Garmin GPSMap 496 – Keep it Simple!

by HPA · September 25, 2013

Garmin GPSMap 496 – Keep it Simple!

by Brendan Boyd (Gold Seal CFI/CFII/MEI/AGI, CSIP)

Sometimes the best things in life are the simplest. In a day and age where our cockpits are so full of avionics, moving maps, radio chatter, bright lights, countless buttons, switches, circuit breakers, radar, iPads, charts… it’s easy to be dazed by a sense of information overload. It is in these situations I find the tool with the least to think about can be the most helpful. I present to you the Garmin GPSMap 496.’

GPSMap 496

Some of you out there may have crossed paths with the GPSMap 496. A small, portable GPS unit, Garmin touts the device as “the world’s most highly evolved aviation portable[s].” I’m inclined to agree. It is not often you can claim a GPS is evolved on one hand, and easy-to-use on the other. The 496 fits snuggly into that category, almost as if it invented the concepts of functionality and simplicity. Wonderfully designed, the 3.8” color screen adds immeasurably to the pilot’s situational awareness, contributing to the overall success and safety of flight. And with 10 minutes and a little know-how, you can all but master this powerful device.

Those who have flown a G1000-equipped airplane may be familiar with Garmin SafeTaxi®. In my aviation career, the first place I ever used SafeTaxi® was in a technically-advanced aircraft. However, the GPSMap 496 is right on pace with his G1000 brother. Out of the box, the 496 comes preloaded with Garmin’s SafeTaxi® data! This simple unit can be the difference between requesting a progressive taxi and navigating the pavement as if you know the airport like the back of your hand. In the worst possible scenario, the real-time taxiway diagram could prevent an inadvertent entry onto a runway, in an unfortunate situation known as a runway incursion.

GPSMap 496

In flight, the device is just as nimble and useful. Though not certified for IFR flight, a wealth of information is still provided that can enhance situational awareness. During VFR flight, the GPS helps navigate near airspaces, including an altitude proximity feature that easily warns the pilot of proximity to Class B airspace. With a valid XM subscription, it will provide the same NEXRAD information that you might find on an Avidyne MFD or G1000. Also provided are METARs, TAFs, TFRs, Lightning, Winds Aloft, and even Satellite Radio! The unit is even capable of Traffic Information System alerts when coupled with a Mode S Transponder. With a valid Jeppesen database, terrain information and nearest waypoint options are easily displayed. That’s right, the unit that appears inferior to many other avionics suites available flaunts many of the same features. Looks can be deceiving, friends, so don’t let size fool you!

GPSMap 496

GPSMap 496

Now, I know you’re all asking yourselves, “Where can I get one of these fantastic little machines?” Sadly, Garmin is no longer producing this particular product, but don’t be discouraged! Many units are available throughout the aviation community. Places like your local avionics shop or FBO may know individuals looking to sell, and I’m sure one can find almost anything on eBay! Garmin still provides support for the GPSMap 496, so if you are lucky enough to get your eager hands on one, product support is readily available. And in the cockpits of today, you may be half tempted to simply shut off the battery masters, pull out your 496, and KISS (Keep it simple, silly)!

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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