ANN's Top 10 Products/Programs Of 2005 (Part One)
When it comes to the people, planes and products of the aviation
business, ANN firmly believes that there is no such thing as an
embarrassment of riches -- though 2005 actually made us think
that dictum over a time or two. This was a good year for aviation
products and programs; one of the best we've seen. Here are ten
reasons why... the best ten, of 2005, in our humble
'Artful FLYING' by Michael Maya Charles
Man... I hate to do this... I mean, this is a book written by a
guy who works for one of those other internet aero-places (not that
any of them matter to ANN readers)... so it hurts us (big-time) to
say nice things about the guy -- but facts are facts and Michael
Maya Charles latest book, "Artful Flying" is a great read... and an
easy recommendation for a product of the year nod from ANN.
Artful FLYING claims to be the first aviation book to explore
the connection between the 'left-brained, logical world of flying
airplanes and the right-brained, esoteric world of art.'
A lofty claim... but we can't disagree. The book takes a fresh
approach to the subject matter, is a delight to read, never gets
dragged down by the necessary details, and is "artfully" written by
a guy who is very comfortable (and respectful) with the written
An active fly-writer (even if does write for the wrong folks...
Michael, we gotta talk), Charles is a full-time aviator and active
GA flier who boasts a 30+ year legacy in the aero-biz -- a guy
who's been there and done that -- sometimes the hard way.
Damn... I would so love to have hated this book... but I can't.
It's a heckuva good read and a MUST for every aviator's bookshelf.
"Artful FLYING" is the best aviation book we read in 2005... bar
none. It REALLY hurts to admit that--especially to some guy from
AvDweeb. Darn it.
(Note to Michael... Please note that I did NOT write a new book
in 2005, otherwise I would have kicked your aero-literary
keister... honest -- grin -- Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C).
Artful FLYING (ISBN 0-9768274-0-9) is a 6x9 Hardcover book of
332 pages and also offers a Foreword by Rod Machado (another great
guy who writes for all the wrong people). The book is $34.95.
That's a steal.
Aspen Avionics AT300
Its one thing to do something right... its something else to do
MANY things right. The AT300 is a multi-talented gauge that offers
a lot for a fairly reasonable price.
The AT300 is certified as both a TSO C8d Vertical Speed
Indicator and as a TSO C113 Multipurpose Electronic Display. This
dual certification allows the product to directly replace the elder
(and butt-ugly) mechanical VSIs that are found in virtually all
The recently certified AT300 is reportedly the only color moving
map display available in the market that can be directly installed
in standard 3 inch instrument hole. This allows the AT300 to show
valuable situational awareness information in the pilot's primary
instrument scan, and to do so without the expense or installation
complexity associated with traditional Electronic Flight
Information Systems (EFIS) or Electronic Horizontal Situation
Indicators (EHSI). Because installation of the AT300 requires no
panel modifications or equipment relocation, the unit can be
installed in virtually any aircraft regardless of the available
The AT300 moving map display shows the pilot current and next
navigation leg information overlaid on a high-resolution terrain
and obstacle map. Terrain and obstacle data is color-coded based
upon its vertical separation from the aircraft's current altitude
(similar to a TAWS display), providing the pilot an intuitive and
easy to understand display to help improve their awareness of
potential hazards along the current flight route. The AT300 also
provides the pilot with a full time display of the aircraft's
height above ground - information which has not previously been
readily available in most light aircraft. The AT300 can also be
configured by the pilot to display either side profile terrain or a
data block showing the active waypoint identifier, desired track,
groundspeed, distance to go and estimated time enroute.
Its an amazing assemblage, in a small package... for less
than $4k. That's a quite deal in our book... and one reason to name
it as one of the year's best products.
Aloft Technologies Clarity Aloft Headset
Tired of having your cluttered cranium squeezed in the vice-like
grip of your average headset for hour after hour? Tired of pulling
the occasional few Gs and trying not to get whiplash from that
heavy headset that's weighing down what's left of your brainbucket?
Clarity Aloft may be your answer... all miniscule 1.5 ounces of
Intro'd and promoted as the world’s most comfortable,
technologically advanced, lightweight aviation headset, this little
critter really does weigh only 1.5 ounces -- and AT wasn't kidding.
Put it on, do your thing, and the bloody thing just flat
disappears... its simply TOO Light and TOO comfy to be noticed
after a few moments (until you disembark and come to the edge of
the cables -- you DON"T want to know how I know that)... especially
when doing its job -- which it does flawlessly.
Merging technologies from the fields of hearing science,
aviation communications, and performance audio into the Clarity
Aloft Headset, this device uses spongy self-molding ear tips to
achieve superior sound clarity and comfort, while providing a
reported 35-45 decibels of passive noise reduction (no... there's
no ANR... nor have we found much of a need for it -- those ear
seals do their thing rather nicely).
On the other side of the headset, Aloft Technologies uses a high
fidelity noise canceling Electret Condenser microphone that has
been specifically optimized for speech frequencies in extremely
high noise environments. Aloft's Bill Waterman says that stage
performers and musicians use this same microphone. In flights in
French Canadian airspace where intelligibility is a major factor, I
was told specifically that the mic on my demo unit was reading
"beautifully" by heavily accented controllers who got a kick out of
my occasional southern drawl (you can take the boy of
There's more to this device than I can relate in a few brief
paragraphs, but suffice it to say that we found this headset (what
there is of it... which ain't much), to be a high-quality offering
and the company behind it to be staffed by some really nice folks
who have been earning GREAT marks for customer service... add
it all up and the Clarity Aloft headset is a cinch for selection as
one of ANN's 2005 Products of the Year. Get one.
COPA, The Cirrus Owner's and Pilot's Association
The dictionary defines
"esprit de corps" as 'a common spirit of comradeship, enthusiasm,
and devotion to a cause among the members of a group.' What they
should do with that definition is to add some pictures
from a COPA Gathering.
THAT's "esprit de corps."
Titled as "a not-for-profit membership organization established
to educate, promote the safety of and support the owners and
pilots of certified aircraft manufactured by Cirrus Design
Corporation," COPA has built a model for Owner/Type Associations
that has become the focus for every other such organization in
all of aviation. The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association (COPA) is
a "not-for-profit membership organization established to educate,
promote the safety of and support the owners and pilots of
certified aircraft manufactured by Cirrus Design Corporation,
encourage ownership of these aircraft and provide social activities
for its members. Additionally, COPA will promote goodwill towards
the general aviation community."
The Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association is a fully
independent, membership supported organization that "receive(s) no
financial support from Cirrus Design Corp or any other aviation
That said, let me tell you what COPA really is... one of the
most valuable safety and educational programs that owners of the
Cirrus Design series of aircraft can engage in. Via a very active
series of chatboards, annual meetings, regional and international
classes, and countless safety, social and educational programs,
COPA has built an esprit de corps among CD flyers that has no equal
in GA (though a few others are starting to emulate the model...
GOOD for them).
They're active, they're friendly, they're hard-working, and they
seem to really care for each other as well as the bird that brings
them together. It's an amazing organization and definitely
qualifies as one of the Best Programs of 2005. We look forward to
seeing what they do in 2006.
Garmin GPSMAP 396
Of ALL Our selections, This is The Top Gadget Pick For
2005 -- Bar None
It's the portable GPS gadget that ate the piggy-banks of
thousands of aviators all over the world... the little wunderbox
that could "do it all" and was a runaway best-seller even before it
was officially announced last summer. EVERY self-respecting flyer
had to have one of these critters. If they could get one...
The GPSMAP 396 is more than just another portable GPS mapping
doo-dad with a color screen... its a full-blown weather
system -- equipped with XM WX Satellite Weather which adds
featuresets that include Next Generation Radar (NEXRAD), Aviation
Routine Weather Reports (METARs), Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts
(TAFs), Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), Lightning and Winds
Aloft, and several other important weather products to help pilots
make informed navigational decisions. The GPSMAP 396 also displays
Traffic Information Service (TIS) data when interfaced to the
GTX330, and can channel frequencies with the touch of a button when
interfaced to the SL30 nav/comm radio. The unit is also capable of
receiving XM Satellite Radio's 130-plus channels of music, sports,
news, talk, and entertainment programming.
Not only that, but the map display overlays all that XM WX data
directly over the Jeppesen and topographic map databases. In
terrain mode, the GPSMAP 396 offers inputs from built-in terrain,
obstacle and electronic flight databases to give pilots a vivid
depiction of proximity hazards that require their attention. All
this is customizable... allowing pilots to choose their own minimum
clearance limits to receive requested terrain cautions -- and
in a world where CFIT still kills WAY too many of our brothers and
sisters, this is worth the price of the device on its own.
The effect is amazing -- something of a mini-MFD... and for a
lot less money.
The gadget has a healthy street price of $2,495, though the
package includes a GXM 30 smart antenna, yoke mount,
cigarette-lighter adapter, AC adapter cable, USB-to-PC interface
cable, low-profile remote GPS antenna, carrying case, free Jeppesen
update certificate, Trip & Waypoint Manager software, owner's
manual and quick-reference guide. No, not cheap... but ounce for
ounce, this is most capable little aero-widget on the globe... and
our hands-down favorite as THE ANN Choice For Product of