Pilot Products

February 1, 2001

LoPresti Boom Beam

It's hard to think of a light bulb as "high tech," but in fact the new Boom Beam landing light system from LoPresti Speed Merchants is just that. One of the biggest problems with conventional incandescent and halogen landing lights is that normal vibration from our piston engines tends to quickly break their filaments, resulting in burned-out bulbs. Bulb replacements can run from about $25 to triple figures. Most frustrating, there is no guarantee that a new bulb will last any particular length of time. It might last for the first 50 hours or maybe for the first 10 minutes. Regardless, when it breaks, both pieces are yours.

LoPresti claims that its new High Intensity Discharge Xenon system is six times brighter than a conventional landing light, which appears to be true. But what's most impressive is the bulb life. The company warranties the bulb and all components in the system for five years. If your aircraft is one that eats bulbs every few hours, the approximately $1,000 to $1,200 installed price may seem like a bargain. And that doesn't account for the grief and downtime you go through getting the conventional bulbs replaced. The Boom Beam kit costs about $700 for a Mooney, for example. You'll spend another $135 for an installation kit unique to your model of airplane. A full-up Bonanza kit runs about $1,000. In either case, installation takes approximately three hours, depending on the model. Should a bulb need replacing after the five-year warranty expires, expect to pay about $50 for a replacement.

The reflector is about the same size as a conventional bulb, so no airframe modification is required. Inside the reflector is a glass tube filled with mercury and xenon gases. A pair of electrodes in the tube applies voltage to the gases, causing them to glow brightly. The light is whiter than incandescent lights. It actually looks rather blue—like the headlights on new high-end automobiles, which use the same technology. In addition to the bulb and reflector, the system includes a starter, which is mounted near the bulb. A ballast can be mounted elsewhere, typically on the firewall.

I've been flying the Boom Beam on my Beech A36 Bonanza since March 2000, and we also have one installed in AOPA's Millennium Mooney sweepstakes airplane. In both cases, the system has performed flawlessly. Because of the virtually unlimited bulb life, I tend to leave the light on continuously below 3,000 feet or anytime I'm descending to an airport. A nice side benefit is the miniscule current draw for the Boom Beam. The light draws about 3 amps; the ammeter needle doesn't even wiggle when I turn it on, and I no longer get the "low volts" annunciator when the light is on during taxi. A conventional bulb typically draws 8 or more amps.

My installation came with the focused reflector, which intensely lit up a narrow beam ahead of the airplane. I have since replaced the focused reflector with a flood reflector. It's an appropriate name because now the system completely lights the entire width of the runway. With the flood reflector, the light is less intense, but actually provides better overall lighting of the runway or taxiway. Some owners with two lights have elected to install both the focused and the flood reflectors, giving the best of both worlds. From a safety standpoint, the flood reflector seems to be more easily seen by those on the ground and in the air. In my mind, the extra brightness is a side benefit over and above the primary benefit, which is the virtually unlimited bulb life—typically 5,000 hours. Now, a pilot needn't be stingy with light use for fear of burning out the bulb. That alone is a significant safety enhancement. For flight schools and other fleet operators, the systems may quickly pay for themselves in bulb savings alone. Systems are available for both 14- and 28-volt airplanes.

For more information, contact LoPresti Speed Merchants, 2620 Airport North Drive, Vero Beach, Florida 32960; telephone 800/859-4757; fax 561/563-0446; or visit the Web site ( www.speedmods.com). — Thomas B. Haines

Pilot Communications PA-1779 XL(P)

Pilot Communications has come out with a brand-new version of its popular PA-1779 XL noise-attenuating headset. The straight 1779 XLs are noted for their excellent noise-attenuation properties, comfort, and integral battery packs—which reside within one of the ear cups, and thus relieve pilots of the bother of external battery boxes. The new XL(P) differs in that it's designed both for portability and hard-wired installation.

For renter pilots, or those of us who fly a variety of different aircraft, the XL(P) uses an external 9-volt battery pack to provide the power for noise attenuation. This gives you three wire leads—one each for the microphone and headset, and a lead that plugs into the battery box with a small jack. Battery life is advertised as being in the 30- to 40-hour range.

For owner pilots, the XL(P) provides a prewired miniature jack for panel-mount—that P in XL(P)—installation. In this configuration you derive noise-attenuation power from one of the aircraft's electrical buses. This means you'll never need battery power, and don't have to worry about buying or stashing any more 9-volts. You can leave the XL(P)'s battery box at home.

To activate the noise-attenuation feature in either application you press on a waterproof push-button switch located on the shoulder of one of the ear cups. A small green annunciator light, located next to the switch, comes on when noise attenuation is active.

The headset's other attributes are equally noteworthy. First off, for a full-muff, noise-attenuating headset the PA-1779 XL(P) is remarkably light (9.9 ounces), and there's none of the sometimes-uncomfortable, noticeably large head-clamping forces found in so many other noise-attenuating headsets. In spite of this, the 1779 XLs provide up to a 31-dB noise reduction—one of the highest in the business. Other comfort features include a nice sheepskin headpad and foam ear seals. There are individual volume controls for each ear cup as well as a stereo-monaural selector—all located in a module installed on the communications cord. Silicon gel ear seals, cloth ear seal covers, and a metal headband (this makes for a tighter fit and lower height—sometimes essential in cockpits with little headroom) are optional accessories. For metal headband installation the headset has to be returned to the Pilot Communications factory in Irvine, California, so that the ear cups can be recalibrated.

Another nice feature of the 1779s is that the communications cord can be detached from the headset. This lets you wear the headset during preflights in noisy environments without the cord and jacks dangling down and waiting for you to trip over. In the XL(P) you won't have active noise attenuation with the cord removed because the battery pack plugs into one of the cord's leads, but in the straight XLs with ear cup-mounted batteries you can enjoy active noise attenuation while you walk across the ramp with that idling Mitsubishi MU–2 (or operate power tools, cut the grass, etc.) and save your hearing in the bargain.

Finally, the 1779 XL's and -XL(P)'s proprietary enhanced voice intelligibility (EVI) circuitry is worth a mention. Pilot Communications claims that its EVI enhances all audio signals in the speech frequencies by two to four decibels. This, the company says, means that incoming ATC and other transmissions are automatically boosted for better clarity. For those of us who've experienced hearing loss, this feature has obvious benefits.

Street price of the PA-1779 XL(P) headset is approximately $459. For additional information, contact Pilot Communications USA, Limited, 10015 Muirlands Boulevard, Unit G, Irvine, California 92618; telephone 800/874-1140; fax 949/597-1049; or visit the Web site ( www.pilot-communications.com). — Thomas A. Horne

Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 2

From the opening animation sequence, the look and feel of Microsoft's Combat Flight Simulator 2: WWII Pacific Theater set it apart from other games, with its retro-comic book style. You're either an American or Japanese pilot flying an aircraft deployed on a specific mission in the Pacific theater of operations during World War II. Here is where many people, adolescent or not, argue successfully that a simulator can be a learning tool, and more than just a video game. Just take a look at the extensive pilot manual that comes with the program, which includes detailed aircraft information and combat operations; notes from interviews with Gen. Joe Foss (U.S. Marine Corps ace) and Saburo Sakai (Imperial Japanese Navy ace); additional pilot biographies; and a bibliography for further study. The realism continues when you enter the game itself.

During a presentation honoring him and the late Sakai at the U.S. Navy Memorial last November, Foss commented on the devotion of the Microsoft team to historical detail: "It's very realistic—of course, I take [the sim] a little more seriously." This detail was very important to the team creating CFS 2. "Kids today will play with a simulator instead of building models like I did when I was a kid," said Michael Ahn, content lead on the project.

You can fly the sim in several different modes. Free Flight gives you a good opportunity to gain proficiency flying over Rabaul. I used Microsoft's Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 joystick, and while pilots may note a little bit of delay on the stick, it was generally responsive enough to make the most of the simulator's high level of control realism.

When you're proficient, move on to Quick Combat, which lets you jump right into the action. The Single Missions function provides a list of historic missions to choose from, including Wake Island and the Battle of Midway. Or you can go with Campaigns, in which you create a pilot who will participate in a series of missions. Just like the real heroes, he has the opportunity to garner medals and greater rank within his squadron. A multiplayer function allows you to play with friends over an Internet connection, as with other Microsoft Flight Simulator products.

Basic system requirements are a multimedia PC with 266 MHz or faster processor; Windows 95, 98, 2000, or Millennium Edition; 32 MB RAM (64 MB when running Windows 2000); a quad-speed CD-ROM or faster; a Super VGA 16-bit color monitor (capable of 800-by-600 resolution, though 1,024 by 768 is required to work with the Mission Builder function that allows you to design your own missions); DirectX 7.0 API (included on CD); 350 MB of hard disk space; a joystick or yoke (though it's only recommended: aircraft are flyable with mouse and keyboard); and Microsoft DirectSound 7.0 API-compatible sound card with speakers or headphones for audio.

The price is $54.95 retail, and the sim was available for purchase on Microsoft's Web site for $10 less ($44.95) at press time. For more information, contact Microsoft via the Web site ( www.microsoft.com/games/combatfs2/). — Julie K. Boatman

Briefly Noted

A new aerosol spray ice inhibitor that helps to shed ice from aircraft propellers has been developed by Oregon Aircraft Design LLC. Bill Larson, chief designer and A&P, created Ice-Away, a product applied to propeller leading edges before flight. Testing by the manufacturer has shown the inhibitor to stay on through "several hours in icing conditions." The 5.25-ounce can is purported to last the average pilot several years, at a price of $32 per can, or $265 per case of 12 cans. For more information, contact Oregon Aircraft Design LLC, Post Office Box 1516, North Plains, Oregon 97133; telephone 888/294-4588, or 503/267-1486 outside the United States; fax 503/647-0416; or visit the Web site ( www.oregonaircraftdesign.com). — JKB

Most of us like to keep a paper record of the time we've logged in the sky—when applying for a new rating, you need those signatures in ink to prove your hours during a checkride. But what about having an electronic backup, one that's protected from the crashing of hard drives and the misplacement of floppy disks?

Check into Planelog.com, which, true to its name, offers you both pilot and aircraft logbook databases. When using Pilot Log, after filling in your ratings and personal information, the logbook automatically keeps track of your recent flight experience and puts up a red flag—literally—if you're out of currency to log pilot-in-command time, according to class of aircraft and time of day. You can also search the database to determine hours flown in the past 30, 60, or 90 days and sort your time into make/model classifications.

If you own an aircraft, Plane Log helps you keep current on airworthiness directives and service bulletins, as well as maintaining an up-to-date ownership history, in addition to other recordkeeping features. Pilot Log/Private Pilot System costs $99.95 for the first year, and $29.95 for each subsequent year. Call for pricing on Plane Log. For more information, contact Planelog.com at 877/526-3564; or visit the Web site ( www.planelog.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/2001/links0102.shtml).