Pilot Products

March 1, 2001

Honeywell Bendix/King's KLN 94

Bendix/King, operating under the Honeywell banner since the 1999 buyout, has come out, albeit belatedly, with a new IFR GPS receiver. Dubbed the KLN 94, this unit is yet another entry in the competition to provide more general aviation pilots with graphics-dense, high-resolution color displays. The KLN 94 was designed as a direct swap for Bendix/King's KLN 89B — a full-featured moving-map GPS in its own right, but one with an orange dot-matrix-looking display. The idea is that you can pull out your old 89B and pop the same-size 94 in its place. The chief benefit is the 94's infinitely crisper, active-matrix liquid crystal color display. The unit is 2 inches high, 6.31 inches wide, and 10.8 inches long.

There are other advantages. For example, the addition of a "procedure" (PROC) button on the control panel makes calling up departure procedures, instrument approaches, and vectors-to-final modes easier than in previous Bendix/King GPSs. With prior models, such as the venerable KLN 90B, you had to dial in the "airport" page as one means of loading an approach — not too intuitive at first.

The display is noteworthy not just for its high resolution, but also for its readability. The comparatively large fonts used for alphanumeric information are easy to read, and the selection of colors is designed to enhance contrast. In terms of its look, at first glance the KLN 94 may look a whole lot like the slightly larger Garmin GNS 430. And for good reason: The 94's Optrex display is the same as the one used in the 430's display.

All the features you'd expect from a modern GPS are in the 94, and then some. For example, a "QuickTune" feature lets you highlight communications or VHF navigation frequencies out of the KLN 94's database, then load them into the Standby position of a Bendix/King KX 155A or KX 165A nav/com. The 94 also provides navigation and obstacle data to Bendix/King's KMD 850 and KMD 550 multifunction displays. While the 94 is strictly a GPS navigator, its database includes ILS, localizer, and other non-GPS approaches, and the display shows the holding patterns and procedure turns associated with most instrument approach procedures — a great situational awareness aid. The inclusion of most terminal area NDBs and ILS/localizer DMEs obviates the need for a separate ADF or DME unit in many approaches, thus freeing up precious panel space.

The first KLN 94s went out the door last November. At last check some 1,700 units had been delivered. Priced at $4,540 (this includes the antenna, installation rack, and associated hardware), the KLN 94 is positioned as a tough competitor for the Garmin 430 at $9,250. But, to be fair, the 430 includes a VHF nav/com and other features. Like the 430, any pilot will find the 94 comparatively easy to use.

For more information, contact Honeywell Bendix/King, 23500 West 105th Street, Olathe, Kansas 66061; telephone 877/712-2386; fax 913/712-5697; or visit the Web site ( www.bendixking.com). — Thomas A. Horne

PS Engineering PCD 7100

In a panel first, PS Engineering has introduced the PCD 7100, a six-place stereo intercom that incorporates the company's exclusive automatic intercom protocol, IntelliVox, with a high-quality compact disc player. After years of trying to recommend the best CD players for aircraft, a species limited by quality and FAA approval, PS Engineering decided to offer its own, integrated into its "finest intercom." The results are quite good.

I flew with the unit installed in a 1966 Cessna 150, somewhat of an anachronism in an otherwise quaint panel. The owner, Terry Besecker of Hagerstown Aviation Services Inc. in Maryland, plans further upgrades, but the current state of affairs proved to be useful for highlighting exactly how some of the PCD 7100's features work.

The PCD 7100 includes several PS Engineering innovations, including IntelliVox and a soft mute function. IntelliVox eliminates the need for a squelch adjustment (see " Pilot Products," August 1999 Pilot), and this feature adequately adjusted the mic's volume level for various voice levels and distances from the microphone. As one who normally has to turn the squelch up high on most intercom units, I appreciated the freedom from having to fiddle with the knob. The cockpit of the 150 is not one of aviation's quietest environments, yet the IntelliVox was able to ignore the racket and still pick up my first words into the mic nearly every time.

The soft mute feature automatically mutes the music when either a radio or intercom transmission is detected. On the PCD 7100, the pilot selects soft mute by pushing the music volume knob. If the feature is left off, any voice transmissions are simply heard over the music, which works well in cruise flight when calls from ATC are few and far between. During the test flight, I was unable to turn the volume on the music up so loud that an ATC call went unheard. For safety's sake, though, the soft mute feature should be on in terminal areas or outside of normal cruise.

One thing to keep in mind: The soft mute capability picked up not only intercom and radio transmissions but also noise in the radio itself. A vintage Narco Mark 24 in the 150 created internal static that intermittently cued the soft mute whenever the radio was turned on. The other radio in the stack, a King 170B, produced no such reaction.

The sound quality depends highly on a couple of variables, neither of which PS Engineering holds any control over. First, a stereo headset makes a huge difference. The typical mono headset produced a tolerable, but tinny, sound for anything other than voice transmissions, and distortion at higher volumes became unbearable. When I switched to the stereo headset, the sound immediately improved. The principle of garbage in, garbage out also held true. Compact discs produced from digital sources developed a far richer sound than those made from analog original recordings.

The PCD 7100 tested was the first installation of the unit completed by Hagerstown Aviation Services. Besecker estimates that an average installation time would be 16 to 20 hours for a four-place airplane. "It installs as easily as any other four- to six-place intercom, and with PS Engineering's reputation — [its intercoms] work very well," said Besecker.

For flexibility, the system can also accept another music source. The PCD 7100 acquired TSO approval on November 30, 2000, and the product is currently shipping. The system retails for $995. Other versions of the unit are also available, including one without the built-in intercom. For more information, contact PS Engineering, 9800 Martel Road, Lenoir City, Tennessee 37772; telephone 865/988-9800; fax 865/988-6619; or visit the Web site ( www.ps-engineering.com). — Julie K. Boatman

Jeppesen bundles SkyMap with FliteStar/FliteMap

GPS moving-map software for laptop computers is great for flying to a destination, but once on the ground it's time to get out the paper map and struggle with unfamiliar territory. Not anymore. Jeppesen now bundles FliteMap, its moving-map software for aviation, with SkyMap, Sony's ground-navigation program that literally talks you to your destination. Simply take your laptop from the airplane and pop it into the rental car.

A new 12-channel GPS receiver designed for Jeppesen by Etak Inc., of Japan, to work with SkyMap and FliteMap makes the air-to-ground transition painless. (Or you can use your own handheld GPS receiver.) The Etak receiver is built into a PC card that plugs into a PCMCIA slot on the laptop. It even has an infrared remote control that makes operation of your computer easier while flying or driving. If that's not enough, there's an earpiece and microphone interface. Once you learn the commands from the instruction manual, you can talk to your computer, and it will talk back, calling out street names when you are supposed to turn. The earpiece helps to overcome car and traffic noise.

Obviously, you want to use a laptop computer with the brightest screen available to improve daylight viewing. The Etak receiver alone sells for $249.95, but Jeppesen has bundled it with Flite-Star/FliteMap (the FliteStar program is built into FliteMap). The combination of FliteStar/FliteMap, Sony's SkyMap, and the Etak GPS receiver sells for $599, a savings of $149.95. Separately, Flite-Star/FliteMap sells for $499.

SkyMap, a Windows 95/98 program, runs on any Pentium-class 133 MHz computer with a 130-megabyte hard drive and at least 32 megabytes of RAM. Have an Internet connection through your cellular telephone? Good, because SkyMap also provides local traffic reports where available, right on the screen. Don't want SkyMap but just want to know what street you are on? Jeppesen offers StreetVision, an add-on to FliteMap, that lets you zoom in tighter until you see city streets. It won't guide you to your destination, but it at least lets you know where you are. Street-Vision is available for $49 for any third of the nation (West, Central, or East), or $99 for the full U.S. coverage. For information or to order, call 800/621-5377, or 303/799-9090 for international callers; or visit Jeppesen's Web site ( www.jeppesen.com). — Alton K. Marsh

SoftComm ANR Centurion C-100

When launching an active noise reduction (ANR) headset these days, a company needs to debut something truly new in order to make an impact in this competitive market. SoftComm's ANR Centurion C-100 leads other ANR headsets by requiring no external power. While ANR headsets are typically powered by a battery (either internal or in a pack) or a panel power unit, the C-100 uses the aircraft's microphone bias power to energize the noise-canceling feature. The unit's active noise attenuation is rated at 18 dB with the ANR function active. In the event the aircraft can no longer supply electrical power, the passive rating is a reasonable 24 dB. Of course, when faced with a loss of electrical power, a headset's noise reduction plummets on a typical pilot's list of concerns. The headset draws about the same amount of power as a typical passive headset.

I tested the C-100 in a Piper Archer, Cessna 172, and Beech Bonanza. While the ANR worked amply well, I found the overall comfort of the headset a bigger selling point. The C-100 weighs a bit more than other, more expensive sets, but I never felt like it smashed my head, and the ear cups fit nicely as well.

I spoke with Howard Dresden, a technician at SoftComm, who was in the process of conducting spectrum testing of the C-100 at various frequencies. While the C-100 gets its best marks at 150 Hz, the attenuation at the frequency of a four-cycle engine is somewhat less. Full data on the C-100's capabilities should be available soon from SoftComm.

The C-100 also features a 3.5-millimeter jack for cell phone input and a push-to-talk switch mounted on the exterior of the ear cup (to use if you don't have one installed on the airplane's yoke). The C-100 retails for $429 and weighs 15.3 ounces. For more information, contact SoftComm Products, 2310 South Airport Boulevard, Chandler, Arizona 85249; telephone 800/342-4756, (480/917-2328 outside the United States); fax 480/917-3557; or visit the Web site ( www.softcommheadsets.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/links0103.shtml ).