Some Bargains Turn Up Online
by ANN Senior Correspondent (and Ace Techno-Weenie) Kevin R.C.
I've gotten by just fine
with my antediluvian Garmin GPS90, an old monochrome unit that
works great even if it only has airports and VFR fixes on it. (I've
tried to wheedle test units of newer vintage out of Garmin to see
what I was missing, but they've blown me off -- so much for the
power of the Fourth Estate). But I can't deny that newer, shinier
and more capable units are giving me serious GPS envy and may be
prying loose some of my flying dollars soon -- especially when a
range of attractive price cuts and closeouts are in effect.
When you live on the coast like I do, navigation is not so
stressful anyway, apart from the screwy airspace that gets screwier
whenever the Bush family is in residence in their Kennebunkport
home. (I would have spent all 2004 grounded if it hadn't been for
John Kerry refusing TFRs -- thank you, Senator; I wasn't grateful
enough to vote for you, but I WAS grateful). What I mean is, flying
VFR around here, if you go too far one way you're in the mountains,
too far the other way and next landfall is Iceland (the 172 has the
50 gallon long-range tanks, but Iceland is not in the cards). So a
GPS is not something one needs.
It is something one wants and the introduction of
ever-newer, ever-cooler GPS units means that many retailers right
now have very recent but non-latest models of Garmin GPSs at
substantial savings. For example, they are selling the awesome
WAAS-ready GPS295 for a number far lower than Garmin will permit
them to advertise (even on their websites). I know what the number
is, but out of deference to Garmin's preferences, won't mention it.
You have to go find it yourself.
If you don't want to buy Garmin, there seems to have been a
strong price reduction on the already affordable Lowrance 500 and
1000 units, which everyone now seems to have for $400 and $600
respectively. The price pressure is a result of the new color GPS
2000c, which sells for $1000 and will be upgradeable by the end of
2005 to include terrain. Indeed the latest Garmin generation, the
iQue 3600a and GPS 296, includes terrain already -- something you
needed the industry-leading Chelton Synthetic Vision panel-mount
system for until now (look for a feature on Chelton later this
The bottom line is
this: this is as good a time as any to buy a handheld aviation GPS.
And by getting one model back from the cutting edge, you can save
I won't recommend any particular retailer; none of them
advertise here, I think (I don't keep track of that stuff and it
has no effect on our editorial process anyway), and I've bought
from all of them, Aircraft Spruce, AvShop, and Sporty's (note the
neutral alphabetical order), and they've all treated me well and
earned my repeat business. I suggest shopping around if you have no
GPS or, like me, have an elderly one. Not all of them will have the
blowout GPS 295s (for reference, Garmin's minimum advertised price
is $1349 to $1449; you may have to put it in your "shopping cart"
to see what the discounted price is) and not all have both the
Americas and the Euro/Atlantic version, but everybody has the
Lowrance units at the prices quoted above. (Just for the record, I
also like Wicks, but they don't sell handheld GPSs; and I actually
buy most of my "routine" flying stuff at The Pilot Shop in Norwood,
MA, [KOWD], -- they've got a great book section, too).