Technology and radios seem to be obvious partners, don’t they? In the old days of a few round dials to help a pilot operate his flying machine, the comm radio was perhaps the highest technology to enter the cockpit. Radios continued to improve over the years but much of the innovation was seen in the faceplate or occurred in transceiver functions. We did get digital readouts and flip-flop frequency change options, but otherwise radio have seemed rather static … frozen in time, while GPS, moving maps, EFISs, EMSs, PFDs, MFDs, and more swept past with wave after wave of innovation. Compared to Dynon’s SkyView or Garmin’s 796, radios were looking long in the tooth.
Thanks to recent announcements from top LSA radio supplier, Garmin, the radio product line is changing. The ubiquitous SL30 and SL40 that kept Sport Pilots talking to control towers have been favorite panel friends to many a Sport Pilot. The good news for those attached to their beloved SL40, according to Garmin handheld and Experimental line manager Tim Casey, is that they won’t be discontinued for at least another 6-8 months.
Still, old gives way to the new. The GTR is the SL40 replacement being a communications radio while the GNC replaces the SL30 with comm and nav functions. Besides the name, what else is new? For one, a power boost comes with the new GTR and GNC models. From the 8 watts of the SL30 and SL40, the new radios have 10 watts bringing increased range, or for extra money, 16 watts though the latter is aimed primarily at high altitude flight. For European buyers, the new radios can offer 8.33 kHz spacing (at additional cost; see below) while U.S. pilots can stick with 25 kHz spacing as FAA has no present plans to divide further.
The bigger deal to me is where new technology adds to nav/comm functions. Garmin says the new ideas “have never been seen before in stand-alone comm or nav/comm radios.” With the GTR and GNC, a unique frequency database makes it easy to find frequencies for an airport or facility by entering the location name or station ID. If you tune manually, a reverse-lookup function will automatically provide the navaid or airport identifier.
Pilots can also find the nearest airport, area control center, flight service station, or weather frequencies. Even better, both new radios automatically store your 20 most recently used frequencies. Best of all, the new radios will store up to 15 most-used frequencies such as the pilot’s home airport or other frequently visited destinations. Thanks for listening, Garmin; many pilots will love this last feature.
Garmin’s GTR 225 with 10 watts of transmit power and 25 kHz frequency spacing retails for $1,995. Should you need 8.33 kHz spacing, add $1,000. For those who may want navigation and VOR/ILS glideslope functions, the GNC 255A also has 10 watts of transmit power and includes 8.33 kHz spacing for $4,495. I suspect most LSA owners used to the trusty SL40 will go for the GTR 225. If you don’t order with your new LSA, lots of vendors also sell the entire Garmin line. For more info on Garmin’s sport line, click to the company’s new experimental/LSA website.