May 1, 1998
IC-A4 handheld com transceiver,
I Morrow has taken the next logical step in panel-mount IFR GPS evolution — making GPS approaches simpler. Northstar Technologies picked up the ball and began running with it in August 1996 with the approval of its M3 Approach. Now, with recent TSO blessing from the FAA, II Morrow is packing semiautomatic approach capability with its moving-map-equipped GX50 GPS and GX60 GPS/com.
On the approach side, II Morrow has made big strides in simplifying the often-confusing GPS approach. Like the Northstar product, there is a vectors-to-final option for guidance to the final approach course. For approaches in which a course reversal is required, the GX50 and -60 feature an automatic hold mode.
Once established inbound on the approach, the II Morrow units are the same as most other approach-approved GPSs. However, unlike most other boxes, the GX50 and -60 automatically place themselves into the hold mode after crossing the final approach fix. This characteristic can be a cause of confusion for those unfamiliar with the unit and further stresses the need for a good bit of training with any GPS prior to actual IFR flights. It may disturb pilots who look at the annunciator panel and see that the unit is in the hold mode during the most critical part of the approach. The automatic hold feature is designed into the unit to comply with the technical standard order that mandates a one-step cancellation of the approach. Upon reaching the missed approach point, the user simply presses the Hold button once to call up the missed approach waypoint.
Both the GX50 and -60 contain eight-channel GPS receivers and display information through a high-resolution electroluminescent display, the same as that found on the company's nonapproach-approved GX55 (see " Pilot Products," December 1997 Pilot). The GX50 and -60's maps are controlled by so-called "soft keys," which allow the user to quickly declutter the display without having to search through layers of setup pages — a very handy feature for those VFR flights in busy airspace. The map is best for situational awareness purposes in all modes of navigation, whether in en route or approach modes. In the approach mode, all waypoints of that selected procedure are automatically displayed.
Frequencies from the GPS database of the GX60 can be automatically brought into the standby side of the com radio for quick retrieval. One of the cleverest features of any com, let alone one with a capable GPS mated to it, is the frequency-monitoring feature. Pushing the Monitor soft key allows the user to listen to the standby frequency without missing a call on the active frequency. In the monitor mode, the standby frequency is muted when chatter starts up on the active side. This feature is especially handy when retrieving ATIS or monitoring unicom while waiting for an IFR clearance. Other features of the com portion of the GX60 include a 16-frequency memory, eight-watt transmitting power, and seven listen-only weather channels.
On the financial side, the GX50 and -60 are among the lowest-cost entrants in the approach-approved GPS market. The GX50 lists for $3,995, while the -60 rings in at $4,995. Expect dealer prices to be lower.
For more information, contact II Morrow, Post Office Box 13549, Salem, Oregon 97309; telephone 503/581-8101; or visit the Web site ( www.iimorrow.com). — Peter A. Bedell
Allison Engine Company has taken the plunge into computer-based training software with the launch of ACT — Allison Computerized Training — for its Model 250 family of turbine engines. In addition to helicopter applications, variants of the Model 250 have been installed in such fixed-wing aircraft as the Beech Bonanza and Cessna 210.
The nine-CD, Windows-based program is actually three courses in one, covering three main variants of the Model 250 engine. These include the 420-shaft-horsepower -C20B turboshaft (or B17 turboprop); the 450-shp -C20R turboshaft (or B17-F turboprop); and the largest of the three siblings, the 650-shp -C30 turboshaft engine.
To begin, click on the particular engine model number. Once selected, the program offers a choice of learning modules that may be viewed in any order. The modules are divided into two main types — engine sections and systems. Engine section modules are defined logically enough by the engine's major parts. These include the combustion, turbine, and compressor sections, as well as the accessory gearbox. The systems modules include the engine's electrical, bleed air, anti-ice, fuel, and lubrication subsystems.
A typical learning module proceeds from the general to the more specific. For instance, the fuel system module includes an introduction that clearly depicts the major components and basic workings of the engine's fuel system. It then explores in greater detail the fuel pump, filter nozzle, power turbine governor, and fuel control unit. All modules include a maintenance section that offers specific troubleshooting tips and procedures. Finally, a mastery test checks one's progress in that module.
On the positive side, the program makes intelligent use of high-quality still photos and drawings, as well as video and animation, to explain what makes Allison's engines tick. In other ways, however, it fails to live up to the potential of computer-based multimedia training. There is little in the way of written text or labels to accompany the narration and illustrations. In the module on the accessory gearbox, for example, the narrator alludes to, but does not show, 31 specific items that are located on, or are part of, this component. Having the option to overlay text labels on the gearbox would be a big help in learning these. Being able to read along with the narration or change the speed of the presentation would be useful, too. Not all of us absorb information at the same speed or in the same way. Another multimedia nicety sorely lacking is a program navigator to chart one's progress plainly while working through the course. The menu system contained in the program works well enough for simple maneuvering. However, it is easy to get lost when jumping back and forth between modules and while changing multiple CDs.
Despite its shortcomings, the program's core of knowledge is nonetheless a tremendous resource for anyone wishing to learn all about this popular series of engines.
Basic system requirements include a minimum 486/66 MHz processor; Windows 3.1, 95, or NT; 16 MB RAM; and a 4X CD-ROM drive. Cost for the complete program is $500. The nine basic modules are also sold separately for between $49.95 and $79.95 each. To order, contact Allison Engine Company, Post Office Box 420, Indianapolis, Indiana 46206-0420; telephone 888/255-4766 or 317/230-6400; or visit the Web site ( www.allison.com). — Vincent Czaplyski
FBOs and corporate flight departments will be interested in Dimensions International's well-designed and easy-to-use software that allows tracking of nearly all aircraft on an IFR flight plan over the United States, as well as the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The software is free to those with legitimate ties to aviation, such as pilots, airlines, and aircraft operators; but gaining access to the data can cost $250 a month. (At press time the company was hoping to offer a less-expensive version of the service.) That may seem pricey — unless you really need to know where all your Federal Express aircraft are at any given moment. Then, it's priceless.
Testing found the software to be intuitive, with absolutely no need to read documentation. Searches can be limited to aircraft arriving at or departing from a particular airport (used by FBOs to predict traffic), a specific N number, a type of aircraft, or a fleet of aircraft. Searching on UPS, for example, brings up all UPS aircraft, and searching on DAL brings up the Delta Air Lines fleet. All other aircraft are then excluded from the map during specific searches.
Lay a mouse pointer on a target and up pops the N number or airline and flight number, along with altitude, groundspeed, and estimated time of arrival. Also available are the aircraft's departure point and the destination. Most owners of general aviation aircraft are identified only by N number. Some corporate operators have asked to have their N numbers scrambled so that competitors will not know of movements to key market areas. Put the mouse pointer on an airport and press the right button to bring up a graph of expected activity at the airport over the coming hours, based on filed IFR flight plans.
For information, write to Dimensions International, 4501 Ford Avenue, Suite 1200, Alexandria, Virginia 22302; telephone 703/998-0098, or visit the Web site to download your own 15-day demonstration software ( www.dimen-intl.com). — Alton K. Marsh
Icom America has introduced the IC-A4 handheld com transceiver, which, according to the company, is small enough to fit into a shirt pocket. With dimensions of 2.5 by 5.5 by 1.5 inches, the Icom's body is quite svelte; the removable floppy antenna is longer than the unit itself. The $400 IC-A4 transmits and receives on 760 channels and has a 19-frequency memory that includes the option to assign a five-character alphanumeric name to the stored frequency. The unit comes with a rechargeable battery that is good for six hours of operation. Optional rechargeable and alkaline battery packs extend operation to as many as 12 hours of operation, according to Icom. For more information, contact Icom America, 18102 Skypark South, 52B, Irvine, California 92714; telephone 425/454-8155; or visit the Web site ( www.icomamerica.com). — PAB
Trimble recently announced that it has reached an agreement with Avionics Innovations to distribute the AI-CD in-flight entertainment system. The AI-CD is a compact disc player and AM/FM receiver that was specially designed for aviation applications. It is FAA-approved under a supplemental type certificate. The AI-CD will be marketed by Trimble within its Trim Line series of avionics, which will be standard equipment on the yet-to-be-certified Cirrus SR20 airplane. For more information, contact Trimble at 800/487-4662 or 408/481-8000; or visit the Web site ( www.trimble.com). — PAB
Rescue Technologies Corporation offers See/Rescue, an orange streamer that makes downed pilots and passengers more visible to rescuers. The streamers, approved for use by the U.S. Navy and Marines, can be clipped to a life vest, flight jacket, boat, or raft. They vary in length from 25 to 40 feet and range in cost from $54 to $99. They are up to 18 inches wide. For information, write to Rescue Technologies Corporation, 99-1350 Koaha Place, Aiea, Hawaii 96701; telephone 888/411-9888 or 808/483-3255; or visit the Web site ( www.seerescue.com). — AKM
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. Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links.shtml).
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