What to consider before you purchase a GPS, EFB or NAV/COM
Pilots today are increasingly dependent on electronic navigation and communication equipment: GPS for navigation, satellite radio for weather avoidance and VHF for voice communications (since September 11, no pilot can seriously think about flying in controlled airspace without one).
One of the best things about EAA AirVenture, more than any other aviation gathering, is the sheer number of cool things you’ll find, whether cruising the fly market for tools, sheet metal and bungee cords, or stalking through the hangars for treasures and things you never knew you’d need. We’ve found some incredibly clever products; many that you may not have sampled yet. Prices run the gamut of ranges, but the items are all worth a look. When you go to Oshkosh, you never know what you may come home with!
Today’s engine analyzers can help you lower costs and fly more safely
No matter how modern an airplane’s engines and systems are, predictable power is ultimately a pilot’s personal responsibility. We rely on engine instrumentation to ensure safe flight, but we also like to optimize engine operations (for example, speed, distance or lifetime economy). The right information, reliably transmitted and interpreted, can save money and time, and prevent awkward situations.
Airline and bizjet pilots have been using flight management system (FMS) technology for almost 30 years, but it’s new to general aviation pilots. From the beginning, the FMS has appeared to the pilot as a control unit with at least two features: a keypad to enter waypoints and an alphanumeric display to show navigation and performance data. That’s still true for most FMS displays, though some now provide graphical features, and not all GA installations include a keypad. The FMS can also drive navigation instruments (or the PFD on a glass panel).
New models & new technology, priced from $79 to $995
Aviation headsets—now that’s a topic that’s close to my heart, or ears. My first “headset” was a Gosport tube in a military trainer, an all-rubber affair with a speaking tube connected to rubber ear pads via a long tube. Pity the poor student who tried to follow the grunts, snorts and expletives emanating from the rear cockpit. A few years later, after bouncing my head off the canopy of my SNJ Texan too many times, I took my Bell motorcycle helmet, hollowed out the padding and, using a discarded TV camera headset, inserted a set of Telex ear pads, bolted on the boom mic, then wired it to the navcom. Forty years later, it still works, more or less.
Entering the glass-cockpit age has gotten more affordable
An interesting trend has been emerging: Upgrades for existing aircraft are bringing older airplanes into the modern, electronic, glass-cockpit age. Glass upgrades or even whole retrofit panels can make you think you’re flying the newest aircraft in the sky.
The world of flight simulation has changed quite a bit since Edwin Link invented the first flight simulator in 1931; today, realistic simulation is available in packages that range from software that can run on a desktop computer up to multimillion-dollar systems used to train airline and military pilots.
A guide to gadgets that will keep you and your passengers secure
Remember when CB radios were actually useful? Like CBs and just about everything originally intended for emergency purposes, many of the safety items listed in this article are for situations of distress, where life, eyesight or organ health is in danger. Let’s all be careful and professional when using PLBs (personal locator beacons) and ELTs (emergency locator transmitters).
I’m sold on the concept that using portable avionics in the cockpit will make the flying experience safer and more convenient. As a flight instructor, I teach in aircraft with large differences in avionics, ranging from the latest and greatest in glass panels to ships with no radio or electrical system. Regardless, it’s always comforting to have my trusty Garmin GPSMAP 496 along for the flight to help with situational awareness and to have the latest weather at my fingertips.
Most airplanes in the general aviation fleet were built more than 20 years ago and have old-fashioned “steam gauge” panels that induce glass-cockpit envy among pilots who get a peek at the latest flight decks from such companies as Avidyne, Chelton and Garmin. Fortunately, there’s an amazingly simple cure: A wide range of carry-on gadgets are available that provide glass-cockpit functions in a handheld package. In this issue, we briefly cover more than a dozen products that span the gamut, from simple digital E6B computers to full-function portable multi-function displays!
The Garmin 396 is a powerful handheld weather tool
The trip was to be a long one: Watsonville, Calif., to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It was supposed to take about eight hours, but the weather conspired to lengthen the trip to almost 10 hours. We planned to make one stop in Denver for refueling. It was typical western summer weather, which meant expectations of thunderstorms from midday on, so the Rockies were going to be problematic from a weather standpoint. As it turned out, so was much of the remainder of the trip.
Flying year-round becomes a possibility with the TKS Ice Protection system
Publishing an aviation magazine can be a lot of fun, especially when the assignment is to refurbish an airplane like a 1982 B36TC Bonanza, our most recent project plane. If you’ve been reading Plane & Pilot over the last few years, you’re probably familiar with this plane from the August and September 2003 issues. At that time, we pulled the best equipment on the market to retrofit the 20-year-old aircraft. The idea was to showcase all the emerging technology for high-performance, piston-engine aircraft.
Here are two products that might change your attitude about altitude
I’m fortunate to be able to fly a late-model Bonanza B36TC. At a recent American Bonanza Society convention, I was given a demo ride in the Rocket Engineering B36TC converted Pratt & Whitney PT6-A-powered TurbineAir.
Before they were booted up, the Chelton boxes in the Malibu Jet Prop we tested looked like any number of other newer panel configurations. Almost every new airframe manufacturer is putting glass into the cockpit now with a primary flight display (PFD) in front of the pilot and a multi-function display (MFD) right next door.
A buyer’s guide to the latest must-have gear for aviators
Almost every pilot searches for the right tools to make any flight a safe and enjoyable one. Whether it’s a gizmo that enables us to enjoy that short $100 hamburger flight or a portable piece of equipment that can save us baggage space during long cross-country treks to the backcountry, we’re always in need of that extra-special something that will make our trips a whole lot easier and the ride a whole lot more fun.
Our extensive Buyer’s Guide to the most unique paraphernalia that any flier could want
Wiith the holidays upon us, we knew we had to settle the one question that most of us are asking at this time of the year: What do you get for a pilot who has everything? Well, we’ve searched long and hard to answer that question, and we’ve come up with an exhaustive list of gizmos that you can get for your favorite flier—or better yet, perhaps even for yourself.
Bendix/King, Garmin, Chelton? At first glance, they all seem so different, but are they really? It turns out they have a lot in common.
Learning to use even one of the modern IFR-approved GPS maps, let alone several of them, is challenging. Understanding the capabilities of a device requires as much class time as learning how to operate it. The how can be very different from unit to unit, but the what is surprisingly similar.
Whether it’s passive or active, this year’s models offer plenty of “oomph” for your ears
Over the last decade, headsets have become a mainstay for almost all aviators. A continuing flow of information on potentially damaging noise levels has led to greater headset use, and any doubt we may have had can be challenged by an idle conversation with an older pilot who has experienced hearing loss due to a lack of hearing protection. Cockpit noise not only can result in damage to the eardrum, but high ambient noise also can cause pilots to experience fatigue. Whatever the reason for wearing headsets, few people now argue against their merits.