Pilot Products

April 1, 2009

Sennheiser HMEC 250 Headset

A long trip in a Cirrus SR22 with a propeller turning 2,500 rpm is a tough test for any headset.

A recent four-hour trip provided an opportunity to test Sennheiser’s new noise-cancelling HMEC250. The headset is light (10 ounces), folds flat in its slim carrying case, and has the ability to tie directly into MP3 players and cell phones with a cord. It’s also got independent volume controls for each ear, and an unusual “talk-through” button designed to allow users to hear people not tied into the aircraft radio or intercom system while keeping their headsets on.

The HMEC250 proved light and comfortable on the long trip and its active noise-cancelling feature is effective. But the HMEC250 blocked noticeably less ambient noise than either the Bose or David Clark headsets that were also in the airplane. Granted, the HMEC250 is far less expensive than the Bose model, and far lighter than the David Clark. And in a less-torturous sound environment, the HMEC250 would be an excellent option. But it was quickly overwhelmed by the Cirrus’ high-rpm roar.

The talk-through feature is an interesting idea, but it seems like a solution in search of a problem. Frankly, I’ve never felt stymied by the inability to communicate with someone who wasn’t on the same radio or intercom system—and while using the HMEC250, I had to remind myself that the talk-through function existed. Same with the cell phone and MP3 features. While the ability to talk on a cell phone or listen to music through a headset might be attractive to a passenger, I’m frequently busy enough while flying and don’t want or need more distractions.

The HMEC250 has a lower price and unique features, but it is not an attractive alternative to the high-end, noise-cancelling headsets made by Sennheiser— or its competitors.

—Dave Hirschman

Price: $549

Contact: www.sennheiserusa.com; 800-434-9190

Hartzell composite propeller hub and blades

The first Hartzell Propeller lightweight hub with new composite blades was delivered to Cirrus Design for use on the SR22. The Piqua, Ohio, company received a type certificate for the hub from the FAA.

The hub saves four pounds over the original hub, and the blades—which the company calls ASC-II blades—are 12 pounds lighter than those made entirely of metal. Since the blades are lighter, the hub was certified to a lower centrifugal load limit of 25,000 pounds per blade. The standard hub with all-metal blades is certified to 50,000 pounds per blade.

“In aviation, every ounce counts,” said Mike Disbrow, Hartzell senior vice president for marketing and customer services. “And when Hartzell customers speak, we listen. Four-plus pounds, carried far forward on the airframe, can make a real difference in CG and loading.”

The blades have a proprietary layup of carbon fiber and Kevlar with an integral stainless steel shank and co-molded, electroformed nickel leading edges.

—Alton K. Marsh

Price: varies

Contact: www.hartzellprop.com; 937-778-4379

‘Touching History’

Like most of us on the morning of September 11, 2001, the initial reports of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center in New York were baffling. Imagine the thoughts running through the minds of those who were there; those who were in charge of ATC, NORAD, and at all levels of government; and pilots in the cockpits of so many airplanes flying that morning. In Touching History, author Lynn Spencer details the shock, drama, and confusion that reigned that day in a compelling book well suited for pilots.

Spencer, a regional airline pilot, spent three years interviewing those who were on the front lines of the attack on America that day. She keeps the reader enthralled detailing the confusion, bad information, false leads, and errors that nearly led to other “confirmed hijackings” being targeted. Spencer also mentions the origins of some well-known rumors and dispels them with the stories from those who were involved. She also discusses things that went right that day focusing on the quick-thinking crewmembers, pilots, and controllers who took matters into their own hands when things fell apart. —Peter A. Bedell

Price: $26

Contact: Available through booksellers nationwide

G-Force mount for Garmin 696

Garmin’s introduction of its extremely capable—and just plain huge—GPSMAP 695/696 last fall has created a cottage industry among companies building mounts to affix the brick-like GPS units in cramped cockpits.

Some have come up with heavy-duty pilot kneeboards. But they require 696 owners to look down while reading the display or keying in new information. Others have developed yoke mounts. But the nearly three-pound GPS (and accompanying mount) can alter the control feel of some aircraft. Another strategy involves mounting the 696 on the instrument panel—but few panels have enough unoccupied real estate to accommodate such a big piece of equipment.

G-Force, a longtime manufacturer of suction-cup GPS mounts has—not surprisingly—come up with its own sturdy, double-suction-cup mount for the 696. The suction cups can stick to just about any smooth surface, and they adjust to fit the tight angles and complex curves found in aircraft cockpits.

I had the opportunity to use the G-Force mount on a recent all-day trip and found the mount easy to use, and it kept the 696 firmly in place, even through an extended period of light turbulence. A universal joint allows users to pivot the 696’s diagonal screen and see it clearly from nearly any angle.

I had only two complaints. First, it was hard to find a place to stick the 696 without blocking at least a small portion of the windshield. And second, fellow traveler and AOPA videographer Warren Morningstar kept trying to place his own cameras on the G-Force mount. Curiously, the mount also found its way into AOPA photographer Chris Rose’s office. So be warned: Pilots aren’t the only ones looking for better ways to rig their aircraft with sensitive electronics. —DH

Price: $77.29

Contact: www.gforcemount.com; mail@g-forcemount.com