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