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UPSAT GX60 Com/GPS Panel Mount
If you've read my article about the GX55 and SL40, you already know a lot of the features of the GX60. In a nutshell, the GX60 has a SL40 760 channel VHF COM and a GX55 with everything needed to make the unit IFR certifiable for enroute, terminal and non-precision GPS approaches. This GPS meets TSO C129A A1. A lot of folks have asked me when I was going to do this article even though the GX60 has been out for sometime now. I really wanted to install a GX60 and learn just how to fly approaches with it. In other words, I wanted to see how this unit would work in real world applications. Is it difficult? Does the GX training CD really help? First let's make one thing clear. These manufacturers don't pay me to write about their products. In fact, some probably would pay me NOT to write about their products! Knowing this, you can rest assured I called the shots the way I seen them with the GX60. Is this just another IFR GPS or is there has IIMorrow put together something different? Well, read on and find out.
The GX60 VHF COM The COM inside the GX60 is full 760 channel from 118.00-136.975 MHz. It displays active and standby frequencies at the same time. A lamp comes on when you transmit and a "stuck mic time-out" so you don't get caught saying things over the airways you wouldn't want printed in the local paper. You can listen to the standby frequency while monitoring the active frequency. This is great in a single radio aircraft but who would install an IFR GPS in an aircraft with only one VHF com? You can monitor the National Weather Service weather channels and I found this to be a nice touch during cross-countries. The com section also has an intercom but the class or aircraft that has the GX60 normally would have a built-in ICS anyway. The IIMorrow SL10 or the PS-Engineering intercoms/audio panels are a great choice if you need an audio panel and ICS. The GX60 com also can store the last ten used frequencies; ten user defined frequencies or down load the frequencies from the GPS section of the unit. While this may sound nice, I found it much easier in an IFR environment just to place the frequency I needed into the standby slot of the com. It seemed much easier and faster during flight. This feature is fun to mess with on the ground but not much value in the air in my humble opinion but it's there should you like that feature. I found the transmitter put out a whopping 8 watts above 12 Vdc and 7 watts from 9-11Vdc. These are good numbers. I found the GX60 would operate from 9-42 Vdc on the bench, which is better than book. The GX60 drew less than 3.2 amps during transmit and 1.1 amps at 28Vdc. At idle, the GX60 com and GPS drew a mere 350MA at 24Vdc. This isn't enough power to get a lightning bug glowing! Because of the low power consumption, the GX60 doesn't require cooling. The squelch is set via software and a squelch override. I found the squelch circuit worked well in flight. After looking at the specs of the GX60 on the bench and taking a good visual of the insides, there's no doubt that some of the best engineering in America is inside this little jewel. Did I mention the GX60 is built in the good old USA? This shows America can put out a top quality product at a fair price. I've found most of IIMorrow's products are of excellent quality and the GX60 is no exception.
THE DISPLAY is a 160 by 80 pixel electroluminescent graphic display. What this means is it's easy to read and the graphics are of good quality. In my opinion the only displays I've seen that are better are the CRT displays that cost much more, run hotter and consume massive amounts of power. The display can be "Hazardous to your Check Book"! Meaning that if you see it, you probably will find a way to buy it. I have yet to set a pilot down in front of the GX series GPS's and not sell one and the main reason is the nice display. It's that good! Don't believe me? Stop by and check it out! J No doubt within time someone else will have a better display in the GX60 price range but not today. There is a photocell in the upper left corner that dims the unit when needed. I found the GX60 display was very readable in just about any lighting condition. On purpose I had the sun shine directly on the display during flight and it still looked great. We have neon all our our display area and at times the neon would freak out the display out BUT I don't know of any aircraft that has 60 cycle neon running through it.
MOVING MAP The moving map portion of the GX60 can be viewed either in full screen map or map and navigation information. In either moving map position, you can easily display a route line. This draws a line from where you are at (the aircraft is on top of the line) to the waypoint you are going to. It's so easy to fly, just keep the aircraft on the line until you get to your waypoint, look down and land! Deselecting it can turn off the route line but I never found a reason to turn the line off. If you get off course, you can either turn to correct or press the "Direct" button and draw a new line for where you are. Either map screen shows special use airspace (SUA), VORs, NDBs, ADF, Intersections, user defined waypoints and of course airports. The waypoint ID is in the top left corner on the full screen map, bearing to the waypoint is in the top right portion of the screen, map scale on the lower left and distance to the waypoint on the bottom right. You do not need a CDI because of the course line. . The map scaling choices are from .5 to 250 miles. There is an "auto range" feature that will scale the map so the "TO" is always at the top of the display until you pass over the waypoint. I didn't find this feature anything to get excited about. I prefer deciding on my own scaling. The scaling depends on how much data you get on the screen. In some areas very little would show up on the 100 mile range but in areas such as LAX, the 100 mile range would be so cluttered that it's useless. In a case such as this, you would need to change to a small scale. Of course you can "declutter" the screen and we will discuss this later. In the navigation and map screen, one half the screen shows the moving map and the other shows the navigation information. The navigation information consists of the waypoint ID, distance to the waypont, ground speed, track, bearing, cross track error, and map scale. Even in this mode the moving map is easy to read and interpret. The route line is not drawn for DME Arcs or procedure turns. You can orient the map by North up, Desired track up or Track up. I really like the moving map in the GX60. Even a Mr. Magoo like myself can easily read it.
SMART KEYS Probably the best feature IIMorrow incorporated in the GX series is the "Smart Keys" As with any moving map, you can easily get more data on the screen than you can possibly read. Hears how the "Smart Key" works. Let's say you push the "APT" smart key. At that time, the icon for the airports will show up on the screen along with the airport three-letter identifier. You can display VORs, NDBs, ADFs, Intersections, and User defined fixes should you desire. Now press the "APT" smart button again and the three-letter airport identifier will disappear. Press this button again and the airport icon will go away. You can do this with any of the smart keys mentioned above. Using the smart keys, you can declutter the screen in seconds. Try that with just about any other GPS and you will find you will have to go into "sub-menus" which can take a lot of time while flying, plus pull the manual out just to turn off fixes. To date, no other manufacturer comes close to the "Smart Key" feature the GX series has. Special use airspace can never be taken off the moving for obvious reasons. I just love this no brainer feature!
DATABASE The GX60 database contains airports, VORs, NDBs, Intersections and user defined fixes. Airport information shows ID, facility name, state and country, bearing and distance from/to present position, communication frequencies, airport type, elevation, fuel available, runway length, surface type and lighting. Approach information is available also along with sunrise/sunset times. Another neat feature is the "Comments" section in the information page. Here you can put in a note such as "Taxi phone 805-928-3601" or anything else you may want to remember about this fix. Other fixes will display about the same information. The database is easy to use and full of features, another real plus with this unit.
NAVIGATION Now for the hard part! How do you select a place to go? Easy my dear Mr. Watson! Press the "Direct" button, turn the small knob to select the type of waypoint (airport, VOR, NDB, INT, USER). Now turn the "small" knob to change the flashing character to the desired character. Now change the character with the "BIG" knob to the next space. Change the character with the small knob. Continue until you get the identifier you desire. Now press "Enter". It's now a done deal! Yes folks, for calling up an identifier this is as simple as it comes. The problem I have with customers is they seem to think that calling up a waypoint should be much harder than it is, especially the pilots that have operated other types of GPS. There is a button "NRST". This button brings up the nearest 20 airports, VOR, NDB, INT, USER and (SUA) starting with the closest. At that point you can press "INFO" and find out just about anything about the fix you desire. Room for 30 flight plans with 20 legs each can be stored in the GX60. The flight plan mode is easy to use and update if required.
START UP During start up the GX60 will complete an IFR output test if the unit is installed for IFR. A host of other internal checks are completed at the same time. This is a FAA requirement for IFR certification. It takes the unit a minute or so to go through the complete procedure but you can press the "skip" key and by-pass all of this. During the start up mode you can select the "Simulator" mode. This allows you to basically fly the GX60 from home! All you need is a 12Vdc-power supply and connector. I found this to be very helpful in learning all the details of the GX60. Learning to use an IFR GPS should be done on the ground, not in the air. During the approach is not the time to read the operators manual. The manual is excellent and is superior to most. It's written in English that is easy to understand along with clear pictures. The operator's manual has 282 pages and the last page tells something on how to navigate to the Big Dipper and Polaris. I doubt my Cessna would make such a trip. The reason this manual is larger than the GX55's is because of the IFR use and the VHF com. To be honest, if it wasn't for the IFR portion of the GX60, a manual wouldn't be needed; it's that easy to operate.
IFR OPERATION This is probably what you are most interested in. Just installing a GX60 in your aircraft does not make your aircraft IFR/GPS. You need some other pieces of equipment to work with the GX60. First you will need an annunciator panel with the required FAA displays such as "hold" "OBS" and other things. You will need a TSOed indicator that will accept left/right information along with flag inputs. An encoder with a serial output must be in the aircraft and connected to the GX60. A completed 337 form, weight and balance plus a flight manual supplement. This translates into a lot of dollars, but this is the wave of the future. My first GPS approach with the GX60 was a "crash and burn" approach. Of course I practiced in VFR conditions with an observer but I had to struggle through the approach. Days later after reading the manual "again" I found the approach was much easier, especially if the approach was "Cleared as published" or "Vector to final". IIMorrow has incorporated a "Vector to final" operation that really made the approach easier than most units. Now I was beginning to feel somewhat comfortable with the unit, and things got better! IIMorrow came out with a flight Simulator CD for the GX60 so you can practice flying the GX60 from your PC! With the GX simulator I got familiar with the IFR operations of the GX60. After a few hours with the simulator, I feel very comfortable with the GX60. The CD will make it easy for instructors to teach this unit and for us pilots to know how to safely use the GX60. In fact the CD is so good, that I will not sell/install a GX60 unless the owner purchases and agrees to use the CD simulator before we complete the installation. I intentionally didn't go into the operation of the GX60 during the approach mode because I want you to learn the operation while using the CD. I don't know any other manufacturer that has a training CD for their GPS use during approaches. This should make it an attractive candidate for flight schools to install in their aircraft because training is available.
IN SUMMARY This is an easy to operate GPS. I found that I could learn how to use the GX60 during the approach phase with a lot of studying but found flying the new CD Simulator cut frustrations and taught me everything about operating the GX60 in the approach mode in far less time. I've installed every major brand of IFR GPS units and flown them all. In my opinion the GX60 is without doubt the easiest to operate either VFR or IFR. The CD Simulator is the best GPS training tool on the market today. It comes with a generic flight manual supplement and my FAA likes the way it's designed. This cuts my time doing the paperwork for IFR and your cost! Only had two problems with my first install. I pulled the com circuit breaker to the GX60 during flight. It took the unit about five minutes before a warning message appeared on the screen telling me I had a com failure. Everything looked normal during this time but of course the com didn't work. We also are having problems interfacing the GX60 with the Shadin Diga-Data Flow. I don't know if it's an IIMorrow or Shadin problem but both companies are working with me to solve this. Any other serial input seems to work great but the Shadin?? List price for the GX60 is $5,995.00 with the annunciator. For the money, this is as good as it gets!