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Handheld GPS for Aviation

written by: •edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 4/26/2010

GPS has a good place in the aviation industry. Though there is radar to guide pilots, most of them prefer to have their own handheld GPS for navigation. The article covers the essentials of aviation GPS while offering a review of the top three models for 2009.

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    Handheld GPS for Aviation – An Overview

    Aviation based handheld GPS devices serve as auxiliary navigation systems for the pilot. A desirable handheld GPS will have complete databases with some manner of providing regular updates of the mapping data. One should show all airports, including the closest or destination airport, the approach path, and the extended centerline of the runway. It is also a handy device at times of emergency.

    GPS has brought great change to the personal aviation industry. It helps the pilot in many ways while guiding him/her with better accuracy than other navigational aids. Handheld GPS devices are only used for VFR (Visual Flight Rules).

    Manufactures of handheld GPS devices for aviation have tough competition in the market. They come at different prices to suit different budgets. With the extreme competition among GPS vendors, it is natural that there will be a further thinning in handheld GPS models for aviation. Several products like Garmin GPSMAP-396, C-Map's EKP-IV, and the Honeywell/Skymap IIIC, which are costlier than similar feature-packed automotive color GPS devices, are heavily used by GA (General Aviation) pilots.

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    Handheld GPS for Aviation – The Market

    Selecting the most reliable portable GPS for aviation is difficult. The main reason for this is that no one knows everything about the GPS aviation products. Pilots and mechanics are aware of only a few features. Local dealers are not experienced with most models that are available in the market. They often end up advising the customers on the wrong product. On the other hand, the magazine reviews do not reveal how the vendor determined the accuracy of GPS. Consumer magazines often select products of the year based on customer reviews of the different models. Many pilots chose products that do not suit their flying needs just because of ignorance about selecting a handheld GPS for aviation.

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    Selecting a Proper Handheld GPS for Aviation

    Although it's certainly possible to go flying with the TomTom from your car, one of the best ways to select a handheld GPS to be used as a navigational adjunct is to find one that is easy to use.

    Once you become accustomed to using a specific handheld GPS product, other products become difficult to compare. Those with more features take more time to learn, and the time to learn their menus and entry methods is on the ground, not in the busy cockpit.

    Most handheld GPS, including those intended for aviation use, come with overlay information. These may include road maps with features such as motels, restaurants, and post offices.

    Another important factor in ease of use is the number of keystrokes required to enter a route or waypoints. The product should be made in such a way that you should be able to use basic navigation and database features of the handheld aviation GPS device without constantly referring to the manual. You should be able to remember how to operate the device even after a long time gap, and you should be able to remember the keystrokes without having to stress your memory.

    The next section reviews three most popular handheld GPS for aviation. (Selection is based on several blogs across the internet)

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    Reviews of some Handheld GPS for Aviation offering good Accuracy of GPS

    Garmin GPSMAP- 496 H.H. GPS/MAP/XM/AOPA

    This handheld GPS for aviation is priced at $2,395. It includes GPSMAP - 396 map, full internal US automotive city detail, highway database, detailed airport ground, and taxiway diagrams. It is complete with all US private airports and A.O.P.A. The display is excellent and can be increased up to 5 times. The high resolution terrain feature is an added advantage. It comes with a USB interface cable, AC adapter automotive mount, yoke mount, cigarette lighter adapter, rechargeable lithium-ion battery, carrying case, data CD, owner’s manual, and a quick reference guide.

    AVMap by Jeppeson GeoPilot Color Portable GPS/MAP

    Priced at $649, this handheld GPS for aviation is a compact device. It is a very user friendly device with large buttons and a unique thumb stick cursor. The customizable map page and the data fields help the pilot in navigation.

    Lowrance AirMap 2000C GPS

    Priced at $699, this is a useful handheld aviation GPS device. It has a high contrast color screen that is sunlight viewable. It offers 256 colors with 320 x 320 p resolution. There is provision for nighttime viewing also. The maps available in this handheld aviation GPS device pertain to continental US and Hawaii.

    With so many products available in the market, you can choose one that is best suited to your needs and budget. You may also use a comparison chart on the Internet to select the best handheld GPS for aviation.