This Year's Aero-Gadget Crop Was Impressive -- Especially In
Terms Of E-Media and Portable Devices
Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Gadget Hound, Jim
Aero-Note: SORRY to keep dragging
this process out... but for reasons that will become evident
shortly, these are BUSY days at ANN. Still; I wanted to finish
these before the end of January and I'm nearly there. Our TOP
Gadget Of The Year will be announced later this week. In the
meantime, wait til you see what we've been up to... -- Jim
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. 2010, as usual, saw a spate of new
products, programs and 'gadgets' designed to separate a pilot from
his flying dollar... fortunately, the vast majority of them are
quite worthy of foregoing a few (or more) $500 hamburgers.
In fact, for 2010 (despite the worst damage that the economic
malaise could do) we really had to struggle with the list in order
to pare it down to a manageable assembly and if we hadn't, we'd
have easily had to increase the size of our annual 'Best Of' list
to several dozen, or so, to accommodate them all.
From established products that continue to impress, to new and
exciting developments across the range of general aviation... here,
to our eyes, are some of the most worthy 'gadgets', products and
programs of 2010.
Furthering The 'Aero-Info' Age of Aviation
ANN has had an amazing year discovering and operating some
amazing new technologies that raise the level of aero-portable
device capability to levels heretofore unimaginable for the general
aviation world. Five more products knocked our socks off in
2010 and therefore DESERVE and EARN their place in the second (and
final) batch of the TOP TEN Aero-Gadgets/Products of the
Before we name the best of the best, let me offer a continuing
but intriguing insight into most of these products and the
companies behind them. Most of our favorites are NOT not huge
companies with big budgets and unlimited resources… and in
nearly every case, they are competing with mammoth businesses with
lots of bucks and incredible R&D budgets… which means
that most of these products should never have seen the light of
day… unless you look at the fact that innovation and quality
are still enough, in this value-conscious market to allow David to
keep Goliath at bay… and I find that both heartening and a
positive sign for the future of GA.
The Apple iPad
It was the tablet that roared... the first truly portable,
go-anywhere tablet that did almost everything so well that everyone
had to have one... especially if you were an aviation fanatic.
While the current generation of the device has a few shortcomings
in terms of its ability to deal with heat and higher altitudes...
to most of aviation, the iPad is the wunder-gadget... and has
allowed a number of new and old companies to design new products or
adapt elder ones for use on what has become THE portable computing
device for aviation.
The device has spawned a whole new cottage industry for aviation
'apps' and software... which has given aviation a whole new set of
utilities to make our lives easier and safer. Everywhere we look,
in the aero-world, someone has come up with an app that allows one
to more easily deal with all manner of tasks... whether it be
flight-planning (so long as FlightPrep doesn't patent THAT, too),
weight and balance, logbooks, all kinds of flying manuals and
POH's, aero-games, and darned if the ANN site doesn't look
REALLY nice on the critter (even though Apple doesn't like
The next iPad is reportedly right around the corner and if
that's true, we hope that Uncle Steve (Jobs) will address the
panel glare issue (the device desperately needs a matte screen
option), ameliorates the heat and altitude limitations.
Several of us at ANN has iPads... and we love the damned
things... they have helped us enjoy the aviation business all the
more and made our flying lives a fair amount easier... we hope the
next-generation iPad does even better.
It has become very nearly the Swiss Army knife of aviation
flight planning software... and in a market that has some
exceedingly talented competition (some of which are breathing down
their necks)... but ForeFlight just plain wows us -- on the iPhone
or the iPad.
Founded in 2007, ForeFlight has built a helluva rep for building
Intelligent apps for pilots that run on iPad, iPhone, and
Google’s Android operating systems. ForeFlight tells ANN that
their apps are used by thousands of pilots worldwide to
efficiently gather the critical information they need to assess
flight conditions, plan flights, obtain pre-flight weather
briefings, and file flight plans with aviation authorities.
ForeFlight Mobile HD, the latest evolution of ForeFlight Mobile,
was reportedly redesigned from the ground up to take advantage of
the iPad’s large, brilliant, high-resolution display.
Innovative features include 10 different weather Slip Maps that
allow visualization of radar, satellite, flight rules, temperature,
dew-point, lightning, and other important pre-flight weather
information; proprietary plate viewing technology that presents
instrument procedures quickly and crisply, zoomed in or in
full-screen mode; touch-based flight planning that allows pilots to
quickly construct simple or complex flight plans with their
fingertips; and a download manager that makes selecting and
managing chart and plate data downloads straightforward and
Most of all... it just works... well, fast and as promised. In
as competitive an industry as aviation apps and software has
become, and as good as the competitive products are, ForeFlight,
for the moment, is pretty much at the top of the game. We have
found the graphics protocols to be well-designed, the screen
redraws surprisingly fast, and the overall interface to work
obediently and fairly simply.
Recent upgrades in the mapping protocols and the addition of
fuel pricing data are particularly welcome additions to a very
talented bag of tricks and the reason that ForeFlight is on MY iPad
as we write this. Most important, this is a company that does NOT
stand still... and we have found recent upgrades to be intuitive,
inspired and well-targeted to be of great use to the hard-flying GA
ForeFlight is very highly recommended by ANN.
iPad x Rod Machado = iRod
Rod Machado gets 'it.' Rod understands the future of portable
media is at hand and that good solid info, available in electronic
form, has a bright future... hence the recent availability of
Machado's outstanding aviation tomes for the iPad.
Incredibly colorful and attractive on the high-resolution iPad
screen, Rod does a few things right, right from the start. Each
book is updated any time Rod makes changes, eliminating the
need to purchase a new book every year to keep up with major
changes in aviation. And Rod notes that, "Every word and
illustration is there, for your reading and viewing pleasure."
Each book includes a detailed and easily referenced table
of contents that provides direct access to any topic, and there is
a comprehensive search feature that provides instant reference to
specific words or phrases along with the page numbers, title and
subchapter where those references are located. The user
can bookmark any page for reference, too. Machado notes that
one can use the full power of the iPad to 'read a full page at a
time in portrait mode, or go to landscape mode for a larger view of
a little less territory. Turn the page with at the flip of a
finger, just as you do with a paper book, and enlarge any spot with
the pinch gesture.'
Best of all, any iPad/iPhone compatible book purchase means just
that... that you can read it on BOTH your iPad and iPhone. For
those without an iPad (you know you want one, right?), you can read
the book on the iPhone.
We've had copies of a number of Rod's books for our iPad and
iPhone for a number of months and have been very impressed with the
interface and ease of use. The utility of this mode of book access
is simply outstanding and a fitting product to be part of the
Best of Gadget Patrol 2010.
Professional Pilot Magazine
I have precious little time for outside reading these days --
and even less for conventional print publications... most of whom
are showing their age and wear in unflattering ways. BUT... good
content is good content, whether is comes courtesy of your local
forest or via those new-fangled electrons.
This is particularly true of the aviation industry where few
mags were worth reading even when magazines were still in vogue...
and very true now as what's left of the aero-pubs start sliding
slowly into obsolescence. One mag, though, is a must read each and
every month it shows up in my mail box... and it
has always been informative, well-written, and engaging.
I speak of Professional Pilot magazine... an amazing product of
Murray and Marcia Eleni Smith, that does what so little print pubs
do these days. It's relevant, interesting, and VERY well written
(especially once they got a little bit more discriminating with
For those of us who are looking to keep our eyes on the pulse of
the business aviation community, Pro Pilot covers that end of the
biz comprehensively and with a bit of class, to boot. Their
annual industry evaluations have been copied by nearly every
other business pub so far, but none have earned the cache that Pro
Pilot has... nor has any other award/eval program built up
Best of all, though, the publication has guts... often taking on
some topics you would not expect to find in the other more staid
pubs -- and is often written with the kind of insight that doesn't
come easily -- from a crew that has been a part of BizAv for a
great number of years (major shout-out to Jack Sykes... who is a
constant pleasure to work with at various aero-events). Most of
all, though, the pub is just plane good reading... and if you
ever see me reading a conventional print pub ever again, I'll
give you long odds that its Pro Pilot. It's that good.
Kneeboard Pro C
Are you as scared of trashing your iPad as I am? And... are you
finding it as hard to keep it placed properly in your cockpit
as I am? If so, I have found THE solution.
MyGoFlight's iPad Kneeboard Pro may be the ultimate cockpit
accessory for those of you who must fly with your iPad at the
ready. The company notes that the case was designed to allow a
pilot to hold the iPad secure on your knee and lap.
Designed to accommodate a number of preferences,
the case allows one to position the
iPad for both right and left hand use and can
be attached to the right or left leg (just like a
traditional kneeboard), and can also be used as a small desk
on your lap. A strap secures the works to your leg to keep
everything in place. An attached clipboard offers additional
utility and a shock-absorbed carrying case (appears to have a
neoprene-like interior) protects the iPad even further during
Available in silver or black, the case has room for an
iPad power supply and other accessories and the entire MyGoFlight
iPad Kneeboard Pro C bundle is priced at $209... though less deluxe
versions are available at lesser cost. The quality of construction
is quite good, it sure seems durable, and in the cockpit, it works
like a charm. If you use an iPad in the cockpit, don't leave the
aerodrome without the MyGoFlight Kneeboard Pro C