Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2016-2017 - 65
While those old units may do the job, they fall short
of providing the benefits available in new-technology
audio panels . Even among today's sport pilots, a newgeneration audio panel holds appeal for the extras
available . Those extras hold particular appeal among
pilots and passengers enthralled by the ability to use
their portable devices as much as possible .
The variety of options available today is considerable - many of them a long way from the audio panel's
simple roots .
Switch on, switch off
The audio control panel came about to provide a
convenient one-box solution to managing audio output
from the prevailing VHF communication and navigation
radios dominant decades ago .
Prior to the advent of the audio control panel, pilots
with multiple radios to manage relied on a scattered
array of switches to switch on or off the audio output of
VHF communications and navigation radios, as well as
the audio received to identify ADF stations - allowing
crew and passengers to hear broadcast radio programs from high-power AM radio stations when flying.
It was an era when the cockpit-communications
system dominant in aircraft cockpits involved shouting at fellow crew and passengers to be heard above
the roar of engines and props . Intercoms provided the
logical step to improve cockpit communications - and
often the intercom involved throwing a switch to be
heard, instead of transmitting on a comm radio .
The advent of the audio panel brought organization
and centralization to the job of managing audio output
from the sundry radios in the panel, as well as control
over the selection of transmitters used to communicate .
A pilot selects which source to listen, and the audio
panel routes those signals into the audio headset
channel - or a cockpit speaker, if so selected . Beyond
that basic function, the audio panel quickly gained
ground as the home of other useful functions .
Audio panel advances over the years included the
integration of multiplace intercoms into the box . Audio
panels also became a common home for marker-beacon receivers .
At that point, functionality sort of plateaued . The
electronics technology used advanced with the times,
but the functionality changed little until new innovators
brought their own new twists on some old tricks . So
began the march into the 21st century technologies we
carry in our phones and tablet computers .
Today, audio panels come in a dizzying variety -
different shapes and form factors, different features .
Audio panels today offer features such as voiceactivated intercoms, digital communications recording, public address system amplifiers, stereo music
players, and phone or satellite radio interfaces . Also
big, the pilot-configurable flexibility layered inside the
compact boxes, which take up little panel space - if
they even take up panel space .
Some integrated avionics systems make the audio
panel integral to the package and hide out of sight all
but the switches - effectively taking up no additional
panel space .
Among today's most sensible, and common features
Continued on following page...
THE VARIETY OF OPTIONS AVAILABLE TODAY IS CONSIDERABLE -
MANY OF THEM A LONG WAY FROM THE AUDIO PANEL'S SIMPLE ROOTS.
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