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Why Garmin's 796 Isn't An iPad Killer. And Vice Versa

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I was riding my bicycle home from the gym Saturday morning, listening to a podcast on my iPhone about…Steve Jobs' famous introduction of the device in 2007. Just as it got to the part where Jobs was pulling the curtain, after explaining how the iPhone would keep us in constant touch with everything and everyone, my own iPhone rang with an incoming call, neatly interrupting the podcast. Well, I guess he was right about that. And a lot of other things, too.

And that may have prompted reader John Jones to write me to say he was glad our reviews of the new Garmin aera 796 weren't headlined with the phrase "iPad killer." Anyone who would write that is, in addition to being a graduate of Association of American Cliché Writers, not paying the slightest attention. Estimates vary, but Apple has sold something like 20 million iPads and with that kind of volume, just the rounding errors are enough to represent major penetration into the aviation market and indeed has.

On the other hand, those who called the iPad a Garmin killer might have been a little surprised to see the aera 796 appear last month. But one thing's for sure, the iPad impacted Garmin more than the other way around. When the GPSmap 696 appeared in 2008 it was, at $3295, the most expensive portable ever. Buyers snapped them up like candy and judging by the comments of two vendors who told me they sold out of aera 796s at AOPA Summit, the iPad hasn't exactly decimated Garmin. But do note that the 796 was introduced at $2495, fully $800 less (24 percent) for a device that has more capability and more sophistication, is smaller and lighter. Let's hear it for competition, no matter where it comes from.

I've exchanged e-mail with buyers who tell me that comparing the aera 796 and the iPad is apples and cumquats, forgive the pun. Were it true, you wouldn't see so many iPads flying around as plate readers, navigators and weather getters. The fact is, for contemporary buyers, the platform matters less than the price and function, and at a little over $800 for a top-of- the-line iPad, mega navigators like the aera 796 give up a lot of money for not that much functional difference.

Having used both for cockpit use, I strongly prefer the 796 because it's of a piece, not compromised by requiring third-part hardware to get weather, do GPS navigation or listen to XM radio. It's also not slightly too large nor too glary nor hobbled by occasionally buggy apps. But that doesn't mean I would necessarily buy one unless I intended a lot of use. As one correspondent said, "The 796 just blows away the iPad. I want one. But I can't afford $2500, so I'm sticking with my iPad." Somewhere between $800 and $2500 is a tipping point. Apple could care less about finding it, but Garmin may have to at some point.

The next big consumer sticking point will be for the cost of data—navigation, charts and plates. Some buyers are getting fed up with recurring costs of this information and I suspect Garmin will have to devise a creative solution. The app providers may or may not be impacted, but keep your ear to the ground about changes as the government tries to make a profit center out of public data.

Last, a word about Jobs' passing. Some of the coverage is comparing him to Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, if not Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill. The podcast I was listening to called him "Moses in a turtleneck." A little around the bend perhaps, but he did manage to build the world's most valuable company. The combination of intellect, creativity and unswerving drive that Jobs represented doesn't come along often. Perhaps not even once a generation. Even then, the timing has to be perfect and his was. And if he didn't change the world, he sure had an impact on that tiny slice of it that lives in thousands of cockpits.

Comments (54)

There are two moments where I wish I was born in the US: When I read the notams (you learn patience when you are VFR in Belgium) and ... when I want to buy an aviation application for my iPad. The differences in quality you explain between iPad based and Garmin units are even more obvious in Europe. Europe being a patchwork of countries with their own governments, regulations,... you'll find apps that support correctly a few countries while neighbouring countries are left out or have obsolete data. There is no "one for all" application. So you end-up buying a mix of different applications that all behave differently and also have a questionnable ergonomy. They are easier to use than garmin units on day one but they are pretty limited while garmin system require some learning but prove to be way more efficient after a while. Still, for the casual flyer like me, the price for a garmin unit cannot be justified, so playing around with the tablet's less stable applications remains the best solution. For regular or more professional flyers, I think that a 2500$ solution is worth every cent as you expect from a company as Garmin to have perfectly maintained and up to date databases for the whole continent (+ that big island on the top-left of my charts). For the last 15hours, I sticked to Airnav Pro and as upgrades are released, I become more and more satisfied with it, but still, there are things that teh GNS-430 of the aircraft do much better ;-)

Posted by: Sébastien Desmedt | October 10, 2011 5:08 AM    Report this comment

I did in fact just pick up an iPad II the other day. I am not one to "follow the crowd", however, in the case of the iPad, I had almost no choice. The price point was the deciding factor once I had decided to have a tablet EFB. Also, given that a number of Airlines are equipping their pilots with the iPad was a bell ringer for me as well. The fact that the iPad is not considered a "dedicated aviation" tablet is actually a big selling point since it does in fact allow these other uses that the "dedicated" units do not. The iPad then becomes a very useful "out of cockpit" companion as well...which is not a bad thing. I have to admit that I am enjoying the iPad...for a 65 yr old computer illiterate, that is probably saying something.

Posted by: Blaine Banks | October 10, 2011 7:14 AM    Report this comment

As an iPad user, I question the term "navigator". Are we not stretching the EFB utility a bit far here? Personally I do not navigate by the iPad, but I find it a great situational awareness tool for the copilot, not to mention the weight and cost savings vs. paper charts, plates, AFD, AIM, and out-of-cockpit capabilities.

Posted by: Rae Willis | October 10, 2011 7:46 AM    Report this comment

For the price of a 796 you can pick up a pristine 696 AND an Ipad.... and still have money for the first year data subscription. Sebastien from Belgium has a very valid point for the poor Europeans. There are only 2 solutions that really are good over there: the Avidyne EX600/Rocket Route combination, and the Moving Terrain solution. Both approaching 20 AMU when fully configured. And there is no WSI or XM weather via high bandwidth satellite, so you can add what we pay per month per flight in weather downlink fees....

Posted by: Robert Ziegler | October 10, 2011 8:26 AM    Report this comment

$2,500 for an "awareness only" device is awfully steep. Color moving maps can be had for as little as $200. The beauty of cheap is that you don't cry like the guy who you drops his 3 grand tablet on the ramp during preflight.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 10, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

I don't understand Paul's worries about not having an integrated weather system. It's inconsequential if you have a cig lighter outlet in your plane and want to have the benefits of an iPad. Also, Garmin locks you into WXWorx via XM at over $500/yr to have weather capability. So, it was a no-brainer for me to buy a $1000 ADS-B receiver that gives me FREE weather on my iPad plus all the other receiver-only benefits of ADS-B. It will pay for itself in two years of basic WXWorx subscription. The system is called SkyRadar and they have a Skyradar app for both iPhone and iPad in the app store. I've used mine for over six months and it's an outstanding combination. WingX can use the data stream and overlay ADS-B NEXRAD images, too. I particularly like viewing the data logs after flights...you can replay the entire flight at normal or X10 speed, showing the fight on the moving map (sectional or enroute), local traffic if someone nearby had an ADS-B transmitter onboard during that flight, and the historical weather images, data, TFR status, NOTAMs...actually the entire recorded data stream can be replayed. The built-in WAAS gps I. The unit makes the record very precise. The unit will work with the cheapest iPad since it uses wifi and it's own gps.s

Posted by: John Tillery | October 10, 2011 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Rae Willis

What's wrong with using an iPad for primary VFR nav? Isn't it no more or less legal than a Garmin x96? I've always had a problem with the 'not for navigation' business when the so called legal sources like VOR and ADF are off by miles.

Posted by: tom connor | October 10, 2011 1:13 PM    Report this comment

"I don't understand Paul's worries about not having an integrated weather system"

I didn't say worry, I said preference. I don't want to mess with all the third-party hardware to string the iPad together to make it what the 796 does of a piece. Others feel similarly.

On the other hand, as I explained, given the price difference, I might get over that if I really wanted this capability on the cheap. I still don't like the size of the iPad. I find it personally too big. That's another *preference.*

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | October 10, 2011 1:30 PM    Report this comment

I use the IPad mainly for approach charts (Jeppesen TC app using my Jeppview subscription); for navigation my GNS530 does not need any help. But for VFR-only airfields the IPad can be great as well: in France for example one can download for free all airfield maps (PDF format) and you do not need a subscription for Jeppesen VFR maps. And if you want to play -anyway, keep looking outside as well - , the built-in GPS in the IPad2 works fine (but somewhat slow to start). On the other hand, the comments on weather down-link point to a severe flaw for European pilots: as far as I know, there is nothing like XM available here in Europe (or am I wrong?). And ADS-B is for a far future (if ever). In Europe, government (and EASA) is excellent in devising new regulations to kill GA, but does nothing to help GA or make it safer (France might be an exception).

Posted by: Jan Melkebeek | October 10, 2011 3:28 PM    Report this comment

I'm getting the Garmin 796 with a spare battery. The iPad has no user battery replacement option.

Posted by: David White | October 10, 2011 4:11 PM    Report this comment

I noticed the other day that there is a supplemental battery pack available for the iPad. It plugs in where the normal charger would go. I may have seen it at Sporty's, not sure, but, there is one available.

Posted by: Blaine Banks | October 10, 2011 8:49 PM    Report this comment

A $200 spare battery for the Garmin? Did you ever consider that the compass and clock also work as backups at no additional charge?

Posted by: Mark Fraser | October 11, 2011 7:20 AM    Report this comment

I don't understand the battery issues with these devices. Theyre not laptops that need lots of power to recharge. A small adapter should do the job. Even without that, my brain will overheat and my fuel tank will be empty long before the iPad's battery dies. I still know how to use a compass so I turn off the screen of the iPad most of the time. From time to time, I turn it on if I want to check about my position or look at some approach plates (Airnav Pro continues to run in background, so no need to reopen the application and wait for a GPS fix). This way, even after spending more than 4 hours in the air, I still had > 70% of battery left. Just one thing that you may need to do is jailbreak the iPad to get rid of the annoying unlock screen (you are immediately back in the app when you press the power button then).

Posted by: Sébastien Desmedt | October 11, 2011 9:46 AM    Report this comment

With the iPad battery lasting around 10 hours, I can't see the need for a spare. If you use a remote GPS that has a USB cigar lighter plug, then you can plug the iPad in and use no battery (and even charge it)

Posted by: Rae Willis | October 11, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

With the iPad battery lasting around 10 hours, I can't see the need for a spare. If you use a remote GPS that has a USB cigar lighter plug, then you can plug the iPad in and use no battery (and even charge it)

Posted by: Rae Willis | October 11, 2011 10:05 AM    Report this comment

I thought the iPad might be too big, but after flying with it for several months I actually like the larger size. As for the comment about "not for primary navigation" I have to disagree. I recognize the lawyer's hand in those admonitions, but after flying for 13 years with handheld GPSes have come to recognize they're just as accurate as the IFR-certified units for getting me where I want to go. Hence, the iPad IS my primary source of navigation, and is backed up by the Garmin IFR-certified unit in the panel. Reroutes take place instantly on the iPad (with ForeFlight), then get fed to the panel unit once settled on the new heading. If Garmin had priced the 796 at around $1,200 it might be tempting, although the navdata would still be a hard pill to swallow. For a third of Garmin's cost, my iPad is always current.

And as another poster mentioned, my iPad gets used multiple times every day. The 796 would sit in my flight bag for many days between use, so from a utility/value standpoint, there is no comparison.

Posted by: Loren Jones | October 11, 2011 10:09 AM    Report this comment

One other note on the battery: I can plug the iPad into my 12V adapter if needed. I also created a standby power pack for under $50 that fits in a very small camera bag and will power the iPad for at least a couple of days non-stop.

Posted by: Loren Jones | October 11, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

The one place a battery becomes an issue is when you are flying long distances in one day. I typically only fly 2-3 hours non-stop before making some sort of stop (food, fuel, etc), but that might not be the only flying I do that day. If it's a day trip 3 hours away, that's 3 hours on the return trip, and that's now 6 hours, assuming I'm not using the device for anything while I'm not flying.

I don't have an iPad, but I did pick up a cheap android-based tablet to try out the concept, and I have to say I'm just not sold on it. Granted, many of the apps available on the ipad aren't available on my tablet, but I find sun glare on the screen to make reading it difficult, and the backlighting to be a little too bright at night. The only time the lighting is perfect is just around sunset (or I imagine, sunrise). However, I did find it much more useful as a way to check weather/etc while on the ground between stops.

Tablets are cheap enough that if you can afford something like a 796, there's no reason you couldn't also buy a tablet for use outside the cockpit. I would much rather have a dedicated aviation device for navigation than a hobbled-together solution. If Garmin could come up with a device that picks up ADS-B weather and traffic and price it under $2000, I'd be sold on it.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 11, 2011 10:16 AM    Report this comment

For you IPAD users, the new trent imp880 is a compact external battery and also capable of recharging the ipad battery. I use this as my required backup for EFB airline flying, and recharging cell phones.

Still new to the G/A side of the ipad usage and would appreciate any comment on software being used by you.

From what I have read and heard, I would not risk a violation using the ipad as a primary navigational devise especially dealing with TFR's and Class B airspace.

Posted by: Mike willms | October 11, 2011 10:37 AM    Report this comment

Mike, For Part 91 operations, the iPad counts the same as having the paper charts it replaces. Technically speaking, so does a 430/530/etc. Violating airspace or a TFR is the same, regardless of the method of navigation you use.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 11, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

Mike Willms: ForeFlight or WingX ---take your choice. You can try either free for 30 days. I use ForeFlight. I do not believe in using the iPad for navigation, but only as an EFB (what it is). I use an external WAAS GPS Bluetooth to the iPad (which is WiFi only). For navigation I have a 530, a 150 & a 496. The latter for receiving XM weather, Nexrad, AOPA Directory, etc.

Posted by: Rae Willis | October 11, 2011 10:48 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Gary, My comment was more directed at the Pilot using the ipad as a moving map and not looking out the window and/or more reliable navigational aids.

I understand there are two popular sofware options and I would like to hear about personal experiences.

Posted by: Mike willms | October 11, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I know several pilots using WingX (for the iPad; apparently there is a version for android, but it's not nearly as polished, so I've heard), and it seems to work well for them. It seems to be a matter of personal preference for the differences between ForeFlight and WingX.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 11, 2011 10:54 AM    Report this comment

I'm one of the people who have to "hobble-together" devices to get the capability that wealthy people can get much easier than I can with dedicated systems. Unfortunately, people with extra dollars can sometimes be blinded to the capabilities of less-expensive solutions.

If you haven't used an iPad in a cockpit then you should do yourself a favor and take a flight with one of the tens of thousands of pilots who do fly with them to see for yourself what the machine is capable of.

The most legitimate complaints I have read in this thread concern the size of the screen. It is large which makes mounting a challenge if your panel is already full.

As I said in a previous thread, even the oldest and cheapest iPad connected via wifi to the SkyRadar (www.skyradar.net) receiver will give you ADS-B services for much, much less than anything else out there. Garmin only offers XM weather on their portable systems at over $500/yr. My SkyRadar receiver cost $1000 and will pay for itself in two years. I'm sure Garmin will offer an ADS-B receiver - eventually - in their portable devices, but they are not indicating when.

Posted by: John Tillery | October 11, 2011 11:05 AM    Report this comment

The Garmin is lacking the ability to run additional applications. Corporate flight departments are looking to move many of their manuals to PDF to save weight and space in the aircraft. Who is not looking to create more space in their cockpit. The IPAD also allows you to run aircraft performance software to assist in determining runway and climb gradient requirements. For a part 135 typical day consisting of several legs, the IPAD battery holds up well. I have used Fujitsu tablets in the past and have found their battery life not to be sufficient. Plugging in for power should be a backup not a need. The Garmin is great for someone who has their own plane and wants to grab it and go to the plane with little effort. I do not see it being versatile enough for larger operations.

Posted by: Damon Robbert | October 11, 2011 11:08 AM    Report this comment

I use a GPSMAP 496 for XMwx and navigation & an IPAD 1 for charts, in AC from a J3 to a PA46. Since I only own the J3 (no elec) but fly many AC i need both portability and the possibility of everything running on battery power. IFR capable aircraft have installed equipment for NAV. I take the both my portables along anyway. Charts for installed equipment is cost prohibitive and all the options for charting I have tried before the IPAD just didn't work. Actual paper charts are unavailable for outside the local area, or require a subscription which is too costly, too wasteful, and too inconvenient. We have had the paperless cockpit for years, but without good alternatives, this just meant a nearly chartless cockpit. E-charts on a tablet PC running windows, failed miserably, short battery life, too slow to start up. IPAD has changed all that, with very little effort or expense I now have current chart for everywhere I fly. As an instructor I have tried and used ForeFlight, WingX & Jeppesen's charting options. All work well. The Jeppesen suite is slow on an IPAD 1, but it came out after IPAD 2 was available so maybe it works better on that. WX for IPAD won't work for me once in-flight Everything must to be able to run on battery power & really need to keep the wire count down for portability, so I keep the 496 along. A battery powered bluetooth WX box would be nice, same goes for TCAS info. :>)

Posted by: Pat McKinzie | October 11, 2011 11:10 AM    Report this comment

Got my iPad 2 back in May after seeing what my helicopter instructor was able to do with it. Got ForeFlight for $75/year with all the same charts I have on the GMX-200 in the Citation (from the J company for about $1600/year!). In addition to all the charts and procedures, ForeFlight gives me NOTAMs, current weather (and TAFs and winds aloft) at any airport, radar, satellite, fuel prices, and more. One the ground, I can modify the flight plan at the last minute if needed via FltPlan.com, check on Airnav.com for a variety of information including reviews of FBO's at the destination, etc. And I can check e-mail just before takeoff on a screen that's a lot easier to read than my iPhone. For Gary - don't worry about readability on the iPad - it's never been an issue for me in the Citation or the L-39.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 11, 2011 11:56 AM    Report this comment

The other app that I use a lot is DocsToGo ($16.99), which lets me sync files with my PC, including Word, Excel (e.g., weight and balance, aircraft and pilot logs), pdf, PowerPoint, pictures, etc. I have all the manuals and checklists for both the Citation and the L-39 in the iPad. That includes Garmins (530/430, GMX-200), Sandel (4500 series EADI and EHSI), Aspens (PFD and MFD in the L-39), TruTrak autopliot (in the L-39), the operating limitations, Maintenance Inspection Program, and program letter for the L-39, etc., etc. - in other words, a complete library of more than 50 lb of reference material that is accessible at any time. I don't take off without it any more. I got the 64GB model, but with all I just listed, I still haven't used 16GB and probably never will.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 11, 2011 11:56 AM    Report this comment

No doubt, the iPad (or any newer tablet, for that matter) is a great, relatively cheap tool to have. However, it does have its drawbacks, which for me make it unsuitable as a full chart replacement. I have tried both my own tablet and the iPad (though not as much as my own), and found the glare from the sun to make it difficult to read. Not impossible, but enough that I just felt like taking out the good old paper chart. I've also run in to issues with the tablets overheating. I'm not sure what it is about an airplane cockpit, but it seems to cause electronic devices to overheat more often than anywhere else.

I also wonder how things will be a few years from now, when these tablet batteries have gone through several charge-discharge cycles. Batteries have only a limited life-span, and is one reason why all hybrid or electric vehicles don't let you use the full battery capacity, in an effort to preserve the useful life of them. Will people have to start replacing their tablets with non-replaceable batteries?

If the iPad/tablet works for you, great. But I would highly recommend borrowing someone else's before making the plunge yourself. And even if you do, there /is/ a learning curve, so you may want to hold on to your paper charts until you know the application inside and out. When ATC assigns a new approach to fly, that isn't the time to be trying to figure out how to bring up the new chart.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 11, 2011 12:22 PM    Report this comment

I got an iPad 2 when they were released in the Spring. I loaded ForeFlight and have never opened a paper chart since. ForeFlight on the iPad is simple, intuitive and far superior to paper charts IMO. The money saved on charts and plates will pay for the iPad eventually. At OSH I left it in the sun on the glareshield in 98 degree heat. It was so hot I couldn't hold it. I laid it on the wing with a towel and it worked fine. I have flown flights lasting nearly six hours non-stop and used less than half the battery. I have plugged it into the cigar lighter and used no battery at all. Direct sunlight presents a viewing problem which is easily overcome by simply moving the iPad into the shadow (could be a problem with a bubble canopy). I use a remote GPS, so the iPad does not have to be in any particular position to receive a signal because it is Bluetooth.

Posted by: Rae Willis | October 11, 2011 12:52 PM    Report this comment

There’s a learning curve with any new device. I took to the iPad instantly, maybe because I had an iPhone for several years and the interface is so similar. I still keep a 496 in the Citation as a backup and whenever I take it out (rarely any more just to make sure it still works), I have to go to the manual (which is in the iPad!) for some things because I've forgotten how to do them. Foreflight was a no-brainer for most things, although filing flight plans is much easier (for me) on FltPlan.com – maybe because I’ve been using it for years. The ability to pinch-zoom to see tiny notes on an approach plate is an incredible advantage over paper, not to mention the weight savings and the aggravation of filing the updates in the manuals every couple of weeks.

My own experience with sun glare is that it’s not an issue when the brightness is all the way up – even in the L-39 with a full glass canopy overhead. Sure, you can get some sun angles that make it difficult, but a slight tilt is all it takes to solve that problem – unlike panel-mounted screens when the sun hits them at just the right angle (in the L-39 we just roll upside down to see the panel screens – LOL).

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 11, 2011 1:21 PM    Report this comment

If you're worried about the battery and don’t have a 12-volt adapter in the airplane, get a backup external battery (you should have one or the other anyway if you’re truly relying on any EFB for flight-critical information). My iPhone is 3 years old and I charge it every night regardless of how much charge is remaining – so far, it still keeps on going.

To each his own, but I'm totally sold on the iPad (no, I don’t own stock in Apple or Foreflight and have no other interest than to share my experiences). Yesterday I took a 61.58 check ride with a DPE who is a Continental captain, and he commented on how much more advanced the Citation panel and the iPad were than what he has in an airliner. They'll be getting iPads shortly (United just ordered 11,000 of them after thorough testing), and he's looking forward to it for both airline flying and his Bonanza.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 11, 2011 1:22 PM    Report this comment

This is a tad off subject, but I think it relates to these type of devices.

Have any of you looked at the Helm X650? I’ve got one, it’s amazing, and I’m really pleased with it. I’m running it with True Flight and Flight Prep Chart Case Pro: But you can run any Windows software you chose. The neat thing is that this device mounts in the avionics stack, picks up on any 8 through 28 volt supply, and looks like a GMX-200. It is set up to also yoke mount with RAM mounts, but the best attribute of this device is that it was designed to go in the avionics stack. It has a 1000+ nits screen that is polarized. It never washes out, ever. It has a built in GPS and a built in two axis gyro. The software does not use the gyro though. I am hoping True Flight and Flight Prep will upgrade their software to use it, soon.

It is much the same price as a the 796, can receive weather, traffic, and anything else that you can get with a PC type device. However, it mounts in the panel; there are no wires in the way, and no problems reading the screen in sunlight. It is really worth a close look.

Roy Venton-Walters

Posted by: Roy Venton-Walters | October 11, 2011 2:59 PM    Report this comment

I to like the IPAD but I do like the size of the 796 but untill garmin gets the subscription competitive with foreflight, I'm going to have to go with IPAD and the IPAD does offfer other feathures other than a plate reader

Posted by: Larry Eversmeyer | October 12, 2011 4:07 PM    Report this comment

The 796/795 is gonna be a tough-sell in this iPad "there's an app for that" era. The 796 appears to be an excellent device, however the bar has been raised and the paradigm has been shifted by tablet devices. Garmin needs to shift it's thinking as well by selling the 796 software set as an iTunes offering. I was within a whisper of getting the 796, until I regained my sanity. The cost of the Garmin simply cannot be justified, regardless of its quality. Advantage: iPad.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | October 13, 2011 2:35 AM    Report this comment

The iPad2/ForeFlight combination is Kool. However, my Dual XGPS 150 (Bluetooth) GPS antenna is losing position on most flights, sometimes before 2000 '. Sometimes I can regain position during the flight; other times not. The heated windshield may be an issue, or it may have something to do with speed. Although, the Citation XL is not noted for speed. I've been out a couple times in my 172 and it kept position almost 100%.

Posted by: Albert Yowell | October 13, 2011 8:14 AM    Report this comment

I use the iPad 32GB 3G as an EFB running Foreflight to supplement my KLN89B IFR GPS and Garmin 496 with XM weather. I keep the 89B current, update the 496 nav database once a year, and Foreflight does the rest. The iPad is on my knee in a kneeboard holder with cover so I can write down clearances etc. I can plug it in but rarely need to. I bought the Bad Elf GPS unit but don't use it (wasted $99, imho) as it draws down the battery quickly. The iPad internal GPS works just fine in my 182 and seems as accurate as the Bad Elf. Haven't bought a paper chart in a while! I had the iPad overheat once while running the Bad Elf and charger so I don't do that any more.

Posted by: JOHN REAT | October 13, 2011 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Dont worry.... if Obamas Light squared fiasco goes thru, none of us will be using any GPS equipment.

Posted by: vance atkinson | October 13, 2011 11:02 AM    Report this comment

Hey John Frank, I couldn't disagree with you more concerning the Bad-Elf ... my iPad's battery has shown above 40% charge after a 4 - 5 hour run ... and that's with screen intensity around 75%. With a wi-fi only iPad, the Bad Elf is an excellent choice, especially after factoring in the costs for 3G service.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | October 13, 2011 11:39 AM    Report this comment

From what I understand, you can purchase the 3G model without having to actually pay for and use the data services.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 13, 2011 2:15 PM    Report this comment

91.15 "No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property."

Note the FAA language uses the word "drop". But, if the bird "flies" out of or away from the airplane upon being released, is this really considered "dropping"? It would be more like an aerial launch event. Where is Bill Clinton when we need him? :-)

Posted by: A Richie | October 13, 2011 3:32 PM    Report this comment

Sorry wrong thread!! haha

Posted by: A Richie | October 13, 2011 3:33 PM    Report this comment

Well, yeah, Gary, you can purchase an iPod with 3G and not activate it. But what would be the point? I purchased the wi-fi only version because I simply didn't want one more data plan to pay for. But more to the point: many users are starting to have "overlapping technologies", and if they employ a little "self auditing" of communications capabilities and resources, most will find that between freely existing (McDonalds, anyone?) and paid-for resources, that the "3-G" iPad models are actually a bit of overkill.

Posted by: Phil Derosier | October 13, 2011 4:29 PM    Report this comment

I find that I use the 3G ($20/month on Verizon) frequently enough that it's well worth it. Sitting in the cockpit at KRTS a few weeks ago (on a Sunday when the place was empty), looking out at a T-storm that came in before I could get out, I could see real-time radar through ForeFlight and I could tell when it was going to open up and what direction I'd want to go. Modifying my flight plan through FltPlan.com to the new departure time and route of flight was possible without calling FSS. And seeing the visuals for everything ForeFlight provides works better for my brain than listening to a voice over the phone. For my $20/month for 3G, it's a good investment. If I had to, I would gladly skip a few Starbuck's a month for that. Also with 3G I get GPS in a (rental or other) car that's easier to read than on my phone, with familiar search capabilities if I'm trying to find something.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 13, 2011 4:48 PM    Report this comment

Oh, and I forgot to mention, you can see fuel prices for Jet-A and 100LL as well using 3G when you're not near a WiFi. That alone can pay for the whole year in a single stop for me.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | October 13, 2011 4:49 PM    Report this comment

I'm sorry, but ANYONE who, in the age of tablets, thinks they can sell something like the 796 for anything near $2500 in this day and age must be smoking an illegal substance. And for what? The Garmin name? Whoopee. A few minor added features that VFR pilots don't really need? Not gonna' happen.

Posted by: Rodney Ghearing | October 13, 2011 5:55 PM    Report this comment

Phil, As I understand it, the WiFi-only version doesn't include an integrated GPS, while the 3G version does. I don't know the price difference, and if it's large enough to get the WiFi only and an add-on GPS, but it does offer the opportunity of using the 3G portion at some future date. Of course, it may be just as cost-effective to tether the tablet to one's smart phone for 3G access.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | October 13, 2011 6:07 PM    Report this comment

One of the complaints I've read about non-Garmin XM receivers is that they disable themselves and it takes a phone call to re-enable. Garmin seems immune to this. I fly long boring trips at slow speeds and enjoy talk radio to stay alert. When I got a G696 I signed up for XM radio and removed the ADF from the panel. That service plus charts from Garmin costs me about $1500/year, so an iPad appeals from a dollar point of view. Is there an elegant way to emulate that on an iPad without a tangle of wires, fussy bluetooth and XM radio auto-delete?

Posted by: tom connor | October 13, 2011 8:33 PM    Report this comment

Here's a link to apple's specs for the iPad I and II

support*apple*com/specs/#ipad

Posted by: tom connor | October 13, 2011 8:41 PM    Report this comment

The price delta between the wifi and wifi+3g which also includes 'assisted GPS' whatever that is, is $130

store*apple*com/us/browse/home/shop_ipad/family/ipad/select?mco=MjE2MjYyNjg

Posted by: tom connor | October 13, 2011 8:45 PM    Report this comment

A-GPS (Assisted GPS) is a GPSr (GPS Receiver) that uses cell tower triangulation to assist in capturing the first signal fix. Hence, there is not the long wait for GPS signal attainment they we experience when using a non A-GPS capable unit.

In other words, it speed thangs up...

Good feature to have.

Blue Skies, ya'll.

Posted by: T M | October 26, 2011 10:12 AM    Report this comment

I flew all of today with the G796. Setup is not easy on this unit. I have been flying with G696 units in our 2 company aircraft and that is a much better unit, in my opinion and lots more user friendly. I am returning the G796. I bought the Chartview key for a Jeppesen Mexico chart subscription. After multiple calls to Garmin and Jeppesen, the feature never did work. On the map page, only 4 customizable data fields are available, compared with 12 or approx on the G696. Weather is not simple to access. Flight plan waypoints are not easy to add. On the last leg today, GPS signal strength was 5 bars but no data was displayed. The unit requires too many steps to access needed info. The Syn-Vis is cool to watch but not a reliable display of approach position. On the ground the display was quite accurate however. I do like the detailed enroute charts. Apparently they will not be avail on the G696, according to Garmin. I would not reccomend the G796 to anyone. the G696 is a much easier unit to use and displays more useable data without needing to fumble thru hunting for what you want. Vertical Speed Requirment is not easy to access and input, nor is much of anything else.

Posted by: Kent Magnuson | November 10, 2011 9:53 PM    Report this comment

I've got around 50 hours now on the G796. I was one of the first to buy several months ago. A month ago I was ready to return mine. There were too many bugs. In addition to running too hot to touch in my airplane in the afternoon sun, it didn't compare to the 696 in functionality. I sent Garmin my list of problems with the unit. They paid attention and now with system 2.3 the bugs, as far as I can tell, are down to four: the flight logging which was so useful on the 696 is totally intermittent in its logging of flights: the data logging doesn't separate out individual flights as it does so beautifully on the 696: sometimes the flight plan is not displayed on the map after a flight plan is entered; and finally sometimes while scrolling through the XM channels, the whole unit freezes and needs to be rebooted. However, I'm not willing to send mine back just yet. While the pages are not set up as conveniently as in the G696, I have found that I can get around much, much faster than with the buttons of the G696. Garmin added new features with System 2.3, and a new system is forthcoming. I haven't had the heating issue, since I got a new exchange unit. I recommended some upgrades that could make navigating the screens easier. Garmin support has been very open to suggestions. In a couple of months I may be able to recommend it.

Posted by: Donald Kaye | November 23, 2011 9:29 PM    Report this comment

Just a note for you guys who like the advantage of having 3G on your iPad so that you can access web/flight plans/etc when not near a wifi connection...

If you have a mobile phone with a plan that allows you to create a "hotspot" using you cell phone, you can essentially creating your own personal "wireless network" with your cell phone. This wireless network will show up as an available network to your iPad, just like any other wi-fi network. Then from your iPad, you can do all the things you would do if you had 3G on your iPad. You pay for one dataplan, the one for your cellphone, and you can access the internet by your phone OR your iPad, using the phone's internet connection.

Just one more way to keep that money you would spend on an extra 3G plan available for 100LL :-)

Posted by: Joel Etheridge | December 12, 2013 9:19 PM    Report this comment

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