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!
Sporty’s SP-200 NAV/COM Transceiver
Alternators fail and batteries won’t keep your radio stack operating for long. Sporty’s SP-200 provides a vital backup when that happens: it’s a complete VHF NAV/COM (including ILS localizer functionality) that weighs just over one pound and fits nicely into your flight bag or a seat-back pocket. Features include a “last frequency” recall button, 8.33 KHz channel spacing, 2,280 COMM channels, 200 NAV channels, OBS functionality, duplex functionality (transmit on COM and listen on NAV) and five-watt output power. It runs on eight AA batteries; accessories include a rechargeable battery pack, headset adapter and belt clip. Suggested price is $279.
Contact: www.sportys.com, (800) 776-7897.
There’s an old Air Force saying that no airplane leaves the ground until the weight of the paper equals the weight of the pilot—and those of us who’ve flown long cross-country IFR know it’s sometimes true. ARINC’s eFlyBook promises to change that: It’s a 13.7-ounce electronic document viewer with an 8.1-inch “electronic paper” display that allows pilots to store and view FAA en route charts, terminal procedures, approach and departure procedures and airport diagrams. On-screen annotation is available using eFlyBook’s built-in stylus, and it’s easy to keep your charts up to date with updates delivered on CD-ROM. Suggested price is $1,499.
Contact: www.eflybook.com, (888) 406-7388.
NavAero tPad 800
Laptop or notebook PCs are great flight-planning platforms, but any pilot who’s tried to do so in the cockpit can tell you that they’re not ideal for use in such environs. NavAero’s tPad800 solves this problem: It’s a display device that straps to your leg and connects by cable to your laptop, which can go under your seat. The tPad 800 offers a stunning 8.4-inch display with brightness that can be adjusted for use in bright sunlight or the darkest night; a touch screen allows you to select menu items, press on-screen buttons or even input text (using an on-screen keyboard, one letter at a time). Suggested price is $1,895; doesn’t include notebook PC or software.
Contact: www.navaero.com, (866) 628-2376.
Advanced Data Research FG-1000 EFB
Advanced Data Research offers the FG-1000 Electronic Flight Bag (EFB): A Fujitsu P1500 tablet PC that runs Microsoft Windows XP Tablet PC Edition software. The computer offers an 8.9-inch daylight-visible display with touch-screen input, convertible form factor with built-in keyboard, 1.2 GHz Pentium-M processor, 512 MB RAM, 30 GB hard disk and built-in wireless connectivity. It’s compatible with most flight-planning, moving-map and weather-avoidance software that runs on Microsoft Windows. Prices start at $2,295.
Contact: www.adrsoft.com, (248) 299-5300.
Nielsen-Kellerman Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker
Nielsen-Kellerman’s Kestrel 4000 Pocket Weather Tracker is a great backup tool to use at smaller airports that don’t have their own weather reporting. In addition to wind speed, barometric pressure, temperature, altitude and dew point, it also calculates wind chill, relative humidity, heat-stress index and density altitude. Up to 2,000 measurements are stored in the Kestrel 4000’s built-in memory, and may be charted on the unit’s built-in LCD display or uploaded to a PC. The unit is available in black, orange or olive drab. Suggested price is $349.
Contact: www.nkhome.com, (610) 447-1555.
AvMap GeoPilot PLUS
AvMap’s GeoPilot PLUS is a compact GPS navigator that can be used in the air and (with optional terrestrial maps) for turn-by-turn navigation on the ground. It offers a wealth of pilot-friendly features, including a bright 5.6-inch color display, oversized control buttons and a unique thumbstick cursor control. The customizable display allows a map view with or without data fields to be used alone or in combination with a simulated HSI/RMI presentation. The unit comes preloaded with a Jeppesen North America database, which includes low-altitude Victor airways, and a terrain database that enables full TAWS functionality for complete situational awareness. Other features include flight planning, flight computer functions and a built-in speaker. Suggested price is $999.
Contact: www.avmap.us, (800) 363-2627.
Vertex Standard VXA-710 Spirit Air Band Transceiver
More than the typical handheld backup for your voice radio, the Vertex VX-710 offers coverage of the entire VHF aircraft band including both NAV and COMM frequencies. It also receives FM broadcast band, U.S. broadband radio service (BRS)—with Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and Digital-Coded Squelch (DCS) functionality—and NOAA weather radio transmissions. All this functionality comes in a rugged magnesium case designed to survive after 30 minutes submerged in three feet of water. Suggested price is $550, but you should shop around for a better deal.
Contact: www.vertexstandard.com, (714) 827-7600.
Stenbock & Everson ChartCase Pro
Pilots of older airplanes with “steam gauge” panels can carry-on a complete portable glass cockpit with ChartCase Pro software from Stenbock & Everson. When used with a GPS and WxWorx satellite weather receiver, the software turns a tablet PC into a class-1 electronic flight bag (EFB), including in-cockpit weather (both NEXRAD and satellite) and digital charting (all U.S. sectional, WAC, low/high en route charts, approach plates and taxi diagrams). All charts are geo-referenced and provide full moving-map functionality. Suggested price is $395 for software only, and $2,500 for the complete system bundled with a Samsung Q1 Tablet PC, Bluetooth/WAAS-enabled GPS, WxWorx Weather Receivers and power devices. A subscription is required for chart revisions.
Contact: www.flightprep.com, (503) 678-4360.
RMS Technology Flitesoft Express
Pilots who carry Pocket PC devices based on the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system will find many uses for Flitesoft Express—software that offers flight planning, weather, weight and balance, moving map and even an emergency attitude indicator function based on GPS input. It’s compatible with saved routes and pilot files from Flitesoft’s desktop flight-planning product and can also present XM Satellite Weather data. The $149 price tag is for software, and is only available to existing Flitesoft customers.
Contact: www.rmstek.com, (800) 533-3211.
Mercury Computer Systems VistaNav 2.0
Mercury Computer Systems calls their VistaNav “the first portable MFD with 3-D synthetic vision.” Hosted on a Motion Computing tablet PC, VistaNav software generates a synthetic 3-D view of terrain, “providing a cockpit-like view regardless of external conditions,” in addition to a conventional moving-map display. The software also provides flight-planning features and can display weather data (including NEXRAD imagery) from a satellite radio receiver. Prices start at $4,299.
Contact: www.vistanav.com, (866) 627-1671.
Hilton Software LLC WingX 2.0
WingX 2.0 premier edition offers a range of features including weight and balance for hundreds of aircraft, NACO charts (including airport diagrams and approach procedures), route planning (including automatic optimization for best cruise altitude), weather (including NEXRAD radar and satellite imagery), access to airport/facility directory information and GPS-enabled E6B functionality. A SmartTaxi feature not only shows your location on an airport, but also indicates which runway you’re on and how much space is available ahead. Suggested price is $129.95.
Contact: www.hiltonsoftware.com, (866) 429-4649.
Production Software eFAD 1.31
Electronic Facilities & Airport Directory (eFAD) features airport and navaid information, runways, Land and Hold Short Operations, ILS, pilot-controlled lighting, control tower information and weather data (including METAR/TAF, winds aloft, pilot reports and NEXRAD radar graphics). Among other things, airport information includes FBOs, repair stations, parachute-jumping areas, FAA Flight Standards Offices and Flight Service Stations, NOTAMs, special-use airspace, airline service, NTSB reports, tail numbers, approach charts and diagrams, E6-B functions, an aviation dictionary, Federal Aviation Regulations, traffic statistics, location maps, en route radio stations and travel information (including transportation, lodging and restaurants). Suggested price is $79.99 for a one-year subscription.
Contact: www.pspda.com, (800) 818-1168.
ASA CX-2 Pathfinder Flight Computer
Why struggle with an old-fashioned analog E6B when you can have a bright digital display? ASA’s CX-2 offers standard E6B functions, such as true airspeed, groundspeed, Mach number, density altitude, fuel calculations, headings and courses, time/speed/distance calculations and wind, as well as weight and balance. It runs on four AAA batteries, and is accepted for use in FAA and Canadian aviation exams. Suggested price is $79.95.
Contact: www.asa2fly.com, (800) 272-2359.
ASA Flight Timer 2
While many pilots wear an oversized “pilot watch” with chronometer functions, a rough day in the soup is the wrong time to squint at your wrist, trying to figure out which button to push. ASA’s Flight Timer 2 is a dedicated pilot’s timer with a large backlit display, local and Zulu time, three simultaneous timers, digital notepad function for squawk codes and frequencies, up to 12 memorized approach times, audible and visible alarms, fuel timer and a 10th and 100th of a second stopwatch. The suggested price is $49.95.
Contact: www.asa2fly.com, (800) 272-2359.
Since the 1930s, airline pilots have relied on Jeppesen’s loose-leaf airway manual for en route and approach navigation. Today, Jeppesen’s navigational database is available in state-of-the-art software that combines flight-planning, electronic-charting and moving-map functionality. Based on Jeppesen’s worldwide database of terrain, navaids, special-use airspace, airports and other relevant data, NavSuite provides electronic access to VFR and IFR en route charts, approach plates, approach and departure procedures, airport diagrams and much more. It’s compatible with Windows-based PCs for use on the ground, and Windows-based Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) hardware in the air. Prices vary depending on coverage and are generally comparable to those of paper chart subscriptions.
Contact: www.jeppesen.com, (800) 621-5377.
King Schools Pocket PC E6B Software
King’s Pocket PC E6B Software turns Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system into a graphical E6B with some 40 flight-related features including graphical weight and balance, density altitude, speed, distance, Zulu time conversions and dual independent timers that operate in both countdown and elapsed-time modes. Suggested price is $49.95.
Contact: www.kingschools.com, (800) 854-1001.
Garmin GPSMAP 496
Garmin calls their amazing GPSMAP 496 a “mini-MFD,” and it certainly offers a plethora of features more commonly seen on MFDs in modern glass-cockpit aircraft, including 12-channel GPS-WAAS navigation, moving map, terrain and a simulated control panel that provides emergency instrumentation. Other features include complete databases of navaids, airways, Garmin’s exclusive SafeTaxi feature for more than 650 U.S. airports and data from AOPA’s airport directory. The unit can display weather data from an optional XM Satellite Radio receiver—all in a package that weighs less than one pound. Suggested price is $2,995.
Contact: www.garmin.com, (800) 800-1020.
Digital Cyclone Pilot My-Cast
Up-to-date weather is critical for every pilot, and with Pilot My-Cast, a customized aviation weather report is as close as your cellular phone. Features include animated color NEXRAD Doppler radar, METARs, TAFs, satellite loops, moving weather maps, TFRs, AIRMETs, SIGMETs, PIREPs, winds aloft and even lightning data. A subscription costs $12.95 per month plus a $9.95 setup fee or $129.95 per year.
Contact: www.my-cast.com, (866) 669-2278.