June 1, 2005
Julie K. Boatman
A highly competitive market in moving-map software for use in the cockpit has driven the development of several great programs for electronic flight bags (EFBs). A uniquely intelligent application is that produced by AirGator, the NavAir EFB program for both PocketPC and tablet PC and laptop platforms.
We looked at the NavAir application for PocketPC last year (see " Pilot Products: NavAir Wx," April 2004 Pilot) and this spring took an opportunity to review the application on a Sony U750. This platform is a roughly approach-chart-size tablet PC with a high-resolution, sunlight-readable touch screen; the program is optimized for use on the unit without a stylus.
The unit's size allows for 30 percent more screen area than a personal digital assistant (PDA) while maintaining a small profile for ease of use in the cockpit. The folks at AirGator have so fully optimized the program for this platform that the fonts used on the screen resize themselves based on the resolution setting.
As for the moving-map display, the program uses every bit of the screen area for its map presentation, with translucent on-screen controls. The base map is highly detailed, resembling to the greatest extent possible the cartographic fidelity you'd find on a sectional chart. Zooming offers an opportunity for the user to customize in detail the amount of information presented on the screen — if you want to see major roads at the 10-mile range but not at the 25-mile range, you can set that protocol.
Flight-planning functions are highly flexible, allowing you to append an active flight plan with little hassle. You can also view another flight plan without dumping the active one. User input has driven several upgrades to the program, including the ability to reposition the map by dragging it on the screen.
XM Satellite Radio's satellite weather, created by WxWorx, has been available on NavAir applications for more than 18 months now, and the company also offers Bluetooth wireless access in addition to a more traditional wired setup. Once weather is activated, the user can hit the Nearest button on the unit and any available METARs that correspond to those nearest locations come up along with other airport information. This allows the pilot to quickly accept or reject an airport if it doesn't meet his or her personal weather minimums.
AirGator also offers instrument approach procedures on its platforms; I was particularly impressed with the "reverse" function that swaps the black and white on the chart for a nighttime presentation. The application divides the chart into nine sections and the user taps a corner of the chart to toggle to that section. You can also drag the chart to fine-tune its position.
The print function allows the user to print up to eight charts on a page for a paper backup. The pilot can also page through all the charts at an airport once that airport is called up. AirGator will announce several cool upgrades to its XM weather offering this spring, including a presentation of winds aloft and echo tops that keys off a sliding altitude scale — the pilot slides the pointer to a given altitude, and the echoes or winds at that altitude are shown.
For a mounting solution, AirGator offers a sleeve into which the unit slides, and it works not only for the Sony but also for the Panasonic Toughbook and MotionComputing tablet PCs. The company plans a line of suction-cup mounts for use in aircraft such as the Beechcraft Bonanza with the throwover yoke.
The power supply is akin to that of PDAs, and AirGator offers the option to put the unit in line with a circuit breaker or fuse, or into a cigarette lighter or similar outlet. Since the company deems the standard batteries inside the Sony and the Bluetooth adequate to "get you on the ground" in an electrical-failure situation, there is no additional backup battery. The company has design-ed a proprietary hub for the wires required, using color-coded plugs and longer cables for easier setup and routing.
Price: from $3,995 for a bundle including the Sony U750; from $750 for EFB software only Contact: 914/666-5656; www.airgator.com
One of the first things you learn as a glider pilot is that power-off landings don't faze you — since every landing is a power-off landing. Sporty's has released another DVD in its What You Should Know series, and this installment focuses on making the switch from powered aircraft to gliders. Transition to Gliders discusses the FAA training requirements, shows glider launch methods (including in-flight footage of three launches), and explains how control inputs affect the aircraft. Glider instructor Bob Wander joins other Sporty's instructors in giving pilots a rounded view of soaring flight — including footage highlighting the school's Diamond Xtreme motorglider. The DVD runs 98 minutes.
Price: $39.95 Contact: 800/776-7897 or 513/735-9000; www.sportys.com
Approach Aviation offers a line of tools for aircraft owners to use for preventive maintenance on their airplanes. It has introduced its auto-torque wrench for use specifically on oil filters. The tool is sized for light-GA aircraft filters, and a preset torque limit of 17 foot-pounds keeps users from over-torquing filters when replacing them. It fits easily in confined, under-cowl spaces.
Company owner Jeff Simon loves his Grumman Traveler, and as a result the company has also developed an alternate air system for AA-5 Travelers and AA-5A Cheetahs. Approach Aviation received the supplemental type certificate for this mod, which was shown in tests last fall to increase manifold pressure by one-half inch (equating to 4 horsepower). Contact the company for pricing and details.
Price: $49.95 for auto-torque wrench Contact: 877/564-4457; www.approachaviation.com
James Spudich has published Piloting With Confidence, an instructional book for students and pilots with an interest in developing a more in-depth checklist protocol for their airplane, as well as a greater understanding of procedures in general. It features a good, thorough process for creating your own checklist and explains in great detail why you do some of the things you do in the airplane. There are also some solid tips on flying with the Garmin GNS 430 and 530 and the Garmin GPSMap 196 handheld GPS receiver.
Price: $24.95 Contact: 650/948-9869; www.ajpublicationsca.com
A new tool from JoePilot.com can help you get all the charts you need without the pain of figuring it all out yourself. From the JoePilot.com Web site, choose a selection method: by route, by area, or by name of the chart. The points are entered by clicking on a map; zoom features allow you to pinpoint airports and navaids more precisely. An information box assists you in selecting the right waypoint. Click on Review Charts and a page pops up with every chart you need for the route selected in a checklist. Edit the list to suit your needs and then place your order.
Price: service is free; chart prices vary Contact: www.joepilot.com
Micro Aerodynamics received an FAA supplemental type certificate to produce vortex generator kits for the Stinson 108 through 108-5 models. The company claims an 8-percent reduction in stall speed, improved aileron response, and a reduced takeoff and landing roll. Price: $695 plus shipping and handling; $100 extra to be painted like the aircraft Contact: 800/677-2370 or 360/293-8082; www.microaero.com
ExxonMobil Aviation Lubricants introduced a nondispersant oil for the break-in of new or newly overhauled aircraft piston engines called Exxon Aviation Oil 20W-50. It can be used year-round but is designed for use before switching to Exxon Aviation Oil Elite 20W-50. Contact: www.exxonelite.com
UMA Inc., of Dayton, Virginia, now offers an electronic tachometer as a replacement for the old cable-driven tach found in most aircraft. It is FAA certified and uses a tach sender mounted on the engine in place of the mechanical cable. Price: $389 for basic unit; customizing, such as internal lighting, is available Contact: 800/842-5578 or 540/879-2040; www.umainstruments.com
PCAvionics has added weather and temporary-flight-restrictions capability to MountainScope moving-map software. TFRs will be downloaded each time the software is started, and weather can be received from the XM Satellite Radio satellite weather service. Price: $495 for software; $429 (for WxWorx receiver for Windows-based PC, laptop, or tablet) or $679 for Bluetooth receiver Contact: 877/444-4722; www.pcavionics.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).
FAA Information and Services,
Safety and Education,
The FAA encourages pilots to do a number of things in order to increase safety, but does not require them. Check out these three actions that are recommended.
Among the very first lessons a pilot learns is that a control yoke is not a steering wheel. Research underway in Europe could change that.
AOPA President Mark Baker and AOPA Foundation Executive Director Jim Minow are challenging one another to see who can recruit the most Hat in the Ring Society members for the foundation before the end of the year.
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