Using the Garmin G1000 Glass Cockpit

By Doug Horton *

An exciting addition to FSX is the “glass panel cockpit” feature, which is furnished with three aircraft in the Deluxe version:

  • Cessna Skyhawk SP Model 172

  • Mooney M20M “Bravo”

  • Beechcraft Baron 58

The control panels of these aircraft feature the G1000® system, which Garmin indicates “is a completely integrated avionics system designed to fit a broad range of aircraft models. It’s an all-glass flight deck that presents flight instrumentation, location, navigation, communication, and identification data on large-format, high-resolution displays. The digital data presentation on the G1000 puts all flight-critical information literally at the pilot’s fingertips.” Here are some of the advertised features of the real G1000 system:

  • Large-format LCD displays — interchangeable for use as Primary Flight Display (PFD) or Multi-Function Display (MFD).

  • Available with two- or three-axis flight control (autopilot) system

  • Selectable PFD view features

  • Moving-map MFD with engine/fuel gauge cluster and checklist capability

  • Built-in Comm and Nav communications transceivers

  • Mode-S transponders with Traffic Information Service (TIS)

  • Worldwide terrain and obstacle database

  • Interfaces for terrain, traffic, lightning and weather sensors

  • Ethernet connectivity for updates

Accompanying screenshots show both 2D and virtual cockpit control panel views. In the 2D view, the MFD is available as a sub-panel, which is displayed by clicking the GPS icon or by pressing Shift+3 for all three aircraft furnished with the G1000.

Baron 2D panel view, showing G1000 PFD on left,
with MFD and AP sub-panels open

The FSX Baron virtual cockpit shows both
G1000 PFD and MFD displays.

According to the FSX Learning Center, “the G1000 in Flight Simulator doesn’t model all of the G1000’s features (and new features are being added all the time). It does however model most of what a typical private pilot would use on a typical VFR or IFR flight (using an early model G1000).” Read the G1000 description in the Learning Center, or for easier reading, point your browser to (FSX)\FSWeb\LearningCenter\Navigation\UsingTheG1000.htm.

Tutorial Flight
A tutorial flight will demonstrate many features of the G1000. From the FSX Free Flight interface, select the Beechcraft Baron 58 with G1000, morning departure time, clear weather, and Concord (California) Buchanan (KCCR) Airport, with Parking 9 - Ramp GA Small, for a short taxi to Runway 1L or 1R.

Initial setup of G1000 tutorial flight

Employ the FSX Flight Planner to create a flight plan from KCCR to Truckee-Tahoe Airport (KTRK). Plan the flight for VFR along low altitude airways. After clicking Find to generate a plan, edit the plan to delete the intersections shown, and drag the track line to the HNW VOR to insert this waypoint into the plan. Accept altitude 13,500, which is the Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA) for the airways along which we’ll fly.

The tutorial flight will depart from the San Francisco Bay area, pass slightly south of Sacramento, fly over the agricultural San Joaquin Valley, climb to 13,500 feet over the scenic Sierra Nevada Mountains, then descend and land at Truckee-Tahoe airport at elevation 5,900 feet MSL. Use the FSX ATC feature if you wish, as KCCR is a towered airport, and after departure, contact Travis Departure and request Flight Following.

VFR flight plan from Concord Buchanan (KCCR)
to  Truckee-Tahoe (KTRK)

Communications and Navigation Radios
The G1000 includes two VHF communications and navigation radios, which are highlighted by yellow ovals in the accompanying image – Nav on the left and Comm on the right side of the PFD and MFD. Each radio has an active and standby frequency controlled by the key with a double-ended arrow. The active frequency for the Nav radios is on the right, while the active frequency for Comm radios is on the left – in each case, the active frequency is that which is closer to the center of the PFD or MFD.

The green tuning boxes are controlled by clicking at the bottom of the respective tuning knobs, when the mouse cursor changes to a hand. You’ll see the box move up and down between the Nav1 and Nav2 or Comm1 and Comm2. The whole and fractional frequencies are changed up or down by clicking – and + signs that appear when the mouse cursor is moved around the perimeter of the knobs. The upper set (large knob) of – and + signs controls the whole-number frequencies and the lower set (small knob) controls the fractional frequencies.

Nav and Comm radio contntrols are highlighteted on the G1000 PFD

The transponder communications function is also included in the G1000. The transponder code defaults to 1200, which is the standard code for VFR flights in the U.S. If you’re flying IFR, you’ll need to set the “squawk” code assigned by ATC, and in real flying, it’s not unusual for ATC to change the assigned code during a flight.

The current transponder setting and status are displayed at the lower right of the PFD

To set or change the transponder code, press the XPDR softkey on the PFD, then press either the VFR softkey to change the code to 1200, or CODE to set an assigned number. The latter action will change the eight leftmost softkeys to the digits 0 through 7. You then press the assigned digits in order, though we’ll not do this now, so we retain the default 1200 code. Press the BACK softkey twice to return to the default display.

Pressing the XPDR softkey then the CODE soft key allows
viewing and setting of the Transponder frequency

Next to the displayed transponder code, the indication ON appears in green. This does not seem to change in the FSX version of the G1000, though in the real version, the user can select ON, STANDBY, ALT, and IDENT by softkey after pressing the XPDR softkey. Additionally in the real version, the indication automatically reads GND when the aircraft is on the ground and ALT when the aircraft is airborne. Also in the real version, a small R appears periodically in the right-hand side of the transponder display whenever the transponder replies to an interrogation by ground equipment.

Autopilot heading and altitude settings are controlled by respective HDG and ALT knobs on the left sides of the G1000 PFD and MFD. Pressing the HDG knob, by clicking under the knob, synchronizes the heading setting with the aircraft’s present heading – moving the HSI heading bug to the current heading. The ALT knob is a dual knob, and careful positioning of the mouse cursor will reveal – and + signs for the inner and outer knobs, corresponding to hundreds and thousands, respectively.
Operating the HDG and ALT knobs is intuitive, but where are the other autopilot controls? Surprisingly, we need to press Shift+2 to pop up the familiar Bendix King autopilot panel from previous FS versions, as shown in the 2D panel screenshot on the first page. This is an unfortunate departure of the FSX G1000 from reality, as the real G1000 autopilot (Automatic Flight Control System) keys are located between the HDG and ALT knobs onthe left side of the real MFD, as shown in the accompanying image.


Autopilot (AFCS) keys on left side of real G1000 MFD

Next, we must locate the NAV/GPS switch. In the Beechcraft Baron 58, it’s located on the electrical panel, which is displayed with Shift+7, and in the Mooney Bravo, it’s Shift+8. A NAV/GPS switch for the G1000 version of the FSX Cessna 172 seems to be missing from the main panel and all subpanels – an apparent bug.

Nav/GPS switch on Beechcraft Baron 58 electrical panel

Before takeoff VFR from KCCR, take the following steps:

1. On the electrical sub-panel, set the NAV/GPS switch to GPS.
2. On the G1000 PFD or MFD, use the ALT knob to set the initial altitude to 5500 feet (odd-numbered altitude for easterly course plus 500 for VFR). You’ll see the altitude preset number change on the PFD above the altitude tape.
3. On the G1000 PFD, press the CDI softkey until the HSI indicates GPS ENR. The HSI indication and the needle graphic will change color to pink.
The CDI softkey controls the heading reference for the HSI

Go ahead with takeoff, and when airborne, press the autopilot AP, NAV, and HDG keys to engage the autopilot and cause the G1000 to follow the flight plan and climb the plane to 5500 feet. Press Shift+4 on the 2D panel to monitor flight progress on the MFD. Set its range display to 80 nm, then pause the flight after passing the Sacramento (SAC) VOR and the KMHR airport.

After passing KMHR, reset the autopilot altitude to 13,500 feet. Another feature of the G1000 is the capability to display terrain on the MFD, as shown in the accompanying image, with user aircraft just past the KMHR airport. To change from the black background to terrain background, press the MAP softkey, then press again after this softkey changes to TOPO.

Pressing the MAP, then TOPO softkey changes MFD display background to terrain

“Going Direct” on a GPS flight plan. Though FSX’s ATC feature does not provide for skipping waypoints and going direct to a subsequent waypoint on a flight plan, this action is very realistic in real flying, in order to “cut corners” on the route. Suppose for example, that just before the Sacramento (SAC) VOR, while enroute to the Hangtown (HNW) VOR, the flight is “cleared direct Squaw Valley (SWR) VOR.” This clearance might be issued by real ATC, with or without your requesting it. Again, we can’t obtain this clearance with the FSX ATC, but let’s presume that it’s possible (and it is possible with the Radar Contact add-on program). With this clearance, we can advance the active leg of the flight plan, by taking the following actions with the Garmin G1000:

1. Press the PFD’s FPL key, which will display the active Flight Plan page near the lower right corner of the PFD display.
Press the FPL key to display the flight plan, and push the FMS button to display the cursor.

2. Click the lower center of the FMS knob, with the mouse cursor as a hand, which will illuminate the cursor box, which highlights KCCR as the first entry in the flight plan.

3. Simulate rotating the large FMS knob clockwise by clicking the + sign, which will cause the cursor to move downward. Continue until KTRK is highlighted. Notice that we’re highlighting the waypoint (in this case the destination airport) beyond where we’re going direct.

4. Press the PFD’s MENU key, which pops up the Activate page.
Press the MENU key to pop up the Activate page,
then press ENT to activate

5. Activate the SWR -> KTRK leg by pressing the ENT key.

Note that if we activated the HNW -> SWR leg, we’d still fly through the HNW VOR, so the effect of advancing to this flight plan leg won’t take us directly to SWR. Instead, we need to activate the SWR -> KTRK leg.

The effect of advancing the flight plan to skip the HNW VOR and fly instead to the SWR VOR is that the G1000 turns the now-active leg red on the flight plan display and should cause the aircraft to fly a great circle route from the point of activation to the “direct to” waypoint – the SWR VOR. With the current short flight plan, the aircraft seems to continue flying the original route through HWN, even though the display at the top of the PFD shows KTRK as the next destination and the flight plan display shows SWR -> KTRK as the active leg. On the other hand, trying this on a flight plan from Florida to California, and “going direct” to a waypoint about 2/3 of the way along the route, the G1000 deviates from the original track (which is still displayed on the MFD in white) and appears to fly a great circle route to the “direct” waypoint.

Though the flight plan we’ve loaded uses VOR-to-VOR navigation, the G1000 is not navigating by using VOR radio signals. The VORs and related airways appear on the G1000 display, along with other contents of the G1000 navigation database. The original route was “direct” from the SAC VOR to the HNW VOR, then along V338 to the SWR VOR. The new route is along the V6 airway from the SAC VOR to the SWR VOR.

You can open Map View, press the V icon to display the Victor airways, then move the mouse over the route legs to pop up a box that displays the airway name and the Minimum Enroute Altitude (MEA) for flying the route on an IFR flight plan. We’ve chosen to fly along airways as part of the tutorial, though aircraft with IFR certified GPS often fly entire flight plans “direct.”

Pause the flight when over the SWR VOR. Altitude should be 13,500.

GPS Approaches with the G1000
Surprisingly, the FSX Learning Center description of the G1000 does not contain the word “approach,” though use of GPS approaches is increasing as GPS equipment use in aircraft increases. There is information in the Learning Center section “Using the GPS” that describes the approach functions in the Garmin GPS 295 and 500 instruments, and the approach functions of the G1000 are similar.

GPS instruments such as the G1000 can be used for other than GPS approaches, and the G1000 database in FSX includes most worldwide instrument approaches, whether GPS, ILS, VOR, NDB, LOC, etc. The G1000 in real aircraft is “certified” for pilot navigation and guidance for all types of approaches, provided the database is maintained with periodic updates, which must typically be downloaded and applied every 28 days.

Generally, only horizontal guidance is available for flying approaches with GPS instruments, though vertical guidance may be available with certain GPS instruments equipped with Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) capability, in conjunction with designated Lateral Precision with Vertical guidance (LPV) approaches. WAAS is a system of satellites and ground stations that provide GPS signal corrections, which improve position accuracy up to about five times better than without WAAS, resulting in better than three meters 95 percent of the time. Currently, WAAS is available only in the United States.

WAAS ground stations and satellites provide
improved GPS accuracy in the U.S.

Continuing the tutorial flight from the paused position over the SWR VOR and Sierra Nevada Mountains at 13,500 feet, assume we see clouds ahead. On a real flight, we’d call ATC and request an IFR clearance for an instrument approach to KTRK. Ignoring the clearance and ATC communications for this tutorial, we’ll discover the instrument approach features of the G1000.

Press Shift+3 and Shift+4 to display popup versions of the PFD and MFD side by side. On the right-hand sides of both, press the PROC keys. You’ll see approach information pages pop up on both the PFD and MFD, though the displays are different. With the Select Approach line blinking in both displays, press the ENT key on both. On the PFD page, you’ll see options for both the GPS 19 and RNAV-A GPS approaches. On the MFD page, the display will pop up a page with the GPS 19 approach only. If we select the GPS 19 approach on the PFD by pressing ENT again, we’ll see a page pop up that offers approach transition by Vectors, FMG (VOR), or KEWFI (intersection). The MFD page initially offers approach transition only by Vectors. The same approach and transition options are available on the MFD as the PFD, though a few more key and knob operations are needed with the MFD and it’s slightly less intuitive, so let’s close the approach pages on the MFD by pressing the CLR key, and then focus on the PFD approach pages.
MFD approach page showing Vectors transition
for KTRK GPS 19 approach

To determine what the transition options look like geographically, we need to consult the effective instrument approach chart for the KTRK GPS 19 approach, as shown in the accompanying image.
The approach chart is oriented with north at the top, and we’re approaching from the southwest. If vectored by ATC, we might be cleared to AWEGA or OPOJI, but KEWFI is labeled IAF for Initial Approach Fix. Let’s assume that ATC clears us to the KEWFI intersection at altitude 13,000 feet, then based on the altitudes shown on the approach horizontal and vertical profiles, we’ll likely be cleared to descend to 10,800 at KEWFI.
NOA Instrument Approach Chart for KTRK GPS RWY 19

With the PFD approach transition page open, click the + sign twice on the outer FMS knob to move the cursor to KEWFI, then press ENT to select this transition. Next, we’ll see the Load or Activate page, with the cursor blinking on the Load command by default.
Click the + sign on the outer FMS knob to move the cursor from Load to Activate, then press the ENT key to activate the GPS 19 approach with KEWFI transition.

With the approach activated, the waypoint display at the top of the PFD displays KEWFI and the autopilot will provide heading guidance to KEWFI. The flight plan display on both the PFD and MFD now shows the approach waypoints: KEWFI, AWEGA, OPOJI, and RW19. The remaining waypoints, 6300Ft, TRUCK, and FMG, are for the missed approach procedure.
PFD approach page showing three available
transitions for KTRK GPS 19 approach
PFD “select approach” with cursor moved to Activate
MFD display of approach and missed approach waypoints

Continue the flight using the G1000 for horizontal guidance, while you change altitude in accordance with the vertical profile of the approach chart. The descent will be fairly steep, and it’s important to slow to approach speed of about 100 knots. Extend full flaps on final
approach. Continue descending to the Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA) of 7340 feet. Then with the runway in sight, continue the landing. Taxi to parking and then reflect on what you’ve learned about operating the G1000 glass cockpit.
At Minimum Des cent Altitude for GP S RWY 19 approach at KTRK

* Article published under Computer Pilot license.  © Computer Pilot






(©) 2000-2008 By Marco Martini