The Garmin GMA 350

by HPA · July 27, 2012

Garmin’s 3-D Audio Panel

by Hank Gibson, CSIP, Gold Seal CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI

Stick your head in a 2012 Cirrus SR22 and you’ll see the typical Garmin Perspective setup: the big, 12-inch displays, the Garmin Autopilot, and the 5 seats (4.5 really since you can only fit 2 kids and 1 adult in the back). Look a little closer and you’ll see something new on the ’12 SR22. It’s the Garmin GMA 350 Audio Panel, the audio panel modernized. What’s this 3-D audio, you ask? Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Garmin GMA 350 Audio Panel

Pilot/Passenger Volume & Grouping

At first glance, the GMA 350 looks like a normal Garmin audio panel, similar to the GMA 347. Upon closer inspection, though there are some noticeable differences. No pilot and passenger isolation keys. Only one volume knob. Two Music keys. This suddenly doesn’t look so simple anymore!

Garmin has developed what is called a 3-D audio system (note: it only works with stereo headsets, not mono). The 3-D audio system puts directions on where the audio is coming from. For example, in the pilot’s headset, if the right rear seat passenger is talking, the pilot will hear that passenger talking in his right ear and he will be able to tell the passenger is behind him. Comm 1 will come through the pilot’s left ear and Comm 2 the right. To monitor one radio and not miss a call on the other, press and hold the respective Com button to mute the incoming audio when there is incoming audio from the other radio.

How to adjust volume? Well, the GMA 350 makes individual volume much easier to control. To select a position to adjust the volume for, simply twist the outer knob on the right hand side of the audio panel. This will bring up a flashing white arrow. Simply move the arrow, or cursor, by twisting the outer knob (the larger knob) over the desired position, then use the inner, or smaller knob, to adjust the volume. The cursor must be flashing over the position desired or you might end up turning someone else’s volume up!

Let’s say the person sitting in the right seat is not a pilot, he is one of the passengers. You want his audio position to be with the rest of the passengers so you can mute them all together in case they get too rowdy. Just simply press and hold the Co-pilot key. This will group your right seat passenger under the Passenger key. If you want to allow your passengers to keep talking while you are running the radio, press and hold the Passenger key to enable muting during Com reception. To isolate anyone, press the respective position key. The white arrow above that station will disappear and they will be isolated from everyone else.

Remember on the GMA 347 how you were able to use the Com 1/2 function where the pilot listened and transmitted on Com 1 and the co-pilot listened and transmitted on Com 2? With the GMA 350, press and hold the Mic 1 and Mic 2 switches together. This activates the split comm mode.


The ’12 SR22 is chocked full of gadgets. It comes with a satellite phone and is capable of sending and receiving text messages (SMS only). Press the button with the phone and music symbol on it to activate. There are two audio jacks in the airplane, as well, to hook an iPod or MP3 player up to: one in the center console for the front seat jack and one for the rear seats. If you are flying along, jamming to a good tune, but don’t want to miss a radio call, press and hold either Mus 1 or Mus 2 to activate the muting feature. If ATC isn’t talking much to you, but a lot to everyone else, press and hold either of those two keys again and your tunes won’t get interrupted.

The GMA 350 has a special mode called Blue-Select Mode. In this mode, the pilot is able to select who to distribute the XM audio or the audio jack music to. To activate Blue-Select Mode, press the outer knob. This will bring up a blue cursor above the different positions and audio outputs. Use the outer, or larger knob, to move the blue selector over the desired output (phone/XM, Mus 1, or Mus 2), then press the keys for the pilot and passengers to either allow or not allow audio from that output into their headsets (blue selector above a position means they are hearing the audio; no selector means no audio).

Voice Recognition and Fail Safe Mode

The GMA 350 has voice recognition capabilities. On the pilot’s side control yoke, there is a Push To Command button (PTC). Push and hold this button while speaking a command and the audio panel will make the proper adjustment. You have to say the command right or it won’t do what you want. The GMA 350 Manual has a whole list of proper commands.

If anything goes terribly wrong, the pilot’s headset and mic are connected directly to Com 1. Also, if there is a stuck mic, the radio stops transmitting after 35 seconds and an annunciator flashes on the PFD.

Garmin’s latest audio panel innovation, the GMA 350, is a huge leap forward in the aviation technology arena. It may seem complex at first, but after a few flights and these instructions, you’ll be running it like a pro.

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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