Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Sporty’s 50 Years On The Pulse Of GA
A look at our collective pilot philosophy through the gear we buy and why
Not following tradition, Shevers’ desk is in the middle of a large, plain room with no dividers, where he’s surrounded by all the other managers. His desk could be that of a mail clerk or telephone operator. There’s no pretense of status here, and all executives are in the same room. Even meetings are impromptu; with managers standing up (“If you sit down, meetings take too long,” smiles Radke). Everywhere, aviation adorns the walls, and the building’s glass-paned windows overlook the panoply of airplanes churning the sky from Sporty’s Academy just outside. And at every desk, there’s talk of gear and flying.
What We BuyLet’s face it, pilot gear is fun to buy and is a view into the collective heart of aviation. The surprise this year is that the economy hasn’t affected big-ticket purchases, such as the new Bose A20 headset, which Zimmerman reports is “hot and is flying off the shelves.” An amazed Shevers comments, “In the old days, we never imagined paying $1,000 for a headset, but we pay that today, and slightly more!”
Hot items this year also included handheld nav/coms, cockpit video-recorder/camera systems and pulse oximeters, which Zimmerman says are becoming “standard issue.” Technology has brought the price of these devices to under $80, and the benefits (detecting hypoxia early) are obvious. Oximeters slide onto your finger and tell you the oxygen concentration percentage in your blood painlessly and noninvasively.
Flight bags continue to fascinate pilots, with the newest thing being modular bags that allow pilots to add and mix extra compartments based on their personal taste. Pilots like to add components like handheld radios or GPS units, or a water bottle or any number of things, depending on the mission. Today’s newest bags—like Sporty’s “Mission” bag—allow this, using military technology that allows simple coupling of different kinds of accessory pouches onto the main bag, creating an almost infinitely expanding and contracting “living” flight bag.
Another hot trend has been personal locator beacons (PLBs). Lower prices due to ever-improving technology have made these lifesaving units affordable for most pilots, and we’re buying them in droves. The disappearance of our old standby 121.5 emergency frequency is driving PLB sales too. Also in the “safety” category, LED flashlights, backup handheld GPS navigators and portable traffic systems that can be added to a portable GPS system were big sellers.
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Labels: Aviation Careers, Aviation Resources, Buyer's Guide, Pilot Guide, Pilot Resources, Staying Current, Best Buys, What's New, Aircraft, Aircraft Ownership