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Flying the GARMIN GPSMAP296

Well, it is time for another review and this time it is the Garmin GPSMAP296. I have had the Garmin for awhile now and before I decided to write another article, I wanted to put the new GPS through a complete test. Well I have done that and now its time to share the results.

The GPSMAP 296 is a combination of other Garmin aviation handhelds like the GPSMAP 196 and GPSMAP 295. It’s kind of like having the best of both worlds. Garmin added a few additional features like a terrain database, sectional chart-like topographic data, a built-in obstacle database, and a transparent navigation arc view for course, speed, and distance information. The GPSMAP 296 also features USB data transfer, faster processing speed, and a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack which really does last a very long time. I have flown over 5 hrs with this unit on one charge. An automatic logbook also calculates your flight time and automatically records departure and arrival locations, and if you use Garmin’s free logbook software-Flight Book-this feature makes light work of maintaining your logbook. Your flight information will be stored in the unit and can be downloaded to this exclusive Flight book software at any time.

This new unit has three modes of operation but I only use the first two. Mode one is Aviation and the other is Automotive. In Automotive Mode, the unit will provide automatic route generation, turn-by-turn guidance, and voice prompts, plus a built-in worldwide database of borders and major cities. If you purchase the optional Auto Kit which I did, it includes two mounts, a cigarette-lighter adapter with speaker output, a 128-MB data card, and a Map Source City Select CD-ROM for detailed mapping and address look-up capabilities. We use this mode when we go somewhere we have never been. Looking for a restaurant? Just push the nearest button and select RESTURANTS and the GPSMAP296 will display the nearest 25 locations based on where you are at the time. Select the one you want and it will give you turn by turn directions with Voice Prompts. This work really great.

In Aviation Mode it’s a dream. Remember this unit is not IFR certified but I have used it during three ILS approaches and one VOR approach and it worked perfect. The unit does not have the complete approach in the database but the NAV database has all of the fixes and the step downs. So, as you are getting vectors to the FAF, you select the airport and in the approach tab select the approach and select VECTORS. It will draw a line on the map page from the Missed approach point through the FAF. You then navigate the line and if you use the HSI screen, the CDI will display course information and vertical guidance just like an HSI. Works great and is very accurate. The route navigation is fantastic. The unit can be programmed using Jeppesen Flight STAR or other flight planning software or you can program a route in the route window. Once you activate your route, just follow the line on the map or use the HIS. The unit displays the route, waypoints, SUA’s control zones and all the classes of airspace. It will give you warnings if you get too close. On the map page you can select to have a course arc displayed which will show you a heading bug and course to steer information which helps to stay out of un-wanted airspace and get you back on course.

The best feature is the terrain mapping and pop-up terrain window, along with the obstacle database. I flew my Sport through the Tehachapi Pass from Mojave to Bakersfield at 800 feet above the pass. The unit has a look ahead feature. It is set for a 2 minute look ahead and a 500ft warning and 1000ft caution warning. As I approach the pass, I received a caution warning on the MAP page of terrain. This told me that within 2 minutes of my location at my current ground speed and heading, there was terrain that was within the 1000ft caution buffer. I did not change my altitude and kept going. Not long after that I received a RED terrain caution warning which told me that there was terrain with 2 minutes that was within the 500ft caution buffer.

Now in VFR if you were flying and could not see this mountain coming at you then you need to get glasses, but if you are on an IFR flight plan and at the MEA or below (I know no one has ever done that right?) This could be a handy feature. Also the obstacle database works the same way. To really put this to the test, I went to the Jeppesen web site and updated my obstacle database with the current file. Flying through the same pass as above, I wanted to see just how accurate the obstacle database was. Here in Mojave we have thousands of wind mills along the mountain range. So here I go in the Sport aimed right at the wind mills. Sure enough, I started receiving obstacle warning within the prescribed buffers. The display showed the windmills and there location to my flight path. FANTASTIC. This could be a good feature on approach to landing if you were below the glide slope (Never done that before either I suppose?).

To see how I mounted the GPS to my instrument panel go to the Photo Gallery under Member Photos and look for N6993R new Interior and Paint. I have a picture of the GPS and the support mount. I purchased the Mount from RAM and bought the additional power connector from Garmin. The power connector lets you use ships power for the unit. If power fails, the unit will switch over to battery automatically. The power connector also has provisions for external data such as the FS-450 fuel computer or other items. Mine is hooked to the FS-450. Now my FS-450 gives me the fuel required to the next waypoint, how much fuel will be remaining at that waypoint, Fuel to destination and miles/Gal being used. Just like the big boys. I rate this unit as a 5 out of 5. If you plan to purchase one now is the time. The price is coming down. I have seen these units selling for under $1,400 at various avionics stores. About the same when the GPSMAP295 came out. Enjoy. Jeff Bryant Southwest Regional Director Beech Aero Club

Submitted by Jeff Bryant


Thank you for adding to the resources available for your Fellow BAC Members.