There is a plethora of flight planning resources available to pilots, each with its own niche and presentation, including right here at aopa.org. A relatively new swimmer in the pool is Nav Monster, a free Web-based application offering flight planning, weather, and airport and airspace resources.
Using the flight planner is easy. Simply navigate to the Web site and enter in the departure and destination airports. There’s no need to log in. The program will bring up a Google map with markers for the departure, destination, and en route airports. To the side of the map is a list of all airports within a specified distance of the defined route (the default is 10 miles), each with a box that pops up when you mouse over, which lists runway length and other key specifications.
Navigating the program is done through eight tabs at the top of the page. The weather function is the most useful and unique to the program. Here a route briefing is provided with plain language information that’s very easy to decipher. For example, where there is severe weather forecast, it’s highlighted in red. Marginal VFR and IFR are called out in the METAR section with a different color. Winds aloft are given in the traditional format, but the program automatically calculates the headwind component in red, or tailwind in green. The traditional complement of aviation weather charts is also available on this page.
Charts are available on a dedicated tab. Options include sectionals, approach plates, and the airport/facility directory. Fuel information comes from 100LL.com, the same source as AOPA’s Airport Directory Online. Finally, the food and lodging tab links in to Google and provides a number of eating and sleeping options in the vicinity of the final destination, or any airport along the way.
Of course, no flight planner would be complete without the ability to file a flight plan electronically, which users can do on the Web site through DUATs providers. The application’s designers said they are constantly working on upgrades, the newest of which is mobile capability tailored to the iPhone, but usable with others.
I’ve never been an auto racing fan—but I’ve got to thank the rally car racers for tempting Swedish headset manufacturer Peltor to start making light, comfortable, reasonably priced helmets that happen to be great for flying.
Sport pilots have long “civilianized” military Genex HGU-55s and other fighter pilot hand-me-downs by refitting them with dual-prong jacks. And some have taken the added step of installing active noise reduction (ANR) technology. But there’s only one authorized U.S. distributor for new military helmets, and the price reflects it. A new HGU-55 setup for general aviation use ranges from $750 to $1,200.
Spencer Suderman, an aerobatic instructor and airshow performer in California, has made a mission of providing potentially lifesaving helmets to general aviation pilots. His company modifies Peltor auto racing helmets for aviation use and sells them via his Web site for $725.
The Peltor model G78 is about the same weight as an HGU-55, and it can use GA or military surplus sun visors, microphone booms, and other accessories. It’s significantly less expensive, and—to paraphrase Henry Ford—it comes in any color you want as long as it’s blue or white. Pilots requiring custom paint jobs or reflective tape will have to get those on their own.
One of the Peltor’s shortcomings is that it requires an adaptor to make its single-prong plug work in GA aircraft. But Suderman has turned that into an advantage by supplying an adaptor that also serves as a quick-disconnect device. In an emergency, the pilot could depart the aircraft without having to remember to unplug his or her helmet. A similar quick-disconnect is a $100 option on an HGU-55.
I recently flew with HGU-55 and Peltor helmets and found them both comfortable with excellent peripheral visibility. Neither provided as much noise attenuation as a good ANR headset. But by wearing soft earplugs under the helmet (and cranking the radio volume up high), the noise level was quite comfortable and ATC communications were easily understandable.
In sum, both the HGU-55 and Peltor helmets allow similar levels of comfort, protection, and canopy clearance—and they both come with military-issue sun visors that provide tremendous clarity. Ready-to-fly Peltor helmets cost less than some top-of-the-line headsets—and Suderman is using that fact to convince more GA pilots to fly with cranial protection.
Contact: www.beasafepilot.com— Dave Hirschman
Users of Hilton Software’s WingX mobile weather and flight planning product tout its many features and value. Jeppesen is capitalizing on that success with its new Jeppesen Mobile, a product designed on the basis of WingX. Jeppesen Mobile and WingX provide similar functions, including DUATS connectivity, an airport and facility directory, FARs, and weight and balance information. Jeppesen ups that capability and provides its weather graphics, FARs explained, and Jepp Guide, a directory of services.
One thing currently lacking from Jeppesen Mobile is charts. WingX provides all NACO approach plates, including SmartTaxi, a georeferenced product that warns pilots when they are approaching a runway. Jeppesen is exploring the possibility of adding charts, although no decision has been made yet.
Both Jeppesen Mobile and WingX work on popular Smartphones and Pocket PCs. In addition, WingX now works with Blackberry. Although WingX doesn’t have full iPhone functionality yet, users can log on to iphone.hiltonsoftware.com for a free Web application.
Price: $169 first year for Jeppesen Mobile, $129 thereafter; $129 first year for WingX, $99 thereafter
Contact: www.jeppesen.com/mobile; http://hiltonsoftware.com
AmSafe, manufacturer and supplier of aviation airbags for original equipment manufacturers, is now offering its Aviation Inflatable Restraint as an aftermarket STC. The company has authorized 450 service centers to install and service its aviation airbag. Retrofit is available for certain Cessna, Mooney, Cirrus, Diamond, and Cub Crafter models. According to AmSafe, each airbag adds 1.5 pounds to aircraft empty weight.
Contact: www.amsafe.com; 602-850-2850
Ever land at an airport, only to find that there is no way to get around? Airport Cars Club is seeking to change that with its new ground transportation program. Designed to be a pilot’s link to a reliable car after landing, the company links airport car owners through its Web-based service. Members have full access to other member’s cars after landing at a particular airport. The only catch is that every member must also provide a car. Currently the company is running a promotional deal for a free life Charter Membership.
Price: $50/year; first year free if yours is the first car at an airport
Contact: www.airportcarsclub.com; 763-354-8036
Sporty’s Pilot Shop recently introduced a new four-color AOPA flashlight for pilots. The flashlight features the AOPA wings logo, and four independent switches to control the white, blue, red, and green light beams. A high-intensity white light is also available to use for the aircraft preflight inspection. The flashlight measures three and three-quarters inches long, and uses three AAA batteries.
Contact: www.sportys.com; 800-776-7897
Penn Yan Aero, the well-known engine overhaul shop based in Penn Yan, New York, is now offering its Superhawk engine upgrade kit with brand new components from Superior Air Parts. The STC takes a Lycoming O-360-E2D, -E2J, or -H2AD engine and converts it to a 180-horsepower Lycoming O-360-A4M, but with new parts from Superior. The kit includes a new propeller, new oil filter, starter, magnetos, wiring harness, and carburetor, and other many other new parts.
Contact: www.pennyanaero.com; 800-727-7230
The New Firewall Forward of Loveland, Colorado, is offering a new cam called the Centrilube. Available as part of an overhaul, or as an independent upgrade, the company says the Centrilube “distributes oil directly to the lifter face, utilizing holes strategically drilled in the cam lobes.” The modification is available for the Lycoming O-320-H2AD engine.
Contact: www.firewallforward.com; 800-444-0556
Unless otherwise stated, products listed 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 [email protected].