Avidyne hopes to make a believer out of everybody who questions the value of a multifunction computer (MFC) in the cockpit. The company is new but holds a potential powerful enough to make even skeptics stand up and take notice. Lancair recently took notice of the company's software and has decided to equip IFR versions of the yet-to-be-certified Columbia 300 with a huge AvroTec display driven by the Avidyne MFC.
Last year, AOPA installed a similar product - Arnav's MFD 5200 multifunction display - in the Ultimate Arrow sweepstakes airplane. It, too, serves several purposes and allows for several system parameters to be shown on one common display (see " Ultimate Arrow: It's Ready," December 1997 Pilot).
Avidyne's 5RR MFC is an actual Microsoft Windows-based computer that is capable of more than just depicting information from existing sources. Just like a home computer, the Avidyne will run programs designed for the general aviation pilot - position/navigation information (with input from a GPS or loran), weather depictions, engine parameters, traffic information, and air data functions.
As of now, Avidyne has met the FAA's technical standard orders for such equipment and has received a supplemental type certificate and parts manufacturer approval to install the unit in certified production aircraft. Starting at a list price of $8,500, the flight computer will be configured with Avidyne Charts, the company's software package containing the National Ocean Service's IFR en route (high and low altitude) and VFR charts (top photo). VFR sectional, terminal area, and world aeronautical charts were scanned at 200 dots per inch and loaded into the program. When a user picks a certain scale, the computer automatically chooses which chart would be best. Charts can be viewed in north-up orientation only, because that is the way text is written on them. Information such as bearing, track, distance, and groundspeed can be shown on the user-configurable display.
Charts can be loaded by a PC interface cable or via a CD-ROM drive mounted remotely or directly in the panel. Information for approximately one-quarter to one-third of the country can be loaded from one CD. Eventually, Avidyne plans to incorporate standard instrument departures (SIDS), standard terminal arrival routes (STARS), and IFR approach plates into its charting arsenal in a quest for the paperless cockpit - at least for FAR Part 91 operators.
With a depth of 12 inches, such a large box cannot fit in the instrument panel of many airplanes, but those that are already equipped with airborne weather radar are targets for Avidyne. Soon the company expects to have approval to display information provided by AlliedSignal's Bendix/King RDR 150/160 series of monochrome radar units. Others will follow. Avidyne's 3-by-4-inch, active-matrix, 256-color liquid-crystal display is roughly the same size as many radar units, making replacement relatively painless. Through the Avidyne, the RDR 150/160 will present weather in color. The display offers excellent viewing characteristics, even from oblique viewing angles.
Lightning data, from an existing BFGoodrich WX-1000E or remote WX-500 Stormscope, can be overlaid on the map display, allowing both radar and Stormscope data to be shown on the moving chart. What's more, Avidyne's recently certified Lightning software will be able to manipulate the data from the Stormscope to make it easier to read and easier to plan escape routes around weather. The $2,000 Lightning module should be available soon.
Avidyne's Navigator software is expected to be certified soon. This intuitive navigation software (bottom photo) displays and/or calculates just about all the information a pilot needs. With the large amount of information available to be shown on the MFC's screen, Navigator reduces the amount of heads-down time required to search through layers of pages on a small-screened GPS. Another nice feature of Navigator is the forward-view capability that puts the airplane at the bottom of the screen instead of in the middle as does the Charts program. This allows for greater viewing area of what's in front of you rather than what you've already passed. This fea-ture is possible because Navigator makes available a track-up mode, unlike Charts.
Avidyne has entered into a partnership with J.P. Instruments to display vital engine parameters on the computer screen. With the capability of monitoring manifold pressure, rpm, fuel flow, EGT, CHT, OAT, and more, the computer interface can calculate percent of power. In addition, the system can alert the pilot if any preset parameters are exceeded and, if desired, download the data onto a floppy disk to analyze failures or trend patterns.
Perhaps the most attractive features of the Avidyne system are the potential upgrade path and the unlikeliness of the product to become obsolete after only a few years in the panel. Nobody likes to buy something just to throw it out in five years.
With its technology mirroring that of the booming computer industry, Avidyne owners can expect to upgrade the system easily; quickly; and even inexpensively, since the Intel processors that the machines use are mass-produced for the personal computer industry. If only they could make it deice the airplane, too ....
For information, contact Avidyne Corporation, 81 Hartwell Avenue, Lexington, Massachusetts 02173; telephone 800/284-3963 or 617/674-9300; or visit the Web site ( www.avidyne.com). - Peter A. Bedell
Let the integration begin - finally. Garmin International is expected to soon introduce its GNS 430 multisensor receiver, which integrates an IFR-approach-approved GPS receiver with a 760-channel com radio, plus a VOR/localizer/glideslope receiver. The GPS side of the unit is driven by the same 12-channel receiver that powers many of the company's latest panel mount GPSs and the popular GPSMAP 195 and III Pilot handhelds. The GNS 430's large display will also depict the same detailed moving map on a sunlight-readable, eight-color LCD that is easily seen from many viewing angles.
Available in early 1999, the GNS 430 will list for less than $10,000, the company says. In addition, the GNS 430 is guaranteed to be upgradeable to Wide Area Augmentation System standards (WAAS) - a lofty claim given that the standard for WAAS does not exist yet. The com radio will offer the option of 8.33 kHz spacing to conform to new European specifications that take effect on January 1. Auto sequencing for GPS approaches and a database containing all SIDs and STARs are in the works as well.
For more information, contact Garmin, 1200 East 151st Street, Olathe, Kansas 66062; telephone 913/397-8200; or visit the Web site ( www.garmin.com). - PAB
At last year's AOPA Expo in Orlando, Florida, we were treated to a demonstration of a few of Airmax's products by company Vice President Jack Hemmings. The testbed was the particularly filthy belly of a Beech Baron that we think had Hemmings a little worried. A mixture of bug guts, oil, and exhaust stains, as well as a generous smattering of goose droppings, made this one of the worst cases he'd seen.The Fastmax cleaner/wax did an excellent job in cleaning up light-duty dirt and grime, while leaving behind a healthy shine. On the heavy-duty areas such as the exhaust and oil stains and the crusted goose renderings, several subsequent applications were needed to cut through to the surface. Fastmax, available for $16.95 per quart, seems best for light-duty quick touch-ups following a thorough wash. It leaves a wax-like feel and shine when you are finished.
Airmax's Nav-Clear window cleaner does an excellent job dissolving bugs for easy removal, while leaving a clean, static-free window. Even when we used a very light touch, as you should on acrylic, the bugs came right off - a far cry from the continuous polishing required with some other cleaners. Follow the Nav-Clear with a light-duty polish like Meguiar's Number 10 and you'll have a spectacular finish that doesn't require several minutes of rubbing. Airmax offers its own windshield protector, but we did not evaluate it. The $14.99-per-quart Nav-Clear also does an average job removing bugs from the leading edges of the airframe, although it's not as good as Knight's Spray Nine, a favorite bug remover available at auto parts stores for less money.
Airmax also offers Maxwax to follow up your cleaning duties, and we found it to be comparable to most other waxes on the market. For more information, contact Airmax, Post Office Box 983, North Vernon, Indiana 47265; telephone 888/524-7629 or 812/346-7735; or visit the Web site ( www.airmaxinc.com). - PAB
With release 7.0, Jeppesen's FliteStar software gurus have cured many of the problems in version 6.0 and added some nifty ways of handling weather. The older version of the flight-planning program, for example, sometimes had difficulty with specialty weather briefings such as outlook, abbreviated, area, and statewide briefings. The standard weather briefing and FliteStar's ability to calculate the effect of winds on your actual flight plan always worked well.
Added is a feature that takes the text-ual description of sigmet/airmet information and plots it on the FliteStar map. The boxes showing affected areas and are drawn with different-colored lines to differentiate between sigmets and airmets, and a textual description appears in a box on the map to explain why the weather condition exists. Weather graphics retrieved from DUATS by FliteStar are easily displayed or printed and, of course, they are free. New features include the ability to upload flight plans from your portable GPS to FliteStar, or download them from FliteStar to the GPS.
FliteStar costs $299 with North America data, and $899 with worldwide data. (Corporate versions are available for charter operations.) The software can use electronic sectional charts and JeppView electronic approach charts for an additional charge. The software requires a 486 or better processor, Windows 95, 16 megabytes of memory (more is better), and 25 megabytes of space available on the hard drive. The Macintosh version requires four megabytes of memory, System 6.0 or later, and a hard disk. For more information, contact Jeppesen at 800/621-5377 or 303/799-9090; visit the Web ( www.jeppesen.com), or write Jeppesen, 55 Inverness Drive East, Englewood, Colorado 80112-5498; facsimile 303/784-4137.
Garmin has unveiled the new GPS 92, a follow-on to the very successful GPS 90. The 92 actually combines a number of features found on the 90, the GPS 89, and the GPS/Com 190. Most important, the 92 uses Garmin's 12-channel GPS receiver instead of the multitrack system that Garmin pioneered several years ago. All of the Garmin products will eventually carry the 12-channel receiver. Like the 190, the 92 depicts Class D airspace on its moving map and displays FSS, tower, center, and other frequencies. The case and display are borrowed from the 90. And, like the 89, the 92 boasts basic VOR and airport data for the entire world. When within the pilot's region of choice, the 92 displays detailed navaid and airport information, including runway diagrams. The price is $499. For more information, contact Garmin at 913/397-8200, or visit the Web site ( www.garmin.com). - TBH
Narco's NS9000 Star Nav recently received European basic area navigation (BRNAV) approval. Star Nav is a multisensor unit containing VOR, localizer, glideslope, and GPS receivers. In addition, Star Nav will interface with several other receivers, including DME and loran. Because of the unit's integration of these signals, Star Nav is the only GPS-based system for light aircraft that is approved for en route, terminal, nonprecision, and - through the localizer and glideslope receivers - precision approaches, according to the company. Star Nav lists for $7,400 but can be purchased at a lower price through Narco dealers. For more information, contact Narco at 800/223-3636 or 215/643-2900. - PAB
The following items were announced during April's Aircraft Electronics Association Convention in Orlando, Florida.
After months of tweaking, Trimble Navigation introduced its long-awaited TrimLine avionics suite at the AEA convention. The package features an IFR-approach-certified GPS receiver, transponder, nav receiver, com receiver, stereo audio panel with intercom, and inflight entertainment system that includes a CD player. Trimble purchased the Terra line of radios several years ago and has recently begun shipping them again after moving manufacturing facilities from Albuquerque to Trimble's factory in Austin, Texas. The new TrimLine panel has its roots in the Terra line but has been completely redesigned to meet TSO requirements. In addition, the TrimLine radios have several enhancements over the Terras. TrimLine will be standard on the Cirrus SR20 when it is certified later this year. For more information, contact Trimble at 888/359-8372 or 512/432-0400, or visit the Web site ( www.trimble.com). - Thomas B. Haines
Always-prolific Pilot Avionics brought several new headset models to market at AEA. Among them is the Independence DNC XL lightweight active noise-canceling headset. Battery life of the new unit is improved to 45 to 60 hours, according to the company, thanks to the incorporation of a third battery unit in the ear cup. Like the Freedom 17-76 model introduced last year, the Independence carries all of the electronics and rechargeable batteries in the ear cups, eliminating many of the wires found on conventional active headsets. The 17-76 gets about 12 hours of endurance from its two batteries in its ear cups. Developed for a U.S. Air Force contract, the Independence lists for $459. The Concorde DNC is another addition to the Pilot line. This new super-lightweight active headset uses a nickel metal hydride battery pack in-line near the jacks. The unit weighs just nine ounces and promises a 40-decibel noise reduction in lower frequencies. The price of this unit is also $459. A new modular passive set, called the PA 21-60, provides lots of versatility to pilots who fly a variety of aircraft. The mic boom can be placed on either ear cup, and the electret mic can be swapped for a dynamic mic or even a throat mic as the military uses. The price is $350. For more information, contact Pilot Avionics at 800/874-1140 or 714/597-1012, or visit the Web site ( www.pilot-avionics.com). - TBH
Echo Flight displayed a prototype version of its satellite-based datalink system at AEA. The Echo Flight moving map is called StratoCheetah. It is a color 7.25-by-5.25-inch LCD that can be placed on the pilot's yoke. Connected to a remote processor that resides in a flight bag, the unit depicts aircraft position relative to airspace, airports, and navaids. When connected to a permanently mounted VHF com antenna on the aircraft, the unit can send and receive data from a series of low-orbit satellites. Through the datalink, the pilot can request weather information that is displayed on the LCD. For example, Doppler weather radar images not more than seven minutes old can be displayed, referenced to the aircraft position. Text messages from the ground or from other aircraft can also be displayed. Echo Flight expects each data request to cost from 50 cents to $2. Price of the system is $1,995 if run from a notebook computer in the cockpit. The dedicated LCD and processor will cost about $6,000. For more information, contact Echo Flight at 800/994-9811 or 303/413-9002, or visit the Web site ( www.echoflight.com). - TBH
Northstar Technologies has introduced a trade-in plan allowing owners of any model loran receiver to earn a $500 trade-in discount off the purchase of the company's IFR-approved M3 Approach or VFR GPS-60 receivers. The GPS-60 is available as a slide-in replacement for Northstar's venerable M1 lorans. For more information on this limited-time offer, contact your local Northstar dealer, call Northstar at 800/628-4487 or 978/897-0770, or visit the Web site ( www.northstarcmc.com). - PAB
Building on the successful PMA6000 audio panel/intercom/marker beacon receiver, PS Engineering introduced its PMA7000 series. The PMA7000 features totally automatic IntelliVox circuitry that eliminates the need for setting intercom squelch for the built-in six-place stereo intercom. Like the company's PMA6000, the 7000 offers the Split Mode, which allows the pilot and copilot to simultaneously communicate on separate tranceivers. The PMA7000 goes a notch above with Split-Mode ICS, which now allows the pilot and copilot to communicate with each other even though they are communicating with ATC on separate radios. A new digital recording function constantly records the last minute of radio communications. When linked to AirCell, an airborne cellular phone service, the PMA7000 allows cellular phone conversations to connect to pilot and/or passengers, depending on intercom setup. The PMA7000 also accepts inputs from as many as six warning systems that can provide aural alerts about oil pressure or fuel status, for example. Finally, two music inputs can provide stereo entertainment to pilots and/or passengers. For more information, contact PS Engineering at 423/988-9800 or visit the Web site ( www.ps-engineering.com). - PAB
The two-tape video Fun Flying Baja, produced a year ago and recently updated, has been released by King Schools. The two-hour, 40-minute program flies you around Baja in a 1952 Piper Tri Pacer named Slowpoke. Producer Rick Roessler visited 37 airports and dirt strips to gain insights on places to go. You will learn about talking to Mexican air traffic controllers, working with U.S. Customs, and finding avgas. The set costs $49.95. For more information, call 602/730-3250 or 800/854-1001. - AKM
J.P. Instruments has introduced a fuel flow option to its EDM-760 Twin and EDM-700 graphic engine data monitors. With the fuel flow option, the units display time remaining, fuel used, and fuel remaining while retaining all of the temperature functions of the basic units. In addition, when the units are connected to a GPS, they display fuel required to the next waypoint or the destination, fuel remaining at the next waypoint, and gallons per hour. The EDM-760 Twin retails for $3,995; the fuel flow option costs another $2,100. The price of the EDM-700 is $1,840; the fuel flow module costs an additional $1,090. Owners of either model can upgrade their units to accept the fuel flow data. For more information, contact JPI at 800/345-4574; fax 714/557-9840; or visit the Web site ( www.jpinstruments.com). - TBH
Unless otherwise stated, products listed herein 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. Links to all Web sites referenced in this issue can be found on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/pilot/links.shtml).