December 1, 2007
By Ian J. Twombly
Voltage regulators are a common problem spot for older aircraft, and finding good replacement parts has historically been difficult. Plane-Power recently introduced what it thinks will finally be a viable alternative for owners—the Power-Flex voltage regulator.
Plane-Power's Power-Flex has parts manufacturing approval (PMA) for most single- and twin-engine Cessnas, Pipers, Beechcraft, and other popular general aviation aircraft. The unit is compatible with both 14- and 28-volt alternator systems. According to Plane-Power, the Power-Flex is superior to traditional voltage regulators because it is solid-state, and is thus less prone to failure. The Power-Flex features over-voltage protection, and over-current protection. In addition, the unit features reverse battery protection, a diode inside the regulator that will trip a circuit breaker if the battery is connected improperly. It also supports an alternator inoperative annunciator for an added safety layer. Finally, for twin-engine aircraft, the Power-Flex maintains synchronization on both regulators that automatically switches to single-unit regulation if an alternator or engine fails.
The Power-Flex comes with Plane-Power's two-year factory warranty. Price: $169 from various dealers Contact: www.plane-power.com; 877-934-5700
Hilton Software continues to impress with its portable preflight preparation software. The newest iteration of WingX enables Smartphone users the ability to obtain reams of preflight data anywhere they can receive a cell phone signal. The newest edition greatly expands Internet-based functions, such as podcasts, graphical temporary flight restrictions, and graphical weather (see " Pilot Products," February 2007 Pilot).
Although other features of the software may be more impressive, WingX's ability to connect to DUATS means you'll never legally need another preflight tool to obtain weather and TFR information. In addition to all the benefits that come with a DUATS briefing, users can also access their specific aircraft's weight and balance information (and complete the appropriate preflight calculations), check their personal flight currency, get the complete set of FARs, plan a flight with distance and course (once a briefing is downloaded, the program also adjusts for winds aloft), get access to NACO charts for all 50 states, obtain FAA Airport/Facility Directory information, and calculate flight data with an E6B. WingX can download weather charts such as the current radar, surface analysis, satellite, and current icing potential.
The program is compatible with Windows Mobile 5.0 and 6.0, and runs on devices such as Cingular's 750 Treo Palm, the Verizon 6700, AT&T 8525, and Motorola Q, and T-Mobile Dash. Price: $129.95 with a one-year subscription; $49.95 to $99.95 for a yearly subscription Contact: www.hiltonsoftware.com; 866-42-WINGX (429-4649)
Portable GPS units can be difficult to mount securely. Steve Walker, a past president of the Pacific Bonanza Society, helped to engineer and design a solution for Beechcraft owners who fly with a portable Garmin GPS. The GPS mount is a simple, straightforward design that works for Bonanzas (including those with a throwover yoke), Debonairs, Barons, and Travel Airs.
According to Walker, there were a number of criteria that needed to be met for the design. They include durability, riding solidly in turbulence, having a low profile for easy access to the panel, adaptability to different GPS models, adjustability for different viewing angles, being safe and unobtrusive, and of course, having high quality. The mount is quick and easy to install on the ground, and the low profile did seem to be an advantage.
The mount accommodates any Garmin portable GPS that uses Garmin's generic dashboard mount (pictured). This includes the GPSMap 496, 396, and 296. Price: $99 Contact: http://amsupco.com; 425-883-1984
Two new products on the market help to answer the question on any potential aircraft owner's mind—how much is this thing going to cost me? Detailed cost analysis tools such as Conklin & deDecker's Life Cycle Cost 7.20 and Samuel L. Miller's Aircraft Cost Analysis take a detailed and extensive list of criteria for an aircraft to determine the real cost of owning over a period of time. Conklin & deDecker's Life Cycle Cost software allows users the ability to calculate 12-month budget expectations, while Miller's Aircraft Cost Analysis is a more traditional program that sets a business case for every imaginable form of ownership. Although individuals looking to own a light single-engine airplane will have some use for the programs, the target audience is a jet owner or those who use aircraft in a business. Conklin & deDecker's Life Cycle Cost 7.20 Price: $225 for a single report; $450 to $695 for the database Contact: www.conklindd.com; 508-255-5975 Samuel L. Miller's Aircraft Cost Analysis Price: $580 Contact: www.aircraftcostanalysis.com; 501-327-2224
WSI Corporation is now shipping its newest datalink system, the AV-300 series. The AV-300 offers a better coverage area, expandability for future enhancements, and in some models, the ability to concurrently receive weather and radio entertainment. Price: Hardware starts at $4,347; subscriptions start at $29.95 per month Contact: www.wsi.com; 800-USA-2FLY (872-2359)
Owners of all lines of Columbia Aircraft now have the option of upgrading to full electric deicing thanks to Kelly Aerospace's Thermawing. The Thermawing uses expanding graphite foil to provide what the company says is an almost instantaneous temperature rise. The system includes a digital controller, negating the need to closely regulate the system after turning it on. Contact: www.kellyaerospace.com; 440-951-4744
ZD Publishing, maker of aftermarket GPS manuals, has four new offerings in its product line. Pilots can now purchase manuals for the panel-mount Garmin GNS 430W and 530W (Wide Area Augmentation System versions), and the handheld Lowrance 2000c and 600c. The company also upgraded the standard GNS 430 and 530 manuals to include terrain. Step-by-step instructions are presented in a task-oriented format. Price: $39.95 for the Lowrance; $44.95 for the Garmin Contact: www.zdpublishing.com; 888-310-3134
Unless otherwise stated, products listed 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.
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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