Chris Oquist is a private pilot and web developer at Banyan Pilot Shop in South Florida. He is an avid blogger and article writer whose expertise includes the Garmin 796. As an aviation enthusiast, Chris is passionate about sharing his knowledge on all-things-aviation.
When it was first released in late 2011, they gave users no compelling reason to upgrade over the 696 or even the earlier Garmin 496. Complete with software bugs, unexpected device shutdowns, and forced restarts, the 796 was on a crash course for failure. More than two years after its initial release, the Garmin 796 is not the same troubled machine it once was. Instead, the company has retooled and improved the device to be one of the best and most complete aviation navigators out there.
Pictured to the right is an example of the device’s 3D view. It offers the ability to map the terrain as you travel through it real-time. It offers color coded elevation information relative to the aircraft’s height and position. For example, hills and buttes may be colored yellow or green, while mountains and skyscrapers will appear orange or red. Using the touchscreen interface, users are able to pan around the plane 360 degrees and observe the physical landscape. Imagine playing a videogame, 3D Vision takes your flying and turns it into a digital creation. It is an extremely helpful feature of the product.
The paperless cockpit? The digital age is clearly upon us. As newspapers, magazines, and documents are increasingly being administered electronically and without physical form, the 796 brings this trend into the cockpit of an aircraft. In IFR mode, pilots can view victor airways, jet routes, minimum en route altitudes, and leg distances all without the hassle of rustling through stacks of flight documents and disorganized paperwork. Notice an abrupt weather reading change? The 796 also provides updated weather updates in the form of NEXRAD, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, and PIREPs.
Regardless of your skill with technology, the 796 is both user-friendly and offers more advanced functions for interested pilots. The amount of information stored on the device as well as every detail available at the simple touch of the screen is honestly astounding. I can remember back in ’79 while I was making a simple pass over the Rockies and I’d just hit a rough airstream predicted pre-flight to have passed by the time I had made it that far. It hadn’t. While turbulence is not usually noteworthy, in a dinky 2-passenger, it’s a pretty big deal. Luckily I averted the storm ever so slightly, but I can just imagine how much easier the situation would have been with the 796.
So whether you’re a private pilot like me or flying commercials for Southwest or some other big-shot company, the Garmin 796 is truly a piece of technology that can save you and other pilots a significant degree of stress and hassle while piloting your aircraft.