February 1, 2009
By Ian J. Twombly
There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. This expression, which dates back to the early 1800s, certainly rings true. But the creators of the new BrightLine Bags must have really gotten the message because they have designed a flight bag centered around the concept of a place for everything.
With two main compartments and 25 specialty pockets in a package only 12 inches by 10 inches by nine inches, a BrightLine bag is a gift from heaven for pilots who adore order. Each outer compartment has a color-coded zipper, making it easy to remember where things were stored, and faster to find them when they need to be retrieved. There are pockets designed for a flashlight, a fuel sampler, a cell phone, headsets, charts, pens, and more. The bag even unzips into two separate bags—one for headsets, which fits two, and one for everything else. Need help figuring out where to put everything? The company’s Web site has a video tutorial to explain the different compartments.
In testing, we found the bag to be useful and smartly designed. The number of compartments can be daunting at first and certainly leads to some futile attempts to find things; no doubt each user will come up with a system and be diving for the right pocket in no time. Compartments meant to hold important items needed for quick in-flight access—such as pens, a handheld radio, or charts—are easy to find and logically placed. One improvement we’d like to see the company make for future editions of the bag is more robust zippers.
The inventors of BrightLine Bags seem to have tried to think of everything with this product. There’s even a padded sunglasses pocket right on the top of the bag.
Price: $129 Contact: www.brightlinebags.com; 415-721-7825
Now is the time of year to make a run south of the border, a trip that this year will be made much easier because of the new VFR aeronautical charts produced by the Mexican government. Previously, the only VFR chart coverage for Mexico was overlap in the northern part of the country from U.S. aeronautical charts, or grossly outdated charts from the U.S. government.
The new charts look much like the U.S. World Aeronautical Chart and include detailed land and aeronautical data. The land data is extensive and includes detailed terrain, railroads, highways, power lines, and population areas. Notably absent is obstructions. Aeronautical data includes both public and private airports, runway lengths, navaids, and limited airspace.
The charts aren’t updated on a regular schedule, so it’s best to verify the information before flight if possible.
Price: $12.95 Contact: www.caribbeanskytours.com; 866-420-9265
The proliferation of Web-enabled cell phones has led to many new and useful products designed to keep pilots updated while on the go. PilotGEEK, a weather and notam service designed to work with a Web-enabled phone or through text messaging, is one of the best deals in this market.
Members have access to basic trip and weather information that includes distance and time, temporary flight restrictions, METARs, TAFs, winds aloft, and notams. In addition, AOPA members can receive airport directory information that includes FBO phone number, fuel prices, restaurants, and more. A new capability of the program is a DUATs interface that allows users to access a full DUATS briefing from either provider anywhere they get cell coverage.
The text messaging feature offers less capability, but has the unique function of alerting the subscriber when weather or a temporary flight restriction changes at a particular airport. Simply enter the airport ID, the day of the week you desire the service, and what you want to know, and PilotGEEK will automatically send an update whenever the weather gets better or worse—and when a TFR is activated or deactivated.
Price: $14.95 a year or $2.49 a month Contact: www.pilotgeek.com
Now that we’ve entered the coldest part of the year, it’s time to seriously consider aircraft preheating options. For those looking for a portable, electric preheater, check out the new SureStart Electric preheater, available from Sporty’s. The SureStart plugs into a standard 110V outlet, and by throwing out 20,000 BTUs of heat, will bring a normal aircraft engine from 10 degrees Fahrenheit to starting temperature in about 45 minutes, according to Sporty’s. The preheater fits into a standard 20-inch toolbox and weighs 16 pounds for easy portability. Five feet of hose is included.
Price: $499 Contact: www.sportys.com; 800-776-7897
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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