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Five Products Worth Taking Home from AOPA Summit

By Dave Higdon, for e-Hotline

Yellow sub

November 12, 2009 — In a song recorded by The Beatles more than 40 years ago, the characters “all lived in a Yellow Submarine,” but at the Aviation Summit celebrating 70 years of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, it was actually possible to take one home.

The $2 million, two-seat, 1,000-foot-down-capable sub stood out as one of the more unusual products offered at AOPA Summit, even if it does share the three-dimensional undersea maneuvering capabilities pilots love to explore in the sky.

While the Triton Submarines LLC offering stood out as the most unusual item seen at AOPA Summit, here are the five pure-pilot-and-airplane products that tempted my buying urges.


#1: Emerging Lifesaving Technologies’ 406 MHz GPS-enabled ELT

During years of aircraft ownership, no upgrade or tool found easier acceptance than gear designed to make the aircraft or flying safer. The demise of 121.5 MHz SARSAT monitoring back in February elevated the new 406 MHz GPS-reporting ELTs to the top of my should-get list. But the high prices of these state-of-the-art ELT replacements have been sticking points.

In fact, according to folks at the Aircraft Electronics Association, the cost of 406 MHz ELTs has been a leading complaint they’ve heard from consumers - including last week at AOPA Summit.

Enter new-entrant Emerging Lifesaving Technologies, which introduced its first product at the Summit - its 406 MHz, GPS self-contained ELT - at a suggested retail price slightly under $1,500 (with street price considerably lower).

The benefits of GPS enabling are one of those things owners hope they’ll never need - but will welcome if needed. GPS position input from the ELT gives rescuers a search area narrowed down to about the size of a football stadium, far better than the 10-mile square search target typical of the old 121.5 ELTs, or a square-mile for a non-GPS-informed 406 MHz unit.

Wholly self-contained, Emerging Lifesaving Technologies’ product offers a five-year battery life with replacements costing approximately $200 - or about $40 per year and well below the typical costs of replacing the battery of an older proprietary ELT.

Learn more about the products of this Texas-based firm at www.elt406.net.

Kannad ELT

Long-time ELT supplier Kannad also showed off its small, new 406-AF Compact, an ELT without GPS enabling for under $1,000.

Such 406 MHz units allow the satellites to narrow a signal’s location to within about a square mile, as noted and acknowledged by the company - still quite good. Battery life is six years on this unit - and also a relative bargain.

Its lightweight and small footprint make it a good candidate for many an installation where space is at a premium. Learn more at www.kannad.com.


#2: StartPac’s Lithium Ion-battery jumpstart power
Here’s a product whose time has arrived for all those pilots with frequent master-switch mastery issues - they forget to turn it off - or who live in areas where the climate produces battery-draining outside air temperatures: the StartPac.

All of StartPac’s products benefit from their lithium-ion technology which, pound for pound, provides far more cranking power in a much lighter package - and without the temperature sensitivity that can plague lead-acid batteries.

For barely more than $400, the company offers a lightweight, 24-volt unit already fitted with the standard-style Cessna accessory-power plug and an integral charger you keep plugged in when the unit is not needed. The unit weighs but a few pounds and can hold a charge long enough to carry on most trips.

And according to the company’s Eve Storm, VP of operations, the company can also provide a 12-volt unit based on the 24-volt models.
Heavier, 28-volt units for starting small and medium turbine engines weigh in at 30 pounds, while a 46-pound model is designed to start any electrically started turbine powerplant.

The company offers more information at www.startpac.com.


#3: An EFB…take your choice
Voyager Flight Software offered a truly different Electronic Flight Bag option in the form of its Voyager software loaded on a sturdy looking 2goPC - complete with a reversible touch-screen and a keyboard that hides away when the touch screen is flipped for EFB use.

With a screen large enough to show a full approach plate, a georeferencing GPS engine/software combination, and sharp, vivid color, this product offers a little of the best of two worlds: the EFB need and a writing/web-surfing/e-mailing notebook computer - and for about $1,100.

Honeywell’s AV8OR Ace debuted at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2009 and was a significant point of interest at AOPA Summit, in part due to its excellent street-navigation functionality and high-functionality GPS nav/EFB capabilities. And it can get satellite datalink weather as well, while offering terrain-alerting function through color-changing map features.

Two EFB solutions - good for all your VFR and IFR needs - in two different packages. Chose wisely.


#4: Shirt-pocket ADS-B Out Transmitter
OK, right up front it’s worth acknowledging that a lot of mystery and unknown remains about how equipment requirements, schedules and implementation timetables will work out for using the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

But despite those bits of mystery and imagination, the folks at the Mitre Corp. are working with the FAA and others to develop ADS-B out solutions suitable for some operators who even now may struggle to use or power a Mode C transponder.

Mitre's portable, shirt-pocket size ADS-B out transmitter can operate for many hours on its self-contained battery while, with its integral GPS engine, providing all the data needed for ADS-B-based ATC to work its magic.

No price yet; it’s not yet publicly available. But couldn’t help but think of those NORDO pilots and sailplane aviators for whom this little box would be a solution.

#5: Touch-screen Navigators


Launching its Aera line just ahead of AOPA Summit, Garmin garnered a lot of interest in its new touch-screen GPS navigators, just as Honeywell did a year ago with its first AV8OR and, this year, the AV8OR Ace EFB.

With features like weather datalink as an option, street-level navigation as a feature, and simple user interfaces, it’s no wonder that Garmin recently revealed development ongoing for its upcoming G3000 system, a panel-mounted follow-on to the G1000 - but with touch screens to operate and manage the hardware.

But in the interim, a pilot who wants or needs a solid-performing, color-screen GPS navigator with a host of innovative features and the ability to show weather, both the AV8OR and the Aera offer a lot to look at for prices comparable to units sold a decade ago.

One more, for the road…


It’s not something yet available – but according to the folks at Whelan it’s coming in about six months: a Whelan LED-based replacement for the much-distrusted GE4509 100-watt landing light bulb.

Similar in look to a special helicopter-application unit pictured here, the new Whelan unit will fit in the same four-inch mounting opening and wire up - though it likely will produce a wider, more color-correct beam of light than that yellow-toned illumination from the 4509.

Switching to all LEDs for all an aircraft’s external lighting needs - position, anti-collision, runway, landing, and taxi - is already well underway in both business-turbine and new-production aircraft, with retrofit units widely available for the lighter aircraft market.

With low current draw and life expectancies running in the 15,000-hour range and higher, it’s likely an aircraft owner would only handle the fixtures once.

And never replacing another bulb would be something many a pilot would support.

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