Pilot Products

May 1, 2000

Flightcom Denali

Flightcom’s Denali headset was a little late hitting the streets, but by all initial indications it appears that it was worth the wait. For months now we have been seeing the ads for the eye-catching Piper Cub-yellow headset appearing in magazines, and, like the pain-reliever commercial on TV says, the Denali is "little, yellow, different." And yes, you can get it in another color, graphite blue.

I received the active noise reduction (ANR) version of the Denali for testing. A regular passive Denali headset is also available from Flightcom. Placing it on several staffers’ heads right out of the box revealed that the Denali clamped pretty hard. Despite the clamping effect, I had no complaints or headache after several flights of as long as 2.5 hours. In fact, the clamping did a great job of masking a whistling air leak from the storm window in my airplane. After flying a total of seven hours with the Denali, I asked the same people to try the set on again. They reported that it felt less vise-like. Perhaps it was stretched out after spending those several hours on my noggin.

The Denali’s ear cups are canted to fit the shape of the ear, similar to those of the Bose X headset. Likewise, the gel-filled ear seals themselves are contoured so that they are fatter in areas where they need to be and thinner as necessary for a better fit. This customization means that the Denali can only be worn one way, with the mic boom and cord on the left.

The Denali is a light headset. On a postal scale, the ANR Denali turned in a svelte 14 ounces, which includes the normal amount of cord that will be hanging from the left earcup when you wear it. Flightcom claims 11.9 ounces for the ANR Denali, but that figure does not include any of the cord. The battery/switch box is located close to the plugs. In the airplanes we flew to test the Denali, the intercom jacks supported the weight of the battery box, not the wearer’s head. There is also a clip on the battery box that can be used to mount the box near the jacks. The passive Denali weighs just 10.5 ounces, not including the cord.

A noise-canceling electret mic is mounted on the end of a slim boom that is easy to position. Voice quality from the microphone was reported as good and natural. The ads claim that the mic has an integral muff, but an air vent aimed at my face would cause the mic to break squelch on the airplane’s intercom, in the same way as would a mic with no wind muff.

On the audio side, the sound quality was quite good as moderately priced aviation headsets go. I was unable to test the Denali in an airplane with a high-quality stereo intercom; however, I did plug it into a home stereo system and compared it to a pair of Sony studio headphones. Overall, the performance was good. When the ANR electronics were turned on, the sound became more tinny, but this was somewhat unfair since the test was conducted in a noiseless living room rather than in the din of the cockpit.

Like all ANR headsets, the Denali greatly reduces the low-frequency rumble produced by the large-displacement engines that most of us fly behind. Likewise, operators of airplanes with two-blade propellers will see more noise-reduction benefit than those who fly with three or more blades on a hub. I also noticed that because of the Denali’s low noise level and crisp sound quality, it picked up electrical noise within the airplane’s system. Although some might find this annoying, causing them to turn down the headset’s volume to make it disappear, I appreciated the feedback that I got every time a switch was flipped on or off.

Individual volume controls for each ear are located toward the front of the ear cups. The individual controls can compensate for imbalanced hearing and stereo balance. The mono/stereo switch is almost hidden on the battery box. This eliminates accidental switching and the subsequent passenger complaints about only being able to hear through one ear.

Flightcom claims 20 to 30 hours of battery life in the Denali. With just 15 hours of testing, I was unable to verify that claim of impressive battery life. An LED indicates whether the unit is on, and another warns of low battery power. There is no auto-off function, so keep a spare nine-volt battery around in the event that the Denali’s ANR switch is left on.

Perhaps the best part about the Denali is a free 30-day trial period. I’ve always recommended that buyers try a product in their own airplane before buying it, and this trial period gives you that opportunity for little more than the shipping costs. If you decide to buy, the ANR version of the Denali lists for $479. The passive version is $249. Flightcom offers a three-year warranty on the Denali.

Overall, the Denali is the best headset to come from Flightcom and should be a serious contender in the crowded arena of moderately priced ANR models.

For more information, contact Flightcom, 7340 Southwest Durham Road, Portland, Oregon 97224; telephone 800/432-4342 or 503/684-8229; or visit the Flightcom Web site ( www.flight-com.com). — Peter A. Bedell

B&C standby alternator

B&C Specialty Products of Newton, Kansas, has received a supplemental type certificate for installation of an engine-driven standby alternator on Cessna 210L, 210M, 210N, T210L, T210M, T210N, and P210 models, as well as 1984 and newer Raytheon Beech A36 and B36TC Bonanzas. This standby alternator system is identical to the system chosen by Raytheon to be standard equipment on all new Bonanzas. For the past four years this system has been standard equipment on Mooneys equipped with known-ice certification.

This standby alternator system produces 20 amps at 28 volts. An output sensor included with the installation kit automatically brings the B&C standby system on line when electrical system voltage drops because of primary alternator malfunction. When the standby alternator is on line, a small panel-mounted annunciator will illuminate. If the aircraft electrical load exceeds the 20-amp output capacity of the standby alternator, the annunciator will flash, alerting the pilot to the fact that he has to reduce the electrical load. When the pilot reduces the aircraft electrical load to 20 amps or less, the annunciator will stop flashing, signifying that the standby alternator is carrying the total system load. This feature allows the pilot to save the aircraft battery for large-load items such as landing lights and landing gear and flap extension during the landing phase of the flight.

Components include the alternator, a voltage regulator, a sensor, an annunciator assembly, three circuit breakers, placards, wiring, and installation hardware. The alternator is mounted on the right accessory drive pad on the back of the engine. Installation on Cessnas will require that the existing vacuum pump be relocated to the left pad. If dual vacuum pumps are already installed on the two existing pads and standby alternator installation is desired, one of the engine-driven vacuum pumps will have to be removed and the dual check-valve vacuum system plumbing removed. Vacuum system redundancy can be restored via the installation of an electrically driven standby vacuum pump system or a standby system that utilizes low-pressure air from the engine induction system.

Installation is straightforward. The voltage regulator is mounted in the cabin, on the airframe sidewall. A small rectangular hole will have to be cut in the pilot’s instrument panel for installation of the annunciator, but the rest of the installation shouldn’t require any airframe or engine modifications once the vacuum pump is moved. B&C estimates installation time at two to three days, depending upon the airplane and how it’s equipped.

Cost for the alternator and regulator is $2,200 for the Cessnas and $2,000 for the Beech models. This covers the STCed components, installation instructions, and a pilot’s operating handbook supplement. Each system requires a $385 installation kit.

For more information, contact B&C Specialty Products Inc., Post Office Box B, Newton, Kansas 67114; telephone 316/283-8000. B&C’s Web site ( www.BandCSpecialty.com) was to be operative by mid-April. — Steven W. Ells

Briefly Noted

PDC Technologies has released the PDC-100 Pressure/Density Computer, an electronic device that automatically calculates density altitude, minimum runway length, optimum rate of climb, and preferred flight levels for 10 well-known aircraft. Other aircraft can be programmed into the unit using a personal computer and optional cable. The $395 unit is palm-size and attaches to the aircraft window to continuously read environmental conditions. For more information, contact PDC Technologies at 888/917-7727 or 760/414-9293; or visit the Web site ( www.pdc-tec.com). — PAB

Owners of turbocharged Cessna T206, T207, and T210 models can now more easily access the turbocharger, exhaust, and wastegate of their airplanes, thanks to a new supplemental type certificated modification from Southern California Aircraft Data and Maintenance. AOPA members Kevin Gass and Norm Ellis teamed up to design and manufacture the access panel that will reduce the amount of labor required to replace a turbo by as much as eight hours. The engine can be run with the panel removed, allowing for easy wastegate adjustments. The cowling modification costs $1,500; installation is estimated to take 15 hours. For more information, call 949/646-0743 or e-mail [email protected]. — PAB

Owners or prospective buyers of S-Tec System 55 autopilots can now obtain an interactive CD-ROM trainer to learn the nuances of the flight control system. The $39.95 trainer walks the user through an IFR flight using the System 55 and S-Tec’s Altitude Selector/Alerter. The trainer allows the user to learn functions and autopilot features safely at the desktop computer rather than in the cockpit. The program is also available for download from the S-Tec Web site ( www.s-tec.com). For more information, see the Web site, or call 800/872-7832 or 940/325-9406. — PAB

MD Systems’ CardioGrip is now available without a prescription following an exemption from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. CardioGrip is a nonpowered training device that can lower blood pressure. According to one study, 95 percent of pilots who used the $499 CardioGrip for 30 days successfully lowered their blood pressure. For more information, see "Pilot Products," December 1998 Pilot; contact MD Systems at 888/429-4747 or 614/818-3000; or visit the Web site ( www.mdsystems.com). — PAB

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/links0005.shtml).