July 1, 2006
Julie K. Boatman
Lowrance Avionics has taken the form factor and price point of its budget handheld, the AirMap 500, and supercharged it with features — and a sharp color display — from its top-of-the-line 2000c. The result? The AirMap 600c.
The 600c combines the features of Lowrance's larger handheld GPS, the 2000c — with its selection of moving-map display options and color screen — with its slimmer, less expensive AirMap 500. The 600c has a 2.8-inch-diagonal TFT (thin film transistor) display with sharp 320-by-240-pixel resolution and backlighting for night use.
The GPS receiver pulls in Wide Area Augmentation System-corrected signals, which refine the regular GPS signal for extremely accurate positioning information. The results of this position data can be displayed on several moving-map options, including a full-screen map, split map, and horizontal situation indicator display with GPS-derived airspeed and altitude information (for backup-use only, since these data aren't as accurate as those your instruments obtain from the pitot-static system).
The 600c also displays color terrain information in both a map and a profile view, along with information about airspace, towers, and other obstructions. A line depicting your projected flight path helps you steer clear of the obstacles shown on the screen — to back up what you see out the windscreen, of course. The memory card also holds enhanced airport taxiway map data.
If you can sacrifice screen real estate for a great price, the 600c makes a lot of sense. The 600c can be powered from the aircraft electrical system through an accessory power cable (included) or by two AA batteries. Price: $499 Contact: 800/324-4740; www.lowrance.com
FlightPrep Software, from Stenbock & Everson, has developed robust software suites for flight planning, chart selection, and cockpit operation. The ChartCase Professional Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) marries these programs with the hardware to create an EFB that moves smoothly into the cockpit. The system allows the pilot to plan a flight and gather weather on the ground, and then use that flight plan on a moving-map display during flight, with updated satellite weather en route and electronic approach charts at the ready when the need arises. With a couple of caveats, the ChartCase EFB matches the performance of the best EFBs on the market, at a reasonable price.
The package tested comes with a Motion Computing LS800 tablet PC; nylon carrying case; power supply cables for use in both office and aircraft; RAM mount; WxWorx satellite weather receiver, antenna, and power supply and interface cables; wireless GPS receiver and assorted components; and software. We were also sent a keyboard and DVD drive — these accessories are additional, though they make life easier when using the system on the ground and making updates to the tablet.
During flight testing, users noted that the basic functions are easy to access: Flight-plan creation and use were straightforward, and the tabs made information logical to find. Having the approach plates accessible within the program also was a plus: "Easy to read, large, easy to scroll," was one tester's comment. However, the organization of the plates is by NACO chart booklet (i.e., SW-1), and might be better arranged at the top level by state. But the search function worked well, and this mitigated the frustration. As with other EFBs, Bluetooth wireless is used for certain connections, but not all — power cords, of course, being the constant and understandable exception. Bluetooth provides a way to connect and exchange information between devices such as PDAs, mobile phones, laptops, PCs, printers, and digital cameras via a globally available short range radio frequency. Well-charged batteries on each wireless component are critical to that component's proper operation.
Several levels of hardware and service are available from FlightPrep. The basic level is silver, which includes the tablet and software with a year's worth of updates (three updates in all) and product support. The gold level throws in the Bluetooth Delorme GPS, upgrades the tablet's memory and hard drive, and increases the frequency of updates to 13 times a year. The platinum level is similar to the one we tested, and it adds the WxWorx Bluetooth XM Weather system, yoke mount, and power adapter to previous levels.
The larger-screen LE1600 tablet PC also is available; packages with these PCs typically cost less. Of course, you pay for the lower cost with greater bulk — but the larger screen may make details easier to read and buttons easier to actuate in turbulent conditions. Price: from $2,737.93 (with LS800 tablet PC); accessories additional Contact: 503/678-4360; www.flightprep.com
Adding to the growing number of training materials specifically geared to learning glass-cockpit systems is Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. Trescott is a Bay Area-based flight instructor specializing in Garmin G1000 training, and the book he has just authored is a detailed survey of the avionics you'll find in new Cessna, Mooney, Diamond, Tiger, Beech-craft, and Columbia aircraft.
Trescott is clearly a fan of the system, and he discusses the differences between installations in various aircraft — whether this model has an integrated autopilot, or radar, or DME, for example. The chapters follow with overviews of the primary flight display, audio panel, engine indication system, multifunction display, and datalink weather system. Then he delves into flight planning, operation of the autopilot, and instrument flying (including approaches). Finally, he discusses the electrical system, failure modes, and emergency procedures. He ends the book with a sample flight in the airplane, and a discussion of the future of the system and its probable iterations in very light jets.
The material is thorough and the writing is clear and concise. Throughout, illustrations and inset photos illuminate examples from the text and show you exactly what you'll see in the cockpit. This is a great addition to a glass-cockpit transition or primary training program; as the system matures, hopefully we'll see updates to this book so that it stays fresh and valid.
As with any software-based system, change is a given for the G1000. Price: $34.95 Contact: 800/247-6553; www.glasscockpitbooks.com
Stuck on the ramp on a hot summer day? ArcticAir President Greg Turton says he has a solution. Turton has introduced a 12-volt portable air-conditioning system that can fit into the backseat or baggage compartment of a typical aircraft.
The ArcticAir cooling system works by moving water through a specially designed coil that cools the air. The water pump and coil are housed in a Rubbermaid cooler that can be filled with ice and enough water to get the pump started. A special fan circulates the air throughout the cabin without interfering with radio communication.
Sizes vary from a 24-quart to a 48-quart unit and, when full of ice, units weigh from 39 pounds to 63 pounds. When we tested the system on the ground, we found that using the fan-only setting prolonged the life of the ice in the cooler — the higher setting cooled the area more quickly, yet used ice rapidly. Price: from $475 to $575 Contact: 229/271-7905; www.arcticaircooler.com
Starlite Notes offers a glareshield-mounted note and map holder, sized to hold a 3.5-inch pad or index card (with a 9-by-6-inch accessory plate). Two optional suction cups plus a yoke mount are included, plus free shipping through the end of July. Price: $69.95 Contact: www.starlitenotes.com
The Mountain High E-Z Flow boom cannula is a headset accessory that attaches to any headset's boom mic to deliver oxygen in flight. The boom cannula can be used up to 18,000 feet, and can be used with all Mountain High oxygen systems, as well as many others. Price: $130 Contact: 800/468-8185; www.mhoxygen.com
Merlyn Sales has received FAA approval to offer a turbonormalizing kit for the C, D, E, and 58 models of the Beechcraft Baron. The kit consists of two Garrett turbos and other components, and aims to provide sea-level power to 20,000 feet, double the single-engine service ceiling, increase payload, and cut the time-to-climb numbers in half. Price: $55,900, plus an installation fee of $6,000 Contact: 509/838-3325; www.merlynsales.com
Inka Corp. has produced a pen that is specially suited for cockpit use — the pressurized ink cartridge ensures ink will flow at any temperature, angle, or altitude. A stainless-steel split ring attaches the pen just about anywhere, and a PDA stylus is integrated into the pen housing. Price: $25 Contact: 303/443-5121; www.inkacorp.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.
Safety and Education,
The FAA on Feb. 23 issued a special airworthiness information bulletin recommending preflight inspection of Robinson R44 and R44 II main rotors.
The FAA has released an eight-minute video providing aviation medical examiners with guidance on the agency's new obstructive sleep apnea policy, which takes effect March 2.
New legislation in both houses of Congress would allow thousands of pilots to fly without a third class medical and offer new protections for GA pilots.
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