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Aircraft Accessories

What are pilots saying about the latest aircraft accessories? Our flight accessory and electronics reviews shed light on some of the latest electronics for pilots.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Apex Edge Series KSN 770

Bendix/King strikes back with its Integrated Communication Navigation Display

tech talkFor many years, Bendix/King (a division of Honeywell) had a virtual lock on avionics in general aviation (GA). Get in a 20-year-old airplane with a panel that hasn’t been upgraded and you’ll probably find at least one Bendix/King NAV/COM, ADF, transponder or audio panel (on many airplanes, you’ll find a complete Bendix/King radio stack). Even today, many used airplane ads list “King panel” or “King radios” among their selling points.
Sunday, June 1, 2008

Flying the G1000 IFR Like the Pros!

Advanced training for Garmin's glass panel

tech talkFlying the G1000 IFR Like the Pros! by J. Robert Moss, a Master CFI, offers a truly advanced course in IFR operations. Furthermore, many topics covered in this “ground school” apply regardless of the avionics installed in your airplane. It’s advertised as containing more than four hours of material, and if anything, that’s an underestimate. It took me about seven hours to get through both CDs, even t­­­­­hough I skipped over some parts!
Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tech Talk: Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology

It replicates what you see outside the cockpit on a clear day

tech talk­If there ever was a cross between a computer game and the real world, it was laid out on the panel before me. I was at the 2008 Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla., flying what was, at the time, the world’s only general aviation synthetic vision system installed in an airplane. This one was part of a Garmin G1000 flat-panel display mounted in a Diamond DA40 Star. Garmin’s Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT) was recently granted an STC to integrate with the G1000’s PFD. Because Diamond was the launch customer on the initial G1000 avionics suite offering five years ago, it’s perhaps appropriate that the first unit was installed in a Diamond Star.
Thursday, May 1, 2008

Aspen Evolution EFD1000 Pilot/Pro PFD

Low-cost glass for steam-gauge panels

tech talkOwners and pilots of airplanes with traditional “steam-gauge” instrument panels will shortly be able to upgrade to a modern glass panel without the need for an expensive custom instrument panel. The Evolution EFD1000 primary flight display (PFD) from Aspen Avionics will be initially available in two versions. The EFD1000 Pilot, with a $5,995 MSRP, is aimed at VFR pilots. It functionally replaces the attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter, rate-of-climb indicator and directional gyro, but doesn’t provide autopilot support or interfaces for navigation instruments.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Lightspeed Zulu

So comfortable and quiet, you’ll want to experience it beyond the airplane

tech-talkI first learned about the Lightspeed Zulu from a friend at the Reno Air Races last September. He was as pleased as he could be, enough so that he seemed like a walking advertisement for the product. I was a little skeptical about the durability of a Lightspeed headset in my aerobatic Edge 540, but he insisted it was truly great and described a change that had occurred within the company. Lightspeed has always focused on providing a good value headset with great comfort and outstanding customer service, but now they have such a high-quality piece of equipment that there’s little need to use their world-class service department. The active noise-reduction (ANR) headset includes features such as Bluetooth wireless capability, an audio-in jack for MP3 players and leather ear seals.
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Flight Guide Online

So much for so little

tech-talkFlight Guide Online, by Airguide Publications Inc., offers pilots a vast amount of information with their subscriptions. It’s also low in cost and physically small (it resides on your laptop, as if it were paper, but it’s not paper, it’s more convenient and has a lot more features).
Friday, February 1, 2008


Portable collision avoidance with direction

zaonZaon’s PCAS (portable collision-avoidance system) XRX is “the first ever portable, passive, stand-alone collision-avoidance system for general aviation to offer direction from within the cockpit.” After flight-testing one at four busy airports one recent Sunday afternoon, I can confirm that it does exactly what Zaon claims.
Friday, December 1, 2006

Mercury Computer Systems VistaNav

Glass-panel functionality comes in a portable package

If you’re like me—a pilot who mainly flies airplanes with “steam gauge” instruments that look increasingly out of date—you probably salivate over the glass flight decks that are common in new airplanes. Even the latest (smallest) singles from Cessna and Piper have them. And while it’s possible to retrofit similar hardware in older airplanes, for most of us, the cost (in the high tens of thousands of dollars) is prohibitive.

Monday, May 1, 2006

Jeppesen NavSuite

IFR flight planning, electronic charts and moving map all in one package

In the fall of 2004, I closed a review of Jeppesen’s JeppView/FliteDeck 3 with a complaint about the lack of serious flight-planning functions in Jeppesen’s flagship electronic charting products. A Jeppesen representative responded: “At some point, we hope to offer a single solution.” He must have been serious because that single solution now exists.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Bright Idea!

Mid-Continent Instruments’ Lifesaver attitude indicator with built-in battery backup

Bright Idea! Every pilot knows “Hoover’s Law”: It’s not a question of if your vacuum system will fail, but when your vacuum system will fail. To eliminate the vacuum problem, many owners have opted to go with an electric primary or standby gyro. Great idea—until the power goes out. Then what? Well, thanks to Mid-Continent Instruments, pilots who install its new 4300 series Lifesaver electric attitude indicator with built-in battery backup can keep flying for up to an hour.



Sunday, January 1, 2006

Garmin GPSMAP 396

The wunderbox that brings satellite uplink weather and radio capabilities to the cockpit

Garmin GPSMAP 396Fourteen years ago, when I met Tim Casey of Garmin International, we were at the Paris Air Show, and Carl Pascarell and I had just ferried the prototype Sino Swearingen SJ30 jet across the Atlantic to Le Bourget Airport with little more than point-and-shoot VHF radios. Like most prototypes, the first SJ30 was having its share of systems problems, and electrical glitches had burned up both of our VLF/Omegas on the eastbound crossing. By definition, we were flying IFR above 35,000 feet and needed a method of positively identifying our position for the trip back to San Antonio, Texas.

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

AvMap/Navigation’s EKP-IV GPS

A portable, WAAS-enabled solution with a mighty big screen

AvMap’s EKP-IV—which is an enhanced version of its predecessor, called the EKP-IIIC—can most likely best be described as the Rolls-Royce of portable GPS units for in-cockpit use. It’s bigger than your average handheld, standing at 4.75x7x1.5 inches, and it’s a bit pricey—but both the money and size buy a couple of other things that usually aren’t available in any other portable GPS units of which I’m quite aware, perhaps because the company has seriously taken into account its customer’s suggestions and comments.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Garmin GPSmap 296

Terrain comes to portable GPS

I count myself lucky that I’m allowed to fly with virtually all the new portable GPSs, and I’m just as amazed as you are when avionics manufacturers continue to find new worlds to conquer. Just when it seems there’s nothing new left to be done, someone does it.
Thursday, April 1, 2004

SureCheck TrafficScope VRX

Portable collision avoidance

techtalkFor those of us who routinely fly in busy airspace, the need to constantly “keep your head on a swivel” competes for our attention with ATC instructions, terminal area charts and instruments on the panel. The folks who fly “heavy iron,” on the other hand, have had options like TCAS (Traffic Alert/Collision Avoidance System) for more than 20 years, which they can rely on for warning of other aircraft on a collision course. But the cost of such a system (which can run into the tens of thousands of dollars) has been prohibitive for most of the GA fleet.