Pilot Products

May 1, 2002


Most pilots long for a large panel-mount color moving map, but not everyone has the budget or space for one. Now there's a less expensive alternative that requires no installation and no panel space. AvMap's new EKP-IIIc moving-map GPS features a huge, high-contrast color moving map in a standard-size pilot kneeboard.

When it comes to moving maps, bigger truly can be better because bigger can mean faster comprehension. As a flight instructor, I've watched GPS-preoccupied pilots blunder into airspace they were trying to avoid. I've seen them lose aircraft control while programming such devices, and I once tore a handheld GPS from a button-pusher steering us toward a midair collision.

Good navigational devices should require little attention — situational awareness should come at a glance, and programming should be intuitive so it doesn't interrupt traffic scan or other cockpit duties. I was already impressed with this unit's predecessor, AvMap's monochrome EKP-II NT. But the color EKP-IIIc raises the bar significantly.

The new 3.75-by-5.25-inch display is so large, so clear, and so bright that even the briefest peek confirms where you are and what lies ahead. Rapid redraw updates the screen almost instantaneously. Unlike the previous unit, which located the aircraft symbol mid-screen, the EKP-IIIc places it near the edge, thereby depicting features many miles ahead.

Ever been challenged when "threading the needle" between airspace blocks? AvMap's "course predictor" helps by projecting your position several minutes ahead, based on constant heading. The course predictor is adjustable; I liked three minutes' lead time. With this tool, you can spend more time scanning out the windshield and less time staring at the GPS. Now add the benefits of color. I'd assumed that color displays were just a nicety, but I was wrong — like size, color speeds comprehension. Freeways are orange, Class B airspace is bounded by red lines, Class D by blue, and restricted airspace by red dashes. The meaning of each line is crystal clear.

Controlling the EKP-IIIc is straightforward. The unit powers up in moving-map mode — no hunting through screens is required to get there. The Enter button displays information on any map feature or airport selected with the cursor. Menu accesses most screen and flight-plan settings. Escape returns you to the previous screen. Once introduced to that simple operating logic, there's rarely a need to consult the manual. AvMap even incorporates operating instructions in every menu window. Individually backlighted control buttons are large, well separated, and easy to read.

Display brightness and contrast are easily adjusted on the EKP-IIIc to meet personal taste and lighting conditions. Night mode uses a separate color palette to enhance readability in dark cockpits (much improved over the EKP-II, which I sometimes found too bright at night). Night mode is very effective, though I did discover a small glitch. After using the night setting on a dark evening, I next activated the unit in sunlight. Although the power-on "beep" sounded, the screen appeared blank. I deduced the likely cause — night mode — but couldn't read the screen even with a coat over my head. I returned to daytime display mode using the Braille method. Had more time passed between the two flights, I might have assumed display failure.

My only other complaint is that when calling up airspace or airport information using the cursor, the airplane position symbol disappears — with data boxes open you can't read your position.

The EKP-IIIc comes with a curved back and strap for attachment to your leg. Accessory brackets are available for mounting on the yoke or seat tracks. The unit runs on 12-to-24-volt ship's power via a cigarette-lighter accessory plug. The display consumes too much electricity for an internal battery — those wanting backup power will need a separate battery pack.

At $1,799 AvMap's EKP-IIIc costs more than most other portable GPSs, but that's not the way to look at it. It's a chance to own a large, really effective color moving map, while saving for that someday IFR panel-mount model.

For more information, contact C-Map/Aviation, 133 Falmouth Road, Mashpee, Massachusetts 02649; telephone 800/363-2627 or 508/539-3115; fax 508/539-2817; or visit the Web site ( www.c-map.com). — Gregory N. Brown

Sporty's Communications DVDs

Sporty's Pilot Shop has released two communications videos on DVD, and general aviation expert Richard Collins hosts both presentations. The VFR Communications DVD features a flight made by Collins to various airports in Ohio, highlighting the radio procedures used with air traffic control, flight service, and nontowered airports. The IFR Communications DVD shows a flight into what is now Washington Reagan National Airport, and covers IFR reservation procedures and communications with center, approach, tower, and ground control.

Aside from abbreviating his own call sign in a unique way, Collins provides well-tested advice and a good overview of how radio communication comes together in the cockpit. The IFR DVD also offers a now-nostalgic journey most of the way down the River Visual arrival procedure into National, which is still closed to general aviation traffic following the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Each DVD retails separately for $24.95. For more information, contact Sporty's Pilot Shop, Clermont County Airport, Batavia, Ohio 45103-9747; telephone 800/543-8633 or 513/735-9000; fax 513/735-9200; or visit the Web site ( www.sportys.com).

Scheyden eyewear

Scheyden offers a line of sunglasses in both flip-up and fixed styles that are well suited to pilots. The seven- or nine-layer lenses incorporate three anti-reflective layers, optional polarization, and inner and outer coatings that repel water and sweat. The lenses are hand-ground for reduced distortion, meeting the highest industry standards for optical quality, and offer 100-percent ultraviolet protection.

We tested the Palisades-style sunglasses over a six-week period in which they survived many hours of flying. They came through, literally, with nary a scratch. We were concerned that the magnets holding the lenses in position would weaken or get dirty, losing effectiveness over time, but these held up admirably. This feature is imminently practical when switching from scanning for traffic in a bright sky to reading the shadowy dials on the instrument panel.

The flip-up styles retail for $400, and Scheyden offers a pilot discount of $100 off of this price. Each pair comes with an exotic wood case and protective bag/lens cloth. For more information, contact West Coast Trends, 17812 Jamestown Lane, Huntington Beach, California 92647; telephone 800/851-2758 or 714/843-1975; fax 714/500-3510; or visit the Web site ( www.scheyden.com).

Digital Daypack from RoadWired

Few flight bags vary from the shoulder strap or briefcase style — which is good for looks but weighs heavily if one does a lot of travel. A backpack-style bag from RoadWired is geared for hauling laptops and is also suitable for pilot use.

The "battle ready" ballistic nylon pack is rugged and features padded shoulder straps as well as a waist belt and chest strap for heavy loads or long walks. Internally, the bag is padded to safely transport a laptop, while an anterior zipped pocket allows plenty of room for a handheld nav/com or GPS, charts, headset, and other accessories pilots need during IFR and VFR cross-country flights. Pockets inside hold pens, keys, and pilot certificates or other documents snugly. The pack comes in black or titanium colors with a comprehensive warranty.

The Digital Daypack retails for $169.95. For more information, contact RoadWired, 235 Middle Road, Henrietta, New York 14467; telephone 877/435-5679 or 716/334-6960; fax 716/334-6962; or visit the Web site ( www.roadwired.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. Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links.shtml).