The High-Tech World of Cockpit Gadgets

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A New Generation Of Headset...

Move over, James Bond, we've got you covered with the latest set of gadgets that are especially designed with the technically savvy aviator in mind. While noise-canceling headsets are nothing new, a Maryland company is promising huge improvements with its next generation of communications technology. Ellicott City-based TechnoSys Inc. will use fiber optics in the headsets and, it claims, improve communication in airplane cockpits. [more] The company says cockpits are not only noisy in the audible sense, they also have all kinds of ambient electronic interference from radars, navigation systems and panel displays. The company was recently awarded $50,000 to help commercialize the fiber optics-based aviator's headset it has been developing over the past several years. The money, awarded by the Maryland Technology Transfer Fund, will help the company develop a production prototype headset for use in military and commercial applications. Last year, the company received another $50,000 grant from the Naval Air Warfare Center to create technical drawings for the product.

...High-Tech Weather Briefings..

While DUATS pioneered online weather services, it's hard to keep up with all the new computer-based products coming out these days. For example, PDA users can now get graphical weather products right in the "Palm" of their hands. TurboWx -- available as a Palm OS Web Clipping and a browser-based PDA and SmartPhone application -- is a server-based subscription service that delivers commonly available free, non-copyrighted weather information, available on the Internet, into a presentation specifically designed for these devices. This subscription will set you back between $40 and $70. Don't have a PDA? How about checking the weather on your cellphone? WAP protocol provides aviation weather codes, worldwide airport information -- including navigation aids, fuel and oil data, daylight saving schedules, runway dimensions and even nearby hotels -- at your fingertips.

...Reach Out And Weigh Someone

Cellphone technology is also helping out with one of the least-favorite preflight chores. Smartsoft, a Norwegian software company, just released its new aviation weight & balance software, Flight WTK 1.0 (Flight Wireless Tool Kit). The software enables pilots to perform weight and balance on their mobile phone even as the aircraft is being loaded. The company hopes the versatility to change calculations on the ramp will be a big plus for pilots. Very handy on those trips to Oshkosh, where everything seems worthy of buying.