Pilot Products

February 1, 2005

Sennheiser lightweight headsets

Professional pilots who fly primarily turbine equipment gravitate toward lightweight headsets because the relative quiet in turbine cockpits doesn't require the use of a hard-clamping, around-the-ears headset typically found in piston airplanes. Sennheiser has two answers for the professional pilot with its HMEC25-KA and HMEC45-KA headsets.

I first tried the -45 in a Canadair Regional Jet (CRJ), and was instantly drawn to its light weight and portability. It uses half the space in my chart case that my conventional headsets did and weighs about one-fifth as much.

The slim battery pack contains two AA batteries with a claimed life of 80 hours. Testing ended with 65 hours on a set of alkalines that was still going strong. (A single light-emitting diode glows green or yellow depending on battery condition.)

As the ground crew pushed the CRJ back from the gate, I donned the -45 and flipped the noise-canceling switch. The -45 knocked out a lot of the intracockpit noise made by the avionics fans and air rushing through the environmental system. Sennheiser claims a 10-dB reduction in noise — basically all of which comes from the active noise reduction (ANR) as the -45 provides very little passive noise attenuation because of its open-air design.

Once airborne, the -45 continued to impress by eliminating a lot of the wind noise in the cockpit — and by its lack of warbling noises or other creepy sounds that some active noise-canceling sets make when repositioned or subjected to changes in air pressure.

You may be surprised to learn that most airliners don't have voice-activated intercoms common to GA aircraft — they are manually operated. Conversation over the CRJ's intercom was crisp and clear and if the intercom was left "hot," a barely perceptible hiss from the microphone was the only clue. Voice-activated intercoms won't have this problem.

After about one hour of wearing the headset, the aft portion of my ears ached a little from the slight clamping pressure. As the days wore on, however, I became acclimated to the headset and could wear it all day.

For noisier cockpits, Sennheiser recommends the HMEC25-KA. The trade-off with the -25 is a larger, heavier headset, but it takes a larger bite out of cockpit noise because of better passive attenuation.

We tested the -25 in the CRJ as well as in a Gulfstream IV, which has a louder cockpit. The ANR of the -25 is not as noticeably dramatic as the -45's because of the better passive noise attenuation. But the -25's active noise canceling removes at least 15 dB of noise compared to the -45's 10 dB. Since the electronics work harder in the -25, its battery life is reduced. We got 20 hours out of a set of AAs. However, without batteries you could still fly for hours because of the -25's excellent passive noise canceling.

The -25 clamps harder than the -45 and the discomfort that I had with the -45 reappeared with this set. Ironically, one of my copilots during the test owned a -25 and had no ear-discomfort issues.

In the din of a Cessna 172's cockpit, the -25 performed above expectations and outperformed an around-the-ears active noise-canceling headset in the same cockpit — pretty impressive for a lightweight headset. Although these lightweight Sennheisers are designed for pilots of turbine equipment, don't write them off for a piston airplane. Even in unpressurized airplanes, these headsets — the -25 especially — perform very well. Stereo and panel-mount versions of both headsets are available. — Peter A. Bedell

Price: The HMEC45-KA minimum advertised price is $559; the HMEC25-KA, $599
Contact: 877/736-6434; www.sennheiserusa.com

Extreme Simple Green aircraft cleaner

For years now, pilots have learned to shy away from Simple Green cleaning products because of the potential acceleration of corrosion that they could create. Now Simple Green offers an answer that won't be a hazard to your aircraft — Extreme Simple Green Aircraft & Precision Cleaner.

Extreme Simple Green meets military specs for aircraft use — in fact, along with a sample bottle of the product we were shipped documentation of just how many ways the product was tested and found not to cause oxidation and corrosion on typical aircraft metals. The formula was designed to leave no residue and wipe cleanly away after application. It is also safe to use around rubber and vinyl, so you shouldn't be alarmed if you dribble some on tires, gaskets, or hoses.

We tested the cleaner on an airplane that under the best of circumstances leaves oil on the belly after each flight. The Extreme Simple Green made pretty quick work of the mess borne of each flight, taking about one-third of the bottle to really shine the belly, cowl, and leading edges of the wings and horizontal stabilizer. Hopefully your airplane engine doesn't throw oil like a radial, but no matter what, a bottle of this stuff will come in handy.

Price: about $18 per gallon; about $10 for a 32-ounce trigger bottle
Contact: http://industrial.simplegreen.com

Magnifico PDA magnifier

Having trouble seeing the fine print on your Palm screen as you call up weather, a flight plan, or an airport diagram? Officeonthegogo has developed a solution: the Magnifico PDA (personal digital assistant) magnifier. You snap the glass lens in position over the PDA screen and adjust the height so that the screen comes into focus. You can tilt the Magnifico to read text on various parts of the screen. The lens itself is heavy and well made; once you position the lens you need to tighten the screws on the posts holding the lens in place or the lens moves around. The holder collapses into the same size as your PDA. It also fits some handheld GPS units of similar size to a PDA.

Price: $29.99
Contact: 800/679-1909; www.officeonthegogo.com

Quick Hits

Aerospace Logic has released three variants of its FL-100-R dual fuel level indicators. The company advises that installation of these indicators results in simplified calibration and enhanced response from the sender unit in the tank.
Contact: 905/569-3887; www.aerospacelogic.com

Sky-Tec has announced its new lightweight starters for Continental engines, the CvST2 and CvST3. For lower-horsepower aircraft engines, the CvST2 offers a 9.2-pound solution, while the CvST3 runs 6.5 pounds for O-300 through TSIO-550 engines.
Price: varies, under $600
Contact: 800/476-7896; www.skytecair.com

A Web site called Pilotsharetheride.com has debuted, offering a free three-month membership to pilots interested in sharing expenses (to the extent allowable by the regulations) and flying duties across the United States. Post an upcoming trip or request, or search for other pilots in your area.
Price: six-month membership is $11.99; full year is $19.99
Contact: www.pilotsharetheride.com

Myairplane.com delivers a variety of electronic charts, including instrument approach procedures (IAPs), and low and high en route charts and sectional charts optimized for PDAs running PocketPC 2003. A complete database with all U.S. IAPs and en route and sectional charts fits on a 1-GB memory card. With a subscription, the company ships a new DVD with the complete database every 28 days; charts are usable for FAR Part 91 operations.
Price: one-year subscription (13 cycles) including IAPs and low and high en route charts is $135
Contact: 740/703-0580; www.myairplane.com

Power Flow Systems announces STC approval for its tuned exhaust system on 200-horsepower Mooneys. The installation results in improved engine efficiency, fuel savings, lower oil temperatures, and increased rate of climb, according to the company.
Price: $4,550
Contact: 386/253-8833; www.powerflowsystems.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).