Plane & Pilot
Saturday, September 1, 2007

Products to Watch

Fly Faster, Smarter, Better And Safer

Fly Faster, Smarter, Better And Safer

I love the aviation industry; it’s always innovating and producing newer and better things to help us fly faster/smarter/better/safer, etc. When Plane & Pilot asked me to subjectively investigate “what’s cool and what’s new,” I jumped at the prospect. So, here’s our take on what’s new, what’s cool and what’s on the horizon.

1 Pilot My-Cast by Garmin Just imagine yourself all alone at a small airport where the FBO is closed. Pick up your cell phone, enter the information about where you want to go, and Pilot My-Cast will show the Wx on that route—NEXRAD, METARs and so on—and you’ll be up to date.

The newest edition, Pilot My-Cast by Garmin, premiered at Oshkosh, and it’s more than a weather service: now, you can also file your flight plan, get a pilot’s map and check winds aloft. It’s easy to use as well. The filed info automatically goes to DUATs; and the next time you file, you’ll have to change only the info that changes for the flight.
Pilot My-Cast is supported by phones produced by Alltel, Cingular, Sprint and Verizon, among others. As with anything technical, check first for compatibility. (Understand that this is for checking your weather on the ground only. Don’t use a cell phone in the air!) Learn more at

2 L-3 Communications Avionics Systems (IRIS) L-3 Communications Avionics Systems introduced its IRIS enhanced vision system (EVS) last October; in late May, it unveiled its PMA (parts manufacturer approval) and its latest STC, for the King Air C90. Other STCs are in the works, and EVS is likely to become even more common in GA aircraft. It doesn’t help you see through heavy rain or snowstorms, but you’ll be able to see the ground when you’re flying into the sun, or when it’s hazy or at night—in those tense moments when the airport’s lights don’t work, or when the engine for some reason just…goes…silent. Even when everything’s working, suppose there are deer grazing near the runway, or somebody you’re not expecting is hanging around your spooky parking space.

IRIS was developed from reliable components. President Adrienne Stevens explained, “In keeping with our heritage, L-3 Avionics Systems has taken enhanced vision system technology developed from adjacent markets and made it affordable for general aviation.” We ought to be glad they did. Learn more at

3 Avidyne Retrofit Products At Sun ’n Fun, Avidyne introduced its Envision Integrated Flight Deck as a retrofit upgrade for the Cirrus SR20 and SR22. All the “Cirri” delivered prior to the arrival of the Avidyne Entegra, some 700 airplanes, are eligible. The souped-up flight deck isn’t limited to the Cirrus airplanes, though; it also has been STC’d for the Cessna 300- and 400-series twins. And now, coverage is expanded, all the way to experimentals.

A large part of the credit goes to Southern Star Avionics LLC, in Mobile, Ala., for developing the package and retrofit and doing the integration and certification work. The Envision will allow owners of older aircraft and homebuilders to have an “Entegra experience,” with full-time, instantaneous wind-vector display and trend indicators that provide six-second trend data for airspeed, altitude and heading. Parts cost for the 10.4-inch MFD and PFD and the system will run about $45,000; the price of the STC hasn’t been announced. Learn more at

4 VistaNav Portable Synthetic Vision system Think of Mercury Computer Systems’ new portable navigation system, the VistaNav CIS-2000 Class II EFB with Synthetic Vision (SV), as a computer simulator in reverse: You watch the rugged 8.4-inch glass-screen display and control the actual airplane. (Of course, the VistaNav system isn’t IFR certified and can’t be used for IFR navigation.)

With SV, you clearly “see” the runway on your display, even when you’re in the soup. On-screen, you see what’s outside in “clear daylight” and at frame rates above 30 fps—you just fly the real airplane through the HITS (Highway in the Sky) boxes to safety. The sight picture is a realistic 3-D approach—in some ways, that’s better than real VFR!

VistaNav CIS-2000 is portable and includes 2-D maps and approach plates, XM weather and 2-D/3-D traffic displays. The system is a functional backup for panel-mounted IFR instruments, with a 90-minute battery. You can use this system in any airplane, with no hookups. With both Class I and Class II systems to choose from, prices start as low as $2,500.

In conjunction with some work I did for VistaNav, I flew this system with a safety pilot through the pattern. Although he did take over six feet off the ground (at the threshold, on the centerline), I believe I could have landed with it, in what could have been zero visibility, day or night, with the entire panel dead. That’s better than any alternative outcome I could think of. Learn more at

5 RAM Aircraft LP RAM Aircraft LP at Waco Regional Airport in Texas provides engine overhauls, performance upgrades, new propellers and new and PMA-new parts for a lot of our favorites, and has exciting news for Cessna 210, 206 and 207 owners: “better traction!”

The latest RAM STC mates newly developed three-blade Hartzell Scimitar Plus S/E propellers to RAM’s power STCs: an upgrade of the 285 hp C210 H to 310 hp “R” power. (If you already have the “R” model, RAM has a super-overhaul that includes new nickel-carbide coated cylinders and micro-balanced internals for smoother operation and greater reliability.)

A similar propeller STC (mated to different models of the 520) is available to owners of most C206 and C207 models, including turbocharged variants; and the prop is available in either “hot” or “cold” specification, to match the airplane’s original call-out. (On some aircraft not equipped with propeller deice systems from the factory, RAM can supply propellers with deice boots installed, but the owner must install a deice kit and hardware.)

The RAM-overhauled engines, STC upgrade packages, and parts and propellers can all be shipped to aircraft owners worldwide to install themselves; alternatively, customers are invited to Waco for the overhaul. Fly home fast and happy! Learn more at

6 Hangar B-17 Smart Avionics Technologies Hangar B-17 provides a range of portable avionics that run on Ultra Mobile PCs, tablets, and Palm and Pocket PC PDAs. (The newest product works on a modern Smartphone, too!) Hangar B-17 asks, “If avionics are getting so advanced, why is it that the pilots have to do all the thinking?” They ensure that we don’t.

The newest iteration uses winds aloft (through WxWorx) to show optimal flight-plan altitudes for time and fuel savings. It helps keep us from busting airspace, with built-in warnings any time we’re vertically getting within 200 feet of airspace altitude restrictions. Additionally, the AGL indicator on the altimeter delivers a ground proximity warning. The EFIS altimeter also bounces your behavior against VFR, IFR and RVSM altitude flight rules and shows you your altitude options. Plus, it displays oxygen requirements—if you need O2, you might not be sharp enough to realize it!

Especially useful: while the screen can display almost anything, it automatically “de-clutters” itself, showing only information that’s relevant to your flight path and altitude. Further, it’s always calculating your airplane’s glide radius, factoring glide ratio, position AGL and terrain along the flight path. If the prop stops, you’ll know where you can go—all public or private strips on your charts are in the database. Learn more at

7 HotSeat Simulator Chassis I rode this baby at the I/ITSEC (training & simulation) show in December; at Sun ’n Fun in April, the line to the demo was so long that I didn’t even try. President and CEO of HotSeat Chassis, Jay LeBoff, an amateur road racer, wanted more and more racing, but couldn’t get the experience he wanted with existing desktop sims, so he started what he thought would be a simple expansion on the idea: add a seat, pedals and some feedback. Aside from the G-forces, he then had a chance to race in his living room when the track was covered with snow.

Airplanes are similar—and the G’s are all in one direction. He took the original “chair,” with its realistic sounds, vibrations and feedback, and built a “flight system.” It’s now a complete home-entertainment system on several levels; you can opt for multiple screens, and even a six-speaker Dolby 5.1 sound system.

At Oshkosh, the newest system—for helicopters—hit the floor. What’s cool? It’s a viable bridge between entertainment and flight training, just what the industry needs to attract new pilots. You can practice on it, or you can let the aspiring pilots experience flight—for just the price of the electricity. Several of these units have gone to aviation colleges and CFIs. Tell yourself it’s for education and practice; tell the kids it’s entertainment: it works either way! Learn more at

8 Xerion Avionix AuRACLE II The AuRACLE II is the most sophisticated engine management system that I’ve found for light GA aircraft. It replaces all the usual independent engine instruments; it’s TSO’d and STC’d for hundreds of aircraft. A single cannon-plug interface is the only firewall penetration (no “wet” lines in the cockpit!); and it’s easy to configure, too, with a USB interface that allows quick custom setup in any application.

AuRACLE II presents, among other things, rpm, manifold pressure, fuel flow, CHTs and EGTs, induction air temp, fuel computations and pressure, OP and OT, turbine inlet temp, volts/amps and user-set programmable warnings, all on one face; and the AuRACLE records 150 nonerasable hours of data.

AuRACLE’s nonerasable data logging can be thought of as “poor man’s trend monitoring.” The big boys use TM to save money, plan maintenance, refine piloting techniques and spot trouble before it becomes a problem. That’s great for maintenance departments and those who examine warranty claims, to say nothing of, ah… accident investigators.

An integrated cost-effective recording instrument system was bound to reach our end of GA, sooner or later. Here it is—sooner! Learn more at

9 Micco Aircraft SP26 Micco (Seminole for “leader”) has had a tough recent history, but the greatness of the all-metal airplane has never been in question: an aerobatic 260 hp retractable taildragger with side-by-side seating that allows even two short people to see the runway when the tailwheel’s on the ground.

The precise handling and unprecedented visibility of the SP26 make it a fantastic trainer, especially for a school that wants to offer tailwheel training. The SP26 can do it all—it’s predictable and manageable for primary training; it offers super visibility and docile ground handling for a tailwheel; and it’s a full-acro machine and spin trainer (with an unlimited aerobatic airframe life); plus, 96 usable gallons feeding the IO-540 gives you plenty of cross-country range (more than seven hours at 150+ knots)—and its 810-pound useful load means you don’t need to skip lunch! Learn more at

10 Beyerdynamic Headset Beyerdynamic GmbH & Co. KG is better known in recording studios than in cockpits, but the Heilbronn, Germany, company has been quietly introducing tailored products into aviation since late last year. Quietly until now, that is.

The HS 300 sports passive attenuation, and the new HS 600 has digital adaptive noise reduction (DANR), in which an “intelligent” microprocessor produces the counter sound, resulting in a quick adaptation to changing noise levels and improved perception of audio.

Other features include the ability to hook up your cell phone (ground use only, of course) and MP3 player to a dedicated aviation headset. Based on the top-selling 770-series studio headphone, the sets feature aluminum yokes, electret condenser mics and “airplane” plugs. (Helo-plugs coming later). One more unique thing: you can “build your own” online. On the company’s Website, select “manufaktur” to pick your colors and features—you can even order custom lettering. The HS headsets carry a five-year warranty and come in a particularly rugged case. The HS 300 Individual lists at $299, and the price on the HS 600 hasn’t yet been determined here, but preliminary pricing in Europe has it at 849 euros. “Build Your Own” versions have a small premium based on the selection. Learn more at

11 Cirrus G3 The Generation 3 (G3) Cirrus is a pretty face, all right, with its new, mouthwatering, almost pearl-metallic colors, but it’s so much more. Cirrus made it lighter, pulling 50 pounds out of the wing, while making the wing stronger. Cirrus also made it heavier, in a good way: additional fuel capacity yields roughly 1?6 more range. While the company was working on the wing, Cirrus increased the dihedral just a little; they say you can feel the increased lateral stability. They also made the gear two inches taller, for longer prop life and greater tail clearance. The recognition lights are now brilliant, low-power and have super-long-life LEDs, and the TKS anti-icing system is also expanded, in both span coverage and fluid capacity: there’s a 50% increase in anti-icing endurance at any setting and a more-convenient filler port on the G3 wing. Inside, they’ve increased cabin airflow by 40%, made the heater hotter and made air-conditioning available on all the SR22s, even the turbos. Learn more at

12 Diamond DA50 SuperStar Diamond unveiled its five-seat DA50 in Friedrichshafen, Germany, in April. Roomy, comfortable and fast, the 350 hp composite bird may someday have a diesel engine, but for now, TCM’s TSIOF-550J is providing all the power the four-blade prop needs. Official numbers aren’t public yet, but we’re told to look for a 25,000-foot ceiling, center control sticks, a three-screen Garmin G1000 suite, a beefy MTOW of 3,560 pounds, and a cruise speed of 200 KTAS at 18,000 feet.

With full-scale production of the DA50 set to begin in January, the top of Diamond’s line (DA42, DA50 and D-JET) all look like solid winners, even as the DA20 and DA40 are earning the mass-market acceptance they’ve long deserved.

Some day, people will also discover the high-speed, no-medical benefits of self-launched, cross-country gliding, and Diamond’s fine (but rare) HK36 will gain some respect. But for now, horsepower lovers, big people and families will go nuts for the DA50 SuperStar. Learn more at

13 P2 TimeTrac It’s inevitable: components get changed, rebuilt and overhauled; it’s a pain keeping track of just how old everything is. TimeTrac, STC’d for more than 750 models, tracks your time, bounces that against your installed equipment list, and automatically creates and analyzes pilot and aircraft logs. So all you need to do is fly.
TimeTrac gives you flight-management features for a fraction of the costs of compiling other databases; it’s the size of a deck of cards, interfaces with most GPS units and for $2,495, you own both hardware and software (for PC or Mac). Best of all, there are no “subscription” costs.

When it’s time for your annual, your inspection authorizer doesn’t have to spend hours going over books—it’s all there. Accountants love it, too. Between annuals, as components get close to their inspection/replacement times, the items change color on your readout screen; you can also call up an action item list.

When you sell, one report shows everything—tires, brakes, engine, prop—and better records mean better resale. With a new airplane, it’s a great way to keep track of everything that’s ever going to happen. Once you’re set up, you’re done! Once you’ve seen it, you’re hooked! Learn more at

14 Vertex Standard 220 The new Vertex Standard 220 replaces the VXA-150, and expands on that unit’s virtues. While the 150 was water-resistant, the 220 is actually submersible. It’s a modern update: bands are stepped at 8.33 kHz (for the future narrow-band channel schema). The 220 has more memory channels, up from 150 to 250; and NOAA Wx radio is preset for monitoring.

Pilots are getting older, and Vertex Standard helps us, too: the new display is bigger; the Omni-Glow display back-lighting won’t mess up your night vision; transmission has a voice-operation mode; and the incoming audio output is cleaner. Learn more at

15 Icom IC-A210 Icom’s new panel-mount flip-flop radio is stunning, with its organic LED display and clean styling. The OLEDs can just about overpower the sun (and you can dim them for normal or night use), and the ease of use makes this part of your communications a lot less stressful: for instance, your most-recently used stations can be called up from memory; and if you’re hooked into one of the many popular GPS units, it can tune to the proper tower frequencies, automatically.

The radio also has a built-in crew intercom; it monitors two frequencies automatically; it has one-touch 121.5 tuning; there’s a built-in weather channel receiver (U.S. version); and a built-in DC-DC converter allows 12- or 24-volt installation.

The mounting systems get simpler and simpler, too. The supplied bracket will allow direct replacement of its predecessor, the Icom A200, as well as Bendix/King KY 96A/97A and Garmin SL40. Expect a street price around $1,200, or a point just north of there. Slick, competent and easy: it’s the very definition of cool. Learn more at



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