Pilot Products

July 1, 2009

Nonpilots are often surprised to find that light airplanes seldom have air conditioning systems—at a time when nearly every new car has one. Explain the weight and mechanical complexity of such systems, and passengers quickly understand.

Simpler solutions are in the works, including from Seamech, which recently added the 36-series of Beechcraft Bonanzas to its STC list with several other models in the works. The company also has factory and aftermarket approvals for many popular piston singles from Cessna, Mooney, Socata, Diamond, and others.

We recently had a demonstration of the aftermarket installation on a B36TC Bonanza on a warm day. Almost instantly after starting the engine, we could feel cool air exiting panel and overhead outlets. In the 36 Bonanzas, the installation includes three new overhead air vents above the pilots; it utilizes the existing outlets in the aft cabin. The new overhead outlets reduce pilot headroom slightly. The Seamech system automates all of the environmental systems, including heat and defrost. The pilot controls the system through a touch screen in the panel. The 60- to 80-hour installation includes connecting the mechanical actuators for the heat and defrost controls to an electrically controlled actuator and removing the traditional knobs. The pilot simply sets desired temperature, and the system adjusts air conditioning and heat output to maintain the temperature. While the air conditioning seems to work efficiently, the system does not bolster the sometimes-weak heating systems for such aircraft.

Unlike many older style aircraft systems that rely on mechanical doors opening and closing, Seamech’s set-up is passive. In the Bonanza, an opening in the airframe is created on the aft right side just ahead of the horizontal stabilizer for the condenser outlet. The condenser inlet is a screened opening on the aft left side in place of an existing inspection panel. An evaporator drain outlet is placed through the belly skin. The compressor attaches to an existing accessory drive on the back of the engine. It is compatible with 14- and 28-volt electrical systems, but it does require a minimum 70-amp alternator. The system adds about 42 pounds to the empty weight.

Price: $18,500, installed (approximately)

Contact: www.seamech.com; 713-660-0976 —Thomas B. Haines

Pilots looking for a new tool in simple cockpit organization should check out the new My Grip Light. Combining a fully adjustable white and red light with holders for everything from pens to a cell phone, My Grip Light is simple and effective. The ball-shaped light sits on an articulating arm and is removable for preflight inspection or any other portable light needs. The polyester loops sit free within a track, which allows them to hold a pencil tight, but expand wide enough to hold a large cell phone or a chart. Installing My Grip Light is simple with included Velcro.

Price: $29.95

Contact: www.mygriplight.com; 610-838-2842

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.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly | "Flight Training" Editor

AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.