Garmin's Big Push into the Experimental/LSA Market

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Although sales of avionics for certified aircraft have been in the doldrums, Garmin International seems to be bullish on the experimental and light sport markets, introducing this week no fewer than seven new products for that segment, all with sophisticated capability and eye-opening low prices. Garmin's flagship product, the G3X EFIS, will get a new low-cost and lighter ADAHRS system and a new engine indication product that will drop the price of the complete package to $4375. Sweetening the deal will be additional modules for the G3X, including an integrated autopilot with similar capabilities as the popular GFC 700 certified system, an angle-of-attack system for stall awareness and a hard-mount remote ADS-B receiver based on the GDL39 portable product.

Garmin's VP for aviation sales, Carl Wolf, said these new products bring a level of sophistication and capability heretofore not offered in the experimental and light sport categories. And although light sport sales haven't seen big numbers, buyers of these aircraft tilt toward tricking them out with panels as capable as those found in top-end, IFR-certified airplanes. Moreover, the new products are lighter than some equipment now on the market and with many LSAs pushing their empty weight limits, Garmin clearly sees an opportunity to grab some sales. In addition to the ADAHRS and autopilot itself, Garmin has also developed a new lightweight autopilot servo that weighs a mere 1.4 pounds. Garmin says the servo is smart, with the capability to back drive a brushless DC motor, providing additional protection in the event of trim runaways or autopilot failures. The servo also has a clutch to decouple the trim motor when the autopilot is disengaged, reducing the friction the pilot will feel in the control circuitry. The autopilot will have the option of adding the GMC 305, a dedicated control panel similar to the GFC 700. This adds control wheel capability for pitch and airspeed selection and includes the auto leveling (LVL) button found in the more expensive certified autopilot. A two-axis version of the autopilot will be available in May, selling for $1500, while the control panel will be available as a $750 option.

The new ADAHRS, called the GSU 25, can be installed as a single or dual unit and it can be added to an existing G3X system. As an option, it has a built-in angle-of-attack indicator using data supplied by a pitot-like pressure probe. The ADAHRS is expected to be available in April, selling for $799, while the AoA probe can be added for $199 in an unheated version or $299 for a heated version. The new engine indication system is called the GEA 24 and allows for more tailoring of the output to suit specific engines and other system indications such as fuel level, flaps and trim position. Also available in April, the GEA 24 will sell for $599. The remote-mount ADS-B, called the GDL 39R, will sell for $799 and is expected to deliver in June.

And Garmin hasn't forgotten homebuilders interested in flying IFR in their aircraft. The new GAD 29 is an ARINC 429 adapter to interface the G3X with Garmin's IFR-capable GTN and GNS series navigators. This module will be available in July for $425. AVweb will have more reporting on these products in our coverage from the Aircraft Electronics Association show in Las Vegas this week. You can find out more at Garmin.com/experimental.