June 1, 2008
By Ian J. Twombly
XM WX Satellite Weather now offers WxWorx on Wings, a service designed to broadcast XM WX’s weather products into the cockpit using laptop computers, electronic flight bags (EFBs), and tablet personal computers. WxWorx on Wings is available on AvMap’s EKP-IV ($1,499), EKP-IV PRO ($1,999), GeoPilot II ($799), and GeoPilot II Plus ($1,299) portable navigation systems.
WxWorx on Wings is ideal for renter-pilots and others wanting big-screen, portable graphic and text weather. Navigating the wide variety of weather products involves using a stylus or pen to activate 24 buttons. Using XM WX’s Aviator service ($49.99 per month) Nexrad radar imagery is available, as are echo tops, satellite/radar mosaic views, precipitation types, tops information, winds aloft, airmets, sigmets, and recent lightning strikes. A zoom capability lets you focus on an area of interest—a portion of a radar return—and there’s a loop function that permits to you watch the path and development of a thunderstorm complex. Separate severe-weather storm track views are provided. Freezing levels can be called up, and TFRs, METARs, and TAFs are also provided.
The more economical ($29.99 per month) Aviator LT service is limited to Nexrad radar imagery, precipitation types, TFR information, city forecasts, METARs, TAFs, and county public weather warnings.
Using WxWorx on Wings is extremely intuitive. You just tap on the product you want, and it pops up on the screen’s base map. After that, you can move through a wide range of altitudes to examine winds aloft, for example, or check METARs and TAFs for airports along your route of flight. Aviator subscribers can access a wide variety of weather information for Canada—including radar imagery, METARs, TAFs, winds aloft, freezing level data, surface analysis charts, and satellite/radar mosaic views. Weather for Puerto Rico—Nexrad radar, precip types, TFRs, surface analysis charts, and severe weather storm tracks—is also provided.
It all adds up to what amounts to a flight service station on the fly, with the added advantage of plenty of color graphics. We flew with WxWorx on Wings through southern Florida and found the high-resolution contouring of thunderstorm cells especially helpful in navigation decisions.
Hardware for accessing the service is available in four basic modules, and includes base receivers, antennas, software, and interface modules for various kits. A Bluetooth Module ($1,179.99) adds wireless phone and Internet capability to the weather packages, while USB ($929), Ethernet ($1,049.99), and RS-232 ($929.99) versions are also available. You can even add XM radio with an audio tuning option, for $59.95. Price: varies, depending on service level Contact: www.wxworx.com/aviation or www.avmap.us. For XM WX’s weather services, www.xmwxweather.com/aviation— Thomas A. Horne
Sporty’s Pilot Shop recently introduced a full line of new flight bags, from a small backpack to a large bag that will carry enough gear for overnight trips. The five bags are redesigned and updated for today’s equipment needs.
Sporty’s Flight Gear bags have been around for years, but improvements in the new line are a direct result of customer feedback, according to the company. Each bag is designed for a specific type of user. The result is the Original Flight Gear Bag (pictured), Cross Country Backpack, VFR Flight Gear Bag, IFR Flight Gear Bag, and Deluxe Flight Gear Bag. The new features include a stronger, water-resistant fabric; metal hardware; new dedicated pockets for handheld GPS receivers, sunglasses, and cell phones; more quick-access chart pockets; rubber cleats on the bottom; oversized zippers; and a padded shoulder strap. The bags have kept the padded headset pocket that was a staple of the old line. Custom embroidery is also available.
Staff members who tried out the bags returned with positive assessments on their durability, a key consideration for a flight bag. But while durable, the bags aren’t especially light. The second-biggest bag, the Original Flight Gear Bag, and the Cross Country Backpack each weigh close to four pounds. The backpack is the most intriguing of the styles tested. With numerous small pockets and large padded sections, it could double as a laptop case and flight bag, making it suitable for all types of traveling.
One staff member commented that the bag hasn’t reached the level of today’s high-end backpacking gear. Finally, although the styling is sufficiently interesting without being flashy, the Flight Gear line begs for some color. We’re not asking for hot pink, but a little touch of some red or blue would be nice.
Sporty’s has done a nice job redesigning the Flight Gear collection, and pilots should be happy with the upgrades. For good quality and innovative design, Sporty’s has a very competitive product. Price: $49.95 to $99.95 Contact: www.sportys.com; 800-SPORTYS (776-7897)
There are many electronic logbooks on the market, each with unique features and capabilities. For quick, intuitive use, broad range of features, and a wide range of appeal to different pilot groups, however, it’s hard to beat the new Web-based AVLogbook.
Presented as an electronic set of file folders, the logbook’s main page allows quick and easy entries. With the logbook’s autofill feature, it takes only two field entries—destination airport and Hobbs time—to enter a flight. The type of aircraft, N number, departure airport, Hobbs time out, and date are saved from the previous entry. The logbook will accept more advanced information, such as instrument approaches, flight conditions, instruction given or received, and second in command. Expenses can also be tracked on the main screen.
The applications go beyond basic logbook entries, however. For flight instructors, AVLogbook will autofill the student’s logbook, keep track of and generate invoices, and monitor currency and other student information. It’s one of the logbook’s best aspects.
AVLogbook also has features for professional pilots. Enter the flight and select the contract pilot option, and it will automatically direct the user to an invoice page. From here, simply enter the expense info and AVLogbook will print out an invoice with the flight information and applicable expenses.
The application will also keep track of flight time and generate a resume on request. As part of the Alpha Victor group of companies, entering information in the logbook will automatically update a pilot’s résumé on the company’s job-search sister site, WeNeedaPilot.com.
Finally, because it’s Web-based, there’s no software to download or information to lose when a home PC crashes. Entries can be made from any computer, or even a portable handheld device. Price: $85 for lifetime use Contact: www.avlogbook.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Your world is full of plastic, so why not keep it clean? With this goal in mind, Dan’s RC Stuff in Chatsworth, California, is offering Speed Clean, a new non-aerosol spray cleaner that’s safe for all plastic surfaces, will not harm paint or gel coat, is non-flammable, and minimizes fingerprints.
Tested on an aircraft’s Plexiglas windshield, Speed Clean made short work of bug and waxy buildups, and fights static electricity while filling the air with the pleasant smell of bananas. The 12-ounce bottle comes with a dry, soft cloth to wipe off. Price: $9.95 Contact: www.speedclean.us; 818-700-6912— Paul J. Richfield
Unless otherwise stated, AOPA Pilot editors have not evaluated products listed. 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 the products editor.
Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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