August 1, 2003
JULIE K. BOATMAN
Does more, costs less. That would be enough of a review for this latest version of Flitesoft Professional, the IFR/VFR flight-planning software for piston-engine aircraft, were it not necessary to prove such blanket statements. RMS Technology, a small company based in Molalla, Oregon, currently seems to have edged ahead of its flight-planning and moving-map software competitors. While Flitesoft is offered at several levels of sophistication, the Professional edition is aimed at both instrument-rated and VFR pilots.
So what does it do? How about moving radar overlays for your route? Other products offer animated weather, but they can't be overlaid on the route. After obtaining a briefing (animated radar is only available when using a DTC DUATS briefing), right-click on the Wx button to bring up a menu showing Radar in Motion, which brings up six frames of moving radar. Blocks of color show light, moderate, and heavy precipitation. Single radar frames in higher resolution also can be downloaded and displayed, but not overlaid on the route.
Other features save you time and paper, and are not available from competitors. One such feature is called Route Weather, which distills weather briefings from DUATS into a one- or two-page summary.
Weather information including wind, METARs, and TAFs is overlaid in a graphical presentation not only on the Flitesoft chart, but also on the profile view beneath it. Thus, weather boxes containing detailed information on the chart are also available along the profile view of the flight. Coloring along the profile view shows precipitation and its severity (light, moderate, or severe), and a black background indicates you'll be landing or taking off in the dark.
Although the charts that come with Flitesoft Professional are legal and accurate for flight planning (a year's subscription for 28-day updates is $109), actual sectional and IFR raster charts are also available over the Internet. Subscribers to the update service can download the raster charts at any time, in addition to 28-day navigation data updates. When a chart is downloaded, the previously entered route is overlaid on it.
The program comes with 40 minutes of how-to videos giving demonstrations of the program's features, in addition to a 17-page manual. A separate disk of additional videos is available for $20.
Flitesoft updates TFRs automatically at every program start-up if the computer is connected to the Internet at the time. That provides a shot of confidence that the TFRs shown along your route are based on the latest information available, though you still must check with flight service. Equally important in today's environment, Flitesoft shows and names all power plants. The Bargain Fuel Locator feature lets you know where the best fuel price can be found. RMS staff call the FBOs two to three times a year to make sure prices are accurate.
The program requires a Pentium-based computer with 32 MB of RAM and a hard drive with 40 MB of free disk space. Professional runs with Windows 95, 98, 2000, ME, XP, or NT. RMS also offers Flitesoft Personal for VFR planning at $125, Flitesoft Commercial for piston- and turbine-aircraft charter operators at $398, and Flitesoft Worldwide with global navigation data coverage for $598. — Alton K. Marsh
Price: $198 for Flitesoft Professional Contact: 800/533-3211; www.rmstek.com
Flitesoft Express is a pocket PC version of the fully featured Flitesoft Professional. Its newest feature enables your PDA to dial out for weather briefings. The software offers flight planning, a moving map compatible with any GPS receiver offering the NMEA format (a common format used by most nonpanel-mounted GPS receivers), and route weather in graphical format that is overlaid along the planned route (see Flitesoft Professional review above). Weather briefings also may be obtained using a PC-based Flitesoft flight-planning program and downloaded to the PDA. An active flight log updates arrival time over every fix just as a full-featured GPS does. A few features of the heftier PC-based Flitesoft flight-planning programs had to be left behind in this slimmed-down PDA program, so auto routing is not available. Aircraft data, maps, TFRs, and pilot data may be downloaded from a PC-based Flitesoft flight-planning program so that you don't have to reenter data.
A word of caution: Owners of older PDAs with 32 MB of memory should not download all the program's features to their PDA. One solution to the memory problem is to buy a separate memory card. Older PDAs do not have an accessory slot for the modem card. RMS suggests that the newer-model Compaq iPaq PDAs be used with Express, since they have accessory packs built in — RMS tested Express on a Compaq iPaq 3850. The Express software was written for the Pocket PC operating system. It worked as promised in flight. The groundspeed reported was the same as that shown on the panel-mounted GPS. Tapping a bull's-eye on the screen places your aircraft on the chart at the correct location. Destinations are entered on a worksheet, a bit of a cumbersome process. RMS plans to add a Direct-To button in the future. — AKM
Price: $149 Contact: 800/533-3211; www.rmstek.com
Zuluworks' entry into the kneeboard market, the Zuluboard, allows you to tailor its features so that only the ones you truly use come with you into the cockpit.
The metal clipboard comes wrapped in a heavy-duty ballistic nylon or waxed canvas cover that opens to reveal clever mesh and nylon pockets. The board itself features a post to hold the Zulupad — a specially designed pad to organize your weather briefing, flight plan, and flight information — securely in place.
Zulucards are full-color, laminated cards that contain vital flight information and memory joggers printed on one side for clipping onto the Zuluboard.
Price: $44.95 for nylon; $49.95 for waxed canvas, with four Zulucards and a Zulupad included, also sold separately Contact: 510/393-5444; www.zuluworks.com
The Tempest Tornado 3000 dry air pump is the latest version of Aero Accessories' Tempest line of dry pneumatic pumps. Improvements reduce the potential for premature failures and make the pumps more "mechanic-friendly."
Buyers will see a change at the drive end of the pump — the drive coupling is now fully enclosed, a feature that protects it from contamination. This area of dry pumps used to be open to prevent oil contamination of the coupling if the pump drive garlock-type seal started leaking. The new design provides an exit for oil before it can damage the coupling.
The Tempest Tornado 3000 also boasts construction features that create a more solid monolithic pump body structure. With through bolts and body sections with integrated alignment, the new pump is better sealed and is much less affected by pump body expansion and contraction at temperature extremes. — Steven W. Ells
Price: $562 list plus installation Contact: 800/822-3200; www.aeroaccessories.com
In March Pilot we reviewed an avionics lock bar produced by R.L. Bielawa Associates that has since undergone modification so that it acts as a control gust lock and immobilizer. The lock bar can be customized by the manufacturer to fit not only Cessna 172s and 177s, but also 182s, turbo 182s, and 210s, and to accept specific customer panel requirements.
Price: $400 to $450 Contact: 360/681-4441; www.rlbainc.com
The Yakima/SOS personal floatation device's lightweight and low-profile design makes it well suited to overwater flight. Offered by Sospenders, a company producing PFDs for active outdoor enthusiasts, the PFD comes in several sizes, with automatic and manual inflation options.
Price: $150 Contact: 800/858-5876; www.sospenders.com
Avionics Certification Services has recently begun operations, offering its services to pilots pursuing field approvals (see " Airframe & Powerplant: A Field Approval Primer," June Pilot), PMA parts certification assistance, and aircraft installation design. ACS is headed by Greg Wilson, formerly of Sandel Avionics.
Contact: 760/798-2902; www.acs4cert.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).
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