May 1, 2005
JULIE K. BOATMAN
In-the-ear headsets have become increasingly popular in the past five years and the attention is well deserved. These svelte designs provide superior long-haul comfort and excellent noise-canceling properties that negate the need for battery-hungry noise-canceling gear.
Aloft Technologies is the latest player in this field with its Clarity Aloft Aviation Headset. A boom microphone is about the only thing traditional about this headset. From there, things get a little different. There is a headband, but it doesn't go over your head. It goes behind your head and just floats there. Your ears are the fulcrum between the headband and the boom mic. Ear buds containing tiny speakers dangle from the headband and have foam earpluglike tips screwed onto them. A control box resides on the cord with a volume control and a handy push-to-talk button.
The first time you wear the Clarity Aloft, it'll take some getting used to. Immediately apparent is the need to secure the wire to your clothes or to a stationary part of the airplane. Because the wire attaches to the headband behind the ears, it will — unless properly restrained — move the boom mic out of position every time you move your head. I never liked clipping things to me, so I found a solid portion of the cockpit to clip the wire to. With that little crisis out of the way, I found that most movements in the cockpit resulted in the mic being displaced only slightly.
Like I do with foam earplugs, I pinch the foam tips of the ear buds and insert them in my ears and hold pressure on them until they expand. These foam buds do an excellent job of blocking noise — without active noise canceling — if care is taken to install them properly. The ear buds make use of hearing-aid technology and pipe radio and intercom chatter right into the foam tips, providing clear communications that don't sound muffled.
The result is a very quiet environment with minimal apparatus and no batteries to change. Aloft claims 35 to 45 dB of attenuation, which is on par with some of the high-end active-noise-canceling headsets. Unlike a similar offering from Panther Electronics, the Clarity Aloft headset can be worn by multiple users. For hygiene purposes, the tips should be changed, however. Panther's headset (see " Pilot Products," October 2001 Pilot) uses custom ear molds that can only be worn by the user.
A female copilot I flew with during the test wondered whether long hair would interfere with the headband assembly. Since the headband floats about an inch behind my head, we surmised that having thick hair (unless it was pulled back) would make wearing this headset more difficult. In addition, she noted that to be used by a right-seat pilot or passenger the cord would have to lie across one's chest (or back, depending on preference).
A final nit to pick comes in the form of routine maintenance. The screw-on foam Comply Canal Tips need to be replaced occasionally. The company estimates that a $25 package of 12 tips is good for six months. This breaks from the traditional use-it-until-it-breaks philosophy that accompanies typical headset use. Be sure to budget the extra $50 per year that the Clarity Aloft headset will set you back to replace tips. There is a 30-day trial period followed by a three-year limited warranty. — Peter A. Bedell
Price: $550 Contact:? 612/747-3197; www.clarityaloft.com
While the FAA sets forth regulations for oxygen use, the actual point at which a given pilot loses ground to hypoxia varies. A new pulse oximeter from Acutel with a unique headset adapter gives pilots the ability to track the oxygen saturation in their blood so they can fly at altitude with greater safety.
The Acutel OWL uses a fingertip oxygen sensor that measures oxygen saturation through the user's skin (it's noninvasive) and calls out the percentage on an audio connection to the pilot's headset or aircraft speaker. As well as calling out the oxygen saturation on demand, the OWL also annunciates cautions and warnings when saturation falls into a certain range. A low-battery condition (the OWL runs on two AA batteries) also triggers a caution; if the OWL becomes disconnected a similar caution occurs.
We tested the unit and found it to work as advertised. A volume adjustment allows the user to moderate the volume of the call-outs — radio communications are not affected. The OWL does not require a prescription to use; the manufacturer points out that it is not intended for medical applications.
Price: $1,195 list price; discount for ordering direct from manufacturer Contact: 916/997-1967; www.acutelinc.com
In many businesses, you wouldn't expect a market leader to encourage piggyback development on its products — especially a giant like Microsoft. But the company — or at least those in its games division — recognizes that third-party programmers can create interesting additions to a given program. For Microsoft Flight Simulator, these additions come often in the form of aircraft modules, which emulate specific aircraft to fly within the program, and bring utility to the program that Microsoft wouldn't normally allocate resources to develop.
Microsoft Flight Simulator defaults to a Cessna 172, and while the simulated airplane copies the real thing reasonably well, Jim Rhoads of Flight1 Software decided he could take the simulation to a new level. The result is a seamless add-on to the Microsoft program, and one that adds realism and detail in ways the standard 172 aircraft model can't touch.
While the Microsoft 172 model's main cockpit view is optimized for a gamer playing with a joystick, the object of the Flight1 panel layout is to emulate the actual cockpit as closely as possible. "I designed the panel from a true pilot's perspective, allowing the user to see exactly what they would see when sitting in the seat and looking forward," says Rhoads. It's also designed to be used with peripherals such as an external radio stack and throttle quadrant — though there are invisible buttons on the panel you can click on to view these parts of the cockpit.
The installation went smoothly; once the program was installed I accessed the Flight1 172 from the aircraft list within Flight Simulator. The aircraft comes with a standard paint scheme; the user can change the paint using the Text-o-Matic repaint application that comes with the program. Aircraft performance mimics the real thing better than any other PC-based flight-sim aircraft I have tested — I used backcountry strips in the Microsoft database as my virtual testbed. The program is available as a download from the Flight1 Web site.
Price: $24.95 Contact: 877/727-4568; www.flight1.com
3M offers polyurethane protective boots for several business and general aviation aircraft, including the Cirrus SR22 and Learjet 40, in addition to those available for certain Cessna, Piper, and Beechcraft light singles and twins. The transparent tape application provides protection for radomes, spinners, wing and stabilizer leading edges, fairings, and composite structures. Contact: www.3m.com
Aspen Avionics in Albuquerque offers a 2.5-inch high-resolution terrain hazard multifunction display and vertical speed indicator that fits in the 3-inch slot used by standard vertical speed indicators. The liquid-crystal display is 240 by 480 pixels and overlays a route from the aircraft's existing GPS. Price: $3,495 for noncertified version; $3,995 for certified version available summer 2005 Contact: www.aspenavionics.com
Conklin & de Decker has released the latest update to its Aircraft Cost Evaluator, which allows users to compare up to three aircraft side by side and tailor the data to their operations. Cost data is up to date for more than 390 aircraft (depending on software version), and includes photos, floor plans, and articles on the aircraft. Price: $435 for piston aircraft; $555 for jets; others available Contact: 508/255-5975; www.conklindd.com
"The Savvy GPS Pilot" training program is a two-day seminar for the Garmin GNS 430/530 or GX 60/50, or Honeywell Bendix/King KLN 94, offered by Aeromedia Inc. at its Las Vegas facility. The course meets FAA Wings criteria, and makes the graduate eligible for premium credits through Avemco's Safety Rewards program. Price: $349 Contact: 702/257-2236; www.mygpscourse.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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