July 2011

Used Aircraft Guide: Twin Comanche

Subscribers Only Piper's Twin Comanche occupies a special status in the world of GA airplanes. When we last examined the model five years ago, we compared it to Diamond's new-age DA42 twin. Diamond may have stubbed its toe since then, but the Twinco has lost none of its luster. Owners prize the airplane for the same reasons that they always have. It's an affordable, economical and accessible twin with decent performance. In many ways, it's one of the few twins that can claim to be not much more expensive than a single to own and operate. Or so many owners say. Prices of Twin Comanches have softened in the last five years, but they haven't plummeted. It's possible to find one with a spiffed-up panel and new paint for around $70,000.

Flight Guide iEFB 3.0: Airport Info to the Max

Subscribers Only Airguide Publicationís Flight Guide has long been to airport information what Jeppesen is to approach plates: Much of the same information you could get from government or other sources, all collected in a neat package with superior layout and design. It was inevitable Flight Guide would come out for the iPad. The latest version adds the features required to be a contender in the field, such as georeferenced approach plates and a moving map. It also adds integration with Flight Guideís own GPS receiver, which paves the way for ADS-B or XM weather integration into the app.

More Tiedowns: Abe’s In a Walk

Subscribers Only Just as we thought we had put portable tiedown tests snugly to bed, along come two companies who said..sorry, but you forgot us. Following our review of tiedown performance during last Aprilís tornado at Sun Ďn Fun, weíre looking at two products that claim to be the best. (But only one really is.) We bought a set of Storm Force tiedowns and a company called Abeís Aviation sent us a sample kit of its product, one of the most highly engineered products weíve seen to date. Into this mix, we made up a set of steel rod anchors of the sort we saw used in the JAARs and Diamond Aircraft booths to see how they would fare.

Aftermarket Air: Portables a New Option

Subscribers Only Thereís not a pilot out there who hasnít pined for an AC button to push after just minutes holding short of the runway in the summer heat. But the harsh reality is that aircraft AC systems cost in all the ways we hate: weight, power draw and money. How much? Try 45-90 pounds, several horsepower and five digits before the decimal for the equipment. Now add the install time, which can top 100 hours. Not much has changed with installed systems since we last looked at AC in 2008, except for the option of a "portable" AC unit. Compressing AC refrigerant is either done directly off the engine or via an electrically powered compressor. The engine-driven option is usually used for small aircraft. It works passably on the ground, but doesnít really pack a punch until the engine is turning faster. The compressor must fit somewhere under the cowl, but you donít need a high-output alternator.

Eastman’s CH650: Son of Zenith

Subscribers Only For taxonomy purposes, the aviation press seems to sort light sport aircraft into two broad categoriesófun flyers and cruisers or "go-places airplanes." Ostensibly, the divider is speed. Fun flyers like the Cub clones cruise a little faster than 100 MPH and the cruisers seem to manage as much as 125 MPH. Not a huge difference to be sure, but enough to make short VFR cross-countries tolerable, if not expediently routine. Another way to look at the sorting of LSAs is sports car versus utility vehicle. Into this marketing equation, Eastman Aviation has inserted its CH650 low-wing LSA, a cruiser thatís decidedly on the sports car end of the spectrum. If youíve noted a certain sameness in the look of low-wing cruisers, thereís a reason for it. Against the limitation of a 132 MPH limit, there are only so many places a design can go and the CH650 has been thereófor years.

Gear of the Year: iPad Apps Rule

Subscribers Only That not-so-faint hissing sound you hear is us reacting at the slightest suggestion that we are Mac fanboys. We are, if anything, washed-in-the-blood cynics when it comes to the great bloated gust of hype that surrounds everything to do with Apple computers and products. But weíre also realists and fair to a fault, so when we see practical, meaningful products of any kind, we think the nod is due. So this year, we are naming aviation applications for the iPad as our products of the year. Please just shoot us if we use the phrase "game changer" applied to anything, most of all a computer. We prefer to think of the iPad and the dozens of useful aviations apps it has spawned as a substantial and useful contribution to cockpit information management.

Avidyne TAS600: Still a Top Choice

Subscribers Only Weíve flown and installed enough Avidyne TAS systems to confidently hail them as top values in active traffic alerters. We even proclaimed it the best traffic system in our 2008 Gear of the Year award. It was Ryan that engineered and birthed the twin-antenna 9900-series TCAD back in the 90s. When Avidyne and Ryan merged, the popular 9900BX became the TAS600. With a liberal display potential, itís been a brisk seller and popular option for active traffic alerting. The latest evolution in Avidyneís TAS logically promises ADS-B functionality, a refreshingly lower price tag and retains a notoriously complex and critical installation process that will make or break performance.

Flight Schools That Work: Top Service for Top Dollar

Subscribers Only If youíre looking a feel-good piece about how flight training is on the rebound and weíre on our way back to viable flight schools running side-by-side with every mom-and-pop FBO, youíre reading the wrong article. (Actually, youíre probably reading the wrong magazine.) Flight training never had a reputation as a cash cow, and the current economic climate hasnít helped that situation. But there have always been, and still are, flight schools that run in the black. In fact, in just the past few months, we came across a couple not just getting by but expanding despite all the dire numbers of the current economy. We decided this was worth a critical look. Did these folks have some secret formula for success, or were they dumping resources into a temporary bubble that will collapse under itís own economic impossibility before the year is out?

Letters: July 2011

Subscribers Only I recently purchased a GTN650 to replace my GNS480. Turns out the STC requires that I have a second GPS/navcomm in order to fly IFR. So I had to go with GTN750, remove the MX20 and SL30 to make room for the 750 and 480. Nobody at Garmin seems to want the public in on this. My avionics tech found out by reading the STC. This applies to composite airframes only. It doesnít make much sense since I have been flying IFR with a single GNS480. Anyway, I had to open the wallet up to the tune of $6000 more, which I was not budgeted for. The PC simulator that comes with the purchase requires quite a bit of RAM and hard drive space to operate. It requires 5GB RAM and 2GB of free disk space. Seems none of my computers have this so Iím out of luck.

First Word: July 2011

Subscribers Only The letters in this monthís issue illustrate the dilemma Garmin finds itself in. I donít know if the company sees this from the inside, but itís noticeable from where I sit. Specifically, the new GTN series they launched this spring is striking some buyers as not that great, which is something we never heard about the GNS430 and GNS530 when they were introduced. Whatís the problem here? I donít think itís all price, because these products cost a little more to install than did their predecessors a decade ago. Adjusted for inflation, theyíre close. I think itís perceived value, or lack of it. For the money, say some readers, these boxes just donít do enough more than the current generation of mapcomms do.