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Product Reviews & Company Profiles (30)

Evaluating Bifocal Sunglasses for Aviation

Evaluating Bifocal Sunglasses for Aviation

A professional pilot tested Dual Eyewear’s bifocal sunglasses under multiple conditions with good results.  

I've always had a difficult time finding bifocal sunglasses that combine utility, comfort and style. Most pilots needing corrective lenses wear untinted bifocals with flip-up sunshades or use expensive prescription-grade tinted lenses; some, like me, try attaching unreliable hydrostatic appliques to regular lenses or just suffer through squinting in sunlight.

Then I came across Dual Eyewear’s bifocal sunglasses in a print advertisement and wondered if they might have solved my problem. The company has engineered an aviation collection of six different 1.5/2.0/2.5x bifocal styles with three color choices of shatterproof and scratch-resistant lenses that provide 100 percent UV protection. Sounded good enough to try.

I field-tested three of the five available aviation bifocal sunglass products. 

Acting the role of test pilot, I checked them for functionality, style and durability; I also investigated their compatibility with digital avionics displays and gauged their comfort in a working pilot’s most challenging real-world condition: while wearing a headset. 

I evaluated each pair of glasses in my single-engine plane as well as while flying an airliner, driving my car and even while mountain biking—and the results were fantastic in all cases.

First, I tested the modern-style AV1 with the gray lens, then the green lens in the classic World War II aviator-style, AV2. But my favorite was Dual Eyewear’s NV1 style with a bronze lens. 

I found the height of the bifocal line on all three pairs was perfect for allowing a corrected view of the up-close instrument panel, tablet, or GPS and simultaneous views outside—without needing to nod up and down to refocus from inside and outside. In addition, I had no problems reading various color digital avionics displays and tablets while wearing these bifocal sunglasses. 

Thin stainless steel frames fit nicely under various aviation headsets (I tested them using two different headset brands) without the throb that often comes when thicker-framed arms are pressed against the temple. 

Dual Eyewear bifocal sunglasses also have easily-adjustable nose pads which allow for individualized fitting. To aid the designed durability, each pair of Dual Eyewear glasses comes in a nice cloth pouch inside a protective case.

With competitive pricing, a lifetime warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, Dual Eyewear provides a quality product that every bifocal-using pilot should consider.  

John “Omar” Bradley lives in Chattanooga and now flies for a major airline after a 23-year Air Force and Air National Guard career flying the T-37, T-38, B-1, T-1, KC-135 and LC-130. As an ATP, CFI-I, CFI-G and SES-rated pilot, he currently has over 6,600 hours in various military and civilian aircraft, including more than 1,500 hours in single-engine aircraft. Send questions or comments to


FBO: The Most Important Acronym in Aviation

FBO: The Most Important Acronym in Aviation

Avian Flight Center has a great reputation in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. 

General Aviation is an ocean of alphabet soup: MEA, ILS, IFR, GPS, VOR, and so on. Three of the least discussed—but most important—letters are FBO, or fixed base operator. An FBO can sell fuel and parts, provide instruction, rent and maintain aircraft, charter flights, rent hangars, rebuild engines… and make or break your love of aviation. 

Like so many things in General Aviation, FBOs are under pressure. A 2006 survey recorded 3,346 businesses met the minimum FBO criteria. By 2009 the number had dropped to 3,138. That trend continues.

Those facts weighed on me two years ago when my wife and I bought a second home across the Puget Sound from Seattle. Our plane was based at our residence in Dallas with its large GA culture.

After 25 years of flying I knew which local FBOs were decent, but the Pacific Northwest’s FBO landscape was as clear to me as the area’s gray winter weather. Fortunately, I got lucky.

Avian Flight Center

Bremerton National Airport (KPWT) is a quick flight or ferry ride from Seattle (and a winding 50-mile drive, thanks to the Puget Sound). During World War II, the U.S. Navy used Bremerton’s 6,000-foot runway, with military use continuing through the Cold War. The field doesn’t have a tower, but is blessed with one of the best FBOs I’ve ever used: Avian Flight Center.

The company’s aircraft repair facility, Avian Aeronautics, was founded in February 1986 when Pat Heseltine was 29. “When I was 14, my dad started taking flying lessons. He always had a passion for flying,” said Heseltine, who grew up in nearby Tacoma. “We built model airplanes and our own kites. During winter it got dark early, so we’d drive to the local airport where they had an oil stove in the office.

“There were always old pilots down there telling stories,” he continued, “like their DMEs going backward from headwinds. They lived and breathed flying.”

Soon enough, so did Pat. He started lessons at age 15 and would fly any single engine plane that was available. By 17, Heseltine had logged more than 115 hours.

“I was a hands-on guy who really liked metal and wood shop. My high school counselor said I probably couldn’t have a career in aviation since I hadn’t taken any advanced math classes. He didn’t know I’d already been to the technical school and had a plan mapped out.

“I finished high school in two years, and finished math classes in three or four weeks by taking one test after another.”

Getting his start

After getting his A&P certifications in 1976 while refining his sheet metal skills, Heseltine joined Tacoma Aviation. He rebuilt three Piper Comanches and a ground-looped Cessna 170 while maintaining many more planes.

One of his most significant projects was rebuilding a seaplane he bought and flew to Washington after it was dredged from a South Louisiana swamp.

“The engine was well preserved, but the headliner was full of mud, the instruments were half-full of water and the controls and cowl flaps were frozen. When two friends and I went down to pick it up, I thought about turning around and going home,” he recalled.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen, particularly since only one of us had any floatplane experience, which was three hours in a J-3 Cub five years earlier.

“By the time we got the plane cleaned up and ready, a front was rolling through with a 20- to 25-knot crosswind. We figured ‘No big deal. It’s just a crosswind takeoff,’” Heseltine continued. “About that time, one of the charter pilots walked in the office after landing on the canal and said, ‘My God, I’d hate to do that again.’

“We looked at each other and thought, ‘Well, we’re just taking off, not landing.’” They gave it a go.

The takeoff went perfectly, and Heseltine and his two friends were on their way toward Houston when they realized the aerial charts were back in the airport office.

After a brief debate they landed safely, retrieved the maps and soon made it most of the way back to Washington: all the lakes and rivers in the northern half of South Dakota were frozen. When the ice broke up weeks later, Heseltine and a friend returned to South Dakota, flew back to Washington and spent a year restoring the aircraft. They got eight years of service before selling it.

Other stories include Heseltine’s lone season of crop dusting, where he logged 300 hours in six weeks; successfully flew his plane through a wire; navigated by reading street signs from 300 feet AGL; spotted herring from an L-19 Bird Dogin Alaska; built a successful seaplane maintenance business; and more.

Learning as you go

By age 27, Heseltine decided to put down roots by acquiring an engine shop at Bremerton Airport. The owner had passed away and left behind an uninsulated 6,000 square foot World War II-era Quonset hut filled with old machinery illuminated by four street lights.

To top things off, Heseltine’s experience with engines consisted of removing them from planes, and occasionally pulling cylinders so they could be repaired. “We didn’t have any engine expertise. We had bought the lease to the building and everything inside it,” he said with a laugh. “We had to figure things out as we went.

“Fortunately, we were fast learners.”

A lot of sheet metal work was lined up before they moved in, and Heseltine hired Dave Pearson, who was a new A&P. Pearson grew to lead the company’s very successful engine rebuild facility.

By 2000, Avian Aeronautics was doing so well, the Port of Bremerton agreed to build a large hangar and training complex to house the growing company, Avian Flight Center, Inc.

“There was a period when the Pacific Northwest was losing an FBO each month. We tightened our belts, increased our productivity—and got out the word on our services,” he explained.

“If someone in the Puget Sound brings their plane to us for service, at no extra cost we’ll fly them back to their home airport and pick them up when the work’s done. That’s really great for pilots who need their engines rebuilt. We can remove the engine, rebuild it, then install everything,” he added.

The company’s 22 employees—including Heseltine’s lovely wife, Gin, who he met at the airport café—provide aircraft maintenance, engine rebuilding, pilot training, parts sales and pilot supplies.

Great habits, happy customers

The biggest thing I noticed was how polite everyone at Avian is—not to mention, enthusiastic about flying. Plus, the shop was as tidy and neat as any I’d ever seen. As someone who works in medical technology, my experience has been good habits start on the ground floor and drive everything else.

That was echoed by a number of pilots I spoke with. Ken Kiesel is a retired electrical engineer whose Lycoming 360 was overhauled by Avian in January 2012 after a prop strike. Twenty-seven months later metal was found in the oil filter, shortly after the warranty expired.

Avian picked up the engine at a nearby airport, tore it down and saw the crankshaft bearings had begun delaminating. “Avian took responsibility to fix the engine, even though it didn’t have to,” said Kiesel. “That was really honorable of them.”

Fifty-six year old entrepreneur and Turbo Saratoga owner Jim Tracy was inspired to get his license in 2006 so he could take his dad flying. “I viewed the Avian people through my business lens, which is based on a value proposition: ‘Can these people take care of me now, later, and a lot later?’ The answer has always been ‘Yes!’” said Tracy.

“They trained me, maintain my plane and do it all very well. My plane is priceless because it lets me get a lot done and still be home each night with my family,” he added.

Donna Bosch enjoyed going to the airport diner for lunch with her husband. For years, they’d watch airplanes land and take off. She told her husband, “That must be the biggest thrill.” He signed her up for a discovery flight. At age 67, Bosch went up and decided “I can do this!”

One year later, she had her private certificate and has since logged 300 hours. At 71 years old, she flies an hour or so each week. “Avian is absolutely the best. The ground schools were superb. The instructors were interesting and really helpful. Everyone is just wonderful. It’s kind of like a second home for me.”

Retired Navy musician Robert Watson echoed that sentiment. “My son and I went through ground school together, then he got his private license in 2012 when he was 17. He’s now Air Force ROTC and hopes to get a flying spot in the service. I got my ticket in November 2013, and Avian absolutely did a good job.

“I used different instructors, which provided different perspectives. Each one had something unique to offer,” Watson said.

Important now, and in the future

For pilots to be a true community, we need excellent instructors, good repair facilities, trustworthy vendors, expert mechanics, affordable rentals and strong community advocates. Avian Flight Center reminds me how important all of these things are—not just in the present, but for the future of flying.


Kevin Knight is an IFR rated pilot who learned to fly in a Tomahawk. Send questions or comments to .


Avian Flight Center, Inc.




Insight Avionics GX-MFT: A combination manifold pressure, fuel flow, tachometer


August 2014- The new Insight Avionics GX-MFT offers three engine function displays in one easy-to-read, three-inch LED instrument. The instrument shows manifold pressure, fuel flow and a tachometer display, plus in-depth electrical system analysis.
Insight expects approval of its STC application by both Transport Canada and the FAA very soon.

PFA learns about tires and retreads at Desser Tire & Rubber Co.

PFA learns about tires and retreads at Desser Tire & Rubber Co.

 June 2014- First off, let's get one Old Aviators Tale ("OAT") out of the way right now. It's safe to install retreaded aircraft tires on retractable gear airplanes.
For decades a rumor has circulated that retreaded tires should never be installed on a retractable gear airplane because the retreads came out bigger or would grow during use and would somehow jam in the wheelwells after being retracted. This falsehood caused many an owner to shy away from considering retreaded tires.
The rumor may have had some basis in fact years ago, but not anymore. I asked Desser President Steve Chlavin if there was any truth to this story. Chlavin replied, "Every retread must comply with the same specifications as a new tire."

This means that a Desser retread can't be any larger in circumference than a new tire. Some people get confused when they visually compare a newly retreaded tire to a brand-new tire; the retread will appear larger than the new tire. Here's why.

The retreading—the removal of the old rubber, preparation of the core (carcass) for new rubber, the winding on, balancing and baking of the new rubber—is done on a tire core that has already been stretched due to a normal inflation process when a tire is put into service. The new tire, when compared to the retread, is smaller since it hasn't yet been inflated and stretched.

Every tire stretches during the initial inflation. If you don't believe it, order a retread for your retractable landing gear airplane, mount the tire and inflate it in accordance with the aircraft service manual.
You'll have to wait 24 hours for the tire to reach its dimension since stretch averages three percent, then retract the gear into the wheelwell. If you have any doubts about the fit of a Desser retread in the wheelwell, return it for a full refund.

Need further proof? Beechcraft service manuals contain a sentence that while not recommending the use of retreads advises that they may be used as long as the retreading was done by an FAA approved repair station in accordance with Technical Standard Order (TSO) C62c (now C62e). This TSO is the same order that regulates new tire construction. A retread must have the same measured outside circumference as a new tire.

So if a retread isn't an operational concern, and since retreads are less expensive than new tires of the same size and ply rating, why is there a reluctance to buy retreads?
What about the alligator argument?

When I asked Chlavin about this hesitation, he replied that one anti-retread argument originates from people that cite examples of huge chunks of tread—sometimes called "alligators"—that are often seen along highways. These have been thrown off of retreaded tires used by over-the-road trucks.

Chlavin explained that any retreaded—or new—tire will throw tread if it gets too hot. These "alligators" are thrown off of truck tires that have overheated due to continued running after the tire has suffered a puncture and is deflated; since the load of the deflated tire is taken up by the adjacent tire, the driver doesn't know the tire is deflated and continues to drive.

Eventually the tire gets very hot and the tread departs. That never happens on an airplane if it's properly maintained.
To further assure us of the soundness of retreaded tires, our group followed a tire core through the process.

Test after test
Upon receipt every tire sent to Desser is visually inspected for wear, flat spots and sidewall cracking. According to Gus Segura, Desser's Repair Station Quality Assurance Manager, wear into two fabric plies (cords) is acceptable for transport- or commercial-grade tires—if all other checks are good. GA tires with ply (cord) wear cannot be retreaded.

The next check on tubeless tires (there aren't many of these used on GA airplanes) is an air pressure test to determine if the liner is good. The liner is the inner part of the tire. Air pressure is applied between the plies for approximately 30 minutes; only limited leakage past the liner is permitted. "The liner is the key factor [in the soundness of the tire]," said Segura.

After passing the liner leakage test the next step is to remove what Segura calls the "old" rubber. Each tire is mounted on a mandrel that swings the tire in the proper sized arc for that size tire back and forth across a many-toothed grinding wheel.

After the correct amount of rubber is removed, the tire surface is rough and clean. The surface must be kept clean to insure a good bond between the tire carcass and the new rubber.

The tire is again mounted on a mandrel in front of a large, computer controlled machine. The operator selects the proper rubber program for the tire—the Orbitread process is used—and inserts rubber into the machine where it's heated to approximately 230 degrees F before it's spit out in a strip that's approximately two inches wide and slowly wound onto the rotating tire. The operator applies pressure by hand as each strip is laid down.

After 90 to 120 seconds the thickness of the layers is checked at numerous points around each tire. If it's correct the tire is passed on to the pre-balance station where balance is checked. If needed additional strips of rubber are applied to bring the balance into line.

After pre-balancing is completed the tire is put on a rack and moved to the molding area.

Segura said the company has 60 molds of various sizes. Each mold is specially made to simulate a tire rim on the inside and establish the outside dimension and tread pattern. "We have equipment from five or six retreaders that have gone out of business," said Ken Faire, Vice President at Desser.

The pre-molded tire is mounted on the rim and put in the mold. Air pressure is applied to push the casing out against the mold where it's held at temperatures of 300 to 305 degrees F for 70 to 120 minutes depending on the size of the tire. This bonds and shapes the retread rubber.

Final testing: laser shearography
After cooling, each tire is inspected using a process called interferometric laser shearography. According to the Desser website, "Laser shearography is very sensitive to slight changes in surface strain due to subsurface flaws, and it is able to detect imperfections and defects such as belt-edge separations, bead blisters, undercure, liner separation and broken cord and ply construction in aircraft tires."

There's no FAA requirement to conduct this type of testing, but Segura told me that the shearography testing inspects each Desser retread to seven different readings that will detect unseen shears and separations.

Once a tire passes this final test, it's passed on to one more station for the final balance check and adjustment if needed.

Lastly the proper paperwork is generated (Form FAA 8130-3, Authorized Release Certificate, Airworthiness Approval Tag) and the tire is tagged.

This process has been fine-tuned over years, and Desser recaps around 25,000 tires a year.

Core suitability
Some owners ask if it's smart to reuse a tire core. Segura answers by saying that Desser believes a good core can go through five retreadings; some business jet and airliner tires are recapped at least eight times before the core is retired.

According to Chlavin, the standard for GA tires is one retreading. There's a core suitability checklist on the Desser website; see Resources at the end of this article for more information.

Purchase options
Owners have a number of recap purchase options. First, they can send in their own tires and have them recapped to Desser standards. That way they know the history of the tire. Segura said the turnaround time is around two weeks.

Customers can also send in their tire cores and exchange them for certified retreads that have the same make core. For example, if you like Michelin tires, you can specify that you want a recap with a Michelin core. Chlavin told me that Desser does its best to accommodate each request.

Another option is to send in your cores and have the value applied to a new tire purchase.

Lastly, you can send in your cores and ask for the cash value.

You want new tires? Desser has those, too

Desser is one of the premier FAA approved tire retreading companies in the United States, yet retreading is only part of Desser's business model. In addition to the 50,000 square foot facility in Montebello, it also has a 100,000 square foot facility in Memphis, Tenn.

The company shipped over 100,000 new tires and specialty tires last year and is a stocking dealer for Dunlop, Goodyear, Michelin, Condor, Specialty Tires of America (McCreary) and Desser's own Aero Classic Specialty Tires and Tubes.

All of these tires—and all Desser retreads—can be ordered directly from Desser through its website or through stocking dealers.

Over 150 tires and plies are available from Desser. Desser Tire also offers free shipping (within the 48 contiguous United States) on all orders over $100.

History and growth of the company
Desser was first established in 1920 as a scrap rubber dealer; by 1941 the name was changed to Desser Tire and Rubber. At the close of World War II, Myron Chlavin, Steve's father, started buying aircraft tires. Steve Chlavin began working for his father after high school and is now president of the company.

Desser Tire and Rubber grew with the acquisition of Omni Air and later with the purchase of the wheel and brake repair station of Aero Wheel and Brake in 1994. Aero Wheel and Brake provides a full wheel and brake services for Boeing, Lockheed, Honeywell, Raytheon and other corporate clients.

In 1998 Ken Faire came over from Herber Aircraft with the purchase of Cee Bailey's Aircraft Plastics.

Desser also has held contracts to provide wheels and brakes for the SR-71, U-2 and the NASA 747 used to transport the Space Shuttle to Florida. Since shipping of large tire/wheel combinations is costly, a pickup and delivery service is provided in the Southern California area.

Cee Bailey's windshields and support products
Desser manufactures windshields and side windows as needed for a number of OEMs under the Cee Bailey's name. Replacement windshields and side windows are available for almost all GA singles and twins in clear, green, or the newer solar gray tints.

Other support products sold under the Cee Bailey's name include cowl plugs, CeeShade sunshields, Rosen Sunvisors, and window and windshield cleaning and care products. (Visit Cee Bailey's Aircraft Plastics at ceebaileys.com. —Ed.)

LeakGuard® tubes, vacuum system components, batteries and more
In 2002 Desser started manufacturing the LeakGuard inner tube. Since tires and tubes stretch during use, a new inner tube should always be installed whenever a new tire is mounted. Natural rubber tubes were the standard for decades in spite of the fact that they leaked; and since underinflation results in shorter tire life, these tubes needed to reinflated often.

The LeakGuard tube is made of butyl rubber and is much more leak resistant. The only drawback with the butyl rubber LeakGuard tube is how stiff it gets in colder weather. "In Alaska, it is hard to sell the butyl tube, as the natural rubber tube takes a colder temperature coefficient range than the butyl," said Faire.

Desser also stocks Rapco products including brake discs, rivets and pads; and vacuum system components such as suction and pressure regulators, filters, dry air pumps and isolation check valves for multi-engine vacuum systems.

Concorde and Gill Batteries in the most common flooded cell and sealed battery configurations are in stock, as well as Gill and Concorde chargers and capacity testing equipment.
Hard-to-find tires

I needed a set of original smooth tread 8.00 x 4 tires for the 1939 Piper J-3 I was rebuilding. Fortunately, I discovered that Desser makes these—and during our recent visit to Montebello, we found they also make other obsolete and hard-to-find tires.

The Cub tires weren't inexpensive, but they were available—and they added that final right touch to the restoration. The owner couldn't be happier.

Desser is the go-to place to get tires of all shapes and sizes. I found that the free shipping on all orders over $100 combined with very competitive prices to be a powerful incentive for putting the Desser URL in my "Favorite Aero Parts" folder.

Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 39 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He's a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and lives in Paso Robles, Calif. with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .

Desser 02 14 19

Desser Tire & Rubber Co., Inc.
Tire Casing Inspection Checklist


Penn Yan Aero

October 2005- Penn Yan Aero in Penn Yan, N.Y. has been in the aviation engine overhaul business for a long time now—60 years—and they’ve maintained an excellent reputation for good work from nearly that first day.

Begun as an aviation repair shop in 1945 by Harold “Eagle” Middlebrook (who passed away three years ago at the age of 86), Penn Yan Aero has been a family-run business all of these years.

While Penn Yan Aero currently has plans to do some extensive expansion to their physical facility in the near future, they have no intention of moving from the Penn Yan Airport (KPEO) in upstate New York. It’s the only location at which the company has been since that first day of operations in 1945.


Visual Instruments Voltage Monitors

September 2005- General Aviation aircraft standard instrumentation includes an ammeter or current load meter to monitor your electrical system. Electrical power is a combination of Volts x Amps = Watts, or power.

An ammeter tells you only half of the story. In addition, the indicator charging condition is typically only a needle width difference between charge and discharge conditions.

Visual Instruments manufactures an easy to read and install voltage monitor. If your 14-volt alternator fails, the bus voltage difference between charge—13.5 volts—and discharge—12 volts or less—jumps right out in your face with changes in color and position on the voltage monitor.


Finding the True Flight GPS

July 2005- When I recently changed aeronautical directions by selling my light twin and moving into a two-seat sport airplane, I knew that I needed to also change my entire outlook on what sort of onboard navigation gear I’d add.

The airplane arrived at my hangar with a bare minimum of electronics—one communications transceiver, one transponder with altitude encoder, and one small handheld GPS mounted on the glareshield.

I knew that I could use a little more, but what? And at what cost, both in dollars and panel space?

Since the mission statement for my new airplane was for basically only VFR flying (but with onboard IFR-capable gyros, just in case some rain, fog or dark of night crept into our en route plans), I certainly couldn’t justify the sort of equipment that I used to haul around.

On top of that, not even a fraction of my previous FAA-approved gear would fit into the instrument panel, neither in height, width nor depth. So I began to search around in rather unfamiliar territory—VFR GPS equipment—to find out what was out there that might be just right for me.


(Almost) Worry-Free in the Wind

August 2013

When Noel Allen surveyed aircraft damaged in windstorms he found a pattern. The tiedown rings on most of the PA-28 Cherokee series had broken.

He noticed something else, too: the OEM rings were created to sit at a 90-degree angle to the fuselage, while the rope tiedowns were stretched at an angle. This configuration put stress on the rings—side forces sometimes exceeding 2,000 pounds—in a windstorm.

Allen had an idea for a better tiedown and as an aerospace structural engineer, he was in the unique position to do something about it.


Leading Edge: News and Reviews of Apps and Avionics

July 2013- 

Avionics is where the action is (and has been!) for some time in aviation. It seems as if each month brings a new, relatively low-cost gadget or app designed to increase situational awareness, monitor aircraft systems or otherwise improve the lot of pilots.

This month, we’ll look at a product that’s been around for a few years and it’s a device that fits the “big bang for the buck” paradigm: Zaon’s passive collision avoidance system (PCAS), the PCAS MRX.


Flying the True Flight GPS

August 2005-

Last month I spoke about my hunt for a navigation system to go into my new sport airplane and, after investigating the possibilities, I settled on a portable GPS system from True Flight (aviationsafety.com; 866-443-3342).

The unit I purchased—a Flight Cheetah FL250—had a large and bright display screen, a remote-mounted computer box and a plug-and-play interface with the WxWorx Data Link to provide satellite weather reception.

I’ve operated the unit for the last few months and I’m basically pleased with its performance. But first, let me list the disclaimers—which I’ll begin with by quoting myself from last month’s article: “True flight is a small company and, as such, there are some minor gaps in the things they are doing.


Pirep: King Practical 05-05

May 2005- 

I have long felt that the most significant dangers GA pilots face are related to their own judgment rather than their skill at the mechanics of flying. I’m sure I’m not alone among readers of this magazine in having lost a few acquaintances in aircraft accidents, the circumstances of which sadly reinforced this feeling.

Accordingly I have been perplexed by the nearly complete lack of judgment-related instruction in both private pilot and instrument training. Why is the most frequent cause of accidents and fatalities completely ignored in training that is supposed to produce “safe pilots?” Thus I was very interested when I learned of the King Risk Management Course instructional videos on exactly this subject.


Piper Flyer Holiday Gift Guide

Garmin D2 Pilot Watch-
Move over, Dick Tracy: a new era in nifty watches has arrived. The new Garmin D2 Pilot does everything but catch the bad guys. GPS enabled with direct-to and nearest function buttons on its side. Interfaces with Garmin Pilot app. $449.00 msrp 

D2 Pilot Watch for web



Hoop Earrings-
Earwings? These 18k white gold hoops will make a great gift for the female aviator in your life—even if that's you. $695.00

Hoop Dangle Earrings WG for web

InReach SE-
He's gone country—backcountry flying, that is. And if he has, make sure he's got a way to keep in touch. DeLorme's inReach SE is a portable satellite communicator. Send and receive text messages via satellite—no cell phone coverage needed. Follow me/find me tracking. Durable; waterproof, dustproof and impact-resistant. $299.00

inReach-SE-Final for web

ZULU-03 Directional Gyro Vintage Watch 9062VW-
Wear this watch and you'll indicate a high degree of style. Luminescent hands over a vintage directional gyro image. Solid 316 Stainless Steel and Black PVD case with a silicone rubber strap. $369.00

gyro watch

Classic Aviation Films Six-DVD set-
History really does repeat itself, because you'll want to watch these DVDs over and over. Aviation history buffs will love this collection of six DVDs that chronicle the history of flight from Kitty Hawk to Cape Kennedy. $42.95

DVD for web

Cub Shelf

If you’ve just been winging it when it comes to displaying your aviation collectibles, help is on the way. This clever shelf looks like a Piper Cub down to its spinning propeller and detailed engine. Perfect for a kid’s room or pilot cave. Painted resin 7.5”h x 14”l x 7.5”d. $59.99


cub shelf


Classic Instruments Coaster Set-
Share your love of flying and keep your tables "ring-free" with this set of four coasters based on vintage style cockpit instruments. Sturdy acrylic. 3.75" diameter. $15.99



Airport Data (and more) Your Way: Flight Guide evolves from paper to electronic data

Airport Data (and more) Your Way: Flight Guide evolves from paper to electronic data


I’ve been a Flight Guide user for longer than I can remember. For many years one of the iconic little brown loose-leaf binders covering the Western States had a place in my flight bag—and more than once came in very handy when I needed to find an airport with a nearby hotel or restaurant.

To be honest, I was a little annoyed when Flight Guide switched to the current larger format for its paper product. It now takes two of the larger throwaway spiral bound books to cover the same area—but the larger format is easier to read, so at least one of those books still flies with me on every cross-country trip.

While the books are extremely well laid out, with a detailed diagram and notes for every public-use airport (and less detailed but still useful information for low-use and military fields) in the coverage area, they have always suffered from two problems.

The first is that unless you buy and carry all the books, you won’t have coverage for the entire country. That’s an issue if a flight takes you outside your coverage area. On my two trips to Oshkosh from the Left Coast, I’ve used Flight Guide for the start and end of the trip, then switched to AOPA’s Airport Directory (which isn’t nearly as detailed).

The second issue is common to any paper-based source for aviation information: it can easily get out of date. The current spiral-bound books are updated annually, and quite a lot can change in a year. Flight Guide deals with that by offering a web-based online version that’s available on its own for $19 per region, or free with the paper-based version (which sells for $24.95 per region).

The trouble with a web-based service is that you can’t access it in the air—which is where I’ve found Flight Guide most useful. Of course you can continue to carry the paper version (as I do) but that tends to get out of date. To get the best of both, you’d need a way to get an electronic version of the data on a device that you can carry with you.

The folks at Airguide Publications (publishers of Flight Guide) thought of that, and offer several electronic products. If you own a Sony PRS or Amazon Kindle eBook reader, you can get Flight Guide eBook for $35 per region. Essentially, that gives you an electronic version of the pages in the printed books.

On the iPad, though, Airguide chose to offer something much more extensive: FlightGuide iEFB is a nearly complete Electronic Flight Bag app, offering not only Flight Guide’s traditionally excellent airport data, but also flight planning, DUATS-based weather briefings, and electronic charting features.

Look Inside Your Engine—From the Cockpit! An Insight G3 Engine Monitor Pirep Part 2: Installation

Look Inside Your Engine—From the Cockpit! An Insight G3 Engine Monitor Pirep Part 2: Installation


In part one of my Insight engine monitor pirep (Piper Flyer, January 2013), I described the G3 engine monitor’s operation and its diagnostic and data logging capabilities.

This month, I’ll focus on how the G3 engine monitor got installed, along with how the 22 sensor leads were wired in order to make all those features light up on the liquid crystal display.

The journey starts with configuring the G3 monitor to fit your aircraft.

Custom Design

Insight does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to engine monitor configuration, which is readily apparent from the beginning: the company’s website includes a separate order form for each G series model.

I ordered the G3 instrument, and this form featured lots of additional questions to properly configure such a full-function engine monitor. The first six sections were straightforward and asked for owner and installer contact information. The remaining questions involved details about aircraft make, model and year; engine make and model; buss voltage; plus specific sensor type and size information.

The website describes and shows pictures of these sensors and how to select the sensor for your aircraft. The fuel flow sensor selection highlights an important difference between aircraft: fuel flow sensor options vary for fuel injection versus carburetor installations and mounting locations. Prior planning for necessary AN fittings to insert the sensor in the fuel line will help the project go smoothly later on.

Insight’s technical support is available when questions come up. They will assist with selecting the correct configurations and discuss installation options with you.

For example, I wasn’t sure whether or not to keep the OEM carburetor air temperature gauge. At first I thought I wanted to keep the 2 ¼-inch gauge, but after giving it some thought, I decided the best course of action was to remove the OEM gauge and use the Insight carb air temp, which is logged on the SD memory card. (For more information, take a look at the “Why is That?” section in Part 1. There I discuss how logging this variable helped me find the best temperature to improve fuel air distribution.) Sometimes it’s hard to let go of something that is old and familiar, but moving on was the right decision.


Sennheiser S1 Headset Pilot

November 2012


Recently I flew with my friend Dean in his single engine aircraft. I was photographing our friend’s newest airplane, so I opened the window. This rather large opening created lots of fresh air. And lots of wind noise.

Dean and I just shouted back and forth to each other (cross-cockpit, that is) to communicate. Even though it was a relatively short flight, I could feel that my vocal chords were strained after we landed.

Now I am climbing out as the pilot a larger aircraft, which obviously creates a greater amount of wind noise than in Dean’s plane. I never realized how loud it was in this cockpit, either, until I donned my new Sennheiser Digital S1 headset. All that air rushing up over the nose of my plane has been reduced to what sounds like a very light breeze.

After turning on the headset’s active noise reduction, it gets even more unbelievably quiet in the cockpit. With ANR canceling out all of the unwanted noise, I’m able to hear other, more important things. Like the radios.

With a Sennheiser S1, I can listen to the ATIS while still monitoring the active ATC frequency. I was not able to do this in the past—with other headsets, that is. Before, I would always have to completely turn down one of the radios to hear the other radio. This headset is so quiet that all I hear is the beginning and end of the trim motor engagement.

The audio quality is by far the best of any headset that I have worn in the past. However, if the audio is not to your liking, you can adjust it manually by changing the bass and/or treble. Everyone’s ears are different, so this is a great added feature to make the S1 sound even better to you.


Aero W&B: A Jim Dandy, Nifty iPhone/iPad Weight and Balance Application

September 2012


There are many weight and balance applications to wade through, and you need to be careful. I recently discovered AeroW&B, an aircraft weight and balance application available at the Apple App Store for $2.99. The app was developed for use with iPhones and iPads.

Key factors for a good weight and balance program include data entry for the passengers, fuel and baggage, and a graph that shows whether or not you are within the weight and center of gravity (CG) parameters for the entire flight. AeroW&B shines in meeting these requirements, and the app has filled a hole in my electronic flight bag.

The online manual/documentation is nonexistent, and if you like to install an app and then just poke around until you get it right, you may become frustrated—at least, that’s what happened to me.

Then I discovered a website with video tutorials walking you through all the inputs and menus for both platforms. (See the second entry under Resources for this link. —Ed.)

After you download and install the app on your device, you can fairly quickly configure it and calculate your first weight and balance using the video tutorials. There are separate tutorials for the iPhone and iPad. (The apps are slightly different as far as the buttons displayed when saving some of the data.)

Following along with the steps in the video tutorials, first you will create an aircraft model. In step two, you’ll create a specific aircraft and enter the data for empty weight and arm. Refer to the tutorial for help inputting data for your specific aircraft.


Stratus: An In-Flight Weather Receiver

August 2012


Real-time, in-flight weather is not a new concept. Sirius XM and WSI have been providing it to pilots for years.

ADS-B, the key element in the United States government’s plan for the NextGen air traffic control system, has been in a long and slow development process. The service, which provides weather, traffic—and ultimately will provide clearances and other ATC communications—is now becoming available as the FAA pushes toward its full implementation
by 2020.


The first element of NextGen to become available has been the weather products. But in order for pilots to take advantage of this service, they need
an ADS-B receiver and a way to display the data.

Most readers would agree that the Apple iPad has emerged as the dominant choice for in-cockpit informational display. Gulfstream is certifying the iPad as an EFB on its new G650 ultra-high speed business jet; Jeppesen is aggressively pushing its chart service toward electronic formats; and companies like ForeFlight have developed apps for the iPad that are both easy to use and extremely cost-effective.


Book Review: “Captain” by Thomas Block

July 2012


In the seventh aviation novel by Thomas Block, an airline company whose owners shield a hidden agenda, an airliner with some fancy technical upgrades and a cast of characters with secrets, troubled pasts and crossed purposes come together for what is supposed to be a routine flight from Rome to New York.

Capt. Jack Schofield, First Officer Peter Fenton and Second Officer Linda Erickson are in the cockpit of a Consolidated 768—the Consolidated 768 is a Boeing 767 modified by Trans-Continental airlines with advanced electronics and other airframe alterations—preparing Flight 03 for departure from Rome. Checklists are being followed, flight plans readied, but all is not sunshine and roses on the flight deck.

Capt. Schofield’s selective adherence to the operating handbook and company rules has got Fenton’s hackles up. Extra fuel added off the books, a retired captain in the cockpit for takeoff… these things should just not be allowed, but Schofield just shrugs off his first officer’s concerns. And there isn’t much that can be done about it, at least not until the flight has landed.

Retired captain Ray Clarke has come to Rome to heal from a painful past, but weeks of trudging the Italian landscape has not helped and now he’s scheduled to fly home. When Capt. Schofield—an old friend and former copilot from Clarke’s company days—invites him to the cockpit for the takeoff, Clarke is happy for the distraction.


Aspen Avionics’ Synthetic Vision

June 2012

If you think synthetic vision is a gimmick, or one of those nice-to-have features that’s not worth the money, you don’t understand the technology.
To be honest, I too was skeptical about the value of syn vision at first. But I get to fly a lot of different aircraft and have had the opportunity to use several different synthetic vision systems.

My initial reaction was yes, it’s nice, but is it better?

That answer came to me while giving instruction to a long-time student who had upgraded his aircraft to glass with synthetic vision. I already knew from personal experience that glass panel students were getting their instrument ratings in less time than steam gauge students; I attributed this to vastly superior information interface that the glass displays provide. Instead of having to look at six instruments, you could find everything you need on one.

Since we were going out to shoot approaches as part of recurrent training, I decided to run a test. We flew the same approaches with and without the syn vision turned on. To my surprise, my student was observably more precise while using the syn vision than without it. It became clear to me that the synthetic vision yielded a quantum improvement in his situational awareness.

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