...Garmin's Newest A Sure Highlight...

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And for the gadgetly inclined, you may need to seek a twelve-step program after AirVenture. Every kind of aviation-related tool and toy imaginable is on display, and among the highlights are Garmin's next-generation navigation system, the GPSmap 396. It's a GPS navigator that combines XM-based weather datalink with XM audio and terrain alerting of the sort found in TAWS boxes costing thousands. Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, reviewed the 396 in depth. The full seven-page report is available on the magazine's Web site. Don't forget that many of the high-tech gizmos now common on certified airplanes first took flight in the experimental market and that trend continues with PCAvionics, which continues its impressive drive, pushing the leading edge further. PCAvionics, with MountainScope, helped to pioneer software for 3-D moving maps (sometimes called synthetic vision) and it continues to find its way into state-of-the-art hardware for use in experimental aircraft. Watch for PCAvionics to add ADS-B to the highest-resolution terrain-awareness product (its MountainScope software) plus digital approach plates -- all accessed from the same GPS-enabled display.

Today, MountainScope can be installed in Motion Computing's LS800 Tablet PC, which features an 8.4-inch screen that can be yoke mounted or strapped to your knee. Also sharing PCAvionics' booth at Oshkosh will be PlanePC, which makes sunlight-readable LCD displays and "rugged" computers. The setup has a 1.6 GHz Pentium M processor to make the most of the complex software. And Chelton Flight Systems, which also taps the experimental market in developing its certified products, will be releasing its latest software package, called simply 6.0. It's the basis for the system that will be certified for transport-category aircraft in 2006 and comes with a long list of navigation, terrain awareness and instrument features that gives it some pretty impressive capabilities. "Flying a full procedure turn ILS followed by a missed approach with a parallel entry to a holding pattern without ever touching the controls is truly amazing," said Kirk Hammersmith, president of Direct-To Avionics. Not all the new stuff hangs from the panel, however. LoPresti Aviation has redesigned its "Boom Beam" landing lights and introduced a new, more powerful version that puts out 750,000 lumens (enough light from a quarter mile to read a newspaper by).