So much has changed in aviation in the last 15 years. Never mind the fact that LSA and the sport pilot category have instigated innovation rivaled only by the “golden age” of aviation in the ’40s. The last decade and a half have given general aviation pilots more technological advances than all the previous years combined. Want to follow a little magenta line on a bright, colorful display that will lead you to within 30 feet of any point on earth? You got it. Want to listen to your entire collection of 1,200 CDs in stereo, through headphones that block out virtually all unwanted noise? You bet. Need to fly around mountainous terrain on a pitch-black night? No sweat, just turn on the infrared display.
Technological advance has been the theme of the ’90s, the ’00s and now the ’10s. Of course, these leaps forward in aviation simply parallel what’s happening in all areas of our electronic world. Just when you thought you had your cell phone mastered, out came smartphones. As soon as you settled into your DVD collection, you got introduced to Blu-ray. It seems that progress comes faster and faster every year.
It’s no news that, today, general aviation is at a point where it has more capability than many airliners. “Situational awareness” almost is a given, since there are so many ways of maintaining it. Lack of that awareness isn’t a valid excuse any more. From nongyro attitude instruments to terrain-mapping displays and traffic alerts, pilots have to work hard to make the same situational mistakes that pilots made in the first eight decades of flight. So what’s next?
At P&P, we have our eye on some new goodies. Some of these are revolutionary, and some are innovative improvements on existing products. All of these top offerings merit a closer look. We’ve listed our selections in alphabetical order.
Anywhere Map Quadra
Anywhere Map’s new Quadra portable GPS has a bright 4.3-inch screen and touch interface. Quadra’s unique features put it squarely on the “cool” map. First, there’s integrated Wi-Fi capability that allows pilots to download aviation weather, file flight plans and get database updates. The Cones of Safety system draws circles on the display map, showing exactly what locations are within gliding range of your plane. Glide data is preconfigured and then calculated in real time based on existing conditions. Other goodies include an integrated airport directory with 100LL.com fuel prices, airport taxi diagrams and visual/audio reminders for performing various tasks (like switching fuel tanks). Quadra can do just about everything. Price: $595. Visit www.anywheremap.com.
Aspen Avionics EFD1000 Pilot PFD
In the past, if you had limited panel space and an older airplane, the glass-cockpit world was out of reach, both in terms of practicality and price. With Aspen’s introduction of the EFD1000, however, you can replace analog gauges with a compact, bright and reliable glass-cockpit display. The EFD1000 shows full-function GPS information above a compass rose display. The built-in air-data computer gives wind speed and direction, and constantly calculates true airspeed. The unit comes standard with a battery backup, altitude alerts, a slaved gyro (you’ll never have to set it again), a wind-corrected heading bug and an integrated ADAHRS. The EFD1000 slides into a single three-inch instrument hole, making installation simple and inexpensive. The modular platform allows expansion of capabilities and display area. Price: $5,995. Contact: www.aspenavionics.com.
AvMap GeoPilot II Plus
AvMap introduced the world to the seven-inch display on portable GPS units. Still an innovator, AvMap brings us the upgraded GeoPilot II. A new 300 MHz processor makes the unit faster than before, and it’s a true portable, sporting a five-inch display. The unit can store 15 flight plans with 100 legs each, and it allows pilots to download stored waypoint data to Google Earth for viewing—a great feature for student pilots. The GeoPilot II comes with a simulator mode with speed and heading, and includes new picture-management software that allows users to store airport or other photos. It also includes editable checklists to do away with cockpit clutter. Price: $799. Contact: www.avmap.us.
Bendix/King AV8OR ACE
One of the ACE’s unique features is its useful touch-screen interface. It’s intuitive right out of the box, and the tapping action feels satisfying. What else sets this unit apart? For one thing, it’s available with both aviation and automobile databases, and the driving mode is superb. The built-in multimedia interface allows users to listen to music or watch movies, and it also functions as a chart and e-book reader. The unique Smart-Profile display shows vertical terrain profiles, and the unit interfaces with traffic-avoidance receivers and XM satellite products. It even has a built-in Bluetooth interface for your cell phone. Price: $1,890. Contact: www.bendixking.com/AV8OR/ACE.
Dynon Avionics has introduced a full-function glass panel for LSA with a price tag under $4,000. The new SkyView comes standard with PFD, synthetic vision and terrain mapping. For $600 more, you can add an engine-monitoring module and sensors to make the unit a fully rounded glass panel. SkyView will soon come with integrated autopilot software (at no extra charge), and will work as a two-axis autopilot with the addition of pitch-and-roll servos. The seven-inch display can be upgraded to dual 10-inch displays with a backup battery. Price: $3,900. Contact: www.dynonavionics.com.
Electronics International MVP-50P
The MVP-50P is now TSO’d and STC’d! The unit really is a systems manager in that it displays a lot more information than just engine performance. The MVP-50P offers onboard data recording, giving pilots a complete, downloadable history of every flight. Three buttons and a knob mounted below the crisp display screen allow navigation through various screens that monitor dozens of parameters. The unique System Screen allows monitoring of flap, trim and rudder settings. Flight-plan capability also makes the unit a full-function cockpit organizer. Price: $4,995. Contact: www.buy-ei.com.
Garmin GPSMAP 696
Garmin hits it out of the park with this one. Sure, it seems that all GPS units are starting to look and feel the same, but this one introduces some innovations to make it stand out from the fray. Much more than a navigator, the 696 is a true all-in-one multifunction aviation device. Highlights include a full seven-inch, daylight-readable display that lets you see an entire approach chart. The FliteCharts capability gives the unit Class 1/Class 2 EFB capability with an IFR map mode that selects the right approach chart based on your flight plan. Other useful tools include SafeTaxi diagrams, a unique joystick for navigating the options, and a Smart Airspace feature that automatically highlights airspace ahead of you and deemphasizes what’s behind you. Price: $3,595. Contact: www.garmin.com.
Hilton Software WingX 3.6 For iPhone
Even if WingX had not been named one of the best aero software products at Oshkosh, we’d still think it was cool. This software app for your smartphone is revolutionizing flight planning. Version 3.6 brings the leading product to the iPhone and adds high-quality, animated DUATS weather images; GPS-enabled moving-map terrain displays; route line and identifiers; moving airspace display (including special-use airspace); and integration with AOPA’s Airport Directory. One of the neatest additions is integration with yelp.com for restaurant and hotel reviews. Various versions are available for BlackBerry and other smartphones. Price: $99. Contact: www.hiltonsoftware.com.
JP Instruments EDM-930
JPI’s latest EDM-930 digital engine monitor/display is like a personal flight engineer. The unit monitors and displays enough performance information to keep even the biggest numbers-geek happy. The bottom line is increased performance, fuel economy and engine life, which contributes to cheaper maintenance and more peace of mind about your engine. Useful features include LeanFind mode, which identifies the first cylinder to reach peak EGT; nine dedicated 12-segment bar graphs that display everything happening in your engine; an integrated Hobbs meter; and a history mode showing any extreme values from previous flights. A three-section display keeps it all straight. Price: $4,910. Contact: www.jpinstruments.com.
Max Viz EVS-100 Enhanced Vision System
When the Klingon cloaking device made the sinister ship invisible to the crew of the Enterprise, the EVS-100 is what Captain Kirk should have had. In essence, the system enhances the pilot’s vision so that terrain, obstacles, runway environment and other important features become clear and visible during periods of poor or no visibility. The unit turns night into day. A special infrared detector picks up thermal radiation from the scene in front of the sensor (mounted on the aircraft and weighing less than two pounds) regardless of available light. Software converts that scene to video output, which the pilot views from the cockpit. Price: $15,000. Contact: www.forward-vision.net.
PS Engineering PMA8000BT
PS Engineering brings flexibility and functionality to audio selector panels. The company’s just-announced PMA8000BT adds Bluetooth capability to a list of features that covers every option a pilot could want in an intercom/audio panel. Pilot-configurable audio distribution allows a wide variety of listening options for crew and passengers. A front-panel jack lets you connect MP3 players, cell phones, recorders, cameras and other devices. The unit’s Monitor Mode allows automatic muting of the nonprimary radio, while a dedicated music volume control on the front panel allows different settings for audio and music. The new Bluetooth capability allows pilots with smartphones to connect to the audio panel and stream music or cellular calls, all without any clumsy wires. Anyone connected to the intercom can make cell calls through the unit, wirelessly. The unit has a very cool recorder feature to capture communications with ATC, includes a “karaoke” music mode, which we’d love to try, and is plug-and-play compatible with the Garmin GMA 340. Price: $2,095. Contact: www.ps-engineering.com.
SolidFX makes the only digital readers for Jeppesen terminal charts. The new FX8, coupled with SolidFX’s robust FXView software (included), is something of an aviation information manager. It functions as a chart reader, notepad (checklists, trip journals, navigation notes), document library and overall cockpit organizer. Most important, it renders paper obsolete. This baby allows the pilot to zoom, pan and annotate charts (with the included stylus), and write down ATIS, clearances, frequencies and other data—all while organizing everything in a virtual space. The eight-inch unit even allows wireless connection to electronic bookstores. Price: $1,195. Contact: www.solidfx.com.
Electronic circuit breakers are headed to your cockpit
Vertical Power VP-50