Garmin WAAS Upgrades Delayed Again

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Pilots who have been waiting -- some since 2003 -- for upgrades that would make their Garmin units WAAS-capable will have to wait longer still. "Regrettably, Garmin has delayed the WAAS upgrade for our GNS 430/530, GPS 400/500, and GNC 420 units until the third quarter of 2006," Garmin spokesman Ted Gartner told AVweb on Friday. "The complexity of this important project has increased, as well as the R&D to design, build, and certify our WAAS-enabled hardware -- including a new GPS antenna and receiver -- in addition to a major software rewrite." Garmin says it will hold to its promise to deliver the upgrade to existing owners for $1,500. Current owners can still lock in that price if they order the upgrade by Nov. 15, and they pay nothing until the upgrade is completed, Gartner said. Effective immediately, new purchases of GNS 430/530, GPS 400/500 and GNC 420s will be upgradeable to WAAS, but at a yet-to-be-determined price. Garmin's GNS 480 is WAAS-ready now. "I would hope that you convey our regrets for this delay," Gartner told AVweb. "We intend to keep our dealers and customers apprised of the situation as developments warrant." WAAS is a system of satellites and ground stations that provides GPS signal corrections, giving pilots vertical guidance and up to five times better position accuracy than GPS alone.

"This is disappointing news to AOPA members who own Garmin equipment and are looking forward to the increased safety that WAAS will bring at an affordable price," said AOPA President Phil Boyer in a statement on Friday. "We are committed to promoting WAAS because it will add vertical guidance capabilities to 3,000 GPS approaches -- a major safety enhancement at lower cost than ground-based navaids." Meanwhile, the FAA Eastern Region has posted an online video tutorial for users of Garmin's GNS 430 and 530 units. "Our effort is to assist you to avoid the human-factor errors that may hinder your operation of the GNS-530/430," the FAA said. "To accomplish improving your operational understanding of the GNS-530/430, we employed scenario-based demonstrations and explanations of the various navigation procedures performed with the GNS-530/430." The tutorial consists of six units, each about one hour long.