Pilot Products

October 1, 2000

Clearances on request

I had a student pilot who practiced radio communications in his living room. His story may not be so unusual, except for the fact that he took the time to stake out the Boulder (Colorado) Municipal Airport on the carpet, and he enlisted his wife to act as another airplane in the pattern. Though his method, surely humorous to an observer, proved helpful, you no longer have to go to such lengths to practice your radiospeak on the ground.

Now Comm1: Clearances on Request sets the stage for you. This software/hardware package is the third in a line of radio simulator products from e-Publishing Group, a division of Multimedia Software Inc. Its latest offering specifically targets IFR departure clearances. The course includes briefings on IFR clearances and procedures, as well as 100 exercises in which you can practice requesting, copying, and reading back example clearances.

The tutorial is rather complete, and it serves as more of a user's guide than the printed materials packaged with the software. After viewing this intro, you select one of a series of briefings designed to take you through the hows and whys of obtaining a departure clearance. The briefing on how a flight plan becomes a clearance is enlightening, showcasing the relative age of the computers used in the process.

Throughout the briefings, a scrollable box recaps the narration, so you can review anything you didn't understand. Common techniques are also included, such as the use of the mnemonic CRAFT (clearance limit, route, altitudes, frequency, and transponder code) for copying and reading back clearances. The content reflects recent FAA changes to departure procedures (DPs), formerly known as SIDs, so you can be assured you're using current material.

The visual presentation effectively uses photos and graphics instead of video to convey ideas. Overall, the colors and graphics are simple yet professional, and the screen remains attractive over the 10-plus hours you're likely to use the software.

Once you've completed the briefings, you can move on to the exercises (although you can access these at any time, skipping the briefings entirely if you choose). One hundred different routes are covered, all in the heavily traveled Northeast corridor. I would like to see other parts of the country included in upcoming versions, but the company said that the routes were chosen to keep the user on a single en route chart.

After you review the flight plan for the route, the narration prompts you to take a look at the chart section. One suggestion here: The program currently shows the chart section around the departure airport. Though a low-altitude en route chart is enclosed for reference, it would be nice to see the entire route highlighted on a chart, even if you must scroll the chart to keep the resolution clear enough to read. However, there is a nice navigation section near the bottom of the chart screen that shows the featured area of the chart so you can reference it more easily on your paper chart.

Next the interactive portion begins. You call the controlling agency (typically flight service or clearance delivery) by keying the left button on your computer's mouse as if it were a push-to-talk switch. Once you've copied the clearance, you'll be required to read it back into the optional headset and suffer through listening to your own voice stumble over any aviation-induced tongue twisters. Of course, some pilots love to hear themselves talk; perhaps this product will turn you into one of them.

Make sure you have the microphone switch on—it's located on the headset cord. I missed this crucial step and wondered why I never heard myself during the playback mode. After a trip to Comm1's Web site, I determined the source of my error. The FAQ section is quite thorough; even though my specific problem wasn't addressed, answers for other questions led me to check the headset cord.

For instructors, this product allows your students to practice deciphering clearances. When you're training at a busy, tower-controlled airport, the cost of miscommunication can really add up when the prop's turning. The Web site also features a table classifying the exercises by the type of clearance offered, the controlling agency called, and whether the clearance is accessed by phone or in the aircraft. This way, you can specify the exercises you'd like your students to accomplish.

Comm1: Clearances on Request helps you to continue building your radio communications skills. Other than a few stutters in the audio, which could have been caused by use on my computer, the product is functional and straightforward to use. Minimum computer requirements for PC are: Windows 95 or higher, 486/66 MHz processor, 16 MB RAM, 6 MB of hard-drive space, 800-by-600 display with High Color (16 bit), and a Sound Blaster-compatible sound card. A Mac version is also available. The software sells for $119.95 (headset not included), and the PC-compatible headset retails for $25. For more information, contact e-Publishing at 888/333-2855; outside the United States, 301/620-9500; or visit the Web site ( www.comm1radiosimulator.com). — Julie K. Boatman

Briefly Noted

Universal Avionics Systems Corporation has received TSO authorization for its terrain awareness and warning system (TAWS). Universal's TAWS provides positional awareness relative to both the airplane's current and predicted positions. This "look ahead" capability can be displayed in three views: map, profile, and 3-D perspective. The views include a display of the flight plan and intended flight path information in conjunction with a detailed display of the surrounding terrain. Visual and aural warnings and alerts are given in similar fashion to standard ground proximity warning system (GPWS) modes, along with the terrain conflict graphics shown on the display.

TAWS utilizes aircraft configuration information from several on-board sensors and adds intended flight path information from Universal's flight management system, combining these inputs with its own internal worldwide terrain database. Pilots may select an option that gives bank angle alerts as well. The TAWS computer is housed in a unit weighing 9.6 pounds. The terrain database contains a data point every 0.5 mile worldwide, and 0.1 mile at mountainous airports. For more information, contact Universal Avionics at 800/321-5253. — JKB

Jeppesen announces the next generation of its JeppView Electronic Airway Manual Service, JeppView FliteDeck. FliteDeck provides Jeppesen's terminal charts in electronic format, which are optimized for in-cockpit use on the handheld or semipermanent mounted display devices now entering the market. FliteDeck was scheduled for release last month. Jeppesen has reengineered the format of the original JeppView presentation for in-cockpit use by reducing pull-down menus and the keystrokes required for various functions. The system also has larger text and buttons, providing quick access to chart data. Version 1 features the aircraft's position on the chart display, using a position feed from a GPS or other navigation system. Version 2, due in early 2001, promises to integrate the terminal and en route phases and provide the capability to display weather overlays.

FliteDeck will initially be produced on CD-ROM with data updates distributed every two weeks on the same schedule used for Jeppesen's paper Airway Manual Service. A wide selection of geographical areas will be offered, with updates via the Internet proposed sometime in 2001. For more information, contact Ron Bauer at 303/328-4263; fax 303/328-4160; or send an e-mail ( ron.bauer@jeppesen.com). — JKB

Daniel J. O'Connor, AOPA 591277, has published the seventh edition of his Airplanes and Income Tax Workbook on CD-ROM. Besides the aircraft tax workbook, the compact disc includes the Aerocost program (allowing you to determine the break-even point on leaseback or rental aircraft), as well as the Aerobiz program (helping you compute the budget requirements and cost-per-mile of a small company aircraft). As an added bonus, the CD-ROM also contains an extensive library of IRS publications and a Beta version of the FAA's pilot self-evaluation program (PAVE). The PAVE portion of the CD-ROM requires a Pentium-class processor and 16 MB of RAM. Other programs on the CD-ROM are Windows 3.1/95 compatible. The Airplanes & Income Tax CD-ROM is available from the Aviation Book Company at 800/423-2708 for $14 plus $6.75 for single-item shipping, or directly from the publisher, GCBA, at 800/874-4048 for $19.95 inclusive. — JKB

The SPA-4S and SPA-4SN are the new four-place intercoms from Sigtronics. These versions are upgrades of the SPA-400, adding a stereo input for a portable CD player. When you use the intercom with a CD player, the intercom partially mutes the music during intercom communication and fully mutes it when radio communication occurs. You have the option of fully muting the music during intercom use as well.

Either unit takes up the same amount of space on the panel as the 400 and is designed to replace that unit with a minimum amount of rewiring. The SPA-4S uses the same wiring harness as the 400. The intercom sits in 1 by 2.5 inches of panel space, is only 4 inches deep, and weighs 13 ounces installed. The SPA-4SN is the version designed for louder amateur-built aircraft environments. List price for the SPA-4S is $399, and the SPA-4SN is $429, which includes a set of jacks, mounting hardware, two four-foot wiring harnesses, and a mini stereo jack for the portable CD player hookup. If you'd like to see installation and operating instructions, they're available on the Sigtronics Web site. For more information, contact Sigtronics Corporation at 909/305-9399, or visit the Web site ( www.sigtronics.com). — JKB

A new IFR aviation database for use on laptop computers is now available from Maptech. The IFR AeroData Pack is an integrated collection of information to assist you in all phases of flight planning, cockpit situational awareness, and accident avoidance. The database is worldwide, updated every 28 days, and includes airports, navaids, communications, services, facilities, waypoints, and airspace. This package sells for $99 as a one-time purchase, or quarterly subscriptions for $199 annually.

The IFR AeroObstacle Pack includes roughly 80,000 obstructions in the United States to aid you in situational awareness at low altitudes and in terminal areas. The database covers utility towers, tall buildings, bridges, water tanks, cooling towers, and the like, as well as temporary structures that pose a hazard to aircraft. This package also sells for a one-time purchase price of $99, and $199 for a subscription that updates every 56 days. System requirements are Windows 95/98/NT or 2000, Pentium-class CPU, 4X CD-ROM, 16 MB of RAM (32 MB recommended), and a mouse or equivalent. For more information, visit Maptech's Web site ( www.maptech.com). — JKB

For those who prefer to learn by computer, King Schools has expanded its multimedia FAA knowledge test preparation courses to include a CD-ROM for pilots seeking a commercial certificate. As with the private pilot and instrument rating programs, the commercial course is broken into lessons that feature full-screen video presentations on each topic. After each lesson, you're tested on the material just covered. Correct answers advance you to the next lesson, while incorrect ones offer an opportunity to review the material.

Once you have completed the course, you have the option to take sample exams or to select actual FAA questions by subject category, keyword, or question number. Anytime a memory refresher is needed, the appropriate video clip or a detailed explanation can be accessed. The course is priced at $279 and includes eight CD-ROMs, all FAA questions with answers, three practice exams, a course book, a sign-off form and graduation certificate, plus a free FAR/AIM CD-ROM (a $20 value). For more information, contact King Schools at King Schools Inc., 3840 Calle Fortunada, San Diego, California 92123; telephone 800/854-1001; outside the United States, 858/541-2200; fax 858/541-2201; e-mail ( sales@kingschools.com); or visit the Web site ( www.kingschools.com). — JKB


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/links0010.shtml).