The Garmin Perspective in Cirrus Aircraft

by HPA · January 26, 2012

A New Perspective

By Hank Gibson, CFI, CFII, MEI


Garmin Perspective


New Cirrus aircraft equipped with the Garmin Perspective avionics suite are a pilot’s dream. All parties involved got this one right. Gone are the days when general aviation pilots have to twist knobs to select an airport identifier. In comes the Garmin Control Unit (GCU) with a complete keyboard which saves time and frustration. Most of the knobs are gone off the MFD, now repositioned on the GCU for easier access. Even the avionics panel is streamlined. I’m getting ahead of myself, though. Let us start with the PFD and analyze the whole setup.


Even though it is optional, the thing that makes me giddy about the Cirrus Perspective is the synthetic vision. For those of you unfamiliar with synthetic vision in aircraft (where have you been?), it is a 3-D terrain display on the PFD (see picture below). The goal is to better enhance single pilot resource management by giving the single pilot more resources. It goes without saying that synthetic vision is only to be used as a reference, not the sole means of terrain avoidance.

Garmin Perspective Synthetic Vision

Other aircraft now show up on the PFD as well. The system is a Traffic Avoidance System (TAS), instead of a TIS (Traffic Information System), but it isn’t as accurate as a TCAS, so Cirrus states other aircraft still need to be acquired visually. The information is still based off of transponder signals.

Something that Garmin simplified with the avionics was taking off the navigation frequencies from the upper left hand corner of the PFD. The Nav frequencies are now only on the left side of the MFD while the Com frequencies are only on the upper right side of the PFD. Kudos to Cirrus on this change. Students often get confused with the redundant frequencies on each display, so only having one Com and one Nav frequency bar lessens the confusion.



The Perspective Avionics MFD is extremely simplified. Looking at other Garmin 1000 aircraft, all the knobs from the PFD were mirrored on the MFD. Now, all the knobs and buttons (FMS knob, range knob, Com and Nav selector knobs, the direct to button, the procedures button, etc.) have been moved to the GCU, which is located on a center console, almost directly below the MFD. The soft keys all still remain under the MFD, but most everything else is on the GCU now.

Engine Page

The engine page on a Cirrus just makes me happy. Being an old school steam gauge fan, I love the way the aircraft company did the engine gauges because they are actually gauges, at least on the engine page. On the left side of the MFD on the map page, the gauges are still all there in the typical Garmin setup. But, when the engine soft key is pressed, the engine page comes up and covers the whole display, showing RPM, manifold pressure, fuel flow, oil pressure, and oil temperature all in a traditional gauge format. Makes me smile just thinking about it.

The Center Console

The GCU is positioned almost directly below the MFD on the top of the center console. The GFC 700 autopilot, no longer next to either of the Garmin Display Units, is positioned directly below the GCU for easier accessibility. Below that is the avionics panel. As with older Cirrus aircraft, the throttle, mixture, fuel pump, fuel gauges, and fuel selector are between the seats.


As I stated earlier, the GCU streamlines operations. Since there is a keyboard now, the pilot no longer has to twist the FMS knob fifteen different times to set in a flight plan. All the FMS knob is used for now is what it should be used for: scrolling between pages and use as a cursor when needed. Everything else can be done on the GCU’s keyboard. This makes for easier teaching and learning, and much less pressing of the wrong buttons!

If you haven’t had a chance to, go stick your head inside a Cirrus with the Garmin Perspective Avionics Suite. If you are familiar with the G1000, you’ll pick up the system pretty easily and realize how much easier life can be. You’ll feel like a corporate jet jock in no time.

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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