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Wed, Jul 06, 2005

Voyager Makes Flight Planning Easy

Fun Even

As the airshow at Arlington starts today, it gives us a chance to learn a lot and to meet some interesting people. In the main exhibit tent, at booth 82, you can find the friendly folks at Seattle Avionics. They've offered us, and you, a free demonstration of Voyager 2.5, their newest flight planning program.

We're glad to do it. We review and announce all sorts of products here at Aero-News Network. We tear into avionics, gadgets, books, videos, software and hardware. And woe be unto the brave souls who entrust an aircraft to our Editor-in-Chief.

The company says Voyager Premier is the most modern, easiest to use flight planner on the market, and they're willing to back it up. It includes powerful features like the true 3D wind-optimized SmartRouter, high-performance aircraft modeling, integrated satellite and radar overlays and seamless Internet connectivity to get you from planning to flying in record time.

Voyager Express is a simpler, low cost version for the occasional flyer. It includes much of the power of Voyager Premier but with less customization and fewer options. When you try it, you'll be aware of how Express makes it fast and easy to input your destination and quickly generate a safe, complete flight plan.

You'll find a fully functional download on the company website to try for ten days. They'll be glad to put a CD in the mail for you if you don't have the bandwidth to download it. A premier and an express version are both included in the download.

But who's behind Seattle Avionics?

The business is four years old, and was started by Steve Podradchik and John Rutter.

Mr. Podradchik, the CEO and co-founder of Seattle Avionics has a history of starting and running technology companies. He'd been very successful and eventually was able to pursue his aviation interests. He started Seattle Avionics because the whole experience of planning cross-country trips, both as a student and later as a private pilot, seemed far too cumbersome with the software then on the market.

Mr. Rutter, President & Acting VP/Sales and Marketing, was an executive management consultant with a background in technology and marketing. John's interest in aviation began when he was nine years old, flying right seat in a 172 with his uncle in Colorado.

They thought they could produce a better flight planning software package, and the two of them got together to form Seattle Avionics.

We spoke with Robert Hamilton, Vice President of Operations to get the story behind the story. He joined Seattle Avionics two years ago after a long career in technical businesses. He's been a pilot for 25 years.

Seattle Avionics has the goal to become the premier software company in the aviation industry. They have a small group of pilots, who are familiar with the software and work together to support the customers.

"Everybody does everything," said Hamilton. "We answer the phones, talk customers through any questions, take orders, everything."

The company is also sponsor of The Eagle Flight, a non-profit organization dedicated to instilling the spirit of exploration through aviation to youth around the globe.. Jared Aicher, The Eagle Flight pilot, and his ground support team are using Voyager Flight Planning Software to chart his route to over 60 destinations around North America.

Anyone here not spent two hours planning a one hour flight as a student pilot? It's important to do a few times to learn what it's about. But after that is where Voyager shines.

To plan a flight the conventional way requires multiple steps and multiple sources of information, much of which can go out of date rapidly. From getting the proper chart, drawing your course, checking for restricted airspace or hazards, getting weather, measuring the course, filling out the trip log, the list goes on and on.

Voyager is designed to replace most of that process. It goes out to eight different sources of information across the internet to pull in the weather, TFRs, and the current airport information. It pulls down a DUATS briefing and generates a record of your request to keep you legal.

If you're an AOPA member, it'll even pull up the Airport Directory information. Trust me, if you've ever been trying to figure out where to divert to after dark, that information (hours of operation, phone numbers, etc.) is handy to have, and it's not in the AFD.

Their first product was designed to use at home. After planning your flight, you could print out charts and trip logs to take to the airport. It was primarily designed for the single engine pilot.

As they've upgraded their software, they've continued to add capabilities while maintaining an intuitive feel. It's relatively simple to use, and easily customizable for more advanced users. A pilot flying a 172 can use the software and so can the pilot flying a jet.

You can file your flight plan, check your weight and balance, and much more. And yes, you can still print out charts and a trip log if you like.

The Voyager 2.5 software is designed to take a pilot from the desk to the hangar to the cockpit with all of the vital data that is needed to conduct a safe flight.

Tutorials included in the system can get you up and running quickly. Many aircraft are already profiled, and the profiles can be easily customized to fit the plane you fly. Simple flights can be planned in just a few minutes, and more complicated trips will be well planned much more efficiently.

The software incorporates an optimize feature to help you plan for the most efficient trip also. It takes winds aloft into account as well as your aircrafts performance at different altitudes.

The company also produces SmartPlates, and SmartPlates for Pocket PCs which keeps all of your approach plates current without ongoing fees and hassle. Also, FlightCalc is an Electronic E6B with Weight & Balance program for pocket PCs.

Hamilton promised more good news is coming in time for Oshkosh. In the mean time, we'll dig a little deeper into this software and put it through the paces. Stay tuned for a full report.



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