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.
I’ve given up trying to talk to students over the roar of the engine without an intercom on board, so I always have my handy portable intercom in my flight bag, ready for use if the customer’s aircraft isn’t equipped with one. And when I fly my own aircraft, a Bonanza equipped with a Garmin GNS 530W and a GDL 69A weather receiver, I still carry my 496 GPS with me. I use the 496 GPS XM weather for predeparture planning; en route, it backs up the panel-mounted equipment. In my case, I get more weather products on the portable than the panel mount, including the ability to animate the NEXRAD to understand where the weather’s going. Often, I find that viewing en route conditions is easier on the portable than on the panel mount. I’ve even practiced flying with only the 496 pseudo instruments page and can make an emergency instrument approach without reference to any of the panel-mounted instruments.
Before I start up, I listen to the ASOS on my handheld VHF transceiver to get the field information. Sometimes, when it’s obvious there will be extended ground waits, I use the handheld to request my clearance and then stand by until they’re ready for me. I bought all the accessories for the handheld so I can plug it into my headset in the event of an in-flight radio or electrical failure. I also try to keep the handheld battery charged and have a fully charged spare that I bring. And to improve the handheld’s range, I’ve installed a plug-in antenna jack that attaches to a com antenna mounted on the airplane’s belly.
To display traffic, I have a Garmin GTX 330 that’s interfaced with my 530W. But after seeing the Zaon portable traffic receiver at Oshkosh, I’m seriously considering adding it as well. Plus, I can use it when I am instructing in someone’s airplane that doesn’t have traffic!
I don’t rent airplanes any more, but for those who do, flying in different aircraft with various navigation systems requiring different operating interfaces can be intimidating. In such cases, your trusty and familiar portable GPS can provide extra safety and comfort for that VFR flight. Here are some of the portable products offered today that can make your flying safer and more pleasant.
Icom A24: The Icom A24 navcom is a handheld radio designed for pilots. It can be used on the ground and in the air for communications and navigation. In addition to the VHF frequencies, it has the NOAA marine weather channels. The VOR navigation functions include a Digital VOR (DVOR) mode, which shows the radial to or from a VOR station, and a CDI mode, which shows the course deviation to or from a VOR station. You can also input your intended radial to or from the VOR station and show the course deviation on the display. Duplex operation allows calling on a COM channel while using VOR navigation. The LCD screen is backlit, as are the buttons. When used with a headset, side tone is available to hear your own transmissions. Unique to the Icom A24 is its Flip-Flop channel recall, which allows the pilot to scroll through up to 10 of the last frequencies used. It comes standard with a rechargeable NiMH battery, carrying case, headset adapter, whip antenna, strap and a wall charger. For more information, visit www.icomamerica.com.
Vertex Standard VXA-710: This is Vertex Standard’s top-of-the-line navcom handheld. In addition to providing a VHF transceiver and VOR receiver, the VXA-710 also receives FM broadcast and NOAA weather channels. A CDI is available when using a VOR frequency. Split operation is supported for communicating with an FSS using a VOR to receive while transmitting on another frequency. With the dual watch feature, you can monitor one frequency, such as the ASOS for weather while still communicating with ATC on the priority channel. Any transmissions on the priority channel will mute the other channel you’re monitoring. The status LED indicates when it’s transmitting and receiving and acts as a strobe light when using the emergency frequency. The backlit display is 132 x 64. Constructed with a rugged die-cast magnesium case, the VXA-710 is designed to be lightweight and compact. A unique feature of the Vertex Standard handhelds is that they can be submersed in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes. The VXA-710 comes standard with a 1,400 mAh lithium-ion battery, a wall charger and a headset adapter. For more information, visit www.vertexstandard.com.
Sporty’s SP-200: Sporty’s offers its own handheld navcom, the SP-200, which provides up to 15 hours of service thanks to its long battery life and eight alkaline batteries. It comes with a five-year warranty, flexible antenna, removable wrist strap, battery case and instruction manual. The SP-200 has a backlit screen and keypad for nighttime operation. The SP-200 has a CDI display for VOR, as do other handhelds. Unique to the IC-200 is that it will display a CDI for localizer frequencies. A duplex COM feature supports transmitting to an FSS and listening over a VOR frequency. It sports a full-feature scanner (for the entire frequency range or selected memory channels). The SP-200 has 20 memory channels and supports 8.33 Mhz channel spacing (now required in Europe). The tough case will survive being dropped on the ramp. For more information, visit www.sportys.com.
Electronic Flight Bags
Advanced Data Research FG-7000T: Advanced Data Research (ADR), a provider of electronic flight bags, offers the FG-7000T EFB Kit. The hardware is based on the Fujitsu P1610D tablet computer and can run any Windows-based software. The screen has been modified by ADR to provide wide-angle viewing with reduced reflection and enhanced brightness. Equally as important, ADR added two small buttons for convenient night-flight dimming control; this allows the screen to be dimmed down low enough for the pilot to view the electronic chart, then look out the cockpit window without losing night vision. Flight Command Software (FCS) is provided for in-flight operations; it offers checklists, program access, security against inadvertent deletion, a pop-up keyboard, pop-up pen calibration and a utilities button for commonly needed tasks. The EFB has an 8.9-inch WSVGA LCD with a touch screen (1280 x 768), a 1.2 GHz processor and 512 MB standard. ADR’s Airserve WiFi Connect allows multiple EFBs to receive GPS and one system to receive weather data over 802.11b wireless technology. Both XM and WSI weather receivers are supported. An optional solid-state drive is available, which can operate up to 80,000 feet. For more information, visit www.adrsoft.com.
VistaNav CIS-2000: Mercury Computer System’s VistaNav’s CIS-2000 Synthetic Vision displays 3-D “Highway-in-the-Sky” approaches, which allow the pilot to clearly “see” the approach path and runway environment in real time. VistaNav also includes 2-D maps and approach plates, as well as optional XM weather and 2-D/3-D traffic displays. The system is completely independent of the aircraft, providing an emergency battery-backup system that will provide 3-D approach guidance in the event of a vacuum, electrical or instrument failure. The CIS-2000 system is a portable Class II EFB with synthetic vision, including a WAAS GPS, solid-state gyros, barometric pressure sensor, and processing unit and display. The system comes standard with an extreme-environment 40 GB hard drive rated to 14,500 feet, or an optional 16 GB or 32 GB solid-state drive rated up to 40,000 feet. The VistaNav CIS-2000 system is capable of delivering synthetic vision frame rates of more than 30 frames per second. For more information, visit www.vistanav.com.
AirGator NAVPad 5 Bundle: This new full-function electronic flight bag is enclosed in a 6.7×3.2×1-inch package, which weighs less than one pound. Unlike a PDA, it’s a full-function tablet PC with Windows XP and can run a full suite of applications designed for a PC. It has a built-in 600 MHz AMD Geode LX 900 processor and a 6 GB solid-state drive. The 4.8-inch display features 800 x 480 pixels and a touch screen TFT (thin film transistor) LCD with automatic rotation between portrait and landscape modes. It has a full QWERTY keypad with numbers and function keys, and an integrated 802.11b/g wireless. Included in the package is Bluetooth WAAS-enabled GPS, a Bluetooth XM WX receiver, NAVAir EFB software, and a single-wire 12/28-volt power harness. NAVAir Approaches are available as an option that contains all the approach charts for the United States. NAVAir Traffic supports the display of traffic from the portable ZAON XRX traffic receiver or from a Mode S transponder or TCAS. AirGator also provides a full suite of PDA and EFB solutions with screens up to 10.4 inches. For more information, visit www.airgator.com.
Hangar B17 WinEFIS Moving Map: Hangar B17 provides WinEFIS Moving Map software for an XP tablet PC. WinEFIS Moving Map uses a map view with a heads-up styled display. Your airspeed is displayed on the left, altitude information on the right and track information at the top. Airspace at your altitude is highlighted. If you’re within 200 feet vertically of entering airspace, it’s highlighted in yellow as a warning. Smart Charts highlights an airport by enlarging its symbol when within the gliding range. When the nearest airport button is pressed, airports on the charts are marked green, yellow or red to differentiate between those that can be reached, are marginal or are unreachable. All airports and navaids that you fly over have pop-up airport information, which provides frequencies, runway diagrams, services and various remarks. The product offers optional XM WX weather with NEXRAD data. TAF and METAR data is provided for the selected airport and those within a 60 nm radius, sorted from nearest to farthest. This allows the pilot to get a good overview of the surface weather conditions with a single click, even for airports without weather.
The terrain features are high fidelity with each surface pixel representing about 500 square feet. This could be important in mountainous terrain. A new option announced at Oshkosh is support for the Zaon Traffic Collision Avoidance receiver. It overlays the map and can monitor up to nine targets and report on the top three priorities. For more information, visit www.hangarb17.com.
PDA-Based Moving Map Solutions
HP 5915 With Anywhere Map: Anywhere Map offers a full suite of portable, modular avionics including navigation, XM datalink weather, approach plates (NACO and Jeppesen), traffic avoidance using the Zaon XRX and even fuel prices from Anywhere Map’s www.100LL.com Website. The support for displaying electronic approach plates, XM weather and Zaon XRX traffic are available as options. Anywhere Map has many exclusive features such as Cones of Safety and Emergency Descent Assistance. With Cones of Safety, a ring is drawn around suitable airports representing the no-wind gliding distance. With the Emergency Descent Assistance, the pilot can quickly select an airport to glide to while Anywhere Map displays an arc showing the distance to field elevation at the current descent rate and groundspeed. The HP 5915 Travel Companion is the latest PDA and best one ever made. This is the first PDA with a built-in GPS and four hours of totally wireless operation. It also has a sunlight-readable touch screen and TomTom street mapping for all of North America. Anywhere Map also runs on tablet computers such as the Motion LS800, and the company offers many exclusive accessories for those systems. For more information, visit www.anywheremap.com.
TeleType GPS Pro Aviation Software: TeleType offers software and mapping for both aviation and car navigation. The company produces software bundles with Sirf III Bluetooth GPS for excellent positioning accuracy. The TeleType GPS software includes U.S. street maps for navigation on the ground as well as the complete aviation complement of maps for VFR and IFR reference. Along with the TeleType Aviation navigation software, the company includes an E6B flight calculator and utilities. The aviation software includes support for Victor and Jet Airways, Airspace and navaids, terminal procedures and terrain avoidance. The software runs on a PDA that must be purchased separately. The Teletype GPS 20 Channel Sirf III Bluetooth receiver has enhanced functionalities to provide fast lock-in. The Bluetooth wireless operates up to 30 feet between GPS receiver and PDA. The replaceable Li-Ion rechargeable batteries last up to 10 hours of use! The small, sleek, lightweight GPS easily fits in the palm of your hand or your shirt pocket, and the “grip” padding on the bottom allows the receiver to stay put! It has a WAAS-enabled, 20-channel receiver with enhanced position accuracy. For more information, visit www.teletype.com.
Portable GPS Units
AvMap EKP-IV: This belongs to the new generation of portable navigation systems for the aeronautical market. EKP features a seven-inch, color, LCD display that’s sunlight-viewable. Menu keys are strategically positioned along the sides of the case to support easy switching between portrait and landscape modes. The EKP-IV utilizes a 512 MB compact flash. The cartography is fully detailed and integrates regional road charts, Jeppesen’s aeronautical database and the FAA’s Private Airport Database. Support is provided to display the Low (Victor) Airways and TAWS function. Multiple views are supported, including full or split HSI screens with data fields, nav data or full-map view. The land elevation is color-coded to show the terrain altitude. The EKP-IV comes with a cigarette-lighter power cord and will operate on 11 to 35 volts DC. It uses six AA rechargeable NiMH batteries intended for up to 1.5 hours of emergency use. The EKP-IV comes with an internal Sirf Star III 20-channel GPS receiver. AvMap plans to add optional support for XM weather in the near future. For more information, visit www.avmap.us.
Garmin GPSMAP 496: The Garmin GPSMAP 496 combines satellite weather with a color map and terrain alerting. Garmin SafeTaxi allows pilots to view their position on taxiways and runways for more than 650 U.S. airports. AOPA’s Airport Directory is included with GPSMAP 496, allowing pilots to look up taxi, rental car, hotel, fuel availability and other airport services. Garmin’s Smart Airspace feature automatically highlights airspace close to your current altitude, providing increased situational awareness. The 496 updates map data and instruments five times per second, giving a smoother, near-real-time presentation of the analog indications on the instrument page. The higher-resolution terrain database has more than 10 times as much data as the 396. The 496 also provides terrain alerts based on the terrain and U.S. obstacles databases. With the GXM 30A antenna (included) and a subscription to XM WX, you’ll have access to continuously updated XM NEXRAD data, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, and Lightning and Winds Aloft. XM Satellite Radio entertainment is available for an additional service fee. The 496 will also display TIS traffic from a Garmin GTX 330 transponder or the Zaon XRX portable traffic detector. For more information, visit www.garmin.com.
Lowrance AirMap 2000c: The AirMap 2000c offers a five-inch diagonal sunlight-viewable TFT color display with 320 x 240 pixels. Weighing less than a pound and a half, the rugged case is waterproof. It has a built-in GPS with a 12-channel WAAS processor. A key feature of the 2000c is terrain awareness, which comes preloaded on a standard SD card and provides color-coded terrain, based on height above the ground. A Lowrance-specific Terrain Profile screen shows a cross-sectional view of the flight path ahead with airspace, terrain and manmade obstructions. The card also contains the Jeppesen aviation database and Safe Flight 21 airport-taxiway mapping data. The 2000c has nine different navigation and map options including a full HSI or MAP with a CDI. A special Dual Moving Maps display allows simultaneous viewing of the destination and the current en route position. In addition to the aviation database content, the package includes a seven-DVD MapCreate that allows the unit to display detailed street or topographic maps when in your car. The AirMap 2000C comes with all accessories, including a cigarette-lighter power cord (11 to 35 volts DC), remote antenna and hard cover to protect the display while in the flight bag. The AirMap 2000C can also be powered by four AA alkaline batteries and has a built-in antenna for conditions where a remote antenna isn’t necessary. For more information, visit www.lowrance.com.
Sigtronics SPO-22 Portable Intercom: The Sigtronics SPO-22 is a portable two-place intercom with some advanced features. It can operate for up to 40 hours on a nine-volt battery, or the DC power cable can plug into the aircraft cigarette lighter and operate on 11 to 34 volts. The intercom can be expanded to four or six outlets with optional expansion units, and has separate push to talk inputs for both pilot and copilot. The fail-safe feature allows the pilot to hear the radios even if the intercom is off. ATC will only hear the crewmember who’s transmitting; other microphones are muted. The music input for your portable CD player or iPod can make long trips more pleasant for you and your passengers. There’s even an output jack that can attach a recorder to keep a record of the dialog, which can be a great training tool for the instructor. A version for use in high-noise environments, such as an open-cockpit aircraft, is also available. For more information, visit www.sigtronics.com/air.
David Clark DC-COM 200 Intercom: The Model 200 intercom is a two-place portable intercom with expansion options of four or six places. It’s powered by either two internal nine-volt batteries or externally (13 to 30 volts DC) via a power cable that has an attached cigarette-lighter plug. Each of the internal batteries provides up to 40 hours of operation. It comes with a battery-select switch to choose which battery to use. There’s a power LED that flashes green when a battery is in use and switches to red when you need to switch to the other battery. The LED is solid green when the external power is used. The unit has a power on-off/fail-safe switch and can select either internal or external power operation. It has pilot and copilot jacks for headsets and a push-to-talk switch. There’s a separate push-to-talk switch mounted on the panel. It has individual voice-activated intercom operation. There are jacks for both external music entertainment and for a recording device to record the flight conversation. For more information, visit www.davidclark.com.
PS Engineering Aerocom III: The PS Engineering Aerocom III is a stereo two-place intercom with an optional four-place expansion unit. It uses the same IntelliVox technology used in its top-of-the-line PMA7000 panel-mount audio panels. PS Engineering has the reputation for the best intercom sound in its panel-mounted intercoms. The Aerocom III can operate from an internal nine-volt battery (10 hours) or 12- to 24-volt DC aircraft power. The squelch is automatically computer controlled for each mic and automatically adjusts for different headsets and changes in ambient volume. The intercom accepts stereo music from a portable entertainment system. The music is automatically muted when there’s intercom or radio traffic. It has a two-position switch that allows the pilot to be isolated from the passengers. When the switch is in the “All” position, radio communications, intercom and music are heard by all. When the switch is in the “Iso” position, only the pilot hears the radios, and not the music. At the same time, the passengers hear the music and can use the intercom without being disturbed by the radio. For more information, visit www.ps-engineering.com.
Pilot My-Cast: Garmin’s Pilot My-Cast delivers critical aviation weather intelligence and flight planning directly to your cell phone for a monthly fee of $9.95. You can check current and predicted National Weather Service (NWS) data at your departure airport, your destination or at any terminal waypoint in the continental United States. Then, using DUAT(S), you can file a flight plan from your cell phone. Pilot My-Cast makes it easy to page through surface reports, terminal forecasts, observations and advisories instantly as they become available. Zoom in to a single airport or route in high resolution, pan across a moving NEXRAD weather display, check upper air winds or temperatures, identify cells producing lightning and more. Personalized, on-demand pilot weather is delivered to your mobile phone in text or graphical color formats. Garmin’s Digital Cyclone weather engine receives a direct data stream from the NWS, plotting both current and predicted weather. As a result, commercial and general aviation pilots can now instantly access the precise, personalized reports they need to make better-informed flying decisions. For more information, visit www.digitalcyclone.com.
Arinc eFlyBook: The eFlyBook portable document viewer from Arinc was developed specifically for general aviation pilots. It’s a portable electronic device that contains all U.S. digitized terminal procedures, IFR high- and low-altitude en route charts, U.S. airport facility directory, FARs and AIM, and can accommodate other user-installed eDocs such as aircraft manuals and pictures. The eFlyBook has an 8.1-inch display, is ½-inch thick, weighs a mere 13.7 ounces, and can be attached to a chart holder. It’s a small, lightweight, electronic-paper-based tablet that lets users read flight documents without unfolding large, cumbersome paper charts. The eFlyBook’s Electronic Paper Display (EPD) technology lets pilots read digital charts just like normal paper, regardless of the light conditions. MyAirplane.com provides charts, documents and other digital content that can be downloaded to the eFlyBook via the Internet either through an Ethernet or a WiFi connection. For more information, visit www.eflybook.com.