Get a bunch of pilots together, and the talk will eventually turn to gear. Aviators tend to be folks who embrace technology, or at least the technology that centers on aviation. Some of us may not be able to program our digital video recorders or configure a wireless network at home, but we’ll tell you the headset we think is best and why, or which engine analyzer has the best specs and performance. Pilots will pore over feature lists for days and ask 20 minutes worth of questions at a vendor’s booth at a fly-in. We know our aviation products.
It’s with that same gusto that we approach our list of impressive products for 2010. Roaming through the hallways of Plane & Pilot (both the real ones and the virtual ones), each of our contributors gave one of their favorite products of the year. Aviation continues to leverage technology to make flying safer, more efficient and more fun, and this year introduced some interesting new products. Whether a refinement on something already there, or a new twist on something universal, some products were downright trendsetting. So from our P&P experts, like air show star Patty Wagstaff, to our guest columnists, like 2010 CFI of the Year “Mossy,” and all of us in between, we present our “grab-bag” list of aviation products that made us take notice.
SolidFX FX8 chart viewer
Frankly, viewing this unit’s super-crisp 6×8-inch display is downright soothing. It’s actually easier to read than paper. Currently the only digital reader for displaying Jeppesen terminal charts, this 13-ounce beauty is easy on the eyes and a serious innovator in creating a truly paperless cockpit. The FX8 can serve as a chart reader, notepad, electronic briefcase and library. The unit’s instant-on performance and 24-hour battery life adds to its friendliness in the cockpit, and its size allows it to go anywhere. The screen works with a stylus (that stores neatly into the FX8) and allows the usual pan and zoom, but also allows you to make notes right onto the screen for things like ATIS and clearances. The FX8-3G version adds wireless connectivity, and we love the new FXVIEW software that lets you add PDF files to the FX8 for checklists, manuals, procedures, corporate documents or anything that can be converted to PDF.
Spidertracks combines a GPS position receiver and satellite transmitter in a package the size of a handheld video game, and without an external antenna. The unit will relay coordinates from your airplane (or any vehicle) at specific intervals to servers around the globe. In addition to giving searchers your precise location in an emergency, Spidertracks overlays coordinates onto terrain maps (like Google Earth), allowing people, whom you choose, to view your progress through the web. Pilots also can send preset text and e-mail messages in flight with an optional keypad. The unit is portable and operates on an Iridium satellite network with real-time, 100% global coverage.
Lycoming AEIO-580 Thunderbolt Competition Engine
How can you not love a specially made high-performance engine that’s so powerful and unique (each one is built by a two-person team in a dedicated build-cell) that Lycoming recommends them “only for highly skilled, experienced pilots?” This beast of an engine has earned a rabid following in the serious aerobatic world, from pilots like Patty Wagstaff, Michael Goulian and Matt Chapman. The secrets behind these engines include precision static balancing to within half a gram, performance crankshafts and cases, specially designed ignition, fuel and induction systems, significantly increased compression, water injection and a slew of other envy-inducing modifications. Each engine can be built to a customer’s specifications and even includes custom engine colors. So extreme in performance that they’re not even certified and come with no specific warranty, Thunderbolts are what every kid, err, pilot, dreams about.
Anywhere Map Quadra
Contributing Editor Marc C. Lee likes to kid that he grabs his Quadra like he grabs a pack of gum on his way out to the airplane. This portable navigator (it’s more than just a GPS) is that simple to use, reliable and compact. When one considers all the features packed into this gizmo, the under-$600 price is impressive. The Quadra’s 4.3-inch high-def screen is easy to read even in sunlight, and the touch screen takes about a millisecond to adapt to. Wi-Fi connectivity for updates, an included 100LL.com fuel-price database, 180-meter terrain resolution, airport taxi diagrams and the cool “CoPilot” alerts and reminders are just a few of the features we like, as well as the Cones of Safety function that shows pilots where they can glide to from their current position. Add XM weather, sectional charts and approach plates, and you have a serious portable electronic cockpit.
The new Bose A20 got a lot of votes from our staff. Bill Cox has been using one now for a few months, and P&P Guest Speaker and 2010 CFI of the Year J. Robert Moss (“Mossy”)—who has 12 headsets—tells us, “The Bose A20 is twice as good as the Bose X.” With competitor manufacturers coming out with headsets that had the same or better noise attenuation than the legendary Bose X, Bose pulled out all the stops and introduced the A20 to immediate success. We love the increased comfort of the A20 and the way it fits your ears better, especially with the redesigned ear cups and cushions. The noise attenuation is improved for even louder cockpits, and the A20 feels lighter overall. Another great addition is the AUX input for connecting external devices and annunciators, and full Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect your cell phone wirelessly. As Mossy says, “The A20 is the best new product this year, hands down.”
In the category of “beautiful to look at,” the Trilogy is clearly ahead of anybody. First, it’s the first integrated standby system created specifically for general aviation. What the unit does is replace analog/mechanical standby instruments in glass cockpits by combining attitude, altitude, airspeed, slip/skid and optional heading data into a single—and visually compelling—4×3-inch digital display. We chose the Trilogy because of its solid-state design and Li-Ion battery power that will drive the unit for an hour after a power failure, along with its smooth and crisp display. If you want to see the unit in action, check out L3’s well-designed website with full-motion simulation and enough specs to keep anybody happy. Trilogy makes all-glass in GA feasible and safe.
iFly 700 Portable GPS
When Adventure Pilot introduced the iFly for $499, we took notice. Beyond the affordable price, this nifty unit packs a seven-inch touch screen (compared to most handheld four-inch screens) with a bundle of features usually available only in higher-priced units. The iFly 700 comes loaded with sectionals, IFR Low Enroute charts, airport diagrams, STAR, departure and approach plates. The price of $69/year gets you unlimited chart and database updates. The moving-map GPS moves over digitally enhanced FAA sectional charts all across the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii. Rubber-band features, timers, different displays, fading buttons and lots of goodies from the high-priced end of town make this unit one of our favorites this year.
SMA SR305e Diesel Aviation Engine
French company SMA has taken engine innovation to new levels. These folks impressed us at Sun ’n Fun this year, and again at Oshkosh. The SR305e brings diesel technology to general aviation in a way that Thielert couldn’t. Aside from the supply advantages of burning diesel/Jet A fuel (available almost anywhere), the SR305e consumes 30% to 40% less fuel than avgas. A truly innovative and design-centric engine, the SR305e was developed from the ground up. Delivering 230 hp at sea level and offering a 10,000 rated altitude with a 20,000-foot maximum ceiling, the SMA engine is also smoother and quieter than avgas engines. We love it because it’s “greener,” more efficient and needs less maintenance than an equivalently powered gas engine. Certified for various flavors of Cessna 182 with more certifications in progress, the SR305e is in a league of its own.
SPOT GPS Messenger
When SPOT introduced their first GPS personal tracker a few years ago, they became the innovator in this arena. Users embraced the little units because they were compact, simple to use and, most important, provided peace of mind when travelling in remote areas. With the introduction of the next-gen SPOT, the innovation trend continues. We fell in love with SPOT 2 because of its unique functions. “S.O.S.” is for life-threatening emergencies that, when activated, alerts an international response center with your location. The “HELP” mode routes your position and a HELP message through a satellite network every five minutes and sends your contacts an SMS text message or e-mail with a link to Google Maps showing your location. “CHECK-IN/OK” gives your contacts your current position and a preprogrammed message. “CUSTOM MESSAGE” is just that, and will send a message to friends and family with your GPS location. Finally, “TRACK PROGRESS” lets you send and save your locations so your contacts can follow your track in real time. A yearly subscription is required.
AvMap EKP V
This “more serious” EKP V navigator was introduced at Oshkosh this year and keeps its innovative kneeboard design. The big, seven-inch, 800×480 resolution screen is easy for older eyes to read, and can be easily switched from portrait to landscape mode. The new EKP V is thinner (.8 inches) and lighter (14 ounces). The big news is the V’s panel docking station that enables it to connect to all sorts of panel devices (like autopilots, EFIS, XM weather, etc.), converting it into a portable multifunction display (PMFD). The EKP V also introduces a progressive joystick and smartwheel selector for menu and screen navigation. It also brings a more powerful WAAS-supporting GPS, Mx 51 Cortex A8 Mhz 800 processor, a speaker and micro SD card preloaded with software and maps. The EKP V also sports a new graphical interface. We like the new “Profiles” feature that allows storing different aircraft profiles for settings like terrain awareness and display items.
Cool iPad Apps
|It’s safe to say that the iPad has made a huge impact on aviation. Because it’s a small device, has a gorgeously readable screen, turns on quickly and offers so many applications, the iPad seems a natural in the cockpit. Here are a few to get you started.|
Lots of pilots recognize FlightPrep flight-planning software. The company has been offering desktop and web-based flight-planning software to great success. Lately, the company has introduced a sophisticated electronic flight bag (EFB) we really like. The ChartBook-S is somewhat like an iPad, but built specifically for aviators. Based on the critically lauded ChartCase Professional software, this EFB has just about everything a pilot could want. Even a short list of its features is impressive, with moving-map GPS over georeferenced FAA charts, Highway-In-The-Sky Synthetic Vision, 3D terrain awareness, virtual backup instruments and user-defined checklists. We love that the ChartBook-S is a slate-style computer, and with an optional keyboard, it can be your laptop, EFB and GPS all in one. The EFB runs on Windows 7, and the ChartBook-S comes with and runs ChartCase Professional software.
Sporty’s SP-400 Handheld Nav/Com
There has never been a huge selection of handheld nav/com radios. When Sporty’s introduced their new SP-400, we got pretty excited. Right off the bat, one feature we love is the full ILS display (localizer plus glideslope). The SP-400 is the only handheld radio that offers this potentially bacon-saving feature. The SP-400’s screen is huge and easy to read, and the ample keyboard is backlit for night operations. The unit allows one-handed operation with a one-touch emergency frequency button. We loved the nice details, like the side tone that lets you hear yourself if you plug in a headset, the built-in NOAA weather radio and the convenient AA batteries (the SP-400 runs on eight of them) that can be changed out all together (in a battery pack) in seconds. It also features VOR navigation with user-selectable OBS and a side tone.The SP-400 includes an alkaline battery pack, an antenna and wrist strap, all for $399.
|Private Pilot checkride app presents a question-answer format of most frequently asked checkride questions. Aviation dictionary with over 10,000 terms. PrepWare brings all written test prep books to the iPad.|
|Full-featured electronic logbook for the iPad with 8,000 preloaded aircraft. Exports to various calendars and spreadsheets. Features automatic calculation of duty times and various reports.|
|The iEFB has detailed airport information for nearly 5,000 airports coast to coast. Georeferenced high-res Sectionals, TAC, approach Plates, IFR High and Low Enroute charts including Alaska, Hawaii and the Caribbean. Also Current Weather including METAR and TAFs.|
Foreflight Mobile HD
|High-quality weather, airport intelligence, service providers, flight planning and more. Also approach plates, georeferenced VFR/IFR charts, radar, flight rules and airport maps, as well as NEXRAD weather.|
|The WingX Pro7 for iPad features moving map, DUATS, weather, airspace depiction, terrain awareness, charts, airport diagrams and just about everything a pilot could ever need.|
|jeppesen-mobile-tc Electronic VFR/IFR charts for users with NavSuite or JeppView subscription.|
|The E6B iPhone/iPad app includes all the features of the traditional E6B, including 23 aviation functions, 18 conversions and complete timer features.|
|Most complete mobile flight simulator available. Based on the most powerful and accurate flight simulator in the world as used by NASA.|