Pilot Products

August 1, 1995

Summertime News

Avionics manufacturers have for some time used large airshows in spring and summer to launch new products. But between the big events, there's a vitally important industry show, put on by the Aircraft Electronics Association. Aimed at avionics retailers and installers, in the past the AEA confab has been the jumping-off point for many new pieces of hardware.

This year's event was no exception. A number of new and important products appeared at the Washington, D.C., show, including a new GPS/comm from Garmin, a miniature handheld GPS from II Morrow, a groundbreaking audio panel/intercom from PS Engineering, a no-nonsense handheld GPS from Magellan, and an engine monitoring setup from the fuel-flow wizards at Shadin. Though we haven't used any of these products yet, we think a timely introduction to them is in order.

Garmin GNC 250

Garmin, it seems, hardly ever rests. With new handhelds coming out in rapid succession and continuing development on the panel-mount GPS side, the Lenexa, Kansas-based company seems unwilling to let its engineers sit back and take a cappuccino break. Proof is in Garmin's new VFR GPS/ comm, called the GNC 250. This combo unit employs much of the GPS portion of the Garmin GPS 150. As such, it includes the company's MultiTrac8 GPS engine and an extensive Jeppesen-supplied database that includes information on airports (with runway and communications information), navaids, en route intersections, and flight service station frequencies. The GNC 250 also contains information on area safe altitudes and special-use airspace. Garmin fitted the GNC with a fluorescent, four-line dot- matrix display.

As Bendix/King did with the KLX 135 and Northstar with the SmartComm — combining a GPS with a VHF communications radio — so has Garmin. Inside the GNC 250 is a 760-channel VHF transceiver that carries Technical Standard Order (TSO) approval. Garmin claims the radio has a 5-watt transmitter (typical in this class, incidentally), automatic squelch control, and standard headset output with transmit sidetone. A stuck-mic warning signals the pilot to long-winded conversations (or real stuck mic switches) lasting 35 seconds or more. Perhaps the most useful feature of the combined GPS/comm is the ability to link the navigator's database with the transceiver. Garmin allows the user to select from database-listed channels for comm use, a handy way of saving knob twisting.

Garmin expects the GNC 250 to cost $3,250 when it appears in the third quarter of 1995.

For more information, contact Garmin International, 9875 Widmer Road, Lenexa, Kansas 66215; telephone 913/599-1515.

II Morrow Apollo Precedus

No question, the handheld GPS market continues to be hotly contested. Right on the heels of Garmin's launch of the diminutive GPS 90 (see " Pilot Products," June Pilot), II Morrow attacks, bulldog-like, with the Apollo Precedus. Another tidy GPS with integral moving-map display, the Precedus is intended to supplement the model 920+ in the II Morrow lineup. As has become the norm in this class, the Precedus uses a simplified keypad approach to data entry, with just nine keys on the front panel; this is a setup similar to that used in the 920+ and the panel-mount Apollo 360 GPS/moving map.

Precedus' feature list is long. Many of the display pages can be customized by the user; this is similar to II Morrow's NMS 2001 setup, and quite desirable. The company also says the Precedus' display is the largest of any handheld's in the aviation market. Moreover, II Morrow has probably overcome the bane of all handheld devices — the battery — by employing commonly available cellular telephone battery packs.

Jeppesen supplies the Precedus' database — including information on airports, navaids, en route intersections, and special-use airspace — and it can be updated through a serial cable to a personal computer. Moreover, we've been told that this PC link will also allow changes to the Precedus' operating software to be made easily, allowing for quick and painless future updates in the privacy of your own home.

Precedus' antenna normally resides at the top of the unit but can be unsnapped for optimum positioning in the cockpit. II Morrow has set the Precedus' list price at $1,395 — $100 more than the current list of the 920+ — and expects it to sell for about $1,175 on the street.

For more information, contact II Morrow Inc., 2345 Turner Road S.E., Salem, Oregon 97302; telephone 800/525-6726.

PS Engineering PMA 6000

Audio selector panels have long been considered necessary but hardly sexy devices. They are charged with the dull task of sorting the many signals from the radio stack. PS Engineering, however, has broadened the duties of the lowly audio panel with the PMA6000. It's an audio panel, sure — plug-compatible with the popular Bendix/King KMA 24 — but with a host of new features.

It starts with the guts of PS Engineering's PM1000II mono intercom, itself consisting of six intercom stations, individual microphone circuits, dual entertainment inputs, and pilot-isolate features. According to the company, the PMA6000's version of the intercom is electronically identical to the standard PM1000II (See " Black Box Basics: Panel-Mount Pickin's," p. 113).

In making stand-alone intercoms, PS Engineering's been there, done that. But by incorporating the intercom into the very box responsible for forging order out of communications chaos, PS Engineering has brought a couple of clever features to bear. Most notably, the PMA6000 allows full jet-crew-style separation of radio duties among the front-row occupants. The pilot may hem and haw with ATC on one radio while the copilot plies flight service for information on that big, nasty cell just ahead on another. No having to switch back and forth, nor must they listen to two signals overlap, as is so often the case, incomprehensibly.

Split communications features aren't new to GA cockpits, however; David Clark's DC 500 intercom contains similar provisions. The major difference, we're told, is that combining all the circuitry in the audio panel box eliminates much difficult wiring. That should please avionics installers to no end. The PMA6000 is said to require only one more connector in addition to what's probably already wired into the stack to make the whole ensemble come together. In this sense, plugging a PMA6000 into the avionics suite ought to be no more difficult than wiring a separate intercom system.

PS Engineering says that by late summer it will begin shipping the PMA6000 at a suggested retail price of $995. An internal marker-beacon receiver (most KMA 24s have one built in, so this will probably be a popular option) lists for $295.

For more information, contact PS Engineering Inc., 9800 Martel Road, Lenoir City, Tennessee 37771; telephone 615/988-9800.

Magellan SkyBlazer LT

You've got light beer, low-calorie dinner entrees, and fat-free fudge brownies — so it's no surprise to see the launch of an austerity- conscious GPS like the Magellan SkyBlazer LT. Yes, you could say LT stands for "light." From its normal SkyBlazer handheld GPS, Magellan has stripped away the moving map and its associated software — and slashed the price. For a measly $499, you get an otherwise full- featured GPS with integral database and all the normal accessories.

What hasn't changed is the SkyBlazer's simplified cursor- driven menu system, Jeppesen database that can be updated by personal computer, and wafer-like 14-ounce heft. In the navigation modes, the LT will show all the critical information — indeed, it's all stuff we would have killed for just five years ago — including distance and bearing to a selected waypoint, ground speed and course, and time to station. In addition, the LT can hold up to 500 user-defined waypoints and can search for airports or navaids by ident or facility name. The LT even includes an E6-B-style calculator.

For more information, contact Magellan Systems Corporation, 960 Overland Court, San Dimas, California 91773; telephone 909/394-5000.

Shadin DigiTrend

Shadin, long known for its fuel computers, has branched out into other areas of engine monitoring. Its new DigiTrend system incorporates a slew of powerplant-watching functions into a 3.125- inch-diameter instrument just more than 7 inches long.

As expected, the Digi-Trend includes a fuel-flow sensor and related fuel-computer functions. It keeps track of overall flow and fuel remaining. What's more, with the help of data from a loran or GPS, it can predict fuel at the destination, based on in-flight conditions and fuel used. Computations of endurance, as well as mileage, are but a button-push away. These are truly handy features that have been part of Shadin's line for some time.

But the DigiTrend goes several steps further. It connects to all-cylinder EGT and CHT probes to offer a graphic representation of those parameters, albeit in a window smaller than that used by the leading engine monitors. A mixture-leaning mode waits for a cylinder's EGT to peak, signaling an alarm when it has done so. Different versions of the mode allow for leaning to peak EGT or to best-power EGT. Similarly, the DigiTrend monitors all the CHT channels, alerting the pilot when preset limits have been exceeded, when the parameters change quickly enough to suggest shock cooling, or when there is a significant spread among the cylinders.

As they say in the late-night infomercials: Wait, there's more. An air-data sensor — for airspeed, altitude, and outside-air temperature — can be connected to the DigiTrend to provide information on density altitude and cruise performance. A heading synchro completes the picture and allows for automatic determination of winds aloft.

Shadin hopes to have the DigiTrend ready for customers by mid-August, at a cost of $3,450 for singles and $4,350 for twins.

For more information, contact Shadin Company Inc., 6831 Oxford Street, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55426; telephone 800/328- 0584.

ASA Flightlight Flashlight

Coming out with a new flashlight is a bit like reinventing the wheel. What's left to change? How could you make it better? Well, Aviation Supplies & Academics (ASA) has fired up its own version of the portable torch with the Flightlight.

Constructed of machined aluminum and sporting a Krypton bulb, the Flightlight is powered by a pair of AA batteries. At first glance, the Flightlight looks the spitting image of the ever-popular mini Maglite — a show of hands for those of you who don't have a half dozen of these babies rolling around in the flight case.

But ASA has taken the venerable Maglite design a step further, using a different power switch and focusing arrangement. With the Maglites, you must twist the reflector casing to turn it on and continue twisting to alter the focus point of the beam. ASA fitted the Flightlight with a detented rotary switch in the reflector assembly; twist it a click and it's on, another click and it's off. Focus is now handled, zoom-lens-style by sliding the whole reflector shell fore and aft.

In a couple of months of testing, we never found the Flightlight at the bottom of the case, switch on and batteries dead. This cannot be said of the few Maglites swimming around down there like amoeba. If there's a drawback, it's that the ASA light's focusing mechanism is a bit more difficult to finely tune than the Maglite's, but it's a minor point, really. The Flightlight should be available at a pilot supply store near you, at a suggested retail price of $14.95, about the same as comparably sized Maglites.

For more information, contact Aviation Supplies & Academics, Inc., 7005 132nd Place S.E., Newcastle, Washington 98059; telephone 206/235-1500.

Briefly Noted

Sporty's Pilot Shop recently introduced its Chart Illuminator for glare-free illumination of charts during night operations. The chart illuminator has an acrylic plastic cover on which a grease pencil may be used. The Chart Illuminator is available for $19.95, requires four AA batteries, and weighs 12 ounces. For more information, contact Sporty's at 800/SPORTYS. — Peter A. Bedell

Unless otherwise stated, products listed herein have not been evaluated by AOPA Pilot editors. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors. However, members unable to get satisfaction regarding products listed should advise AOPA. To submit products for evaluation, contact: New Products Editor, AOPA Pilot, 421 Aviation Way, Frederick, Maryland 21701; telephone 301/695-2350.