Avionics News February 2013 - 22
PORTABLE POWERHOUSES, VHF TO GPS
Continued from page 21
With the convenience of instant-on solid-state circuitry, a backup handheld can restore communications for
an aircraft suffering a failure of anything from the main
electrical system to the radio in the panel.
Many of the options available also provide a useable
localizer indication when tuned to one of the VHF navigation receivers.
And at least one – Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s SP-400 – performs at a level all its own: receiving and transmitting in
the VHF aviation amplitude modulation communications
band, receiving the frequency modulation broadcasts of
the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Weather Radio service, receiving the VHF navigation
frequencies for localizer indication – yes, it translates to/
from, radial and an indicator – which would be massive
all by itself.
But Sporty’s SP-400 also receives, translates and indicates the VHF navigation glideslope indication exactly like
a panel-mounted VHF navigation box with an LOC/GS indicator in a 2-square-inch, grayscale liquid crystal display.
Given the differences in receiver functions and the addition of a transmitter for VHF communications, what
Sporty’s accomplished is something akin to revolutionary
in aviation portables.
Icom and Vertex offer well-regarded solutions, as does
Motorola and a couple of other companies with units that
encompass the aviation bands – though few of those incorporate the VHF navigation functions.
And for the savvy shop, finding, holding onto and sprucing up the old, reliable Bendix/King KX 99 handheld nav/
comm could make them the friends of many pilots who
need the rugged functionality of this long-run unit.
Portable GPS: It’s All About Location,
Knowing where you are, where you’re going and
what’s in between is critical. Such knowledge is fundamental to safe flying, marine navigation and increasing
numbers of ground-vehicle drivers.
Today’s handheld GPS navigators can work in all the
same non-electrical-system airplanes as the VHF radios –
antique aircraft, balloonists, sailplanes and ultralights.
They have even greater appeal to the pilots of many
certificated, conventional aircraft – in large part for their
high degree of accuracy as well as the added functionality some provide.
In less than two decades, the state-of-the-art in hand22
held GPS navigators progressed from small, grayscale
LCDs to full-color thin film transistor digital screens.
In the past few years, these devices morphed into navigators employing WAAS to deliver accuracy on par with
While their lack of approval largely stems from their
portable nature and non-TSO’d GPS receiver sections,
their accuracy, nonetheless, closely mirrors IFR-approved
units – exactly what a pilot needs to survive in the muck
after a failed GPS or electrical system.
For thousands of pilots flying VFR-only and in aircraft
lacking a panel-mounted GPS, a quality handheld navigator can further transform their situational awareness with
features matching panel-mounted gear.
For example, many portable GPS navigators can display satellite datalink weather – near-live Doppler radar,
text weather and NOTAMs. For some of these navigators,
the datalink weather comes integral to the box; an add-on
box is required for others.
Garmin’s 795/796 Aera