Every year about this time, we like to fill our figurative pipe with tobacco-the real one got tossed long ago-and ruminate on the products and services weve examined during the past year. As there always are in any field of comparison, during a year of testing, prodding and experimenting, we find standout products in which the manufacturer has gone the extra distance to provide exceptional quality or value. Presented here in summary, are our picks for 2008. PRODUCT OF THE YEAR CIRRUS PERSPECTIVE
Every year about this time, we like to fill our figurative pipe with tobacco-the real
one got tossed long ago-and ruminate on the products and services weve examined during the past year.
As there always are in any field of comparison, during a year of testing, prodding and experimenting, we find standout products in which the manufacturer has gone the extra distance to provide exceptional quality or value. Presented here in summary, are our picks for 2008.
PRODUCT OF THE YEAR
This one is the sleeper of the year for two reasons: We didnt know Cirrus had it in the works and, after chewing it over for a few days, it struck us like lightning. Cirrus did an amazing job with this airplane.
The airframe itself is but an incrementally improved SR22, but Cirrus worked with Garmin to achieve a remarkably well designed and integrated version of the G1000. Its ergonomically and conceptually wedded to the airframe like white on rice and, for that reason, it merits our Product of Year award. If other companies are looking to learn how cockpit integration should be done-and we would put the likes of Gulfstream, Bombardier and Dassault on that list-they should study the Cirrus Perspective.
This one was an easy call. Why no one thought of it before baffles us. In the Evolution modular approach to avionics upgrading, Aspen has made glass panels affordable for anyone who can manage a sub-$20,000 upgrade for a suitable
airplane. And these days, that encompasses a lot of owners. As did Cirrus, Aspen paid attention to the ergos but, above all, its system is practical and recognizes that not all of us have Warren Buffetts checkbook. Contact www.aspenavionics.com.
BEST VALUE IN OXYGEN
Fifteen years ago, only a couple of companies plied the supplemental oxygen market with minimal systems. Now, there are dozens of options to pick from and the best value complete portable system we found comes from www.aeromedix.com. For under $500, the company offers a nice two-place system complete with flowmeters and cannulas. We think its an unusually good value from a company with standout customer service.
BEST TRAFFIC SYSTEM
When active traffic systems first appeared, they retailed for $20,000, making for a
select market and a lot of disappointed wannabes. Avidyne addressed this with the TAS600, which sells for under $10,000 and performs just as well as the higher-priced units. For some owners, midairs are a worry and the TAS600 is a cost-effective way to assuage these fears. Contact www.avidyne.com.
BEST DATALINK WEATHER
When WSI first introduced its weatherlink product some five years ago, it stubbed its toe when the satellite protocol it used proved unworkable, leaving owners beached with dead-end datalink receivers. To its credit, WSI didnt give up and now offers datalink products which we think are a trick or two better than those from WxWorx/XM Radio. We especially like the way WSI handles lightning data. Contact WSI at www.wsi.com.
BEST INTERIOR SHOP
If youre uncompromising and can afford to pay for it, Air Mod in Batavia, Ohio, will
provide the best aircraft interior refurb available, complete with a three-year warranty. Weve seen the shops work and flawless doesnt quite describe it. Air Mod can handle custom requests of all sorts and generally commits to six weeks delivery time. Contact www.airmod.com
BEST LEGACY LSA
Yes, it may be your grandfathers airplane, but the Airknocker is relatively cheap to buy, a hoot to fly and you can annual it for a couple of hundred bucks. It uses so little gas that you wont notice what the price is. If youve sold your Bonanza or Saratoga to kick back for easier and cheaper flying, the Champ is our top choice.
OUR BEST WORST IDEA
AN LSA ANALYSIS…
…in which we described landing an Ercoupe as being like throwing a dead cow off the back of a pick-up truck. For this cruel remark, we are profoundly, sheepishly
and mortifyingly sorry. We pledge never to do it again.
BEST ANR HEADSET
Sorry, Bose, we hate to do it, but LightSPEEDs new Zulu is a little cheaper than the Headset X and has that nifty Bluetooth cellphone link and a music interface. What finally tipped the scales is that LightSPEED addressed all of the minor complaints within a month and had the improved headset in the pipeline. (Are you listening David Clark?) Contact www.lightspeedaviation.com.
BEST NEW CYLINDERS
A split decision here. After struggling through its crankshaft quality mess, Lycoming has focused anew on quality and customer support. Our reader survey revealed widespread satisfaction with Lycomings factory new cylinders and few complaints. Sharing the top spot is ECI which, of course, makes cylinders for both Lycoming and Continental engines. Despite some complaints about cracking, ECIs customer satisfaction remains high. Contact. www.eci2fly.com and www.lycoming.textron.com.
You may have never changed the spark plugs in your car, but airplane plugs arent quite as durable. So when its time to buy a new set, consider fine wire plugs rather than the massive electrode variety. Fine wires are more expensive, but they
last longer and burn more efficiently, saving gas. They often pop up on sale from the various vendors. Contact www.aircraftspruce.com.
BEST BARGAIN TIRE
In every product line, theres usually a strong contender that sells for far less than the premium product but that delivers 90 percent of the value. In 600 X 6.00 airplane tires, that would be the Specialty Air Hawk. For under $60, our tests showed it delivered excellent wear rates and is a good choice for owners who dont fly much. Contact www.aircraftspruce.com.
BEST FUEL TOTALIZER
As fuel prices continue to rise, keeping track of burn rates is more important than
ever, thus a fuel totalizer is becoming must have equipment. JPIs FS-450 is our top choice because it has all the options you need for fuel management and it will add on to the companys EDM line of engine monitors, so its an easy install. (We think some kind of engine monitor is an absolute must, too, at least for high-performance aircraft.) Contact www.jpinstruments.com.
TOP OIL CHOICE
You might not think about it much, but theres a wide disparity in the price of aircraft engine oil. One of the cheapest-Phillips multigrade XC-is our top choice when its additized with CamGuard, a high-tech product that our tests have shown to significantly boost corrosion protection and wear protection. It adds $15 to the cost of an oil change, but we think its well worth the investment. Contact
0)]www.phillips66lubricants.com and www.as lcamguard.com.
MOONEY TYPE S
While other airplane makers have focused on glass panels and spiffy interiors, Mooney has concentrated relentlessly on speed. And it has sure enough delivered. When we flew the companys new Type S recently, we were astonished to see that it actually achieves the claimed 242 knots true airspeed. But whats more impressive is that dialed back to a more economical 16.5 GPH, it still steams along at 220 knots. No other airplane comes close to that kind of speed and economy.