Pilot Products

November 1, 2002

UltraFlite headset

UltraFlite marries a lightweight headband with a boom mic to what appears to be a set of earplugs attached to thin, clear tubing. The earplugs are sized to fit snugly in the ear canals of 90 percent of pilots, as the tubing delivers sound directly into the ears. The result? A setup that Quiet Technologies, maker of UltraFlite, claims will reduce noise levels by the same amount as most ANR headsets.

We tested the UltraFlite headset on cross-country flights in a Piper Archer. The smaller earplugs were used, placed deep in the canal to properly block incoming sound waves. The deadening of sound was, well, like wearing earplugs. However, audio from the aircraft's communications and intercom systems was clearly heard through the plugs. The headset rested comfortably on the user's head, and the adjustable boom mic carried sound relatively well — one unicom operator called it "a little muffled" but other communications with ATC were pronounced loud and clear.

In practice, the UltraFlite set reduced cockpit noise to levels better than the passive headset we subjectively measured it against, and almost as well as the new ANR set we used. Company literature claims equal noise reduction compared to ANR sets by virtue of attenuation data at a wide range of frequencies (125 to 8,000 Hz).

An equal benefit is the headset's incredibly low weight. The UltraFlite headset only weighs 1.25 ounces (the audio box and mic jacks add 2.5 ounces). Compared to the 15 to 30 ounces of typical passive and ANR headsets, that's not much. When used over a long flight, the fatigue factor is definitely less.

An upcoming version of UltraFlite, called MicroFlite, will have a custom-molded earpiece and boom mic that fits neatly over one ear and weighs less than half an ounce. MicroFlite is expected to retail for less than UltraFlite as well.

Price: $325 for UltraFlite
Contact: 866/784-3883; www.quiettechnologies.com

America From 500 Feet!

The father-son duo of Bill and Wesley Fortney used their nature photography skills to capture fascinatingly beautiful shots across America while flying in an ultralight.

The 192-page America From 500 Feet! offers several lessons to those of us trying to capture scenery from an airplane with a favorite camera. Bill Fortney, who lives in Corbin, Kentucky, shot "virtually every picture in the book" during the first or the last hour of light each day. He also used a slight warming filter for most of the photos.

A key to sharpness was the slow 35-mph speed of the French-made Air Creation Fun Racer 447; Fortney tried shots "from Cessnas at 70 mph" and found that the shots taken from the ultralight were the sharpest.

Fortney's road to success actually began in 1979 when he developed cancer and doctors gave him just months to live. He reset his priorities — once focused on fame and fortune — toward seeing his kids grow up and being a good father and husband. Once he stopped trying to find success, success found him. The cancer was removed successfully. He became a professional photographer, and eventually launched the Great American Photography Weekend, a company that teaches budding nature photographers at weekend seminars and shooting sessions held at some of the most scenic spots in America.

America From 500 Feet! was his dream but getting to work with his son was an even greater joy. A superb nature photographer in his own right, Wesley contributed a large number of photos to the book.

One dream remains — to become a private pilot. Bill Fortney has passed the written exam and still intends to get the certificate. At the rate he is realizing his dreams, it shouldn't be too long before he can add pilot to his titles of dad, husband, granddad four times over, and oh yes, famous nature photographer. — Alton K. Marsh

Price: $29.95 from national booksellers
Contact: www.americafrom500feet.com

NavPad angled kneeboard

With the wide variety of aviation-related programs available for personal digital assistants, the search continues for a good way to mount these devices in the cockpit. For pilots of control-stick-equipped aircraft, the NavPad angled kneeboard from Di Blasi offers an alternative to yoke mounts.

We tested the NavPad during flights from Maryland to Wisconsin this summer in a stick-equipped Nanchang CJ-6A. While the cockpit of this Chinese aircraft is spacious in a sense, there isn't a lot of panel or glareshield space for a PDA mount — and what little there is currently hosts a mount for a portable GPS receiver. The NavPad consists of a single piece of hard molded plastic with an angled ledge for the PDA and a curved underside to fit your leg. A Velcro strap holds the NavPad to your leg, and Velcro provided with the NavPad allows you to attach the PDA to the kneeboard. While this leaves a quasi-permanent strip of Velcro on your PDA, we didn't find it too cumbersome a fix.

In fact, the kneeboard stayed in place pretty well during choppy weather over the Appalachians, though the strap seems to stay in place better if the pilot is wearing pants that fit closely. The PDA was at a good angle (about 30 degrees) for accessing on-screen functions during flight. We tested the kneeboard using both moving-map and E6B software and found that it worked well for both programs. The kneeboard can be secured on either leg, allowing for left-handed or right-handed use.

Price: $49.95 plus $6 shipping and handling
Contact: 800/342-2214; www.diblasi.com

Lightwave 2100 LED flashlight

A pilot may own enough flashlights to single-handedly outfit a night watchman's corps, yet it seems whenever the time comes for a night flight, only dead batteries and light bulbs remain. LED (light-emitting diode) flashlights, such as the Lightwave 2100, promise to answer this problem.

The 2100 uses four LED lamps instead of bulbs and produces a bright, strikingly white light that bathes the entire panel or checklist with a smooth, diffused glow with none of the hot spots common to traditional flashlights. The Lightwave uses three AA batteries that the company claims will last 14 times longer than batteries in regular flashlights. The water-resistant case is shockproof, and the model carries a three-year warranty, including the LED lamps. The lamps themselves are purported to last thousands of hours.

One caveat — white light can erode night vision, so care must be taken when using the flashlight in a dark cockpit. The company offers the Lightwave 2000, which has red LEDs, to address this concern. Lightwave also has introduced the model 4000 flashlight, with 10 LED lamps for larger applications.

Price: $34.95 for the 2100; $29.95 for the 2000; $59.95 for the 4000
Contact: 678/393-9072; www.longlight.com

QUICK HITS

A satellite-broadcast datalink weather service, WSI InFlight, beams weather products (including METARs, TAFs, graphical sigmets and airmets, U.S. radar imagery, and echo tops) at five-minute update intervals to a portable Northstar CT-1000 display, UPS Aviation Technologies MX20, or Collins' Pro Line 21 multifunction displays.

Price: $2,999 for the hardware through 2002; $49.95 monthly service fee for the first year
Contact: 800/872-2359; www.wsi.com

Parker Hanifin provides fuel-pump and wheel- and brake-conversion-kit rebate programs for its Airborne and Cleveland brands, with savings of $200 to $400 effective through June 2003.

Contact: 800/382-8422 (Airborne); 800/272-5464 (Cleveland); www.parker.com

Tanis Aircraft Services announces an economical battery heater, which features a self-regulating heating element.

Price: $195
Contact: 800/443-2136; www.tanair.com

The FlightLevel LogBook 2002 electronic pilot logbook features a new database, new columns, enhanced filters, additional pilot currency information, and a new Palm version.

Price: $99 desktop version; $49 Palm version
Contact: 800/747-5040; www.flightlvl.com

AMCV offers the new Pul-Air Bear Tug for tricycle-gear aircraft weighing up to 3,000 pounds.

Price: $1,199 standard 18-volt unit; $1,299 heavy-duty 24-volt unit
Contact: 954/977-8803; www.amcv.net

Goodflying.com has released its 2003 Ultimate Pilot Library CD at a 20-percent discount for AOPA members. The CD includes FARs, the Aeronautical Information Manual, advisory circulars, and practical test standards.

Price: $13.50
Contact: www.goodflying.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).