Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Handheld Buyer’s Guide


Technological advances are revolutionizing the GA cockpit



ADR Florida FG-1700
SPOT Connect
www.findmespot.com
SPOT has become well known for their little orange PLBs. The devices have revolutionized hiking, boating and flying by allowing the user to initiate a distress signal that uses satellites instead of cellular towers. SPOT continues its innovation with their newest "connect" device that turns any smartphone into a full-featured satellite communicator. Connect is a three-inch square that works in conjunction with the SPOT app you download to your smartphone. You pair the two via Bluetooth, and you now have a communicator that can send text messages from just about anywhere on Earth. Connect will track your progress on Google Maps or SPOT Adventures web page, and it interfaces with social networking sites like Facebook so your friends and family can follow your progress visually. Connect even has an on-device "SOS" button for emergencies even without a cell phone. Connect lists for $169.99 and you'll need a one or two-year subscription plan beginning at $99/year.
These ever-shrinking devices are making flying safer by giving the pilot more information and more options, whether it's through enhanced weather data or the ability to be found in case of a forced landing.


Yaesu VXA-710
Yaesu VXA-710
www.yaesu.com/airband
Yaesu has been making marine and airband radios for decades. With one of the smallest footprints and most affordable price tags, the VXA-710 is a versatile handheld NAV/COM communications radio. In addition to typical voice features, the VXA-710 radio is fully submersible and has a tough outer casing. It features a "quick-press" button for emergencies that immediately puts you on 121.5 MHz. The NAV mode has VOR and CDI indications, and a cool split mode where you can transmit to FSS while receiving a VOR station. A Yaesu exclusive, the unit receives Business Radio Service (BRS) broadcasts, as well as weather information and alerts from NOAA. The VXA-710 has a stopwatch timer mode, automatic power off to conserve battery life, display customization and a lot more. It comes with an antenna and antenna adapter for BNC (used in aviation), wall charger, Lithium battery pack and headset adapter. Lists for $297.

It's exciting to watch new devices hit the aviation and, in many cases, give new life to aircraft everywhere. Years ago it would have been inconceivable to have the situational awareness available now, literally in the palm of your hand and thus accessible in aircraft of any size or age. These ever-shrinking devices are making flying safer by giving the pilot more information and more options, whether it's through enhanced weather data or the ability to be found in case of a forced landing. With advances coming as fast as they are, it's anybody's guess what we'll be writing about in five years. But I can't wait.



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