Garmin International officials say the company has fixed a problem with the G1000 that resulted in delayed aircraft shipments and the furlough of employees at Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp.
On Aug. 13 Columbia furloughed 300 employees when its production line ground to a halt because of a faulty GRS 77 Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) component in the G1000. The G1000 is used in the Columbia 350 and 400 series aircraft.
According to Garmin spokesperson Jessica Myers, the problem with the unit was detected during regular testing at the manufacturing facility, as well as at aircraft manufacturing companies such as Columbia, Piper and Cessna that use the G1000.
“There was a sudden increase in failure rates of the GRS 77 and that caused us to look into it,” Myers explained. “We determined that it was a hardware problem that came from one of our suppliers. It was caused by a change in the production process at the supplier.”
AHRS with serial numbers 42006310 through 42006821 installed after May 1, 2007, are affected. On aircraft equipped with the GFC 700 autopilot the failure of the AHRS results in the disconnect of the autopilot. Garmin has issued a service bulletin that contains information on how replace the GRS 77.
Fortunately the fix for the issue is as simple as removing the malfunctioning unit and installing a new one. “The beauty of the G1000 is the line replaceable units,” Myers said. “The GRS 77 is just one component of the G1000.”
The company has started shipping replacement units and aircraft manufacturers have resumed deliveries and production.
News that the source of the problem was discovered was happily received at Columbia Aircraft, where 75 of the recently furloughed 300 employees were recalled. Another 106 returned to work a week later. According to officials at the Oregon-based aircraft manufacturer, more employees will be recalled as the production cycle returns for normal.
Other manufacturers that rely on the G1000 avionics package, such as Cessna, reported that they were aware of the issues with the G1000, but did not report the furlough of employees.
“We didn’t slow down production, but we halted deliveries for a few days,” said Cessna spokesperson Pia Bergqvist. “We are now back on schedule.”
Garmin’s Myers stressed that the unit failures did not result in a completely blank screen.
“Even with the GRS 77 failure, what the pilot would see in flight is a red X over the AHRS information, but there would still be plenty of other information on the Multifunction and Primary Flight Displays,” she said.
The loss of AHRS information is similar to the loss of the attitude indicator and heading indicator in a steam gauge airplane. Unlike the G1000, most steam gauge airplanes do not have back-up primary instruments that can provide this critical information, so the pilot must resort to partial-panel operations.