Gear of the Year 2007

Our staff picks the great gadgets of the season.

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ach year, we poll our staffers and members of the extended KITPLANES family for their take on the neatest new stuff of the year. Some years, the products and services are not wholly new, but have attained a kind of critical mass. And then there are the big hitters, like the Aspen EFD and MFD that received votes from three of our staffers.

Corys Picks

Beyerdynamic “Build Your Own” Headset – HS300

One of the cooler things at AirVenture 2007 was the Beyerdynamic “build your own” headset. Based on the HS300 passive model, you can create a custom headset by visiting the company’s web site. Among the features subject to your aesthetic whims are the headband, ear pad, ear cup, suspension and an engraveable holding clip. With an ambient noise attenuation of 35 dBA, the German-manufactured HS300 features an integrated volume control with a mono/stereo selection switch. The cellphone/music interface automatically attenuates when ATC calls or when the intercom is activated. Priced at $299, your customized headset should arrive in about two weeks. The company expects to introduce a digital ANR version in January 2008. Beyerdynamic, www.beyerdynamic.com, 631/293-3200.

FliteLite OEMd for Avcomm Headsets

Airshow coverage sponsor:

Introduced during AirVenture 2006, this nifty LED lighting system mounts on any headset boom for instant cockpit lighting, even during a total electrical failure. This civilian version of the military system is activated by touching your lips to the unit. Avcomm Communications now installs the FliteLite unit on its headsets at the factory, eliminating the need for batteries by running the system off ships power. Electrical failure? No worries: There’s 30 minutes of backup power in the system to get you on the ground safely. At this writing, the AC-910FL sells for about $320, and the AC-747FL goes for $312; they’re available from Avcomm authorized dealers and the company’s web site. FliteLite, www.flitelite.com, 877/579-8853; Avcomm, www.avcomm.com, 800/845-7541.

-Cory Emberson

Lindstrom Lauds…

Aspen Avionics Evolution Flight Displays

Love the glass cockpit, but hate the high price? The Evolution Flight
Display (EFD) from Aspen Avionics might be the perfect solution. Designed to radically enhance the information available from the panel space previously occupied by the mechanical attitude indicator and directional gyro,
the EFD1000 Pilot, Pro and ATP Primary Flight Displays feature the latest in digital electronics and crisp, flat-panel LCD technology to add modern EFIS capability to older certified (or Experimental) aircraft.

All Aspen EFD1000 models include internal back-up battery and emergency GPS, and are designed as the starting point for creating a capable glass cockpit. When combined with additional Aspen EFD 500 or 1000 multi-function displays (scheduled for release in 2008), these vertically oriented displays rival big-buck MFD instrumentation for significantly less expense.

The differences between the Aspen EFD and MFD models are primarily software based. Starting at $5995 for the EFD1000 Pilot PFD, and $4995 for the EFD500 MFD, the Aspen line of Evolution Flight Displays allows
aircraft owners to gradually ease into glass cockpit capability at mechanical gyro prices. Aspen Avionics,
www.aspenavionics.com, 505/856-5034.

R.C. Allen RCA 2600 Digital Attitude Indicator

Kelly Manufacturing Company has been manufacturing the R.C. Allen line of mechanical gyros and other instruments for years, so it was a bit of a surprise to see company representatives flashing a new all-digital attitude indicator prototype at AirVenture 2007. Although it wasn’t yet in production, the new RCA 2600 features a bright, crisp LCD display that also includes heading information. Designed as a direct replacement for traditional mechanical attitude indicators, the digital version makes instrument lag, slow or no erection, or performance degradation a thing of the past. Look for the RCA 2600 to first be released in an “uncertified” version for use in Experimental aircraft late in 2007. The retail price has yet to be determined as of this writing, but it will be “competitive” according to the company. Kelly Manufacturing, www.kellymfg.com, 316/265-6687.

-Rick Lindstrom

Higdons High Fives

ARINC eFlyBook EFB

For many pilots, either the size, weight, operating limitations or, bank account work against their desires to shed paper charts and plates and go all electronic-electronic flight bag, that is. The eFlyBook comes closer to a sane price than anything seen of comparable size or capabilities. The eFlyBook uses a 4.8-inch by 6.4-inch monochrome screen in a case that measures 6.1 inches wide by 8.5 inches tall and a mere 0.6 inches thick.

It weighs 13.8 ounces, and its integral battery offers 15 hours or so of use-plus a capability to connect to external power. The touchscreen also recognizes clean block writing, so you can enter an airport designator, hit the proper icon and quickly see a display of the airport in question. The company promises full-size charts, enroute VFR and IFR, and IFR approach plates late in 2007. With a GPS module running through a Bluetooth connection, the eFlyBook will even show your aircraft location on any given chart or plate display-adding to its utility. Available through a variety of aviation supplies outlets, the eFlyBook “electronic paper display” typically goes for about $1500 to $1600, including the first years updates.

ARINC, www.eflybook.com. A list of retailers can be found on the web site.

AeroMedix Air-Supported Tent

Sometimes a trip demands a tent for accommodation at your destination. Just ask any of the tens of thousands who camp each year at Sun n Fun or AirVenture. And carrying survival gear is often a must to be prepared in the trip environment. Unfortunately, tent poles and aircraft luggage spaces don’t always match up.

The NEMO Morpho inflatable tent, one of the newest gadgets from AeroMedix, all but eliminates both bulk and weight considerations when making a decision about packing a tent.

Weighing a mere 4.8 pounds, the NEMO provides 40 square feet of protected space; a vestibule adds another 14 square feet to the covered space. And a supplied foot pump makes blowing up the inflatable supports a snap in 45 seconds, the company says.

The price is listed as $395 on the AeroMedix web site, www.aero
medix.com
, 888/362-7123, where you can learn more.

AeroLEDs AeroSUN Landing Lights

Want a landing light thats brighter than halogen but lasts longer-without spending nearly four digits per light?

AeroLEDs AeroSUN landing lights employ eight high-intensity LEDs driven by solid-state circuitry that needs only 20% to 50% of the electricity used by traditional bulbs, and they still emit significantly more light.

Installed in pairs on the wingtips, the AeroSUN units can even be set to alternately flash for extra recognition help.

An overwhelming response to the product after its introduction at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007 prompted AeroLEDs to cut prices to $350 for a single unit or $650 per pair, down $100 and $200, respectively. While they’re still pricey compared to conventional solutions, AeroSUN is rated to last 50,000 hours, according to the company, so you should never need to replace one. AeroLEDs, www.aeroleds.com, 208/867-1319.

-Dave Higdon 

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