Anywhere Map Travel Companion

This new take on an old friend offers features that will enhance your in-flight experience.

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Anywhere Map shook up the GPS buying crowd about 10 years ago when it announced a product line that separated hardware and software. The advantage, we were told, was a dual-path update capability, which meant the user could install the software onto any one of several personal digital assistants. Similarly, when the allure of a new PDA became irresistible, the software need not be relegated to the bottom desk drawer along with WordStar and DOS. Cell phones have taken over the functions of the PDA, but with the exception of the iPhone and its clones, the screens are much too small to be used for anything other than locating a nearby restaurant, and they’re certainly too small for in-flight GPS use.

The bright screen works well in the cockpit.

Anywhere Map saw the writing on the wall, and though the company still supports the PDA platforms, its new Anywhere Map Travel Companion, cleverly abbreviated ATC, uses hardware from Hewlett-Packard. The hardware started life as the iPaq 310.

Anywhere Map re-flashed the memory chip on the 310, thereby doing exactly what makes a computer different from all other machines: Its a new machine. The screen is really the key to the success of a GPS. In this, the ATC is at the pinnacle with a 4.3-inch screen. All 65,000 colors work to make the 800×480 resolution incredibly sharp and vibrant. Its one of the best presentations Ive seen.

Power Up

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External power is supplied by a three-piece power cable. You get a walnut-sized module to plug into the wall, its 12-volt equivalent for use in the car/aircraft and an ordinary USB cable to go between the power module and the screen.

Whats in the box? Not shown is the adjustable yoke mount and the 6×8-inch laminated instruction card.

Youll find that as part of registering the ATC online, you’ll have to download the update center software. This will then check daily for critical updates such as TFRs as well as general software improvements. I set it up in the evening, and the following morning found two updates. This aspect gets an A+. Anywhere Map also offers subscriptions to real-time weather, but I did not try it out.

The battery life is good. With the screen on full bright I got almost 2.5 hours of use. After playing with it for the evening, I left it on and unplugged, and the next morning it was dead. It recharged quickly, but it should have a turn off when not in use function.

The problem was compounded by the power button being slightly higher than the surrounding territory. Slipping it into its case, and then into my pocket turned it on and used a good portion of the battery power prior to the demo flight. We got less than 2 hours usage.

Its a slick design-literally! The upper edge is curved such that its hard to pick up. Its very now, but I dropped it twice in the course of evaluation. Fortunately, the mechanical engineers who designed the clip holding it to the mount outsmarted the marketing designers. The grip seems adequate for in-flight turbulence.

Setting It Up

The thumbwheel on the upper-right edge is two-function: Roll it to change the view radius; press it to turn on/off the side menus. Its a nice feature, and with a bit of use it will become a primary tool. If there’s a big flaw, its the Help button found on most screens; tapping it only returns you to the map view.

Several navigation formats are available. Day VFR is a nice, uncluttered presentation, while at the other end of the spectrum, you can display all of the airways. Each screen can then be customized to add or subtract features such as VORs, stadiums and highways. Included in the main screen is an Emergency Mode view, which simplifies the display and adds approach paths to runways.

The night before I tried it out in the air, I was able to do a flight plan on the computer and then transfer it to the removable chip. It was a simple drag-and-drop, but how to do it was not explained.

In-Flight Testing

An especially useful group is to be found by tapping the Find Nearby button. You can then select a frequency from individual buttons labeled ATIS, AWOS, FSS, VOR, NDB, ATC, airports and even Cheap Fuel. All of this is done with an option of only look ahead or look all around. A subscription is required for using the Cheap Fuel button, but it could easily pay for itself in a few uses.

A subtle feature is its nicely done tactile recognition. I zoomed out to the point that the San Francisco Peninsula, a 35-mile bit of geography, was a quarter-inch long, and I was able to just keep tapping in the general vicinity of the San Carlos Airport until it gave up on me and displayed a list of area airports. From that I selected KSQL and Fly Direct To, and there we were, with a nice green line showing the requested flight path. Refresh after a tap or zoom seemed a bit slow, but then Im spoiled.

So how is it in use in flight? Readable? Yes, but the lettering should be larger. Sometimes its tough to discern the text-only buttons when wearing sunglasses. Colors and detail are excellent.

While the primary buttons on the main screen are easily activated, the tabs and smaller items are best employed with the stylus. It may seem a small inconvenience, but I find that with the clutter of headset cables, seat belts, and other paraphernalia, an addition is not welcome.

What the buttons do at times seems not to be very accurate. The page with the E6B functions works well on my ancient iPaq, but the ATC kept giving me bogus feedback about crosswinds, and it consistently rejected my inputs. That early favorite, the Pan button, would either move the display in a seemingly random fashion, not enough or not at all.

Our flight departed from Class D airspace and allowed us to navigate around Class C and stay under the Class B, maintaining a track that was in close agreement with known ground reference points. Coming home revealed another nice feature: The active leg is highlighted, so if you have two legs near one another, say, the inbound and outbound portions, they wont be confused if you’re zoomed in.

As a final evaluation I drove 3 hours with it in street-map mode. Id suggest that this not be a factor in choosing the ATC. There are several other dedicated street-mapping units costing less than $200 with much better on-screen mapping and clues for the next turn. But as a full-function, PDA-based aviation navigator, the ATC scores well.

For more information, call 800/292-1160, or visit www.anywheremap.com.

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KITPLANES readers will remember Bob Fritz (1947-2011) for his acclaimed Home Machinist series, but his accomplishments go well beyond that long-running feature. Following a stint in the U.S. Navy, Bob put his degree in mechanical engineering to use and was a tireless advocate for effective and consistent quality control. He brought that discipline to his work for KITPLANES. An avid diver and motorcyclist, Bob's love of flying was a surprise to no one.

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