It's all about the iPad at Sun 'n Fun

Avionics create a buzz

March 28, 2012

What’s happening at the avionics counters in the four large product hangars at Sun ’n Fun? Here’s a quick survey, accomplished by walking through all four vendor hangars. You’ll hear from some off-Broadway companies that don’t often dominate the news.

The award for the most talked-about product goes to a receiver sold by Sporty’s that provides free Stratus in-flight weather information for your ForeFlight Mobile app on an iPad. It receives subscription-free weather data on an internal ADS-B antenna and places it on a map, but also contains a built-in Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) GPS for a moving-map display using sectional, IFR en route, and approach charts. You’ll learn more in an article and video appearing soon by Flight Training Editor Ian Twombly. The $799 unit sits in your airplane’s front window, wirelessly sending information to an iPad. Non-3G/4G iPads have no GPS receiver, while iPads with 3G and 4G have a GPS receiver that is not WAAS capable. It is from a company called Appareo.

Ryan Deck, avionics sales manager for Aircraft Spruce and Specialty, provided this overview of other hot products as indicated by visitors on March 27, the opening day.

At the top of Deck’s list is any product that has anything to do with the Apple iPad. A simple canvas kneeboard that holds the iPad was selling well.

GPS receivers are still a top seller, as they have been for a decade or more. One product garnering attention is the Bad Elf postage-stamp-size GPS receiver that locks onto satellites in 45 seconds and converts your iPod, iPad, or iPhone into a GPS device. It has eight-foot accuracy and can track altitudes to 60,000 feet and speeds to 1,000 mph. Download aviation apps from Apple.

Portable GPS units by Garmin drew a crowd, thanks to pricing. Garmin is offering a $100 rebate on many portables at Sun ’n Fun this week, something Deck said Garmin rarely does, and it was attracting customers.

Avionics companies are fighting back with touch screens, a bid to compete with the iPad, Deck said. Other hot products, at least in terms of Sun ’n Fun attendees, include electronic flight instrument systems. Headsets are still top sellers at the show, as they have been for three decades. On Thursday, Deck said, the most asked-about headsets were, in order, the Bose A20, the Lightspeed Zulu, and the Sennheiser S1.

Finally, 406 MHz emergency locator transmitters were especially popular among visitors, Deck said.

Al Marsh

Alton K. Marsh | AOPA Pilot Senior Editor, AOPA

AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Alton Marsh has been a pilot since 1970 and has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates, aerobatic training, and a commercial seaplane certificate.