17 November 2012

Instruments for XC Flying and Competitions

Ah, don't you just love technology! Well, in my case: not particularly. On the spectrum between utter Luddite and complete techno-geek, I am somewhere in the middle.
However, I am interested in how instruments can help performance.

 My current set up is far from state of the art, but does most things I want.
- On the right is a Flytec 5020 (equivalent to a Brauniger Competino). As a GPS enabled vario, it is  spot on for reliably navigating competition and XC tasks and providing lots of useful info for XC flight. The later versions of the same instrument are an improvement and the next model up has even more capability. Not cheep through.
- In the centre is a Garmin 76C. Like the Flytec, it records a 3D track log for the XC league and competition tasks. Should the Flytec have a problem, I can also also navigate tasks, though not as easily. At the moment this is my main airspace instrument for the UK, using the free download maps developed by Simon Headford. Used in conjunction with a paper 1:500000 air map, I have never yet infringed airspace. Simple and reliable.
- On the left is a Vertica V2 running LK8000 software. This flight computing software is open source and has awesome capability. It is not the easiest programme to use and I am still a long way from mastering it. The airspace maps are not the best and I am considering splashing out on some proper electronic CAA maps.  The software can run on many windows CE enabled car sat-navs, for as little as £40. This how I started but the screen was unreadable in even moderate brightness.

I have now moved to the unit pictured: the Vertica V2. The V2 has massively better viability in sunlight. Combined with an additional external battery it is doing the job well for me and was well worth the extra spend.
Completing the package is a Solario mini audio only vario (not pictured), attached to my shoulder strap. Any one instrument can fail and I should still be able to complete my XC or competition task AND provide a valid track log.

If I was starting from scratch would I buy the same?

Certainly there are instruments that do well against the Flytec. I have been impressed with Flymasters in terms of capability and value. The V2 is very good, but I remain to be convinced by LK8000. The Garmin is good and appears to do a great job even compared to later models. I haven't mentioned the staggering C-Pilot Pro. It does everything in one sophisticated package. It is neither compact or cheap; owners affectionately refer to it "the brick." It might be even more capable than LK8000 and does look more user friendly. You would certainly hope so at a over £1000!