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Nick / Soaring / 76s



76s and solar powered vario, a couple of simple instruments that do a really big job. (manual for vario)


I use this for soaring and I will share how I set up the screen to display the data I find useful. Of course one would like as many fields as possible, but there comes a point that they are too small to see. The following are screen shots of the pages I use:




Hear is the only place I have speed over the ground and the date. I have the time of day on another page, but this is one place to always find it. GPS elevation is only here as the Altitude Page has barometric altitude.



On this map page one can zoom way in to watch how the thermal is tracking. I just use a regular road map from Map Source. Using the Topo maps are cool, but the contour lines are confusing. The waypoints are shown here and I have symbols to distinguish airports from ultralight strips and dry lake beds. I thermal on this page so I like having altitude to check my progress. When on glide I like to keep the glide to destination at 18 to 1 or better and I can check to see if I am loosing in this field if it goes up to 19 to 1 or worse. The track helps me go straight on a glide much better than a regular compass because with a compass you have to guess a cross wind component. If I have a destination keeping the turn field at 0 is all I need to stay on track. I can do most everything from just these 4 fields.



This is overkill if you need it for glide. Turn is the only good one. It is good if I want to know how far to the way point. Vertical speed and glide to destination are supposed to be something to compare with the bottom two: vertical speed and glide you are getting, but they bounce around so much it is not very useful.



This is kind of a bogus page, but it I use it if I really want to know when I will arrive. The turn and track fields keep me going straight while I check the time. The glide ratio to destination is always good to have up in case you are loosing ground and the elevation is good if you stop to circle you can see right away if it was a waste of time.



This active route looks useless but I haven’t always got the waypoint labeled and I check this once in a while to make sure I have the destination in that I thought I had.



The altitude page has the average ascent which is good to see if the thermal your in is matching up to the rest of the day. It is the only averager of sorts, but remember it is including the weak ones from when you started. Checking the graph is good as you top out the thermal to see if it is getting too week to stay with. If you are climbing to just make it to goal it has glide to destination as well so I can see when I have my 18 to 1 and can just leave the thermal.


Batteries: I have used 1200 mAh NiMH batteries and they only last 7 to 8 hours which can bite you on long flights. 2500 mAh NiMH last well, but experience has shown that a handful of regular alkaline batteries are very idiot proof.


MAKING TRACK LOGS: Oversimplified I have said to just turn it on and download with g7towin software to make an IGC track. Really it is a bit more of pain than this. If you leave it always logging tracks you will have points recorded during the download that really are not part of the flight. It has a save function which always suckers you in because saving seems like something one should always do, but don’t! Saving to the unit truncates the track to just a few points.


So here is the long version: During pre flight I turn on the 76s.

First set the altimeter. Press Page until you are at the altitude page. Press menu. Scroll down to Calibrate Altimeter. Press Enter. Scroll up to the field that shows the number. Press Enter. Scroll sideways to the number to change. Scroll up or down to change the number. When number is right press Enter. Scroll down to the where it says Set and press Enter.



Clear old data: Press Menu twice. Press Enter when on Trip Computer. Press Menu again. Scroll down to Reset All - which really doesn’t clear all. It asks if you really want to do this. Scroll until Yes is highlighted and press Enter. Now press Menu again and scroll down to Reset Odometer. Press Enter. Press Quit to exit.



You should have just gone back to the Main Menu. (Main Menu from a regular page is pressing menu twice.) Scroll down to Tracks. Press Enter. Here is where the save thing is shown. Never save! Scroll sideways to Clear and press Enter. It asks if you really want to do this. Scroll sideways to Yes and press Enter. Press Quit to exit. Highlight Tracks again and press Enter. Press Menu. Scroll down to Set up Track Log. Press Enter. Now if you ended the last flight right, Recording should be set to OFF. Scroll up to where Off is highlighted and just leave the GPS on until you are ready to launch.



Getting ready to launch you don’t want to mess with things, but you want the track to start so when I get in is when I do the following: Off is highlighted so press Enter. Scroll down to Stop When Full and press Enter. Scroll down until OK is highlighted and press Enter. Press Quit three times to go to the regular pages and you are ready to fly.



Now when you are done flying you want to stop the track log. Press Menu twice. Scroll until Tracks is highlighted. Press Enter. Don’t Save or Clear the tracks as these are your choices. Just press Menu to move to the next page. Highlight Setup Track Log. Press Enter. Scroll up until Stop When Full is highlighted. Scroll up to Off and press Enter. Scroll to OK and press Enter. Again you are asked to Save or Clear but don’t do either! Just press the power button and turn it off.



Now when you get to your computer the thing won’t add any more tracks to your path. Use g7towin or whatever to save as IGC track.



I use Map Source to download tracks I can see on a map

I use G7toWin to make an IGC file which of course is not useful for comps or records because this unit is not secured and approved.

I use the OLC to make Google Earth files.


The owners manual, firmware updates are available at the Garmin web site. Same for Map Source.


I started out with the etrex and it was a little small to see. Having both I wrote a little ditty comparing the two:


GPSmap 76S vs. eTrex Vista for the Soaring Pilot.


I am a pilot of Hang Gliders and Sailplanes. The GPSmap 76S is listed as a marine unit, and the eTrex Vista is listed as an outdoor unit. Neither is intended for aviation, however many of us find a portable GPS with barometer and 3D trace very handy.


The similarity of these two units encourages the comparison. The hardware is the difference. The expected use will determine whether the Vista or 76S is right for you. The Vista is not only small, but easy to use with only the left hand. The 76S is large and easy to use with any finger, if mounted. So if the portable GPS to stay in a pocket until needed, the Vista is ideal. If one intends to mount it, the 76S is better.


Antenna: The 76S will lock on the satellites first. The Vista antenna works best with the unit flat and the 76S’ works best upright. The 76S has a place to plug in an external antenna whereas the Vista does not.


SCREEN: The screen is larger on the 76S. This alone may not be that impressive, but with the larger screen one can display more fields in larger fonts. The 76S is harder to see in some light. At first glance it is greener than the Vista. The Vista is more readable with sunglasses on or in dim lighting. I often leave the back light on with the 76S. One really needs to compare the screens for themselves. I am happy with the Vista screen, but my girl friend who wears glasses won’t use it because of the screen size.


BATTERY LIFE: My own experience is with the compass “off” and in “normal” not “battery saver” mode running Radio Shack 1500 mah NiMH batteries. The 76S lasted for an 8 hour flight and I had enough battery left to download the tracks. The eTrex Vista is about the same. If you stay up longer than this, you may want to try alkaline batteries.


INTERFACE: The Vista has a unique button system; great for one hand operation. However, to the uninitiated, it can be frustrating. Entries are not confirmed with an audio beep as in the 76S. When soaring, one wants to keep the eyes outside, but the Vista encourages one to look at the screen for confirmations and menu choices. The 76S has beeps with each button pushed. The Vista can use the menu to go directly to the desired page. To the see the various pages in the 76S one must go through each page one at a time.


WAYPOINTS: Both hold 500 waypoints. The Vista has no provisions for comments whereas the 76S has a comment field with 16 characters. Peter Kelly and others who share turnpoints on the web put some information in these fields like airport data.


ROUTES: The 76S has 50 routes available and the Vista has 20. Both have a page that lists a route’s waypoints. However, only the 76S can scroll left, exposing: the distance to each, course, eta, fuel, leg distance, leg fuel, leg time, sunrise and sunset at waypoint, and time to. The 76S has a compass page like the Vista and in addition a Highway Page the Vista does not have. The name: “Highway”, lead me to believe this page would be useless for soaring. But even if the pictorial is not that helpful; the page offers a place for even more data fields big enough to read at a glance.


Barometer: It is the sensor that makes both these units so appealing to the soaring pilot. Yeazel and Mehaffey do a great job of explaining this sensor and how they differ in each unit. (http://www.gpsinformation.net/waas/g76s/g76s-map.html) In short, the 76S will have a field named: “Barometer”, which is the normalized pressure one gets from the airport. The Vista will show ambient pressure in this field called: Barometer. This gives an edge to the 76S for aircraft work.


TRACKS: The 76S will hold 5,000 points vs. the Vista’s 3,000 giving a tighter trace or longer coverage. The 76S can save more tracks but saving a track in either will produce a truncated track of just a few hundred points, so one wants to download the track, rather than save it with either unit.


MAPS: The map page of the 76S can show the course, bearing and heading as line protruding from the triangle and the Vista does not provide all these. The 76S can display both Metroguide or Topo at one time or just one set of maps from a single menu. The Vista maps are chosen one by one.


DATA FIELDS: The 76S has more data fields available for each of the pages. This gives a flexibility to mix information on one page. For example on the 76S one can have the data field: “average accent” on the map page. As I go on glide I want to ovoid anything less than this average. The Vista will offer this data field only on the Altitude page.


TRIP COMPUTER: The trip computer on the Vista can be customized, the 76S cannot. This Page is not very important for soaring, but it can be used to place data one could not fit on the other pages.


Impressions: I chose the 76S for the following reasons: The antenna orientation, and interface buttons make it more suitable for my use: temporarily mounted PED in the sailplane with a RAM mount. The larger screen size and highway page means I can display more data fields. Comments for waypoints allow me to add airport information.


Rumor has it they may make some software for us. It would be so easy. The most obvious improvement would be aviation maps we could download; hook the beeper up to the vario so one could have an audio indication of lift and sink; a field for density altitude and a field for glide angle to waypoint. Ah… if only I were king.


Recommendations: The Vista is the best unit to drop in your pocket and take everywhere. It is the ideal key phob. The 76S has a few features that make it more specific in it’s application as a dash “mounted” marine unit. One must look long and hard to see if these are features one is willing to pay for. At the time of this writing the price difference is considerable at $100.


Many other advancements have come out since this was written. A comparison of the 76Cs And 76Csx is here: http://patrick-roeder.de/reviews/garmin_gpsmap_60CSx.htm

Table comparison with 60 model: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Garmin_GPSmap_76C/database?method=reportRows&tbl=7


Hints and notes:




76/Map 76/Map 76S

The reported method to completely reset on of these units hold the "menu" key and the "quit" key down and then press the "power on" key. Hold for a full 7 seconds and then release.  As with the other units all information will be lost and you will need to reload the almanac and all your saved user data to make the unit usable.


For the 76S try this sequence to master reset it. Press and hold quit, Menu, and the rocker down key.  Then press and release the power on key.  Release the rocker down and wait for the welcome display. Now release the quit and menu keys.


Screen Shots captured with xImage