I consider most portable software updates routine in nature, but a few updates come along that add improvements or new features that are worth note. The 3.20 software update for the GPSMAP 696 / 695 has one of each. The improvement is one that many 696 / 695 customers who use the FliteCharts database simply for a VFR reference have been asking for. The sunset date for the FliteCharts has been removed. What this means is that the electronic charts will remain useable in the unit even well after the expiration date. Now if you are using the unit as an electronic flight bag (EFB) you will still need to have a current chart database to use the unit as a replacement for paper; however, this is a benefit for those VFR pilots that simply use the charts for assistance in situational awareness.
The new feature added to the 696 and 695 is the ability to import and export flight plans via an SD card. This is a huge advancement and the first portable that Garmin has manufactured with this capability. Customers with Jeppesen’s FlightStar, or Seattle Avionics Voyager programs can create flight plans on their computer, export the flight plan to a SD card, then take the card to their 696 to import the flight plan into the units flight plan list. The new import and export soft keys are found on the FlightPlan list page on the 696, 695. (The SD card will need to be standard capacity and be 4 GB or less in size.) This new improvement and new feature for the 696 and 695 also gives me the opportunity to remind customers with portable units of the importance of operating software updates. You can update your portable GPS for free with the WebUpdater.