Common G1000 Mistakes, Part I

by HPA · September 16, 2011

D’Oh! That Wasn’t the Right Button!

By Hank Gibson, CFI, CFII, MEI

We have all been that pilot. Whether it is trying to load an approach or just set the altimeter, when we get in a rush, it seems the wrong button is always pushed. That can be frustrating when a flight plan is all programmed in, then it disappears. In my instructing career, I’ve seen my students do it many times. It never results in a safety issue, but it takes a little bit of time to get back to where they wanted to be. Over the next two articles, I will be addressing ten common G1000 mistakes. Here are the first five.

The Load Approach Button

There are two ways to load an approach on a G1000. The first is using the procedure button on the PFD. It is not very fast and there is a lot of button pushing and knob turning.

The second way is a little more streamlined and there is a lot less button pushing. Using the big FMS knob on the MFD, go to the nearest chapter. The nearest airport list is in the top right hand corner. Then, just simply press the FMS knob to bring up the cursor. Using the larger knob, scroll the cursor down to the desired airport.

Now what? The approaches for that airport will be in the last box underneath the airport list. The way to get to the approaches is just press the APCH soft key. The big FMS knob is then used to scroll to the desired approach.

STOP!!!! The normal response would be to press the enter button once the approach is highlighted, right? NO!!!! Don’t do it!!!! Pressing enter here will move the cursor down to the next approach. The proper button to press will be the LOAD APCH soft key. That will load the approach into the G1000.

Suspending the G1000 for GPS Holds

How often does a pilot receive a hold? Believe it or not, it does happen in general aviation sometimes! A lot of holds that I have heard about happen to airline captains who are waiting out storms, but I myself have received a few holds on approaches when the destination airport is pretty busy and I can’t get sequenced in (twice in the last week actually).

Now, on the G1000, when a pilot is told to hold at a specific fix and the hold is not part of an approach, all that needs to be done is pressing the OBS soft key, then use the course knob to situate the hold. If the hold is part of an approach, the right sequence of buttons needs to be pressed in order for this to work. Once the hold is entered, if nothing else is done, the G1000 will automatically sequence to the next leg of the approach. A lot of pilots forget the GPS does this, so when the flight plan shows they are supposed to be on the approach and they want to make another turn in holding, minor freak outs take place.

Again, this is another simple fix. Whenever the hold is entered, there is a soft key underneath the HSI that says SUSP. That is the suspend soft key. Once the pilot enters the hold, press the suspend soft key and the GPS will basically go on hold. Once he is done holding, then all he has to do is press the soft key again and the GPS will cycle over to the next leg of the approach.

Identifying Navigation Frequencies

Most experienced G1000 pilots don’t have much trouble with this one. Beginners, though, have difficulty remembering how to identify VOR and ILS frequencies. The sequence is actually quite simple. Once the pilot has the frequency tuned in on the NAV radio, make sure the blue frequency selector box is on the proper radio. Once this has taken place, just simply press the VOL button for the NAV radio, press the appropriate NAV radio button on the audio panel (NAV1 or NAV2), then the Morse code will be broadcast through the headsets.

Setting the Altimeter

This may sound like a simple thing, setting the altimeter, but people still mess it up, especially if the pilot hasn’t been in a G1000 in a little while and he is in a rush. What I have seen most people do is start turning the knob that says ALT on it, incorrectly thinking this is the altimeter. After a few twists, he will usually figure out that is not the right knob! The proper knob is the BARO knob, about halfway up the right sides of the PFD and MFD. Remember, it’s the big outer knob, not the triangular shaped course knob.

When to Push Enter

The mighty enter button, the button that does not often get pressed when it should be. The mistakes I have seen are when students are attempting to enter something into the GPS or the flight plan and they push the FMS knob instead of the enter button. This can be very frustrating when all the knob turning he just did disappears.

Here is an easy way to remember which button to press. The FMS knob only turns the cursor on and off. The enter button saves things into the G1000. So, whenever the pilot wants the G1000 to save a flight plan or an airport, press the enter button, not the FMS knob (exception: loading an approach. Reference the first section of this article).

Here is a start on streamlining G1000 usability. I will present another five items in the next article that will further enhance a pilot’s ability to work the G1000 quickly and effectively.

How it Started

One of my best friends in high school, (Doug Gray) was a private pilot. He offered to take me up for a flight in a 1967 Cessna 150, N6228S. We took off from Calhoun, Georgia, and he took me on a scenic tour of the area, I was hooked. I later found out that my English teacher, (Jan Haluska) was also a flight instructor and the school was offering a ground school course the next year, which he taught, along with flight training with the goal of becoming a private pilot. I managed to talk my dad into funding the training, at the time the total cost was right around $500. Cessna 150 rental rates where $12 an hour, and the 172 we used for cross country was $15 an hour including fuel.

Training Begins

It started August of 1977. The fall semester rolls around, and I am enrolled in ground school, and if memory serves me, we met twice a week. First came the paperwork for my student pilot certificate, which at the time was included with the 3rd class medical. I loved ground school, especially learning navigation, plotting courses on the sectional, again this was before iPads and GPS, so we did a lot of dead reckoning and VOR navigation for cross countries. At the end of the course, I made an 83% on the Private Pilot written exam, remember this was before we had the question-and-answer books that on future test I would consume before taking a written.

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The fun really began on August 22, 1977, it was my first flight. To my surprise we used the same Cessna 150, N6228S that my friend Doug Gray had taken me for a ride in. The Cessna 150 had a standard VFR instrument panel, with one NAV/COM, and one VOR CDI. No intercom, so no headset, at the time I didn’t know what I was missing. I didn’t get my first headset until I started my instrument training in 2003. I was a big guy, I was 6’ 4” and weighed 245 lbs. but I do not remember being uncomfortable in the 150 even with the instructor in the right seat.

First flight lasted .8 hours, and we accomplished orentation, shallow turns, stability, and effects of flight controls. Over the next few months we added steep 720’s, slow flight, stalls, turns around a point, S-turns, emergencies, landings, (short field, soft field and normal).


At this point I want to talk about a training experience that still stands out. We were close to solo and were practicing takeoffs and landings. Turning base to final Jan got very upset at the way I was cross controlling the aircraft. Cross control is when you are in, say a left turn, and use opposite rudder to line the nose up with the runway. So, he had me depart the pattern and head east to the practice area, and climbing up to 5500 feet MSL, he had me slow down to just above stalling speed, start a left shallow turn and add right rudder. As the airplane stalled I had the strangest sensation, no roller coaster has ever come close, instead of blue sky in the windscreen I was looking at brown ground, and as far as I could tell we were upside down, through the terror of the moment Jan talked me out of the spin, controls neutral, oposite rudder, pull slowly out of the dive. As we leveled off he asked me what altitude we were at, as I remember it was around 2,800 feet MSL. Then he asked me what would happen if I experenced this on base to final in the traffic pattern. The answer was obvious, I would be a pile of wreckage off the end of the runway with a very short-lived aviation career. Needless to say this cured my cross-control tendencies.

Another training event the sticks out in my mind was the first time we did takeoffs and landings at the High School runway. The runway was 1,500 feet long, not sure of the width, but it seems like we had about 5 feet on each side of the wheels when on the center line of the runway. Landing from the south you also had to go between a cutout in the trees to be able to stop in time on the runway. After getting confortable landing here every runway since seemed huge. I remember landing at Chattanooga (KCHA) on a night cross country and commenting to Jan, that I felt like I could of landed sideways on the runway, it felt that large.

Very soon after this I started wearing old shirts to all my flight lessons, the reason for this occurred on February 8, 1978. The lesson that day was stalls, takeoffs and Landing. As we were taxing back in Jan told me it was time for my first solo. I was very excited, and after some last minute advice from Jan, including watch for floating on landing the plane will be light with him not in the right seat, complete 3 takeoffs and landings to a full stop. It was a blast, and at the end of my shirt was shorter in the back because Jan cut the tail out of it signed and dated my solo [an aviation tradition]. Total flight time accumulated on the day of my solo was 18.1 hours. I was now officially a pilot with solo priveleges.

In my next article I start cross country training, when Jan decided that it would be best accomplished this in the 172. Checking out in N5970R was like moving into a 747, this started a love affair with one of my faviriote planes to date. Since this time I have flown over 900 hours in many different models of the 172 and feel like I am stepping into an old friend every time.

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