Letters: 07/03

Im a fan of Aviation Consumer and have taken your advice on purchases. However, I think youre missing the real story of the UPSAT CNX80. UPSAT is so far ahead of the game that nobody seems to understand how revolutionary the product is.

I spent a great deal of time talking to Wayne McGhee at the UPSAT booth at Sun n Fun and this box is amazing. It needs to be compared to something in a Gulfstream, not a Garmin box. I think a headline like, Corporate FMS comes to GA or Big Iron Features in a GA Mapcom is more accurate.Garmin told me at the show that they are looking at the third quarter of 2003 for their WASS box. The upgrade is to send in your GNS430 or 530 and theyre going to replace the entire main board.But thats not an upgrade, thats a new unit.

-Mike Easley
Colorado Springs

We reviewed the CNX80 in the June issue and pointed out its FMS-like features. Garmin says its WAAS upgrade will cost under $1500.


Garmin TIS
I found the article about the Garmin Mode-S transponder in your May 2003 issue to be interesting. But you did not mention that Bendix/King has a similar product, which can also be a component of their IHAS system.

The Bendix/King unit has not received much marketing, perhaps because it competes with their own active TCAS system.

In my experience, the Bendix/King unit works as advertised. On a recent trip from south Florida, I had TIS coverage from Vero Beach until Waycross, Georgia and then picked it up again 50 miles south of Atlanta. Every major terminal area had consistent coverage. One great advantage of TIS that you did not mention is that it displays VFR traffic that approach controllers may choose to suppress. I found this out the hard way as I had to take evasive action over Jax from a VFR descending through my altitude. TIS displayed it the whole time and sounded an alert.

Bendix/King unit is more expensive than Garmins but was easy to install. As with the rest of the IHAS system, its simple and intuitive to use. Big dollars, but very we’ll thought-out gear.

-Rod Paul
Atlanta, Georgia

Well take a look at the Bendix/King system in a future issue.


DVD Follow Up
While your review of DVD home study ground school for FAA knowledge test in the January 2003 issue was for the most part accurate, I did find some areas that might be misunderstood by your readers. I was most disturbed by The Aviation Consumers characterization of ASAs Virtual Test Prep video quality.

In light of this, it is remarkable that The Aviation Consumer did not contact us before publishing its results. You apparently did contact the other vendors for clarification on their products. Also, while more subjective, comments about VTP content need clarification as well. With the exception of a small percentage of stock video, VTP was shot using professional Sony digital equipment and digitized to the 720×480 resolution DVD standard, which is higher than TV broadcast standard. Post production employed the latest in editing equipment. This technique eliminates generation loss, which is the primary cause of video quality degradation.

As noted in The Aviation Consumer review, unlike Sportys, and the King Schools DVD courses, VTP did not encounter technical snags. This may be because VTP was produced and optimized to be fully compatible for computer playback and to look best on TV displays with a DVD player.

Most computers do not use hardware DVD encoders. To make a DVD highly compatible to run on most computer DVD players, it must run on the anticipated lowest common DVD decoder software installed.

However, this choice may impact the playback quality depending on which DVD decoder driver is installed on the computer and how the DVD is digitized.Generally, VTP looks better on a direct view (CRT) TV with a DVD player than on a computer. VTP will look excellent on a computer display using a high-end DVD driver and display.

VTP was produced with one mission in mind: Prepare the student pilot for the FAA knowledge test in the least painful way possible at an affordable price. To this end, VTP focuses on the test question and mixes on-screen instructors explaining concepts with voice-over narration and question review.

While this technique may not leave the student wowed, we worked with a number of professional educators and found that it is an effective learning technique.

Contrary to The Aviation Consumers assumption that ASAs VTP acquired the rights to market a revamp of the FlightPrep DVD materials…[or is a] collection of VCR tapes VTP was custom produced for ASA as an all-new course matching the ASA TestPrep syllabus, while admittedly produced with a similar production style, and some existing graphics as the FlightPrep courses.

As noted in the review, the private pilot rating features only major lesson selection from the home menu, but no subject sub-menus from within a lesson. Future releases will include sub-menus.

-Roger Stenbock
Stenbock Communications, Inc.

Stenbocks company prepared VTP for ASA. He is actually incorrect; we in fact contacted his company via e-mail and were referred to ASA, which distributes the DVD products.

ASAs product ran without technical snags, thus we had no reason for in-depth questions on this topic. And we made it clear to ASA and in the article that we were running the programs on a computer, not TV. As for the video quality, readers can judge it for themselves by downloading a demo at www.asa2fly.com.


Air Data Retort
May I offer a contrasting opinion concerning the two air data computers reviewed in the April issue of Aviation Consumer by Lionel Lavenue? I have been flying with an Insight TAS 1000 for several months.

I agree that the Insight TAS 1000 costs more to purchase and more to install than a Shadin ADC-200. However, this is not an apple-to-apple comparison. The TAS has dedicated display of all or pilot-chosen air data functions and does not need a separate remote box as does the Shadin. The TAS computer is panel mounted and includes the dedicated display.

The TAS has a separate display of wind on the Windicator that can be situated in essentially every instrument panel. It can even be pasted over the center of a VSI. It is less than 1/4-inch thick and requires only a thin two-conductor cable connection to the TAS. The TAS is a fully functioning altitude alerter with audio tones. You can of course consider a separate Shadin alerter.

The TAS receives and displays the barometer setting from servo altimeters and transmits the setting to a GPS. This would require a Shadin ADC-2000 at about $1500 more. Assuming installation includes some or all of the above interfaces, its no surprise labor cost will be higher.

When the TAS 1000 was introduced, Insight recommended avionics shops purchase an installation kit consisting of a panel punch for the display/computer, a panel punch for the Windicator and a test box.

The test box is placed between the plug and rear socket of the TAS display/computer. It allows rapid confirmation that circuits are properly functioning and reduces troubleshooting labor. Insight since offers a loan of the kit to any shop planning to install a TAS 1000. No shop is forced into a purchase, and therefore no cost should be passed to an owner.

The Garmin representative who spoke to Mr. Lavenue claimed he was not familiar with the ability of the Insight TAS to display the wind vector on a GNS430 or GNS530. However, Insight literature includes a photograph of Garmin displaying the wind vector from a TAS, an interface not possible without cooperation between Insight and Garmin.

In summary, if the Shadin ADC-200 provides the functions you require, it might be cost effective. However, the Insight TAS 1000 is technologically more advanced and has features worth additional cost, in my view.

-Ian Blair Fries
via e-mail