The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) gathering in Oshkosh ended this week. The variety of platforms and applications on display providing in-flight data information has really grown in the last year. Advances in GPS applications and the recent availability of XM WX Satellite Weather have made the sky the limit on in-flight information.
XM WX Satellite Weather is the revolution in on-board satellite weather delivery. It is delivered straight to the cockpit via twin XM commercial satellites operating in the S-band frequency. This redundant delivery system provides continual updates anywhere in the continental US and coastal waters. MxWorx provides the location-specific weather data collected from government and private sources. The time delay from 'radar to the cockpit' is 7-10 minutes.
XM WX is available on industry standard MFDs, Electronic Flight Bags (EFBs), Tablet PCs, laptops and PDAs. Two service packages are offered including Aviator Lite for $29.99 per month and Aviator at $49.99 per month. Aviator Lite features NEXRAD radar, precip type, METARs, TAFs, TFRs, couinty warnings, and city forecasts. Aviator offers this package plus winds alot, echo tops, severe weather storm tracks, satellite mosaic, AIRMETs, SIGMETs, surface analysis, and lightning.
In general, Mobile Tech News was told the FAA has decided to stay out of the software side in efforts to minimize interfering with the cockpit technology transformation all aviation enthusiasts seem hot to embrace. The FAA has, however, gotten involved in the hardware side. They have approved boxes that serve as docking stations making Electronic Flight Bags workable in the cockpit. Anything that can be put on paper can be stored electronically in an EFB such as approach plates, flight manuals, check lists, log books, etc. EFBs basically include a portable CPU that connects through the FAA approved "docking station" or sealed cradle, connectors and a display.
One such system is the t-Bag C2 System from navAero running Windows XP. The t-Bag C2 is an EFB that includes a removable computer module that fits inside a separate panel mounted connection box. Prices start at less than $4,000. The t-Bag C2 allows you to bring real-time weather, altitude awareness, moving map, flight planning and more into the cockpit.
If you already have a laptop and are looking for a workable cockpit display, the navAero t-Pad(tm) 800 may fit the bill. It has an 8.4" color TFT LCD resistive, sunlight-readable touch screen display with 800x600 resolution and is priced at $1,400. There is also a t-Pad 1000 featuring a 10.4" display with 1024x768 resolution.
Another EFB on display at Oshkosh was the Flight Deck Skytab(tm) 800 designed by Fujitsu. It has a 10.4" transmissive display and optional 802.l1b Wi-Fi and runs Windows 2000 or XP. It offers basically the same software options as the navAero products. It can also be used as a laptop with an infrared wireless keyboard and the optional docking station.
True Flight had their hardware and software packages on display. The Flight Cheetah FL250 priced at $4,499 offers a 5.7" screen with 320x240 pixels. The Flight Cheetah FL270 priced at $4,995 offers a 6.4" screen with 640x480 pixels. Both run the Windows 2000 OS. Software includes WAAS GPS, approach overlay, holding patterns and DME ARC's, terrain alert, obstacle alert, enhanced mapping, landstat imagery, altitude alert, route planning, airport database, digital chart, data-link transceiver, 2-way email, position reporting, electronic attitude indicator and traffic alert. The TrueMap software sells for $595 and the WXWORX data link is $459 which includes the receiver kit. The Electronic Attitude option is $1,095 and the TX 450 traffic alert is $1,195. The yearly service subscription is $179.95 and includes free customer support, TrueMap data base updates, and free software upgrades for future TrueMap enhancements.
Several PDA options were also on display at EAA. One company, Anywhere Map, was showcasing HP's iPAQ 5550. The iPAQ 550 features Bluetooth for wireless connectivity to your GPS antennae or XM WX receiver. The Anywhere Map software includes the AnywhereEFB for PDA platforms, the Anywhere Map offering GPS moving map display at $895, Anywhere Wx for in-flight weather at $2,245, and Pocket Plates that allow you to see real-time GPS positioning on the plate at $245. Anywhere AI offers a true 3-axis attitude indicator. An upgrade from Anywhere Map is $1095. The complete package allows you to see location, terrain, weather, and all the current approach plates in the country on a portable device you can put in your shirt pocket.
Hangar B-17 was featuring similar PDA functionality via their PocketEFIS and PalmEFIS software. Software includes attitude indicator, moving map, terrain clearance, wind detection, flight director, and flight planning. They will be releasing Version 2 in September which will include XM WX weather. Their Platinum Plus Package sells for $425 and includes all six programs excluding XM WX Weather. It includes a one year subscription to the datasets. The Wx Weather Package sells for $1580 and includes the PalmEFIS Wx weather, moving map, flight planning, flight director, and a one year subscription to PalmEFIS dataset, and the portable WxWorx satellite receiver and power cables. This package will begin deliveries on September 4.
Technology will continue to change the face of airplane control panels. Along with this high-tech appearance comes greater in-flight information and safer flying. Important things to all of us in general aviation.