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Wed, Dec 30, 2009

The Best Of Gadget Patrol 2009: PS Engineering's PMA8000B

This Year's Gadget Crop Was Amazing

Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Gadget Hound, Jim Campbell

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. 2009, 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 the occasional $500 hamburger or two.

In fact, for 2009 (even more so than last year) 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 2009.

ANN had the chance to really put some great gear to the test this year... some of it in the process of updating our much beloved Cirrus G3 Turbo. Over the course of that upgrade, we ran the gauntlet on seeking and eventually acquiring those things that we ultimately hoped would allow us to build the Perfect ANN Transport System. Based on good advice and solid research, our choices have all proven to be good ones... but a few have simply turned out to be amazing. A Case in Point...

PS Engineering's PMA8000B

Up against the Garmin juggernaut, it is impressive to note that a little company can still specialize in one thing, do it better than anyone, and keep mighty Goliath/Garmin at bay. Such a company is PS Engineering... the PMA 8000B recently installed in our SR22-G3's panel is not only the best/most easy-to-use audio panel we've ever owned, it has a bag of tricks that just won't quit... and the RECENT addition of MP3 capability means taking your tunes wherever you go. These folks are simply the best in the biz...

Pilots may upload files to the panel using a portable USB Thumb drive. Once the Thumb Drive is connected to the audio panel by the supplied USB cable, pressing the Function and Transfer Keys automatically starts the transfer process. The PMA8000B-MP3 provides audio annunciations to keep the pilot advised of the status and the completion of the transfer. Front panel buttons accomplishes MP3 On/Off, Skip Forward, Pause, Random, Sequential, and Volume Up/Down. The music is distributed to the crew and passengers according the pilot controlled configurations, also easily changed 'on-the-fly.'

When paired with the Avidyne Entegra Release 9 system, the PMA8000B takes on amazing capabilities and is about as perfect an addition to R9 as we've seen (and in fact, we strongly advise you to add the PMA8000B to any R9 installation... its worth the expense, even if you have an elder audio system that still works well... the PMA8000B will simply blow you away with the functionality it brings to R9). The Avidyne version of the PMA8000B allows R9 to know what combination of VHF communications transceivers are selected by the crew, allowing the IFDs to display plain-English station identifier information about the radio frequency selected, so at a glance, pilots know exactly with whom they will be talking when they key their mic (you do not want to know how many times this has eliminated the potential for confusion onboard our bird).

In addition, Avidyne notes that the PMA8000B leverages the full four-channel communications capability of Entegra Release 9's dual-DVX740 VHF radio modules by adding the ability to simultaneously monitor its standby frequencies along with the active frequencies. This can be very valuable during IFR operations such as when you are flying IFR to an uncontrolled airport and you are in two-way communication with approach control, listening to ATIS, monitoring the common traffic advisory frequency for the destination, and monitoring 121.5, the guard frequency.

We're truly happy with the way our airplane is getting us around these days and the addition of the PMA8000B is a significant reason why. This unit and the company that builds it has our Highest Recommendation.

FMI: www.ps-engineering.com

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