Pilot Products

May 1, 2001

Lightspeed QFR Solo and X-C headsets

You can't have it both ways — you're going to have to choose a headset, and it's going to be either a solid passive model or a reliable active noise reduction (ANR) set. That's the tough decision to make. The good news is, whichever choice you make, if you select between Lightspeed's new QFR Solo and X-C headsets, you'll come out OK.

We tested both the Solo (a passive headset) and the X-C (the ANR model) side by side in various aircraft. The X-C truly made the airplane (a Piper Archer) sound different — somehow too quiet to be producing 2,500 rpm. It made one want to keep checking the tach. The Solo produced a quiet ride as well, without the damping of the lower-end frequencies that the ANR X-C provides. The X-C generates its optimum active noise attenuation in the 120-to-200-hertz range, about on par with a four-stroke engine's frequency range of 150 to 200 Hz.

One complaint we've heard about Lightspeed sets in the XL series is the large size of the ear cups — because of the comfortable cushioning. While definitely not as streamlined as typical David Clarks, AvComms, or the like, the ear cups on the QFR sets aren't unnecessarily bulky, either when worn or while couched in a headset bag. In fact, the low-profile headband is slimmer than most others on the market and didn't result in any noticeable discomfort during our test flights. Both units come with a nylon headset bag that is roomy enough for nearly two sets, in addition to having pockets for charts and a pen.

We did notice a difference in the microphone when compared to other units we've tested recently. During one flight with the X-C, we turned the squelch on both com radios all the way up, and still the mic cut one pilot's voice in and out when talking over the intercom, with the wind muff on. After taking the muff off, the mic picked up the pilot's voice just fine with no breaking up. Yes, the mic is very quiet — a plus, unless you have a stage-whisper voice.

The control unit, which also houses the batteries, on the X-C features an on/off button for the ANR feature, as well as a battery "fuel gauge" activation button. One of three LEDs comes on when this button is depressed. If you're low on battery juice (10 percent or less), the red light illuminates. Separate volume controls for the left and right sides balance any differences in your hearing, and a mono/stereo switch allows for optimum voice transmission (in mono mode) and music (in stereo mode). The Solo has the same volume control and mono/stereo switch, but it doesn't require a battery, of course.

The Solo gives an average noise-reduction rating of 28.7 decibels across a frequency range of 125 to 8,000 Hz. The X-C adds an additional 12 to 14 decibels of noise attenuation with the ANR feature on. The X-C operates on two AA batteries, estimated to last 20 to 25 hours. As of press time, we'd used the X-C on its original batteries for 20 hours and counting. The units we tested weigh 12.8 (Solo) and 15.4 (X-C) ounces without the cords. The QFR Solo retails for $149; the QFR X-C is $279. For more information, contact Lightspeed Aviation, 7301 Southwest Kable Lane, Number 300, Portland, Oregon 97224; telephone 800/332-2421 or 503/968-3113; fax 503/968-7664; or visit the Web site ( www.anrheadsets.com).

Logging Flight Time

Stories of those whose aviation lives have been affected by the writings and teachings of William Kershner are legion. Though readers get a sense of his earthy humor through his textbooks, including The Student Pilot's Manual, the real story lies in how the skinny country boy went from washing airplanes in 1945 to becoming a naval aviator, to working as a corporate pilot, to instructing aerobatics and writing down his wisdom in a way that pays homage to his Tennessee roots.

In Logging Flight Time, Kershner re-creates his history from articles previously published in magazines — including Pilot — and other sources, along with some new material to fill in the gaps. The result gives Kershner fans a memoir of his flying exploits, and more than a few instances in which his experience reads more like a comeuppance. The ride is a pleasure, and if you're prone to laughing out loud while reading, make sure you open this book only in places where such behavior won't garner sharp looks. The book retails for $32.95 and is available nationwide at bookstores and online. For more information, contact Iowa State University Press, 2121 South State Avenue, Ames, Iowa 50014; telephone 800/862-6657; or visit the Web site ( www.isupress.com).

Briefly Noted

Insight Avionics Inc. recently released its latest product, the TAS 1000 true air data computer system. Using inputs from several aircraft systems, the TAS 1000 presents some highly useful information in one convenient location on the panel.

One of the most interesting features of the TAS 1000 is its ability to display real-time winds aloft information. The unit connects to an aircraft's GPS receiver, deriving winds aloft from the GPS' navigational track and groundspeed data. The resulting information, such as wind direction and speed, drift angle, and the head- or tailwind component, is shown on the TAS 1000's separate 1.4-inch-diameter "Windicator" display. Other features include pressure and density altitude (from outside air temperature gauge and static system inputs), fuel flow data (from fuel flow transducers), and true airspeed and overspeed warnings (from pitot system inputs). The main TAS 1000 display measures 3.6 by 1.4 by 4.5 inches.

The TAS 1000 is available from dealers, beginning at a suggested retail price of $4,995 for piston-engine aircraft installations. The system is also available for turbine aircraft. For more information, contact Insight Avionics Inc., Box 194, Buffalo, New York 14205; telephone 905/871-0733; fax 905/871-5460; or visit the Web site ( www.insightavionics.com).

Who hasn't checked out in a new airplane to find avionics in the panel whose operation proves far more daunting than performing the required flight maneuvers? The more you can learn on the ground about how these systems work, the better — and safer — your flying experience can be.

To this end, Sporty's Pilot Shop is offering a variety of CD-ROMs and videos on the operation of commonly found panel toys. For the bargain price of $5, pilots can choose from titles including the AlliedSignal ground proximity warning system (GPWS) (video), Garmin GNS 430 and 530 GPS units (CD-ROMs), Honeywell/Bendix King KLN 89B GPS (video or CD-ROM), Insight Modern Engine Management (video), J.P. Instrument Engine Scanner (video), Ryan TCAD 9900 Series (video), and UPS Aviation Technologies Series 50/60 GPS (video). Sporty's intends to continue adding titles as they become available, in the interest of helping pilots round out their knowledge of increasingly complex cockpit systems.

Several other video titles are also available in the "Five Dollar Education Program," including NASA Tailplane Icing, NASA Icing for Regional/Corporate Pilots, and Aviation Oil: What Every Pilot Needs to Know. For more information, contact Sporty's Pilot Shop, Clermont County Airport, Batavia, Ohio 45103; telephone 800/543-8633, or 513/735-9000; fax 513/735-9200; or visit the Web site ( www.sportys.com).

It's springtime, and a pilot's thoughts drift lightly toÂ…traveling long distances in an airplane. And why not look into a trip to the islands, before hurricane season rears its head? The 2001 Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide provides detailed information covering every airport in the islands.

Beginning with general travel information everyone needs to know about the area, the guide launches into the specifics of flying among the islands — including favorites such as the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cuba, the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. John and Betty Obradovich are the current publishers of the guide, which has been printed annually since 1979. Airport, airway, airspace, and navigation information accompanies aerial photos of each airport listed in the guide. Handy features, such as the fuel cost comparison table, add to the guide's utility. Though one must overcome the fact the guide is sprinkled liberally with advertisements, it makes a great starting point for dreaming about points south.

Two "travel and aviation" charts, useful for planning purposes and published using government data, are sold in addition to the guide. Retail price for the 2001 Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide is $44.95; the charts are $8.95 apiece, or both for $16. For more information, contact Pilot Publishing, Post Office Box 88, 16135 Pauma Valley Drive, Pauma Valley, California 92061; telephone 800/521-2120; or fax 760/742-2001.

For many pilots, music enhances the cross-country flying experience. And what better complement to sailing along through skies than homespun, folksy tunes written and performed by another pilot? Dwayne O'Brien, formerly of the multi-platinum country band, Little Texas, introduces his latest CD, Song Pilot. The well-executed album reflects O'Brien's passion for flight and music in a unique way. In the 10 songs, it's clear why O'Brien affirms that flight is the song of his soul. Retail price is $16.99, plus shipping and handling. For more information, visit the Flight Song Records Web site ( www.flightsongrecords.com).

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.