry have been Avidyne and Garmin. Avidyne got the head start and you can find their displays in every new Cirrus. The Avidyne system has also been a very popular option on Piper’s single engine aircraft the last couple of years and until recently was the only system offered in Columbia’s entry into hot rod single engine aircraft.
Clicking on Avidyne’s heels, the Garmin G1000 integrated cockpit system has now been out for a couple of years having been certified first for use in Cessna’s 182 on July 27, 2004. The Garmin unit features integrated nav/com radios, transponder and GPS which the Avidyne units do not have. Another feature that does matter to real pilots is the Garmin unit can be restarted in the air in the remote chance that it suffers some kind of failure. The Avidyne has to be sitting on the ground and stationary for a set amount of time to reset itself.
Cessna says that basically all of its aircraft, since the introduction of the Nav III option, have been sold with the Garmin G1000 system. Diamond has followed suit and despite some of its earlier DA40’s being sold with Avidyne glass displays, the current lineup of DA40’s and DA42’s come with the Garmin G1000. Mooney and Beechcraft have also got on this same bandwagon and all of their current aircraft are selling with the Garmin G1000 units. The Beechcraft Bonanza and Baron being the first certified to use Garmin’s integrated autopilot.
Stasi Poulos is a private pilot that owns a software company. No, he hasn’t up till now produced any simulator related software, in fact his company is one of the leaders in providing computer software for the motion picture industry. It was just a little over a year ago that he started contacting simulator software vendors looking for a Garmin G1000 simulation. When he realized that no-one else had one, he set out to do it himself. He did meet with some resistance initially but finally found an enthusiastic group to work with at Eaglesoft and a good partnership was formed.
Eaglesoft is helping market the standalone Mindstar Garmin G1000 and they will also be benefiting by having custom programmed Garmin G1000 gauges for their upcoming aircraft that are Garmin G1000 equipped. I know I’m looking forward to their Columbia 400.
Installation and Documentation
Installation is quite simple. First, download the 13 MB file from Mindstar’s site. You can also make your purchase through this site and afterwards, you will get a receipt and email with your invoice number. With this invoice number you can install and register the program. You will also need your name and the email address you used for your purchase and this is explained in detail with screenshots on Mindstar’s site. I recommend you review at least this part of the site before making your purchase so you do understand it.
Within 24 hours of registering, you will get another email with your key code (I personally found the turnaround time to be less than one hour but your time may vary). This time you will go back through the registration and activation process to step 2 and enter your invoice number and the license key which will complete the registration process.
The completed installation will add the gauges and an entry to your default Cessna 182 file to add the Garmin G1000 panel to the green and white painted C182. Updates for Mindstar’s Garmin G1000 are now automatic if you are hooked up to the internet when you go flying in the sim. If you don’t fly while connected, you can always download the updated installer and repeat the second part of the activation process. I like the automatic method better.
A Work In Progress
One thing that Mindstar and Eaglesoft wanted me to make absolutely sure that I reported, was that this is a work in progress. It is complete enough to go flying with and uses quite a few of the features that you will find in the real life unit, but there are still some hurdles to overcome to get it to work with FS2004 as well as getting the myriad of features the real unit has to function correctly on two independent displays. This is not always as simple as it sounds. Stasi has already discovered that sometimes adding a feature can cause a new problem to appear somewhere else. I can report that the Mindstar team has been very fast to respond to any problems I encountered and the unit has been through a few revisions since I started reviewing this product; each one fixing a discovered problem and also adding new features.
With the last revisions I loaded, the PFD is working quite well and has almost all the features working. The MFD provides most of the map display information in keeping with its real world counterpart but many of the functions are not usable yet. The map works in track-up mode only. I’m a track-up kind of guy so that didn’t bother me one bit. The auto zoom is not programmed and in the real unit I can’t get this particular feature de-activated fast enough, I’d rather handle the zoom myself.
I dislike looking at a display only to have it suddenly change and I’m left wondering what the heck just happened? The flight planning functions and nearest information pages are the ones most notably non-functional in the MFD but they are active in the PFD. There are many of the pages in the MFD that can be scrolled through but you will notice that they only have generic information or the user definable areas aren’t active yet. This is the area that will have functions added in the coming revisions.
Power management is much like the real unit, although the lean assist and individual cylinder head temp pages are not activated yet. The original template used for this G1000 simulation was actually the Diamond DA40 platform and once in a while you can find yourself scrolling to a page that still says “Diamond DA40.” Stasi gets embarrassed when I find one of these and I notice the next update has it corrected to read “Cessna Nav III.” One area that still hasn’t been corrected, is the arcs for the manifold pressure and tachometer which are white but have green in the normal settings area. 75% power is the upper part of the green arc, 65% is the lower part, this makes power setting a no brainer and when the lean assist function is enabled, setting the mixture will also be much easier.
Also understand the electrical power handling is not exactly like the real life unit. In the real life unit there is an essential bus and two avionics electrical buses, each powering different aspects of the units. This is not that easy to simulate in MSFS because the only variables that are default, are main power and one avionics bus. So at this point don’t plan on simulating power failures.
There is a real bug between the default flight planner and the flight planning in the G1000 simulation, they don’t really like each other. You can create a flight and even include a flight plan in that initial flight, IFR or VFR. Upon loading that flight though, you will have to start the aircraft and then enter the flight plan into the G1000 through the flight planning pages in the PFD. The MFD map display will show the route you entered when you created the flight but the flight planning portion of the G1000 will not show a current flight plan until you manually enter it. Once that is done, you cannot use the kneeboard for your flight plan anymore, it will be blank and you will also not be able to file an IFR plan while enroute, as this will result in a CTD guaranteed.
This is an area being worked out and hopefully will be remedied in a future revision. I personally didn’t find it a problem and I also found that I was able to fly using my VoxATC program without any problems or conflicts. A little pre-planning on the simmers part will prevent a situation flying with default ATC on a VFR plan and needing to file IFR to land.
You will also notice that the map pages include a “topo” feature and a “terrain” feature. The “terrain” button on the default GPS500 gives a relief map for terrain elevation. On the G1000, as in real life, this relief map is actually brought up using the “topo” key (for topographical). The “terrain” key is not active yet, as it is actually a terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS) and at this point, would require a worldwide database of elevation points to make work. I’ll leave the discussion about how to gain access to the proprietary data Microsoft embedded in its code, and didn’t include in the SDK, to those that understand the legal talk better than myself.
Weather is an area that many users will have questions about and at this point that feature is not simulated on this unit. In real life, the weather features are actually an option (pretty expensive option at that). In talking with the developer, I do know that it is in the future plans but when and how much can or will be simulated, and if it will be an extra cost option I do not know.
If you have been following the FSX leaks, you already know that FSX will ship with their own in house simulation of the Garmin G1000 system installed in the Cessna 172, Beechcraft Baron and Mooney Bravo. If you recall back when FS9 was coming out, we heard about the default Microsoft GPS being replaced with a simulation of the GPS500 and GPS196 Garmins. Anyone with experience with their real life counterparts knows these are a very simplified graphical simulation of the Garmin GPS’s and many of the actual features are left out. Without breaking any rules here, I do think it would be safe to say that the FSX Garmin G1000 simulation will follow suit with a good graphical representation of the unit and leave the button for button simulation of the real life unit to dedicated simulations such as what this one is striving to be.
All Right, Let's Try It Out Then...
I do have a very limited amount of real life experience with the Garmin G1000. I have had a pretty thorough ground demonstration in a Cessna 182 when the Nav III option was first introduced. And more recently, I took a Diamond DA40 with the Garmin G1000 panel for a test flight. That was enough for me to realize that I didn’t know enough about these wonderful units. I ordered the Garmin G1000 training DVD for the Diamond DA40/42 from Garmin which unfortunately, didn’t work out well on either of my computers. It's something Garmin’s own customer service didn’t take very much interest in fixing. Upon getting the Mindstar Garmin G1000, I also ordered Sporty’s Garmin G1000 DVD with my favorite aviation writer, Richard L. Collins hosting. This provided a very good basis for watching, learning, then comparing what I could do in the sim version.
I also took the opportunity to look at a Cessna T182T that is for sale locally. N65431 is a beautiful 2004 Nav III equipped Turbo Skylane that my two year old daughter thinks is pretty cool… she’s short enough she can stand up inside of it, and she doesn’t bump her forehead into the trailing edge of the flap like the rest of us diamond embossed Cessna pilots do. One of N65431’s recent flights was from Bowerman to Snohomish (KHQM-KPAE) via the Olympia VOR (OLM) at 7,000 feet, so that seemed like the perfect flight to try the sim version out on.
David Shirley did a really nice repaint of the default Cessna 182S to represent the Cessna T182T in both the red and white and the blue and white factory paint jobs (unfortunately it is not uploaded to the AVSIM library… David?). I installed that paint, put the original default model back in, and modified the aircraft.cfg file back to allow the N-number to be customized so I could make it N65431. I also didn’t use his panel, since I copied and pasted the Garmin G1000 panel over to it. I found the turbo air and cfg mods not to be in keeping with the real life aircraft, so I ended up using a turbo normalized version of my friend Alex Metzger’s flight dynamics since I like his work so much. I ended up with a pretty good simulation of a Nav III equipped Turbo Skylane, even if the VC still has round gauges.
I downloaded archived weather for May 19, 2006 for ASv6 and started to set up a flight to depart KHQM Bowerman at 3:39 pm. The default Bowerman field was pretty sparse so I found Bob Bernstein’s scenery here at AVSIM which comprises three files including Elma Field, Bowerman Field and the lower Chahalis River valley, which connects the two. They are nicely done and blend well with the surrounding textures.
After getting all my stuff loaded and up and running, we are sitting in a parking spot at Bowerman on a low ceiling cloudy day… hmmm, looks like the Pacific Northwest to me. Turn on the power and the G1000 comes to life and you can watch each part of the screens load. Make sure there are no areas crossed out in the engine displays and you are ready to start the engine. Turn on the avionics switch… I know the real one is split into two buses; enter the flight plan and listen to weather.
Winds have us departing from runway 24, so I taxi up to the hold short point and prepare the aircraft for takeoff. There are airspeed bugs for Vr, Vx, Vg and Vy (rotation, best angle of climb, best glide and best rate of climb speeds respectively) and they can be manually set. This is not commonly done on small single engine aircraft as these speeds are usually only a few knots different depending on loading, but on larger, faster aircraft these speeds vary quite a bit between a fully loaded and an empty aircraft. The airspeed bugs are a nice feature though, not only for reference but also for someone used to round gauges and where that needle would point for different speeds.
Pulling onto the runway, I set the displays to reversionary mode which duplicates displays on both units with that large artificial horizon and the engine gauges on each left hand side. A full failure of either unit would leave a fully working display for pilot or co-pilot (if you had one with you) and is recommended procedure on the training DVD. Gently push the throttle in making sure the temps, rpm and fuel flow all move up to where they are supposed to be. As we pass the airspeed bug for Vr and I gently put some back pressure into the yoke, we rotate and make our way past the Vx bug and on to the Vy bug. Those of you used to flying the 172 probably will think there is something wrong with the 182, whether you’re using default or Alex’s flight dynamics, because it just doesn’t jump off the runway and start eagerly climbing. In actuality, the 182 seems to take about a minute and 500 feet to feel like it has decided to fly today, unless you have forked out the money for the STOL 3-foot extended wing STC.
As I turn downwind, I switch the reversionary mode off and turn on the traffic softkey on the MFD. I set the inset map on the PFD with traffic and topo features enabled and then let the autopilot take care of the climb and lateral navigation. On my system, I did find that I would start to get some blinking on and off of the magenta route line when I tried to zoom out too far on the MFD, 30 nm pretty much always worked fine and 50 would work depending on CPU load, anything more than that just didn’t seem to want to paint that route line. I know Stasi is puzzled by this because all of his test systems haven’t displayed this blinking problem. I know I push my system pretty hard, so I credit it to weather and using VoxATC for most flights, both of which I would rather leave on and just set the max zoom to 30 nm until some further code optimization in the G1000 allows for wider views.
You’ll notice on our routing we had a traffic incursion as we were passing SeaTac. You can see this on the MFD with the aircraft progression lines “swords” crossing and as we just crossed paths, I circled the offending aircraft in red. All was not well though when I entered the GPS approach I was assigned at Paine. Shortly after hitting the enter button I suffered a CTD. Now let me make something clear here, I have flown approaches into a myriad of airports while reviewing this gauge/panel package and flying into Paine is the only area I found trouble with. It was just pure happenstance that I selected this particular flight for the review and in talking with Stasi, there are some unique problems associated with the area around Paine Field, with numerous GPS fixes, which are hidden since they are used by MSFS (possibly for the lessons which are programmed around here) but not displayed on the GPS. Actually code has to be written purposely to hide these GPS fixes. I am quite confident with Mindstar’s next update they'll probably having a fix for this since they have been so responsive in fixing other problems encountered.
To remedy this little approach snafu, I decided to fly a couple of approaches. In fact, they are the approaches which are outlined and flown on Sporty’s Garmin G1000 training DVD. If you have this DVD you can watch it then go through the included screenshots and see how we were able to basically duplicate all the things shown on that real life demonstration flight.
I had no difficulties whatsoever with the unit flying these approaches, nor any others for that matter… just that Paine one (how aptly named, eh?). One area that Mindstar does need to improve, is the GPSS tracking when a sharp turn is called for. The real Garmin units will prompt for a standard rate turn and if on autopilot, will start this turn early enough that you don’t overshoot. I found that the sharper the turn on the sim unit the more overshoot. One feature I really liked having simulated was the displays automatically going to suspend mode (used for missed approaches) upon passing the missed approach point. In real life, this is such a good thought because your cockpit workload on a real missed approach is pretty high. Put that together with the frustration of flying in real weather that is causing you to declare that missed approach.
Mindstar has gone where no-one has dared to go yet and offer a truly representative simulation of the Garmin G1000 integrated cockpit for FS2004. I personally found this to be a very helpful tool to use for my own familiarization using the G1000 system.
The frequent updates have shown Mindstar’s commitment to further enhancements and development of this software and their partnership with Microsoft and Eaglesoft also shows that they are in this to stay. Given the cost of pilot’s training programs that are offered for the Garmin G1000, this is actually quite a bargain; plus you get to use it in the sim. I have dabbled a bit with placing the gauges into Flight1’s Cessna 172R with some limited success. It has required modifying the bitmaps for the panel quite a bit but the one thing I noticed was that the blinking of the MFD route display was more noticeable in the VC (higher CPU load for more complex aircraft and using the VC). Yes, nice to look at the PFD but the MFD will take some more optimization before this is truly a workable solution for VC flying.
If you have an interest in learning the Garmin G1000 systems, I recommend this software to you. If you are a pilot and are renting, are considering purchasing or already own an aircraft with the G1000 in it, this is going to help with familiarization quite a bit. As more features are added, it will become a full simulation of the G1000 integrated cockpit package.
forward to upcoming updates and
the future realization of more of the G1000 equipped aircraft being simulated.
May the good old days never return, this is truly neat stuff that I just
have thought possible when I learned to fly.
|What I Like About the Garmin 1000|
|What I Don't Like About the Garmin 1000|
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