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Sat, Dec 24, 2005

What's In Your Stocking?

Last-Minute Christmas Gifts For The Aero-News Type

If you're one of the majority of our readers that celebrate Christmas, you're probably hoping for an aviation-related gift. Here's what's on our wish list this Yuletide -- if you agree, you might want to forward this page to your own personal Santa (maybe with an item highlighted!)

And if you're one of our readers who doesn't celebrate Christmas, well, "Happy Holidays," then... "Feliz Kwanzaramadanadaduka," whatever. This is neat stuff anyway. So here's our gift ideas, from expensive to... actually, free.

Here's A Toy: Otto Skorzeny's Storch

Okay, it isn't really Otto's, but it looks just like the one the legendary German commando used to rescue Mussolini from Gran Sasso (OK, Mussolini was a crumb who fortunately wasn't saved for long, and Skorzeny was a Nazi... but they had good taste in planes). It's a Slepcev Storch, designed by Nestor Slepcev of Australia and it not only looks like its German forebear, it's capable of similar prodigies of slow flight and runway-economy. Slepcev has built versions of the Storch with kite-like stall speeds as low as 16 knots; a variety of aerodynamic tricks, including slats, large flaps, and drooping ailerons, help.

The airplane's experimental, so you can't make any money with it, but this particular example is powered by a turbo Rotax 914 and is no hangar queen: the previous owners have put 332 hours on it. We found it at Barnstormers.com and the owner would like $55,000 for it. You might not be able to fit it under the tree (and the only stocking this might fit into is Paul Bunyan's) but you can take off OVER the FAA's genetically-engineered 50-foot trees in an entertainingly short distance with this baby.

Normally, we wouldn't send you to a site that offers something we do (classifieds), but hey... in the spirit of "Miracle on 34th Street," Macy's offers Season's Greetings to Gimbel's.

Here's a Toy: Garmin GPSMap 396

Hognose has been wringing out a GPSMap 396 (www.garmin.com/products/gpsmap396/) in a variety of conveyances from a racing bicycle (he's still looking for his breath) to a Piper Warrior (you think Aero-News was going to spring for him to do this in a Cirrus, you think wrong). There are two more parts to the product test yet to see print, but he's willing to say that if somebody loves you enough to give you a $2,500 present, this is a good one. A Garmin rep told us that people are evidently doing that, because they're really happy with sales right now. Of course, you can make their Christmas happier by bumping up that sales number at any of the pilot stores on Earth or in cyberspace.

If you buy by December 31, you get a free auto kit, including a number of useful items. One warning: this is a deep and rich product, so don't expect to use it without putting in plenty of time learning it.

Here's a Toy: An iPod for the Aero-Cast

The iPod (www.apple.com/ipod/ipod.html) is a polarizing device. You love it or hate it. We love 'em here... and it's a great way to take the Aero-Cast on the road with you. You can plug it right into many current intercoms and listen to Pete Combs's mellifluous voice whenever Center isn't carping at you. Of course, you don't need an iPod to listen to the podcast, even if it does have "pod" in the name. You can download the desktop iTunes software for free for Mac or Windows (www.apple.com/itunes/), or select any podcast aggregator or player.

You can listen on any other .mp3 player, or on a computer, and if you're computer-challenged find a kid to put the 'casts on a CD for listening at home. A CD is also handy for listening in your car, if you don't happen to have a Ferrari with a built-in iPod interface.

(And yes, we hear your podcast feedback and you can expect improvements in 2006... just not in Pete's voice, cause that's already as good as it gete).

We like the iPod because it's easy to use. If fashion's a big deal to you, the beautiful outside case of the thing tends to get scratched up if you don't have some kind of case for it... we care about the sound and ease of use, not the look.

Feed Your Head: What About Training?

OK, we're biased. All of us at Aero-News enjoy training, and most of us have given it at one level or another. But you know, when things go dark all around you, and lawyers gather to pick over your bank accounts and bankers auction off your furniture (Excuse the melodrama: I just reread Dickens's Dombey and Son, in which the title character goes bankrupt, which was hard indeed in those days), they can't take knowledge out of your head or skill out of your fingertips.

Over the past year we've featured some good deals, like Field Morey's real-world instrument refresher courses (www.ifrwest.com), and the Daniel Webster College  online aviation MBA. There are enough other good learning opportunities out there that we could write about one every day. 

Maybe it's time to take that plunge and finally get your pilot's license. You can get a sport pilot license in as little as a week, if you're committed. Or you can commit to a college degree or a complete Part 141 training program. Or add a skill to your logbook: gliders, gyros, taildraggers -- it's all good.

For those of us who already have the virus, how about a little viral marketing? Give an introductory flight from Be A Pilot to someone who you think needs to be hooked, too... they've created a handy link where you can give the gift of flight.

The Gift Of Belonging

Let's face it, there's nothing like banding together with kindred souls. Becoming an aviator is a bit like joining an oppressed and despised minority group, and what's worse, is that your brothers and sisters are all around you but they're not visible. We don't have some kind of Mark of Orv that lets us spot one another in the shopping mall and give that kind of nod of recognition, you know, "The Man still keeping you down, brothers and sisters?"

But by joining the right group (or receiving a gift membership to the right group) you can focus on tribal pride.

Here are some organizations we at Aero-News are members of and think that you should consider:

  • AOPA - www.aopa.org - The pilots' lobby and fraternity.
  • EAA - www.eaa.org - If it flies and it isn't just like everything else, there's an EAA member involved. Why not you?
  • NAFI - www.nafinet.org - Flight Instructors of the World, Unite!
  • PRA - www.pra.org - the fractious, exciting world of amateur rotorcraft

For the airplane owner or owner-wannabee (two classes which, taken together, probably encompass most of our readers) what about a type club membership? There are very broad-based clubs and very narrow ones.

Many aviation related museums offer gift memberships, also. If there's a museum close to home, that might be the ideal last-minute gift.

Something to Hang On the Wall: B-17 Cockpit Poster

How many generations have hung a poster of a C-172 instrument panel from Sporty's up on a wall, or used it to practice checklists during primary flight training? I always love getting the latest Sporty's panel poster -- the last one was of a Nav III Skyhawk with the Garmin G1000 panel -- fortunately, with the instruments turned on. But now Sporty's has done something I'm kicking myself for not thinking of: they took a negative from the National Archives that was used in the B-17 flight manual, and blew it up into a two-foot by three-foot poster. It's arresting, wherever you hang it. It's only ten bucks, so even starving students can afford it if they just pirate ten songs instead of getting them legally through iTunes (can we say that?). It's item number P3421W for $9.95; $8.95 each if you buy three. There's also framing and matting available for an additional charge.

Something for Nothing: A Propwash Subscription

Finally, here's a gift you can give to the aviator or aviation buff that you know that's worth a lot, but doesn't cost a dime. Forward this story, or the Propwash, or use the handy button to send 'em the front page of today's Aero-News and suggest they sign up. Hey, we're offering 100% of your cash back if not satisfied!

FMI: Stay right here on www.aero-news.net!


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