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Tue, Jan 23, 2007

The Aero-Dozen: Best Gadgets And Programs Of 2006, Part Two

ANN's Top 10 (OK, 12) Products/Programs Of 2006

When it comes to the people, planes and products of the aviation business, ANN firmly believes there is no such thing as an embarrassment of riches. 2006 saw a spate of new programs and 'gadgets' designed to separate a pilot from his flying dollar... fortunately, the vast majority of them are quite worthy of foregoing the occasional $200 hamburger or two.

In fact, for 2006 we've had to increase the size of our annual 'Best Of' list to an even dozen to accomodate them all.

From established products that continue to impress, to new and exciting developments across the range of general aviation... here, to our eyes, is the second group of three out of our list of the 12 most worthy 'gadgets' and programs of 2006.

  • Read Part One Here

Garmin 496 Portable GPS/Moving Map

Just when we thought it couldn't get any better (would YOU want the daunting responsibility of improving on the highly capable Garmin 396? Didn't think so...) Garmin unveiled its GPSMAP 496 at Oshkosh.

As close to a "must... have... now..." device as you'll ever see, the GPS496 is a full-color, portable aviation device that expands on the 396's features by incorporating new SafeTaxi airport diagrams, as well as Smart Airspace, AOPA's Airport Directory data, enhanced high-resolution terrain database, aviation database with private airports and heliports, accelerated GPS update rate, and pre-loaded automotive maps of North America or Europe.

These features are in addition to the real-time XM WX Satellite Weather introduced on the 396, that puts weather information where it's needed most -- in the cockpit, at the pilot's fingertips. Oh, and it'll play XM satellite radio, to boot.

The Garmin SafeTaxi airport diagrams help pilots navigate unfamiliar airports with confidence. The GPS496 sports over 650 US airport diagrams from the factory, along with charts identifying runways, taxiways, and hangars, as well as the aircraft's exact location on the field.

When in the air, the new Smart Airspace feature makes it easier than ever to identify what airspace lies ahead. Smart Airspace automatically highlights airspace close to the pilot's current altitude and de-emphasizes airspace away from the current altitude, which gives pilots increased situational awareness.

Inclusion of AOPA's Airport Directory data gives the user access to information for over 5,300 public-use airports and more than 7,000 FBOs. In addition, Garmin's version of the Airport Directory highlights airports where pilots can save on fuel by using self-service fueling locations.

What's more, like other Garmin portable GPS units the pilot can transfer the 496 to an automobile, as a premium in-car navigation system with automatic route calculation to any destination and turn-by-turn voice-prompted directions along the way. And when traveling by boat, the 496 is compatible with Garmin's new BlueChart g2 technology -- which turns the unit into a color chartplotter that displays integrated marine maps with shaded depth contours, port plans, and other useful items.

With a street price around $2,795 -- all this capability doesn't come cheap, after all -- the GPS496 comes the closest yet to the concept of the ubiquitous tricorder from "Star Trek"... all the info you need, tailored for when you need it, all in a amazingly compact handheld-or-panel-mounted device.


Hartzell ASC-II Composite Propeller

For all the attention given to flashier developments in general aviation -- turbocharged engines, ritzy glass panels, and the like -- it's easy to overlook the importance of one component the majority of us couldn't fly without... the propeller! (Snooty turbine owners, move on to the next selection -- grin.) 2006 saw the evolution of propeller technology, with Hartzell's ASC-II composite light aircraft propeller.

Hartzell's "Second Generation" Advanced Structural Composite prop is a breathtaking step forward for light aircraft prop design and engineering. ASC-II sports a composite monocoque structure composed of carbon/Kevlar laminate, integrated into a co-molded stainless steel shank. The outboard half of the leading edge is protected with a co-molded electroformed nickel erosion shield, and aluminum mesh is embedded into the laminate for lightning protection.

Hartzell says the new design offers numerous benefits to aircraft owners, including a 30% weight reduction per blade over comparable metal blades. Those composite blades also provide dramatic reductions in inertia, which is VERY important for aerobatic aircraft to minimize the gyroscopic effects of the propeller. Often, it also means lower vibration and smoother operation for GA aircraft.

The company also states when it is properly maintained, the Hartzell ASC-II blade will never require replacement... because, unlike a metal blade, its surface can be restored.

A typical bane of composite propellers is they can't quite match the performance of metal blades, since metal blades can be produced with the thin airfoil sections needed for maximum performance. However, Hartzell says the use of carbon, in combination with Hartzell's specialized manufacturing process, yields a strong, yet thin, monocoque structure that permits the use of thinner airfoil sections at the blade tips and performance comparable to metal.

As further proof of that claim, Hartzell's ASC-II is standard equipment on the new Cirrus SR22 Turbo.


Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook

There is a revolution sweeping through general aviation. Two years ago, few aircraft shipped with glass cockpits. Now, nearly 100% of all new GA aircraft ship with glass cockpits, many of them the Garmin G1000. Whether you’re an owner, potential owner, or renter (more than 150 locations rent G1000-equipped aircraft), you’ll want to become expert at flying these exciting new aircraft and benefit from their enhanced safety.

Until now, there’s been no single source of information that educates pilots about all of the features and benefits of flying the G1000, and how features vary between aircraft manufacturers. Whether you fly Beechcraft, Cessna, Columbia, Diamond, Mooney or Tiger aircraft, you’ll learn which G1000 features apply to your particular aircraft.

Max Trescott, a Master CFI who’s trained and taught extensively in glass cockpit aircraft, takes a narrative approach to explaining the G1000 in ways that both beginners and experts can understand. In "Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook," the author not only explains every system feature, but also provides information on when and why you’d use a particular function are also included. The book is loaded with illustrations and “tips” gleaned from leading glass cockpit instructors around the country.

Instrument pilots will find the book valuable, since it explains how to fly instrument approaches with the G1000, and integrates the proper use of an autopilot throughout the approach. Data link weather and Stormscopes® are popular G1000 option, and the book details how the weather data is gathered and delivered to the plane, so that you’ll understand the limitations and proper use of the information.

The book is $34.95, soft cover, 244 pages, 40 in color, and illustrated with more than 275 computer screen shots and photographs, glossary and index. If you prefer your information in the digital format, Trescott also offers a two-disc CD-ROM for $99.95. Either way... this should be required reading for all G1000-jockeys out there.


Coming Wednesday... The Next Three Selections For ANN's Best Programs And Gadgets Of 2006

FMI: Comments?


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