Pilot Products

July 1, 2000

Lightspeed 25XL headset

Lightspeed Aviation of Portland, Oregon, is no newcomer to the crowded active noise-reduction (ANR) headset arena, having introduced its 20K headset in 1996 (see "Pilot Products: Lightspeed 20K ANR," November 1997 Pilot). All of its subsequent headsets were ANR models as well. Lightspeed says that its newest offering, the 25XL, will provide 25 to 28 decibels of active noise cancellation—in addition to 22 dB of passive noise reduction.

The 25XL offers a couple of big advantages over its predecessors. The company says that the headset will operate for more than 50 hours on a pair of AA batteries, about twice as long as claimed for previous units. (At press time we had not used the 25XL enough to validate that claim.) Helping to conserve battery power is Lightspeed's proprietary acoustic electronic shutoff, which "senses acoustic changes associated with the headset's being off the user's head and will shut down the ANR circuitry after just a couple of minutes." (It does shut off the electronics, consistently, after about five minutes.) We believe the reliable automatic ANR shutoff is a first for headsets in this market. The automatic shutoff and enhanced battery life, combined with audio circuitry improvements, differentiate the 25XL from the older 25K model; these three features have also been incorporated in Lightspeed's 20XL and 15XL headsets.

The 25XL shares the somewhat unconventional appearance of its older siblings. The futuristic-looking dark grey, rounded plastic ear cups are connected by a matching grey metal-and-plastic headband, and hold unusually thick—one and a half inches—ear seals. Pads on the underside of the headband are nearly as thick, with a gap in the center so that the 15-ounce headset won't push the button atop your baseball cap into your skull. It's a nice touch that cap-wearing pilots will appreciate.

Don't let the Lightspeed's somewhat bulky appearance fool you, however. The company says the 25XL will be "the most comfortable headset you've ever owned," and in this case the marketing hype may be true. This headset feels much more comfortable than one might expect from looking at it. All headsets must fit snugly to provide passive noise reduction, but the 25XL didn't exhibit any sense of clamping.

Lightspeed is quick to tout the benefits of its design, which was conceived and engineered to be an ANR product. Many headset manufacturers constrain themselves by using an existing passive headset design instead of starting with a clean sheet, the company said. Instead of traditional ovals, Lightspeed's ear cups are triangular, wider at the top and tapering toward the bottom. The headband rotates the ear cups toward the back of the user's head, comfortably covering the ears. Because this design is not reversible, the microphone will always be on the left ear cup—don't buy the Lightspeed if you have to have your mic on the right. The noise-canceling electret microphone is mounted on an easily positioned flexible metal cable and includes a wind muff.

Inside each ear cup, a microphone senses noise frequency and amplitude. Those signals are processed by the ANR electronics, which create through a speaker sound that is 180 degrees out of phase with the original noise. That sound and the original noise cancel each other out—a battle of the white noise, in effect.

Lightspeed provides two sets of foam ear seals with the 25XL, soft and ultrasoft. The soft seals were reasonably firm and provided superior passive noise attenuation. Body heat softens the temperature-sensitive foam, which did a commendable job of preventing noise from entering around the temples of my eyeglasses, even while I was wearing separate sunglasses over my prescription glasses. Noise leakage around glasses has been my pet peeve with some other ANR headsets. The ultrasoft seals were quite comfortable, but I did not have the opportunity to sample them in flight.

Watch where you place the cord to your 25XL, however. If the cord gets tangled in your lapboard, snags on the armrest, or otherwise becomes entangled so as to pull the ear cup away from your ear, it will break the seal between the ear cup and your head. The result is a pronounced warbling noise, caused by feedback between the ANR mic and speaker. (You could hear the same sound if you pull the ear cup too far from your head when adjusting headset placement, or if you encounter a good bump—you did cinch up on that seat belt, didn't you?) This phenomenon is common in ANR headsets, but the sound is more pronounced in the Lightspeed product than in other active headsets we've sampled. "Sensitivity is a downside of effective cancellation," a company official explained. "We cancel [noise] better than other headsets."

The batteries are housed in an audio control box on the headset's cord, six inches from the headphone and mic plugs. This should keep the headset itself from bearing any of the control box's weight. The box is home to all of the controls: an on/off switch for the ANR circuitry; a battery test button and three color LEDs to assess battery capacity; a mono/stereo selector switch; and volume controls for each ear cup. The sliding volume switches were not recessed, but there was enough resistance in the switches on our evaluation set that inadvertent volume changes were not a problem.

Selecting an ANR headset is a very subjective exercise; a product that is perfect for one pilot might be ill-suited to the next one. If possible, we recommend sampling a headset in flight before purchasing it—ideally in the model of aircraft that you normally fly.

The Lightspeed 25XL lists for $599 and can be found for less at dealers. For more information, write Lightspeed Aviation at 7301 Southwest Kable Lane, Number 300, Portland, Oregon 97224; telephone 503/968-3113; or visit the Web site ( www.anrheadsets.com). — Michael P. Collins

Oil filter cutter

Doug Deal, AOPA 1397508, of Deal Associates Inc. in Roxboro, North Carolina, has developed a lightweight, transportable oil filter can cutter. This cutter captures the filter can between two ball bearing-supported rollers and the cutting wheel. I cut three filters open and found that the cutter worked well and seemed to be well thought out. This cutter would serve an owner well, but may be a little light for full-time maintenance shop use. The price is $64.95 plus $5.95 for shipping and handling. For more information, contact Deal Associates Inc., 245 Semora Road, Roxboro, North Carolina 27573; telephone 336/599-3325; fax 336/598-0297; or visit the Web site ( www.dealassoc.com). — Steven W. Ells

Briefly Noted

Flyit Simulators of Carlsbad, California, is marketing the Professional Helicopter Simulator. This simulator is a two-place, side-by-side cockpit with dual controls. Full VFR or IFR instrument panels are available, or buyers can configure the panels to their own design. A subwoofer sound system provides environmental sounds while a two-place intercom system is available for pilot-to-pilot or pilot-to-instructor communication. A 93-by-78-inch rear-projected out-the-window view provides accurate positional and situational awareness. The company claims that the software provides accurate simulation in all flight modes. More than 20,000 airports and navaids are available.

The interior is similar to that of the Schweizer 300 and MD500/600 cockpits. The entire simulator is supplied in an 18-foot trailer as a self-contained system. The price of the system is $65,000. For more information, contact Flyit at 3042 Highland Drive, Carlsbad, California 92008; telephone 760/434-1940; fax 760/720-9916; or visit the Web site ( www.flyit.com). — SWE

Oregon Aero, the company selected to refurbish the interior in the AOPA sweepstakes Millennium Mooney, manufactures portable seat cushions that the company calls Universal Softseats. The Softseat is designed to reduce fatigue by contouring to the body and eliminating pressure points. Less fatigue makes for a safer pilot. These cushions feature high-quality construction, utilize conformal foam that shapes to the body, and are available in three thicknesses. One-half-inch- and one-inch-thick Softseats sell for $85 each; the two-inch-thick softseat sells for $105; and an add-on lumbar support cushion sells for $35. For more information, contact Oregon Aero Inc., 34020 Skyway Drive, Scappoose, Oregon 97056; telephone 503/543-7399 or 800/888-6910; or visit the Web site ( www.oregonaero.com). — SWE

Doug Kerkvliet, AOPA 1360740, president of Hydroswing Overhead Hangar Door, recently received the Farm Industry News Ovation Award for his hydraulically actuated hangar door invention. The Hydroswing door system is unique in hangar door systems in that it mounts in its own framework, reducing the costs of hangar reinforcement necessary for doors that hang off the hangar. It also provides a more complete weather seal than do some existing door systems. Hydraulic actuating cylinders and the 220-volt, electrically driven hydraulic power unit combine to provide quick door actuation. For more information, contact Cottonwood Welding and Machine Inc., Post Office Box 15, Cottonwood, Minnesota 56229; telephone 507/423-6666; fax 507/423-5609; or visit the Web site ( www.hydroswing.com). — SWE

Honeywell Aerospace Electronic Systems of Olathe, Kansas, has announced its Bendix/King KMD 150 Color Multifunction Display GPS. This five-inch full-color display may be ordered with or without a built-in GPS receiver. The display can show Jeppesen aeronautical data, cartographic mapping, and GPS navigation information. Flight plans, waypoints, airports, NDBs, intersections, VORs, special-use airspace, rivers, lakes, cities, railroad tracks, towers, terrain elevation, and BFGoodrich WX-500 Stormscope data can be selected for display. Autopilot interface and multilingual capabilities are available. Outputs are available for an external CDI and audio and visual annunciators. For more information, contact Honeywell Bendix/King at 23500 West 105th Street, Olathe, Kansas 66061; telephone 913/712-2613; fax 913/712-5697; or visit the Web site ( www.bendixking.com). — SWE

B&C Specialty Products, of Newton, Kansas, sells an STCed oil filter adapter for Lycoming engines. This adapter is machined from a solid billet of aluminum and is approved for most models from the O-235 through the LTIO-540. Each kit includes a filter adapter, a new oil filter, new gaskets, new washers for the oil temp bulb and the Vernatherm, and new bolts and washers. The kit is available without an STC for $395 or with an STC for $450. For more information, contact B&C Specialty Products, Post Office Box B, Newton, Kansas 67114; telephone 316/283-8000; or visit the Web site ( www.BandCspecialty.com). — SWE

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.