June 1, 2006
Julie K. Boatman
Some of the best cockpit tools are those that won't — can't — fail you when the lights go out. Our selection includes updates of time-tested products, as well as some decidedly new technology — that you can operate without an owner's manual.
"If you have to lean forward to see over the instrument panel, you aren't sitting correctly" — perhaps you were lucky enough to hear this from your primary flight instructor, or maybe only recently have you discovered the difference that some extra adjustment can make in your sight picture on final.
Fortunately this is a problem easily remedied, thanks to manufacturers such as Oregon Aero, which specializes in seat-cushion systems for all kinds of aircraft. And for those who rent aircraft and need a seat cushion that they can take with them, Oregon Aero offers the Portable Universal Softseat Cushion System. Cushion bases in sizes ranging from half an inch to 2 inches start at $109.
Also available are portable lumbar support cushions ($46) that can be zipped to the bases and combination cushion bases with adjustable lumbar support ($179). Price: from $109 Contact: 800/888-6910; www.oregonaero.com
Summer showers and excursions into soggy instrument meteorological conditions can leave you with a rain-spotted windshield. Rain Away windshield treatment coats your aircraft glass so that water sheds quickly, leaving no trace.
You apply the treatment to a clean, dry surface in a circular motion using a soft cloth. After allowing the treatment to dry, and repeating the application to ensure even coverage, you wipe off the hazy residue and you're ready to go. According to the company, performance improves after repeated applications, and the product should be reapplied every four to six weeks for best results.
Rain Away is manufactured by Kafko International, and may be ordered directly from the manufacturer. It does contain acidified isopropanol, so use it in a well-ventilated area and avoid prolonged skin contact. Price: $9.99, which includes shipping and handling Contact: 800/528-0334; www.kafkointl.com
Winners of the Editors Choice award from Popular Mechanics, Loggerhead's series of Bionic Wrenches are versatile additions to your flight bag, and handy for preventive maintenance tasks.
The 6-inch, 8-inch, and 10-inch wrenches automatically size and grip a wide range of U.S. and metric-sized nuts and bolts, and distribute equal force on all sides of the fastener. Six steel jaws converge on the nut or bolt when you squeeze the cushioned handle. Altogether, the three wrenches can replace up to 38 standard and metric wrenches, from one-quarter inch to 30 mm. The 6- and 8-inch wrenches each weigh less than one pound, while the 10-inch wrench weighs 1.5 pounds, according to the manufacturer. Price: $28.95 to $36.95, depending on size Contact: 888/564-4374; www.loggerheadtools.com
While lightweight and compact, a survival kit could be the most important equipment you bring on board the airplane. BOLS (Basic Outdoor Life Sustainment) was founded in Colorado; its kits are used on training aircraft at the U.S. Air Force Academy, according to company founder Ted Stutz.
The Leader contains elements for basic survival, including a knife, LED flashlight, compass, lighter, waterproof matches, emergency blanket, water purification tablets, gauze bandages and other first aid items, insect repellent and sunscreen, signal mirror, whistle, tarp, solar still, and a plastic shovel. Price: $84.99 for The Leader; prices vary Contact: 877/265-7548; www.bolskit.com
If you've ever flown with your dog, you may have worried about damage to the animal's hearing. Michele McGuire, of Westminster, Maryland, says she has a solution: Mutt Muffs. Think of the product as a headset for your dog, minus the intercom capability, of course.
The ear cups, which come in several sizes, fit over the ears and are held in place with a chin strap. McGuire says she has tried to have the product tested at independent labs, but researchers have no way to gather data from the dogs.
The product is made from regular headset materials, and McGuire recently told The Frederick News-Post that the muffs reduce noise by an estimated 21 to 24 decibels. Coupled with that is her anecdotal experience with her own dog, a much happier copilot these days. — Nathan A. Ferguson Price: $52 Contact: www.safeandsoundpets.com
A new plotter and manual flight computer developed by Aero Select Products (a company based in the Channel Islands) offers an alternative to this longtime cockpit tool used by pilots to determine distances, time between checkpoints, and fuel used, among other preflight and in-flight navigation calculations. The plotter has distance (based on the sectional chart scale) hashed out on the top long straight edge, and a protractor on the bottom and side straight edges (for figuring course bearings). A table printed on the Plot'Timer allows for any number of time/speed/distance calculations. The directions indicate that the Plot'Timer can be used for speeds up to 390 knots.
Included with the Plot'Timer are additional vinyl labels for customizing the plotter to fit the airplane's parameters that you normally fly. An IFR model includes holding pattern entries and a compass rose for positioning calculations. The plotter is made from flexible yet substantial Lexan — and it has no batteries to drain or screen to fail. When all else fails, dead reckoning still works! Price: $20 for either VFR or IFR version Contact: e-mail [email protected] (Canadian representative); fax (44) 1481/712-284
The design team at Noral Enterprises doesn't subscribe to the "throw it in the backseat" school of cockpit organization. It has come up with the UltraCaddie, made to hold charts, pen and pencil, flashlight, fuel tester, and E6B flight computer "within easy reach and out of the way."
The UltraCaddie is constructed of nylon and comes in three styles: with an over-the-seat strap; with two 2-inch Velcro straps that can be mounted over side panels; or with a belt clip that can be fastened to side panels. It comes in a variety of colors. Price: $24.99 Contact: 877/996-6725; www.noralenterprises.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.
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