November 1, 2008
By Ian J. Twombly
If you are of the mind that technology should make life easier or more efficient, then chances are you’ll love Reader Plates, a new service that offers all the approach plates for the country in a convenient format.
New advances in portable reader systems have allowed Reader Plates to offer a copy of all the NACO approach plates for the country in a device that weighs only 9 ounces and is the size of a small notebook. Reader Plates offers its service on the Sony PRS-505 portable reader system. It can be purchased from a number of different retailers for around $300. Reader Plates sells the reader packaged with a memory card from a partner for $300 as well. After purchasing the hardware, customers go online and subscribe to a service for $9.99 per month, which allows for the download of all the plates onto a memory card.
Although on the ground the plates seemed too small on the screen to be read in the cockpit, many reviewers were surprised how easy it was to see and use the plates once in the air. The screen looks remarkably like paper, and is readable even in direct sunlight. The viewing area is roughly 3.5-inches wide by 4.5-inches tall, compared to a normal plate size of about 5-inches wide by 8-inches tall. That small viewing area contains the entire approach plate, which means there’s no need to scroll around the page. If the user decides to see the plate in a larger size, the image is split in half for close-up viewing.
The menu system takes a minute or two to learn. Perhaps one of the best features of the PRS-505 is its incredible battery life. After testing on the ground, flying eight approaches, and extensively navigating the menu system, the battery had yet to come off a full-charge indication. A cigarette lighter charger comes with the unit if battery life ever becomes a problem.
Between Reader Plates and other electronic depictions of approach plates found in the cockpit, it’s conceivable a pilot would never have to carry paper approach plates again, save the destination. And considering the Sony reader can also be used for books and documents, the entire system represents a good value. Price: $9.99/month for plates; $300 for the PRS-505 Contact: www.readerplates.com
We first reviewed Powerful Learning’s study system earlier this year (“ Pilot Products,” April AOPA Pilot) and were impressed with the software’s various functions. Now the company has introduced the Instrument Pilot Study System that follows the same basic formula. Although meant as written test preparation software, Powerful Learning’s product is good for review as well.
Users select from three modes—learning, test, and flash card. In the learning mode, FAA test questions from any knowledge subject area can be reviewed. Each question includes a direct link to the reference where the answer can be found. It’s a great way to learn both the subject material, and which FAA documents and references contain certain types of information. The test mode selects random questions from the FAA knowledge test database and simulates a test. At the end, the student is given a breakdown by subject area, and each question is reviewed with the supporting information. Finally, the flash card mode takes each knowledge area and makes it into a digital flashcard for study purposes.
Powerful Learning offers a good product with many nice features, not the least of which is a full instrument library with free online updates that’s worth the price of the software alone. Price: $85 Contact: www.powerful-learning.com; 800-975-1257
Summer brought a smattering of sunglasses to the office for review, each pair with various points of strength and weakness. The presence of low sun and glare off snow makes late fall and early winter a good time to think about shades again.
The new signature line of VedaloHD sunglasses introduced in July was made with pilots in mind and each pair offers many features that aviators will enjoy. The sunglasses are incredibly light, weighing in at less than half an ounce, according to the company. Each pair is offered in either a smoke or what VedaloHD calls the Copper-Rose lens. Previous models of VedaloHD sunglasses had hingeless stems, which made them prone to damage. The new line, however, seems very strong. The stems are thin and flexible, making them perfect for headset use.
Serengeti offers a line of sunglasses that many pilots are familiar with, and for good reason. If you summed up the entire cache of Serengeti sunglasses in one word it would be lenses. The folks at Serengeti have developed a great copper lens that enhances vision. It creates more contrast among various colors and shades to bring out features in all kinds of visibility and light. The frames are comfortable and similar to what you can expect for a standard pair of aviator glasses.
Finally, we tried on a pair of Scheyden’s El Capitan from the company’s classic line of flip-ups. The Scheydens were the heaviest of the three, but they also seemed to be the most resistant to damage as a result. Wearing them under a headset for a long time proved to be comfortable, and the lenses were a nice gray and well suited to aviation. But what Scheyden offers that many others can’t is a good-looking pair of sunglasses that flip up, hence the additional weight. This turned out to be very handy. Walk into the hangar and can’t see? Just flip. Fly into a dark cloud? Flip. We never had to take them off. Price: VedaloHD $159 to $249; Serengeti $140 to $190; Scheyden $395 Contact: VedaloHD: www.vedaloHD.com; Serengeti: www.serengeti-eyewear.com; Scheyden: www.scheyden.com
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 the products editor at [email protected].
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.
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