Handheld GPS devices get better all the time — and many available on the market rival their panel-mount brethren of only a few years ago. So if the majority of your flying is VFR — or you often refer to your GPS as a backup during IFR operations — and you have the panel space, you may have wished that you could just stick your handheld in the panel for easier reference. Well, you can — pretty much.
AirGizmos' Panel Dock provides a cradle within the instrument panel for you to mount your GPS securely, and in a position so you can read it. Clear instructions with templates for mounting are included. Here comes the caveat: Because the mount modifies the instrument panel in a fairly permanent fashion, it requires a field approval for installation in production aircraft. If you fly an Experimental category airplane, you can proceed without the field approval, of course.
One item that should be made clear: The Panel Dock is not intended to turn a VFR handheld GPS into an IFR-approved panel-mount GPS. In fact, stamped on the mount itself are the words "not for IFR use." The mount makes referring to the handheld unit as a backup device much easier, as it gives you another set of mounting options not otherwise so readily apparent. But true panel-mount IFR-approved GPS navigators must undergo additional scrutiny and meet the demands of TSO-C129, the FAA order governing airborne GPS equipment — and no handheld GPS matches these criteria.
The Panel Dock provides a place for power and antenna cables to come through the panel, yet still allows for a quick disconnect of the unit for taking the GPS home or into another airplane.
The Panel Dock for the GPSMap 196, 296, or 396 is 6.25 inches wide by 4.25 inches high by 2.44 inches deep and weighs 3.7 ounces, less any mounting hardware.
Panel Docks also are available for several other models of handhelds, including the Garmin GPSMap 295, Lowrance Airmap 2000, and AvMap EKP-IV. You also can mount your iPod or personal digital assistant with a dedicated Panel Dock.
Price: $99.95 for the Garmin 196/296/396 Panel Dock
Contact: 972/231-0867; www.airgizmos.com
With the importance of the electrical system in most light general aviation airplanes — even more so in the newest models — it pays to have a good way to determine the status of your aircraft battery or alternator. VDC Electronics offers its BatteryMinder as a way to test any 12-volt battery and alternator system on the ground as part of a preflight or troubleshooting inspection.
To test the battery, you connect the small (about 2 inches square) testing unit to the battery or alternator system in question using a two-wire connection. Then a push of the button displays the battery's condition in red (poor), yellow (fair), or green (good). With the engine running, an alternator system is judged by whether it illuminates all four lights (the red, yellow, and green, plus an additional light) on the unit — anything less is suspect.
VDC Electronics warrants its products unconditionally for one year (excepting physical abuse to the unit, and surges), with a five-year warranty for repair service. The BatteryMinder is available through various aviation, tool, and auto suppliers.
Price: $49.99 retail
Contact: 800/379-5579; www.vdcelectronics.com
Control Vision, the creator of Anywhere Map moving-map system, has launched a Web site to help pilots find the best fuel stops. The site, www.100ll.com, also features airport diagrams and other flight-planning information, and the data can be uploaded to the Anywhere Map program.
FBO information and links, including the most recently updated fuel prices, are featured on the site. A date and time of the update is provided for quick reference. Also, a comparison-inducing list of nearby airports with fuel prices helps pilots quickly determine their options. Weather information — with easy-to-read icons for ceiling and visibility — and listings of airport amenities further aid the pilot in decision making. Links to make reservations at nearby hotels streamline the overnight-lodging process once on the ground.
When we reviewed the site for this issue, most of the airports we checked had fuel prices listed that had been updated within the past month, though a couple of locations had fuel prices up to six weeks old. If more than one fuel provider is located on the field, a page comes up that allows you to select the provider — before you get the fuel price — and the locations listed for nearby cheaper fuel on the main page may not include the other providers on the airport if there are more than five nearby airports with cheaper fuel.
Anywhere Map users can upload fuel pricing into the Anywhere Map program and access the data en route for $30 per year. Use of the data via Internet is free to all users. Also new for the Anywhere Map program are Taxi-Express airport diagrams, which allow the pilot to view the aircraft's position on an airport chart while taxiing. An update is available to current subscribers free as part of their subscription.
PS Engineering has updated its PMA8000 audio panel by installing a multipurpose jack on the front of the unit, allowing pilots to plug in a cell phone, portable music player, or public-address system. Also, the internal recording system is now standard equipment, and new configuration controls on the front panel let pilots customize inputs.
Contact: 865/988-9800; www.ps-engineering.com
Have a daughter or friend interested in flying? Check out www.girlsflytoo.com, which features a bevy of products aimed at young pilots (and the young at heart). The site offers a wide selection of merchandise, from flight-training materials to pilot supplies to toys and gifts — including the very hip SkyBelts made from aircraft seat belts.
Appareo Systems announced at AOPA Expo that the GS Flight Evaluator Pro was available for preorder. The GS Flight Evaluator delivers the first detailed 3-D record of your flight, with applications including flight logs, asset tracking, flight instruction, and performance evaluation.
Contact: 701/356-2200; www.appareo.com
True Flight has introduced a new feature on its FL210 electronic flight bag, the Fastest Flight Level Search. Using information from XM WX Satellite Weather, the updated program crunches the numbers, including winds aloft, to determine the best altitude for a flight, based on predicted fuel burn climbing to and reaching that altitude.
Century Flight Systems is announcing an electric attitude gyro to go along with its electronic horizontal situation indicator (EHSI), providing a totally electric "no vacuum needed" gyro package for its current line of autopilots. The company offers several new package groups for its Century 2000 and Triden autopilots and expects roll steering approval soon.
Precise Flight's PreciseFlow oxygen conserver is now available to aircraft with built-in oxygen systems. The conserver extends oxygen endurance up to three times that of regular systems.
Mid-Continent Instruments has teamed with Aerosonic, producer of mechanical altimeter and airspeed indicators, to produce a standby instrument package, including its 4200-series instruments, for the Cessna Citation Mustang and Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Company's 350- and 400-series aircraft. The suite features 2-inch instruments to provide backup instrumentation for the electronic flight information displays on board these aircraft.
Aspen Avionics announced that the company recently received Federal Aviation Administration Technical Standard Order (TSO) authorization for its AT300 Hazard Awareness Display. The AT300 fits in a standard 3-inch instrument cutout, and can replace a vertical speed indicator.
Contact: 505/856-5034; www.aspenavionics.com
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).