Review – AOPA Airports 2.0 Blackberry

Hilton Software has released an update for the AOPA Airports Blackberry program. The program is a free download for any AOPA member. The new update finally has a key piece of information that was lacking in version 1.0.

The runway traffic pattern is now displayed when you view the runway section.

Another new feature is DUATS integration. It appears that there is flight plan filing now in the program. I say appears because when I click on it a dialog pops up that says “subscription required”. So I am assuming it is a paid feature.

Key Features

  • Radio Frequencies / Phone numbers
  • Location – Coords, Variation, Elevation
  • Runway details – Length, Direction, TPA
  • Airport diagrams
  • FBO Info and numbers
  • Local services – Hotels, Tourist, etc

Overall I think the program is great. It is easy to read and use. The loading time is quick and it has never crashed on me. It now contains all of the information you would get in a standard paper book A/FD. Just like the book you can update the database every 60 days to get the latest info.

To download it point your mobile browser to:
http://www.aopa.org/mobiledirectory

Studying for the Written Exam

The next item I checked off my list was the Private Pilot Knowledge test. It is a 60 question test that you have 2.5hrs to complete. Out of the 28,473 Private Pilot Airplane exams administered during 2008, 91.58% people passed with an average score of 84.14 (source). Those are very good statistics. I would  attribute that to the fact that anyone taking the test actually wants to fly so they put extra effort in learning the material.

Up until this point I had been reading through the big Jeppesen book chapter by chapter. It really is a great book in my opinion and has a ton of information. When it comes to learning the theory and information you need to fly that book does the job well. That being said I do not think that book by itself could prepare someone for the knowledge test. This test like all other standardized tests has a very particular way they ask you questions. Getting accustomed to the questions and how they are answered is by far the hardest part.

I used several resources to prepare. The one I thought helped the most with learning the actual material was the King School DVD course. John and Martha King go through every section on the exam and show exactly how each question is answered and the best part is how the FAA tries to trick you. I sat there hour after hour and watch the entire course while taking notes, it was a huge help. Now my next task was to practice the actual test taking using real questions and timing it. For that I used two more resources. Exams4Pilots and Gleim Private Pilot Software. Both of these were critical in preparing because they have the exact same questions and figures that are used on the test.

Review – Lightspeed Solo SSc Headset

Lightspeed Solo SSc

A few months ago I purchased my first headset. Previously I had been borrowing a friend’s set of David Clarks. After countless hours of searching online for information and reviews I decided to go with Lightspeed Solo SSc. The specifications are as follows:

The QFR SOLO SSc has noise reduction rating (NRR) 25dB. Adjustable gain pre-amp allows for field ‘balancing’ of mic sensitivities. Includes cell phone interface, Confor-Foam ear seals and soft plush headpad, dual volume controls and stereo/mono selection switch. Features an electret microphone with windscreen. Weighs 14 oz., three year warranty. Imported. (From Sporty’s)

The headset arrived in a white box. Inside it was a headset bag, cell phone cable, and user guide. The first thing I noticed was how light they felt. Comparing them to the older set I was borrowing they were noticeably lighter. The build quality did seem a bit flimsier then the DCs but that is expected when you purchase something for half of the price. The cord is nice and long and not coiled/springy so it does not tangle as easily. There are two volume controls and a switch to select stereo or mono.

The ear cups are easy to adjust up and down and conform to your head. I noticed on my first few flights that the clamping force on my head was a bit too strong but that eventually got better. The microphone is very flexible and easy to move into position. One problem with the unit is the location of the headset cord. It comes directly out of the bottom of one of the ear cups. For me not being that tall (5’7″) I found it pokes me in the shoulder when I try to swivel my head around. While it isn’t that bad it is worse with the addition of jackets and winter clothes, still I can live with it. I had my friend who is a bit taller try them on and he doe not have any issues at all with shoulder clearance.