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Wed, Jan 24, 2007

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

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 third group of four out of our list of the 12 most worthy 'gadgets' and programs of 2006.

 

Microsoft Flight Simulator X

"It's as Real as it Gets" is Microsoft's tagline for its newest desktop flying program, Microsoft Flight Simulator X... and that phrase is incredibly apt (or "real", if you prefer... grin).

The culmination of nearly 25 years of the Flight Simulator franchise, the tenth version of the landmark program isn't as much a revelation as FS9 was over previous versions... but where it far surpasses its predecessor is in its ability to draw 'gamers' from other genres into the world of flight.

From dropping sandbags on targets from an AirCreation Trike, to island hopping around the Caribbean in a CRJ700 or 737-800 (or, if you lean less towards Boeing... and more towards Buffett, Jimmy... a Grumman Goose) Flight Simulator X offers virtual pilots a series of well-defined missions to complete. Have you ever wanted to fly a deHavilland Beaver around Alaska? Participate in a relief flight around an African volcano in a tired DC-3? How about competing in a Red Bull Challenge Air Race? With FSX, you can... and more.

Of course, if you prefer to chart your own course... the Free Flight option still allows you to fly anywhere in the world, from your hometown airport to the most exotic places you’ve ever dreamed of.

As you would expect, graphics are significantly improved over FS9. One doesn't recognize how much we were missing in the older version, until you see a side-by-side comparison (available on Microsoft's website). Much more detailed landscapes, realistic ground vehicles, terminal jetways, and even livestock are visible in FSX. Furthermore, the somewhat robotic ATC voices in FS9 are replaced by more real-life-sounding characters... both in the cockpit, and in the tower (let's face it... FS9 made even Rod Machado sound a tad stilted, and that's hard to do.)

We're talking full-immersion in Flight Simulator X, as much as is possible without having an actual engine driving you forward. Connect with other FSX gamers around the world, and form your own airline... or, your own aerobatic team.

With nine new aircraft -- including the aforementioned Goose, Beaver, and CRJ, as well as a Maule and Airbus A321 -- FSX offers gamers and simmers of all ages and skill levels the opportunity to feel firsthand what it’s like to be an aviator traveling the globe solo... or online with others.

It's the next best thing to being in the cockpit of your own plane... and will make those solid-IFR days that keep you away from the airport just a bit more bearable.

FMI: www.microsoft.com/games/flightsimulatorx/

 

Pratt & Whitney-Canada PW600 Engine Family

First introduced in the Eclipse 500 -- and initially regarded as something of a last-ditch effort following that planemaker's falling-out with Williams -- the original Pratt & Whitney-Canada PW610F turbofan has grown into an entire family of light-jet aircraft engines, that are gaining ground throughout the marketplace in a variety of applications.

P&WC developed the PW600 engine family to offer a significant step change in performance, cost and durability for the very light jet (VLJ) market, which promises to make jet ownership accessible to an entirely new category of customers.

Amazingly simple to operate -- and nearly whisper-quiet to those on the ground, and in the cabin -- the PW610F powering the Eclipse 500 was only the first in the company's PW600 engine family. With thrust ratings between 900-3000 lbs, the PW600 range offers the most modern technology available in turbofan propulsion, with impressive efficiency and almost unparalleled ease of operation.

Proof of P&WC's accomplishment lies in the selection of the 1,350-pound-thrust PW615F engine by Cessna, to power its Citation Mustang light jet. Embraer has selected the PW617F, flat-rated at 1,650-lbs takeoff thrust, to power its upcoming Phenom 100 VLJ.

All three powerplants sport dual-channel FADEC -- have we mentioned how simple these things are to fly? -- and have proven the wisdom of the engine manufacturer's "scalable" philosophy in developing an entire family of turbofans... for what was an unknown, unproven market just a few short years ago.

ANN's flight time in front of a pair of (then) experimental PW610Fs were some of the most trouble-free and simplest hours we've spent with turbine powerplants... and on top of that, a REALLY smooth experience. The PW600 family is going to have a profound effect on the aviation world. We're sure there are many sighs of relief in Montreal.

FMI: www.pwc.ca

 

S-Tec/Avidyne Alliant King Air Retrofit Program

Avidyne and S-Tec chose NBAA 2006 to introduce their new Alliant Integrated Flight Deck for the Beechcraft King Air 200 family of twin-engine turboprop aircraft. Featuring the first implementations of Avidyne's Envision™ series of retrofit integrated flight deck products, along with and S-Tec's IntelliFlight™ 2100 Digital Flight Control System, the Alliant Integrated Flight Deck enables King Air 200 owners to update their aircraft with state-of-the-art situational awareness and safety tools at a fraction of the cost of a new aircraft.

The Alliant Integrated Flight Deck package includes dual-redundant Avidyne EXP5000 10.4" primary flight displays (PFDs), an Avidyne EX500 multi-function display (MFD), the S-TEC IntelliFlight 2100 digital autopilot, Mid-Continent two-inch standby instruments, and interfaces to most popular traffic, terrain, lightning, radar and radar altimeter systems.

In addition, the Alliant package comes standard with Avidyne's exclusive CMax electronic charts and MultiLink support. CMax electronic charts display Jeppesen's approach charts and airport diagrams on the EX500 MFD. MultiLink supports the display of XM WX Satellite Weather and provides Avidyne's unique FlightCenter text messaging and flight tracking services.

Each Alliant 10.4-inch PFD is integrated with its own independent ADAHRS providing full redundancy as well as much higher reliability than traditional mechanical gyros. Either ADAHRS may be selected for display in reversionary operations.

The integrated air data computer provides continuous display of instantaneous winds aloft, taking the guesswork out of finding the right altitude or selecting the best wind correction angle when entering the pattern or flying an approach. Trend indicators provide six-second trend data for airspeed, altitude and heading, allowing precise control with reduced workload when changing or maintaining an airspeed or altitude.

The EX500 Multi-Function Display (MFD) features a 5.5-inch diagonal, high-resolution moving map display that can show flight plan information and Avidyne's exclusive two-way MultiLink™ datalink weather service.

Options include interfaces to EGPWS/TAWS display, lightning and traffic systems and 19 different airborne weather radar systems... including Bendix King and Collins radars commonly installed on King Air 200 aircraft.

Last fall, ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell noted that "NBAA 2006 got off to a great start as (we) sampled the latest wares from Avidyne and S-Tec with (our) usual disruptive aplomb... with an abrupt engine cut, in full-on approach mode, while shooting the localizer at Lakeland, FL... and letting a new flight deck from Avidyne and S-Tec do the chores with very little disruption and NO pilot intervention. Despite the abrupt cut, the King Air flew like a champ... with a less than 3 degree yaw deviation, excellent pitch profile adherence and very simple operating chores throughout the exercise... making this first-out-of-the-gate 21st century cockpit for elder King Airs the early leader in a burgeoning new retrofit market for those birds too old to have benefitted from the recent revolution in glass cockpits and digital autopilot technology -- and oh yeah, it's available RIGHT NOW."

Alliant is the first "large glass" integrated flight deck available for installation in King Air aircraft... bringing older versions of the world's most popular corporate turboprop aircraft firmly into the 21st century.

FMI: www.alliantkingair.com, www.s-tec.com, www.avidyne.com

Coming Thursday... The Final Three Selections For ANN's Best Programs And Gadgets Of 2006

FMI: Comments?

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