Like many pilots, I carry a little insurance against the possibility of an alternator failure. I have a portable GPS on my Skylane’s yoke, a handheld VHF NAV/COM in a seat-back pocket and a cell phone where I can reach it.
A flight down Florida’s east coast is replete with tropical playground panoramas, but the million-dollar view isn’t enough at the moment to pry my eyes from the dual IFDs (Integrated Flight Displays) of Avidyne’s new Entegra Release 9, installed in the company’s Cirrus SR22.
In a remarkable paradigm shift from past portable GPS devices, Garmin produces a larger knee-pad version with new talents
If you hadn’t noticed, the Garmin 696 is bigger. Anyone who has seen the advertising for Garmin’s new world-beater 696 GPS navigation unit knows it’s a definite departure from Garmin’s traditional philosophy of thinking small. Garmin entered the market back in 1989 by producing a small, high-quality, portable GPS unit; but the new system’s most obvious talent is simply its size. (In fact, the 696 isn’t the first larger-format Garmin portable GPS.
Today, aviation headsets sport more features than ever before. Use this guide to navigate your way through the headset jungle.
Ask any two pilots what the best headset is and you’ll get two distinct answers, each with solid claims to back it up. There are scores of headsets on the market, and the different features of each model make choosing the correct headset a quagmire of myth, hearsay and fact.
What to consider before you purchase a GPS, EFB or NAV/COM
Pilots today are increasingly dependent on electronic navigation and communication equipment: GPS for navigation, satellite radio for weather avoidance and VHF for voice communications (since September 11, no pilot can seriously think about flying in controlled airspace without one).
One of the best things about EAA AirVenture, more than any other aviation gathering, is the sheer number of cool things you’ll find, whether cruising the fly market for tools, sheet metal and bungee cords, or stalking through the hangars for treasures and things you never knew you’d need. We’ve found some incredibly clever products; many that you may not have sampled yet. Prices run the gamut of ranges, but the items are all worth a look. When you go to Oshkosh, you never know what you may come home with!
Today’s engine analyzers can help you lower costs and fly more safely
No matter how modern an airplane’s engines and systems are, predictable power is ultimately a pilot’s personal responsibility. We rely on engine instrumentation to ensure safe flight, but we also like to optimize engine operations (for example, speed, distance or lifetime economy). The right information, reliably transmitted and interpreted, can save money and time, and prevent awkward situations.
Airline and bizjet pilots have been using flight management system (FMS) technology for almost 30 years, but it’s new to general aviation pilots. From the beginning, the FMS has appeared to the pilot as a control unit with at least two features: a keypad to enter waypoints and an alphanumeric display to show navigation and performance data. That’s still true for most FMS displays, though some now provide graphical features, and not all GA installations include a keypad. The FMS can also drive navigation instruments (or the PFD on a glass panel).
New models & new technology, priced from $79 to $995
Aviation headsets—now that’s a topic that’s close to my heart, or ears. My first “headset” was a Gosport tube in a military trainer, an all-rubber affair with a speaking tube connected to rubber ear pads via a long tube. Pity the poor student who tried to follow the grunts, snorts and expletives emanating from the rear cockpit. A few years later, after bouncing my head off the canopy of my SNJ Texan too many times, I took my Bell motorcycle helmet, hollowed out the padding and, using a discarded TV camera headset, inserted a set of Telex ear pads, bolted on the boom mic, then wired it to the navcom. Forty years later, it still works, more or less.
Entering the glass-cockpit age has gotten more affordable
An interesting trend has been emerging: Upgrades for existing aircraft are bringing older airplanes into the modern, electronic, glass-cockpit age. Glass upgrades or even whole retrofit panels can make you think you’re flying the newest aircraft in the sky.
The world of flight simulation has changed quite a bit since Edwin Link invented the first flight simulator in 1931; today, realistic simulation is available in packages that range from software that can run on a desktop computer up to multimillion-dollar systems used to train airline and military pilots.
A guide to gadgets that will keep you and your passengers secure
Remember when CB radios were actually useful? Like CBs and just about everything originally intended for emergency purposes, many of the safety items listed in this article are for situations of distress, where life, eyesight or organ health is in danger. Let’s all be careful and professional when using PLBs (personal locator beacons) and ELTs (emergency locator transmitters).
I’m sold on the concept that using portable avionics in the cockpit will make the flying experience safer and more convenient. As a flight instructor, I teach in aircraft with large differences in avionics, ranging from the latest and greatest in glass panels to ships with no radio or electrical system. Regardless, it’s always comforting to have my trusty Garmin GPSMAP 496 along for the flight to help with situational awareness and to have the latest weather at my fingertips.
Most airplanes in the general aviation fleet were built more than 20 years ago and have old-fashioned “steam gauge” panels that induce glass-cockpit envy among pilots who get a peek at the latest flight decks from such companies as Avidyne, Chelton and Garmin. Fortunately, there’s an amazingly simple cure: A wide range of carry-on gadgets are available that provide glass-cockpit functions in a handheld package. In this issue, we briefly cover more than a dozen products that span the gamut, from simple digital E6B computers to full-function portable multi-function displays!