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Garmin handheld aviation GPS business - the end?

I heard recently that retail pilot shop sales of these have fallen massively – of the order of 98% i.e. a factor of 50.

Looking at the last Transair catalogue, they have just 2 pages covering these, out of 100 pages.

Clearly this is due to people flying with tablets and phones.

But what is going to happen with Garmin making them? If this drop is anywhere near real, they cannot be worth making.

I wonder if there are other market sectors, not obviously apparent to us in Europe, where these continue to sell?

Some years ago I was talking to a pilot who wanted to fly around Africa and the (today ancient and back then quite old) Skyforce Skymap 4C was the best solution he found for that airspace.

Also the handheld units are very obviously much more robust and don’t suffer from the crashes and heat related shutdowns which you get with modern consumer IT tablets.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

Some years ago I was talking to a pilot who wanted to fly around Africa and the (today ancient and back then quite old) Skyforce Skymap 4C was the best solution he found for that airspace.

Would you expect Garmin Pilot to have less good data than say a 496

Also the handheld units are very obviously much more robust and don’t suffer from the crashes and heat related shutdowns which you get with modern consumer IT tablets.

You quickly learn to manage the heat. Last one was a year or so ago. I fly with 2 ipads (one under the passenger seat), and should have sold the 496 a long time ago (anyone?). If I could have only one and no backup it would be the ipad anyway:
- easy updates make it much more likely that you have up to date data
- easy flight planning makes in my opinion better flight planning. With a 496 flight planning and no ipad, it would be hard to come back to old style flight planning (and might fly less)
- I use both skydemon and garmin pilot (still trying to decide which is best). Even if there is some positive correlation on likehood of crashing, I think it’s relatively low probability that both crash (and one should have a backup in any case, in mine it’s a G1000)
- I might trust more the hardware on an iPad anyway (millions of users run then, some a few hours a day, so bugs will get very quickly reported and fixed (and avoided in future versions).
- Carrying the 496 is annoying, different wall and plug charger, while with the ipad I have standard cables, can charge pretty much anywhere.

PS: In fact maybe I’ll hold on my 496 for a while, until they become a rarity and can sell it to a purpose-built hardware nostalgic ;)

Last Edited by Noe at 27 Jun 10:12

Garmin have already moved from aviation-specific devices (the 695/696 was the last model developed) to consumer-grade (all the Aera models) hardware and tablet-based apps. I have no doubt that the reason for this is a massive market shift away from expensive dedicated devices and I imagine their days are numbered. This transition has been underway since the Aera was developed – the first models were launched in 2009. The rise of the iPad has only hastened the decline of purpose-built devices. Garmin was quite late to market, only launching Garmin Pilot in 2012.

I have been using Skydemon since the software was in beta in 2009. I use it on a laptop, iPad and iPhone. However, I don’t use it in the cockpit.

I do all my flight planning on Skydemon – for this purpose I think it is unbeatable. However, I do not particularly like using it in flight. I find the interface is a little imprecise and very occasionally does something unexpected, though this is probably more due to my bungling than anything. Skydemon is my in-flight backup on iPad and iPhone, if I’m really desperate.

I have a Garmin 695 that lives on a RAM mount in the cockpit. I have a Garmin nav data subscription and keep it updated simply by removing the SD card from the slot on the device and updating it from my laptop – it takes just a minute to do. Admittedly, it’s not quite as convenient as Skydemon, but I certainly don’t consider it a burden and because the AIRAC cycle is known, I have yet to be caught out by an unexpected update. I have no intention of giving it up any time soon – in fact, I was thinking of adding an IFR plate subscription.

I was persuaded (by JasonC and dnj) to give Garmin Pilot a try. I have yet to do so, but expect to get around to this over the summer.

EGTT, The London FIR

It seems to me iPads and tablets are becoming standard display units for navigation, but also for other stuff (engine and primary flight display). The tablet is typically semi-permanently mounted on the panel. One would think that glass cockpit would be the way to go, but I have seen several people now using only tablets connected via wifi to AHRS/pitot, engine, radio boxes. I wonder when we will see the first SkyDemon integrated cockpit, or the first “aviation standard” tablet.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

LeSving wrote:

I wonder when we will see the first SkyDemon integrated cockpit, or the first “aviation standard” tablet.

I think the aviation standard tablet may be an idea whose time has come. I’ve figured out how to mount my iPad Mini with good cooling air flow and have no reliability problems now, but it would be nice to have a more fault tolerant setup with much more reserve cooling capacity.

Peter wrote:

Also the handheld units are very obviously much more robust and don’t suffer from the crashes and heat related shutdowns which you get with modern consumer IT tablets.

In two years or so of using iPads as electronic flight bags we have had one reported shutdown due to heat among a fleet of 12 aircraft carrying two iPads each. You simply keeps the things out of direct sunlight and there is no issue at all.

And for iPads (and every other tablet) a variety of rugged cases can be found on the market which make them as robust as any dedicated navigation unit.

Last Edited by what_next at 27 Jun 14:58
EDDS - Stuttgart
the first “aviation standard” tablet

Who is going to define/maintain the “standard”?
And what hardware manufacturers will take the trouble to test and illustrate compliance?

Last Edited by at 27 Jun 15:03
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

Jan_Olieslagers wrote:

Who is going to define/maintain the “standard”?

These standards have been defined a decade ago (FAA, ICAO, EASA,…). See for example here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_flight_bag (Under “Hardware classe” you can find the relevant regulations).

EDDS - Stuttgart

What is going to happen with Garmin making the aviation units? If this drop is anywhere near real, they cannot be worth making.

I wonder if there are other market sectors, not obviously apparent to us in Europe, where these continue to sell?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter wrote:

I wonder if there are other market sectors, not obviously apparent to us in Europe, where these continue to sell?

They sell lots and lots and lots of smart watches and hiking GPS units (although these are also rapidly being rendered obsolete by the smartphone). I guess that for every aviation unit they produce one hundred other GPS driven handheld devices, so leaving the aviation market will hardly be notices. And they are big players in panel mounted devices with still a lot of growth potential.

Last Edited by what_next at 27 Jun 15:35
EDDS - Stuttgart
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