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The Best Of Gadget Patrol 2010 -- Part 2

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 Campbell

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 Campbell-ANN E-I-C

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 Year.

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 Flash). 

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 reliable.

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 pilot.

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 their free-lancers).  

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 equivalent credibility.

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.



MyGoFlight's iPad 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 transport.

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



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