July 2016

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Subscribers Only - Exhausting is the first word that comes to mind (there are others we’ll refrain from printing) when looking back at our ADS-B coverage this past editorial year. Eyeball the ADS-B buyer’s guide in the April 2016 issue of Aviation Consumer and you’ll see why. It’s a market busting at the seams with panel and portable solutions. A major player is L-3 Avionics. Since its introduction nearly two years ago, we felt that L-3’s transponder-based Lynx NGT-9000 was an excellent all-in-one ADS-B In and Out solution, though we also felt that its high price limited it to higher-end aircraft. But after a few major price reductions (it now starts at $5395), an entry-level NGT-9000 is within reach of more buyers. Plus, it packs a lot of punch in a single box.

Beyond Gear of the Year

Subscribers Only - In our world, the editorial year commences in the summer instead of January, and the anticipated editor’s choice awards focuses deserved attention on the products and companies that really impressed us in our coverage over the year. As we do every July, we take a half step back and tip the hat to a dozen of them on page 12 of this issue. But there was more that caught our attention the past editorial year, some of it unforgettable. If we had a worst news of the year award, there would be takers.

DA62 Versus Aerostar

Subscribers Only - In my Mooney 252, I once took off from Atlanta, Georgia, right behind a Piper Aerostar 601P and landed right behind it in Washington, D.C. But, while I was using oxygen on the way there, he was flying in pressurized comfort. I bought an Aerostar. The last one was a factory-new model 700P. Flying above the clouds and being called a jet by ATC was always a kick. In the DA62, it seems to me that the kick has to come from the smell of leather. I’m just saying.

Cub Crafters XCub: High Luxe, Real Speed

Subscribers Only - If you were a dedicated Cub aficionado and wanted to build yourself the ultra version of the essential Cub idea, what would you do? You’d start with the basic planform, update it with edge-of-tech materials and build methods—carbon fiber, CNC-cut parts, modern avionics—all buttressed with an aerodynamic makeover to tweak performance. Then you’d send the airplane to the place that designs and builds seats for Bentleys and Ferraris and tell them to go wild.

Insight Engine Monitors: Useful Diagnostics

Subscribers Only - For a few years now, Insight Avionics has been selling its G-series line of color engine analyzers. The company is hardly a stranger to the engine display market. Its first-generation GEM series (graphic engine monitor) sold well and delivered on quality, but these instruments fell short on advanced diagnostic utility for lack of modern software.

Editor’s Choice Awards: CubCrafters, Avidyne

Subscribers Only - Steve Jobs once said of Apple that the genius of business success was to invent products would-be buyers didn’t know they needed. Apple succeeds brilliantly at this, but the advice applies equally to airplanes. He who stands still and treads water will soon wither. Even small companies must innovate and move forward and our editor’s choice for the top company doing that this year is CubCrafters, the scrappy taildragger manufacturer based in Yakima, Washington.

Instrument Test Prep: Sporty’s, King Tops

Subscribers Only - We surveyed six of the more popular internet prep courses to see what was available, how they approached getting a student ready for the instrument written, what they cost and their convenience of use—notably whether they could be used on any internet-connected device or didn’t require connectivity while using. We came away feeling all were good—it’s a competitive market and the high quality of the products reflects it.

Airframe Static Wicks: Worth a Try For RFI

If you ride long enough through snow, fog and desert dust, you’ll likely hear the audio signatures of static built up on the airframe. It can be severe enough to shut down a comm and nav receiver. The troubleshoot chase can be as frustrating for the techs as it is for pilots because everything will likely work perfectly on the ground. Static discharge wicks should be the first accessories to consider, especially when committing to a new avionics installation. But antennas could be the culprit, too.

Aera or App? No Easy Choice

Subscribers Only - If smartphones and tablets have seized the high ground for cockpit navigation, Garmin showed last spring that it’s not quite ready to surrender its piece of the dedicated portable navigator market. The introduction of the $849 aera 660 in April shows that Garmin still thinks there’s a viable market for a GPS navigator that, although full featured, doesn’t run apps, play amusing games, pay at Starbucks or do a million other things that smartphones do. Has Garmin come adrift from market reality here? Can such a thing compete with tablets and phones?

Piper Warrior

Subscribers Only - Back in the day, the quest to come up with the perfect personal airplane may have seamed easy at first. It only needed to perfectly combine ease and cost of operation, ability to carry the right number of passengers and operate from most all airports in the country. During the post-World War II boom, the major airplane manufacturers to include Aeronca, Luscombe, ERCO, Piper and Cessna, among others, all eventually came to the conclusion that the future for mass-marketing airplanes was wrapped up in something that had four seats and on the order of 150 HP. ERCO (the Ercoupe folks) never made it past a prototype. Aeronca and Luscombe gave up after limited success, while Cessna and Piper went on to fight it out for decades, while Beech and Grumman-American tried to make inroads.