Pilot Products: Heavy tugs, cool air

Redline Sidewinder

July 1, 2011

Redline Sidewinder


Who: Redline Sidewinder
What: Battery Operated aircraft tug
Where: www.aircraftspruce.com
Why: Because you need one tug, not five that don't work
Cost: $1,600


  • Well-built is an understatement
  • Battery means no more small-engine repair
  • Can be folded and stowed in the baggage compartment


  • Somewhat difficult to put on
  • Heavy

If you are like some aircraft owners, you have a collection of tugs sitting broken, half-forgotten in the corner of your hangar. That's because for some reason the idea of tugs attracts home inventors and quasi entrepreneurs almost as much as aviation flashlights. Many don't work, and many more require maintenance; tenderness; and kind, encouraging words if they are to be trusted to perform adequately.

The Redline Sidewinder is not one of those tugs. It feels as if it's been built to tow an Airbus A380. That's good because chances are it will never break on you, but it's bad in that it's like carrying around a cocker spaniel. The tug is based on a heavy-duty drill motor. So it's incredibly quiet, it doesn't require maintenance, and the power source can be easily replaced.

Getting the tug on is a somewhat involved process. You have to bend down to the level of the wheel, shove the pin into the wheel hub, pull the handle to tighten the drive wheel against the tire, and push the rocker arm down on the nose-gear pin—all the while holding your cocker spaniel.

We tested the Sidewinder on a Beechcraft Bonanza A36, and found it had power to spare, assuming we kept moving. The hangar's small concrete lip stopped the airplane dead when we tried to creep up to it, but it made it over easily with a good running start. More worrying: the drive wheel has steel teeth on it to grab the tire, and those slipped a bit as we tried to jockey it over the lip.

The drill motor battery is a bit of a concern. Forget to charge it and you'll be hoofing it. And they are pricey to replace when they go bad. But the supplied motor is a beast, and the company said it pulled an airplane more than 400 yards before it finally ran out of juice.

Although it comes into a crowded market, the Redline Sidewinder is a formidable piece of equipment, and buyers will be very satisfied with this purchase.

Arctic Air Real Air Conditioner

Arctic Air Real Air Conditioner


Who: Arctic Air Real Air Conditioner
What: Powerful air conditioning that requires little maintenance
Where: www.arcticaircooler.com
Why: Because you want a/c, you need a/c
Cost: $4,600 to $4,750


  • Cools the airplane quickly
  • Ability to remove from aircraft
  • Requires little maintenance


  • Although not heavy, there is a weight penalty
  • A bit pricey
  • Takes up baggage space

Raise your hand if you think the worst part of summer flying is the 10 minutes spent on the ground prior to takeoff. Yes, getting "the fan" started can help, but my jealousy for those with air conditioning runs green at times.

The Arctic Air Real Air Conditioner unit was made for pilots like me. It's an "installed" unit for any airplane with a baggage compartment large enough to handle it. Unlike the company's ice-chest models that need a new supply of ice, the Real Air Conditioner is just what it sounds like—a larger, heavier unit that directs cold air created by the ship's power.

The unit sits in the baggage compartment and uses a long, curved hose to direct air over the rear seats and onto the passengers (molded ceiling ductwork is available on some models). It also requires a vent hose, which can often be cut through the rear bulkhead; and a condensation reservoir, which can remain inside the aircraft for periodic disposal, or drain through a vent tube in the bottom of the airplane. Three units are available—a 200 cubic-feet-per-minute, single-fan, 12-volt model, a 200 CFM, single-fan, 24-volt model; and a 400 CFM, dual-fan, 24-volt model. Those CFM measurements refer to how much air the unit turns over. In a standard four-person airplane, the 200 CFM model exchanges all of the cabin's air every minute.

Both of the 200-CFM models weigh 42 pounds, while the 400-CFM model weighs 50 pounds. But the beauty of the Arctic Air system is that it can be easily removed. Simply unplug it and take it out. A lack of versatility is why many owners opt not to have factory air conditioning, and it's a big reason why this system makes sense. The other reason is that it just plain works.

We tested the Arctic Air Real Air Conditioner in a Cirrus SR22 on a day in the mid-80s. Anyone who's flown a Cirrus can attest to the greenhouse effect it causes and the stifling interior temperatures with the doors closed. But the Arctic Air cooled the airplane off within just a minute or two, and kept it cool the entire flight. Best of all, it can be used during all phases of flight.

iPad app update

iPadAirguide Publications' Flight Guide iEFB iPad application now features georeferenced approach plates and airport diagrams. Like similar services before it, Flight Guide iEFB has partnered with Seattle Avionics for the service. What this means for users is that an airplane symbol representing their current position will show up on approach plates and more than 5,000 airport diagrams in real time. Airguide says its service, which can be paired with a WAAS-capable GPS, is even more accurate than most because of its proprietary airport diagrams that are cleaner than the FAA's. Annual subscriptions cost between $109 and $319.

New version for ForeFlight

Version 4 of ForeFlight Mobile HD is available for download from the Apple iTunes store. According to a company representative, the new version focuses on six key features: airspace and airport/facility directory (A/FD) data, instrument approach plate organization and productivity, map interaction, improvements in the navigation log, personal waypoints, and performance. The most noticeable additions are the A/FD data and chart legend information (special-use airspace, and so on) to the airport pages, and the ability to organize charts. This new feature allows pilots to select and order the charts prior to departure, so that recalling them on the flight is that much faster. The map is now clickable for additional information, such as frequencies, hours of operation, and altitudes of airspace. The navigation log also got an overhaul that—with estimated time en route, auto waypoint sequencing, and estimated time of arrival—make it closer to a true moving-map GPS than ever before.

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.