Garmin car gps ?

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Will a simple portable Garmin or Tomtom car gps
box work inside an airplane when flying ?
Does higher altitudes or electronics or engine
in the plane affect it ?

Will it show you basically the map locations
and roads below just like in a car ?

Wont it at least help you from getting lost in air
or at least give you another backup source ?

Do many pilots use them ?

-- jim kenn, February 22, 2010


I had heard that some of these car GPS units would not work above a certain ground speed threshold. This was in order to force people to buy more expensive aviation-specific handheld GPS. However, I never saw anyone try this out and there are a lot of cars out there that can theoretically drive faster than a standard four-seat airplane. So probably a vanilla Garmin or TomTom would work just fine. As should a mobile phone with built-in GPS. But a GPS with an aviation database of airports and navaids is only about $500 these days (or $10,000 if you want it wired into the airplane and blessed by the FAA), so the potential savings are not very large.

My backup is calling up ATC and asking for vectors!

-- Philip Greenspun, February 22, 2010

Thanks Phil Im surprised you havent seen anybody try this with all your flying and EastCoast club stuff. Maybe you can try it for us - or someone will. I dont have one (yet).

Here are couple links I found pretty cheapo TomTom or Garmins I think even CVS or Walgreens is selling them now too Run about $100-200 and higher

Even tho they have no specific airport info like AIM but at least - if a pilot gets lost in the air (disoriented) flying some day.... Wouldn't it be pretty helpful - to see a full zoom in/out map of the area using its GPS

I think even it might have airports (as POI pots of interest) listed - don't they ? (like do for restaurants)

It'd be the cheapest way to get some kind of useable GPS inside the cockpit with ya. Could be lifesaver too.

---- One thing - guess most have 4hr rechargeable batteries.

Do any aircraft like Cessna or Pipers have a carlike cigarette lighter to plug into a charger cord to power or recharge a device like this ???

-- jim kenn, February 24, 2010

Yes, Cessnas, for example, have a 12V cigarette lighter socket for powering devices. A few cautions, however:

1) My auto/air laptop charger for my HP has a switch to toggle between charging the laptop and just powering the laptop. There is a placard that says "WARNING: Do not charge aboard aircraft." because, as the manual explains, the batteries may explode. I don't know at what altitude this risk occurs, but that is why auto/air chargers have a button to switch between charging and just powering.

2) Depending on where you're flying, trying to find your way if lost with a car-based GPS could be dangerous. You could fly into controlled airspace, restricted/prohibited areas, etc. The handheld aviation GPS is a much better option, because they include an aviation database (map), which shows airports, airspace, terrain, etc.

I probably could shave a little off what I spend on my aircraft, or spend less time reading placards and other regulations, but in both cases, I am always more concerned about safety. In my book, almost anything that increases safety in a meaningful way is worth it.


-- Todd Ramming, February 24, 2010

Hi Yes I would never use this car-type GPS (Garmin or TomTom) as only main means to navigate. I was only thinking it would be nice/good to have for emergency backup and/or use on xctry flight as only a secondary aide to have some visual ongoing map updates.- ya know

I would of course have all current charts, maps etc with me. And use those mainly. Was only looking for some extra backup ammo (without spending lots of extras $$$ ) ya know

I got a lil lost once (got dark and misting clouds) and did slow circling to figure things out but had to call ATC for a radar vector and they had me squawk a unique code and got my position in 2 seconds and got me headed to BED in 2 seconds and I found my way ok back home. But that was way back before GPS and moving live maps.

If I had a Garmin or TomTom I think I might have been also able to help myself out and lil less worried.

-- jim kenn, February 24, 2010