AIN Blog: Gadgets Are Great

 - February 20, 2012, 8:34 AM
Trakkabeam A800
The Trakkabeam A800 is half the size of traditional searchlights to deliver a more intense and consistent beam on target. (Photo: Kirby J. Harrison)

The average business aviation trade show is a world of gadgets. Hundreds of them. Some lesser, some greater. Some large, some small. Some serious, and at the same time downright amusing, depending on your perspective. Heli-Expo 2012, held earlier this month in Dallas, had its share of gadgets, and I use that term rather loosely, with a certain poetic license.

I liked the Trakkabeam A800 from Trakkabeam Tactical Searchlights, if for no other reason than it just sounds cool. And the name also describes what the company does. Makes it easy to find; a concept that apparently eludes some marketing mavens.

The Xenon lamp is half the size of traditional searchlights to deliver a more intense and consistent beam on target, according to the Albuquerque, N.M. company. It weighs just 44.2 pounds and offers dual controls, with pilot priority switching.

It occurred to me that it might also have been called the Snooperbeam. Not that anyone would ever use it for such a nefarious purpose.

Those who have used the old borescopes would argue that, as procedures go, it is not altogether unlike an endoscopy, though without the embarrassment. Olympus Canada has something better, or at least lighter and more convenient.

It’s the iPlex UltraLite, a palm-sized video-scope that is extremely light, held in one hand and operated via a thumb-toggle. Perfect for those cramped spaces. Don’t look for it anytime soon at your doctor’s clinic.

Now you may not know what a Hazebuster is, but hundreds of thousands of pilots can tell you in a heartbeat. They’re nifty, even sexy, sunglasses, which Bob Hurd, founder and owner of Tillamook, Ore.-based Hazebuster, emphasizes are the only sunglasses made exclusively for pilots and marketed only to pilots.

He also points out that the average age of the general aviation pilot is 52, “So we offer Hazebusters in bifocals.” Gee, thanks a lot for reminding us, Bob. Hurd also claims that at the AirVenture show in Oshkosh, he sold more than 1,500 pairs.

LifeBlanket was promoting its Original Pocket Rescue Bivy at Heli-Expo. Before we get all confused, a bivy is an abbreviated version of the term bivouac, what civilians call camping out. Hence the term bivy sack or bivy bag. Or rescue bivy.

It seems vaguely appropriate therefore to point out that LifeBlanket was also offering a special for Heli-Expo visitors: buy one cowboy blanket and get one free. And no, cowboys do not call them bivy blankets.

Finally, there was Aircraft Technologies, a company that has been in business more than 40 years providing composite ducting and avionics. In all, rather pedestrian, if necessary, cabin components.

But this year, for the first time at Heli-Expo, or anywhere else for that matter, the San Antonio company was showing its “Clean Flush” self-contained helicopter cabin toilet. The first one went into a Mexican owner’s Eurocopter, as the third seat in a three-place divan. Aircraft Technologies v-p of sales Jon Riebesehl assured me that a curtain was installed to allow some degree of privacy, however small. Abandon all modesty, ye who enter here.

So the next time you go to a business aviation trade show, take the time to peruse the exhibits of those smaller companies. The ones with the nifty gadgets. You might be pleasantly surprised and occasionally amused.