Pilots of single-engine Cessnas, from 172s through 210s, often fly with their charts, airport directories, transceivers, flashlights and approach plates floating around on the floor between the two front seats.
Backseat passengers feet tend to rearrange the floor layout and theres the potential that some of the goodies will migrate underfoot or, worse, lodge under the rudder pedals.
Several manufacturers have addressed this problem by marketing cockpit organizers that fill the gap between the seats. Weve flight tested two of these organizers for the past few months, on long and short trips in several Cessna 210s.
The first is the Cockpit Companion, marketed by Crosswind Concepts of Santa Rosa, California. It comes in two sizes, Style 172 that fits 172s and Style 182 for 182s and 210s. It consists of a smoked acrylic rectangular box, open at the top and with compartments for charts, pencils, directories and such.
The Style 182 is 18 inches long, 12 inches high and about 4 inches wide. Its divided into three main compartments, the biggest of which is 11 inches long by 8 inches deep. The other two are 2 x 8 inches. At the front end of the organizer are three 1-inch spaces, with the underside being open, 3 inches high.
The weight of the Cockpit Companion is negligible, no more than a couple of pounds. One unusual feature of this product is a cylindrical protuberance several inches long sticking out of the front of the organizer at an upward angle, for hanging a headset.
We found the 1-inch square spaces at the front of the organizer to be perfect for pens, pencils and the like. These are just deep enough to hold writing utensils securely, but shallow enough to allow easy access when ATC calls with a clearance amendment.
The big main compartment easily swallows a 1-inch Jeppesen ring binder filled with approach plates with room to spare for E-6Bs, sectionals or checklists. This compartment is not big enough, however, to accommodate the compact Flight Guide airport directory along with a Jepp binder. Larger size airport directories (the Jepp directories, or the Pilots Guide series) also wont fit together with a Jepp binder.
Nor is the compartment big enough to accommodate two Jepp binders, which would be helpful for extended trips that require more binders. Of course, the NOS booklets-a couple of them at a time-fit easily into this main compartment.
The rear 2-inch compartments are perfectly sized for Foggles, sun glasses, C- and D-cell flashlights, rulers, fuel dipsticks, portable GPS receives and transceivers. The area underneath the Cockpit Companion is a good space to put large multi-cell Maglite torches or a fire extinguisher.
The competition is the Cockpit Caddy, by Wilco of Wichita, Kansas. Its composed of Plexiglas sides with finished (stained and varnished) wood dividers for the compartments. This organizer is bigger, too, with outside dimensions of 24 x 16 x 3 inches.
Its primarily marketed for the C210 trade and each is made to order to accommodate both slightly different sized spaces between the front seats of some model years and whether the owner is a Jepp or NOS chart user. The purchaser can talk with the company about the exact configuration desired.
Although the Caddy doesnt have small holes for pencils and pens (at least one pilot has drilled some into a wood section divider, which may cause some cracking unless done carefully), it does have a more generous allowance for approach chart binders in the main compartments.
Folks who use the Jepp-issued binders (7-inches long) can ask Wilco to make the two main compartments large enough to each swallow one binder. Those who use the plastic generic Airway Manual (7 inches, sold by Sportys as the Thin Line binder) can add 2 inches to the smallest compartment, which will allow the small Flight Guide airport information binder to fit neatly in that spot, with room for some pens, reading glasses and so forth.
NOS users get even more room, due to the smaller size of those plates. Of course, each of these choices is irrevocable as the configuration is fixed upon manufacture.
The Caddy also has an open spot underneath it for storage of a fire extinguisher or a big flashlight. Its a heavy unit, weighing 12 pounds, due to the larger size, heavy-gauge Plexi and thick wood dividers. Luckily, 210 pilots usually have plenty of payload capability; otherwise, giving up so much weight in a small aircraft is difficult.
Of the two, we liked the Cockpit Caddy best. Its taller stance puts stowed materials more readily at hand, although we concede that pilots who fly with the seat all the way down may find the Cockpit Companion preferable in size.
Because we tend to have two Jepp binders, we liked the Caddys ability to handle them easily. The drawback is that putting the second binder in a main compartment eliminated space for an airport guide, sectionals, a handheld radio, GPS and other flotsam. Still, the Caddy gave us a choice in how to utilize the available space, allowing considerable flexibility in loading.
The pluses of the Cockpit Companion included its lighter weight, wider availability for other models and the acrylic sidewalls, which seem less likely to scratch than the Caddys Plexi. We didnt like the headset horn on the front of the Companion; it invites pulling on it to move the unit around and that caused cracking at the horns attach point.
Although the Cockpit Companion comes with Velcro strips that are supposed to be used to fasten it in place, our assessment is that this isnt such a great idea, especially on airplanes with the emergency landing gear extension lever between the seats.
Both organizers were nicely secure between the front seats of the testbed C210s. And, we preferred being able to move them fore and aft a bit to account for different seat positions, something that would be impossible to do if they were fastened in place.
More to the point, we had the (mis)fortune during the test period to have an unsafe gear situation that required pumping the wheels down. That meant that the organizer du jour had to be moved to allow for the proper pumping action, a task that would have been unnecessarily complicated by Velcro. Not unsafe, but not needed, either.
The clinching point in favor of the Caddy is its price ($129) compared to the Companion ($239). We dont believe that there is an extra $110 of functionality in the Companion.
As a final note, we went into these tests skeptical that the organizers were useful at all due to years of flying these aircraft relatively content to have the pilots accouterments floating around on the floor.
The test experience changed our thinking and we appreciated the convenience that they offer. While pilots love gadgets and sometimes the fun is purely in the purchase, an organizer can be of appreciable value in getting the mess under control.
Also With This Article
Click here to view the Cockpit Organizer Addresses.
-by Scott Dyer
J. Scott Dyer is a regular Aviation Consumer contributor. He bases his Cessna 210 at Westchester, New York.