A new entry into the electronic flight bag (EFB) market, VistaNav, comes from Mercury Computer Systems. VistaNav features highly detailed synthetic vision (which projects an image of upcoming terrain and obstruction features onto an electronic display, coupled with attitude information), and it offers electronic flight information system (EFIS) and moving-map presentations, along with flight-planning compatibility with Jeppesen's FliteStar software. The combination gives the pilot a backup navigation and aircraft control system that provides a clear picture of the aircraft's position and attitude — and its relation to surrounding terrain — regardless of the flight conditions.
My flight test with the system (prior to the addition of datalink weather, an option now available) demonstrated the display's more-than-adequate refresh rate — turns were reflected smoothly in the synthetic vision, the terrain depiction underlying the attitude display and GPS altitude tape (if a barometric source is available, it can be ported to the unit and this altitude will replace the GPS altitude). Groundspeed is shown in the upper-right corner; there is no air data computer (for airspeed) or magnetometer (for compass heading), though a GPS track is displayed, keeping the system from being a true standalone unit. Even so, it has great utility as a supplemental navigation and terrain avoidance system or a backup to the ship's instruments.
The system includes an LS800 tablet PC by Motion Computing with a 5-by-8-inch display, an integrated navigation unit (INU), an optional WxWorx satellite weather receiver, and a yoke mount. The INU houses a GPS receiver (for navigation information), 3-D solid-state gyros (for aircraft attitude information), and a Bluetooth wireless interface (to communicate with the tablet PC, obviating the need for a cable interface and reducing cockpit clutter). A single power cord from the INU plugs into the DC power outlet on most light aircraft.
Price: $4,290; $4,940 with weather receiver
Contact: 866/627-6951; www.mc.com
While landing consistently well on a hard-surface runway poses enough of a challenge for many of us, you may dream of putting your skills to use to travel to more exotic locales — and airports that don't fit the standard profile. And there are arguably few prettier places to fly than in the Idaho backcountry. In the DVD Idaho exposed, from Griffin Studios, a pilot and a videographer take you with them as they explore several popular and famous skill-testing airstrips along the Salmon River and its various forks and tributaries in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Pilot Herb Millhorn has been flying in the backcountry for decades, and he emphasizes from the outset that the DVD is no substitute for experienced, specific instruction into the strips that he visits. Instead, he introduces pilots to the variety of options available to competent pilots and outlines some general practices vital to flying safely in the backcountry.
Throughout the DVD, pilots will be awestruck by the scenery and the detailed approaches that must be made into many of the strips. It's a great demonstration of what an airplane is capable of, and the footage may inspire you to brush up on short-field procedures and hone your density altitude calculations. Millhorn makes a plea to pilots to help keep Idaho backcountry strips open to the public — a laudable effort because of their value not only as recreational destinations, but also as links to communities in the wilderness areas and service as emergency landing spots in otherwise-forbidding country.
The DVD runs 89 minutes, and can be ordered from Amazon.com or eBay — links to each site's product page are on the Griffin Studios Web site.
Contact: 425/271-0895; www.griffinstudios.tv
Whether you're setting out on a VFR cross-country flight this summer or timing approaches during an IFR flight, you need an accurate means of keeping time in the airplane.
The airplane's clock might work just fine, or it might have worked just fine back during the Nixon administration — in any case, a timer remains a handy piece of equipment that takes up little space but can pay big dividends.
Sporty's Deluxe Flight Timer is a new timer that keeps things simple, yet has enough functionality for most pilots' needs. The black timer has two separate timers, so more than one countdown can take place simultaneously — such as an overall flight time and the time to a fix on an instrument approach. The dedicated buttons for most timer functions make it easy to hit the right one the first time, and the short information manual really isn't necessary to read in detail in order to operate the timer.
The timer itself slides into a matching holder with an integral clip that can be more or less permanently affixed wherever you like, if you're an aircraft owner or would like to attach the timer to a kneeboard. The timer runs on two AAA batteries and has a backlight.
Contact: 800/776-7897 or 513/735-9000; www.sportys.com
When the nearest restaurant is farther than just across the field, it helps to have a portable bike stashed in the baggage compartment to ease the journey. The Windjammer folding bike goes one better — it can be operated either as a standard bicycle or as a motorized one.
The 1.8-horsepower, two-stroke engine attached to the bike can propel the rider at speeds up to 25 mph (on flat roads, according to the manufacturer). The bike weighs 44 pounds unfueled; the tank holds a half-gallon of gas, making for about 48 pounds with the tank filled with a 25-to-1 oil-fuel mixture.
Riders up to 300 pounds can use the bike, which has a range of roughly 100 miles on one tank.
The folded bike measures 31 by 32 by 15 inches. The padded seat and front and rear suspension give it a decent ride. The Windjammer is available through Aircraft Spruce & Specialty.
The winner of AOPA's Win A Six in '06 Sweepstakes will find one of the Windjammer bikes folded into the baggage compartment of the refurbished Piper Cherokee Six.
Contact: 877/477-7823; www.aircraftspruce.com
RMS Technology has been in the flight-planning-software game for some time, producing, among other products, its flagship program, Flitesoft. Companion to this program is Vista, a moving-map version suitable for cockpit use (on an electronic flight bag or other portable computer).
The program, which first launched more than a decade ago, provides several customizable map views along with other situational awareness tools, including terrain awareness and profile views.
Vista can use background maps either in raster or vector format (which are drawn in real time and can be rotated to north-up or track-up presentations), or any scanned chart.
When used in conjunction with Flitesoft, Vista can access data stored in the flight-planning program for use in flight, such as aircraft, airport, and navaid data.
Several recent updates take Vista to the next level. An attitude indicator is driven by GPS data (but there's one caveat: the data make it a last-ditch backup in an emergency, because it is not based on actual aircraft attitude but on GPS airspeed and positional data) and can be added to the display with one click.
Also, the Virtual Flight feature gives you a three-dimensional view of the terrain, airspace, airports, and obstructions along your planned route.
The latest update also adds XM WX Satellite Weather capability, and DUATS weather compatibility. Weather information from either source overlays the background map (for example, a sectional chart or approach chart). One-click map-access features have been added as well, streamlining cockpit use.
RMS Flitesoft Vista is available in a package with Flitesoft Professional for $347.
One year of updates costs $109 and includes free access to current sectional, low- and high-altitude en route, and terminal area charts (covering the Continental United States and Alaska). One year of approach charts (for all 50 states) costs $99.95.
Price: $198 ($149 if you already have a current Flitesoft program)
Contact: 800/533-3211; www.rmstek.com
The Magnifico Plus GPS/PDA handheld screen magnifier from Office On The Go Go has been recently introduced to fit personal digital assistants (PDAs) and handheld GPS units more snugly. The clamshell design features a telescoping lens that can be tilted to optimize viewing.
Contact: 800/679-1909; www.officeonthegogo.com
The 2006 Bahamas & Caribbean Pilot's Guide, published by Pilot Publishing, has been released by authors John and Betty Obradovich. This is the tenth edition of the guide, which offers procedures for entering the various islands, customs information, and airport diagrams and data.
Contact: 800/521-2120; www.flytheislands.com
Vantage Plane Plastics is now the sole manufacturer of the Solar Skies solar-powered aircraft cabin ventilator. The enclosed fan slides into the aircraft's vent window and latches into place with a weather-tight seal. The ventilator is currently available for many Piper aircraft, with more airplane models to come.
Contact: 866/307-5263; www.planeplastics.com
Production Software has released eFAD2Go, an electronic facilities and airport directory for PCs, PDAs, and cell phones. eFAD2Go provides U.S. airport information (including fuel availability and direct-dial flight service station phone numbers) and is updated every 28 days.
Price: $79.99 per year
Contact: 800/818-1168; www.pspda.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.