Pilot's Guide to Avionics 2016-2017 - 66
AUDIO CONTROL PANELS
Continued from page 65
is a fail-safe mode to assure the pilot of at least one communicationsradio connection even should the
audio panel itself fail .
But there's no denying that the
new features are among the attractions driving the retrofit of new
audio panels - features and conveniences common to today's personal electronics devices: Bluetooth
connections for phones and music
players; USB ports for connecting
external hardware - such as a music device or external recorder .
At least one audio panel model
even offers an integral control input
PITOT STATIC TEST
for a remotely mounted VHF communication radio, further increasing
the little audio panel's usefulness
for some of aviation's simplest
Feature options vary widely
Aircraft owners and operators
today enjoy more variety in audio
panel choices than ever before -
from simple, basic audio panels for
entry-level, light sport and experimental panels to systems capable
of handling six audio output channels, and the full boat of features,
including phone, music and wireless device connectability .
The Bluetooth connection, for
example, can allow passengers
or crew to make cellphone calls
through their headset - a benefit
in a light plane with the engine
The same wireless audio technology can enable a feature-deep
audio panel to play music on an
iPod, iPad, iPhone, Android smartphone or tablet, or other Bluetoothenabled device .
Feature-rich audio panels allow
the crew to isolate passenger audio
from pilot, co-pilot or both - not a
new feature, but one more attractive in an age when passengers
can do more than chat among
themselves . . . such as play music .
For the crew, many up-feature
audio panels also allow the crew to
have one comm radio as the active
radio while allowing another crew
member to use a second comm
Some audio panels also sport
hard connections to input audio;
one pilot of my acquaintance brings
a portable DVD player for his
grandkids, and uses its headset
connection to pipe the movie's audio through the six-place intercom
of his plane . The arrangement,
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he said, gave him his first major
appreciation of the pilot-isolate
controls . The passengers get to
enjoy the video's audio while he
hears only comm-radio audio .
For helicopter installations, rotorwing-oriented audio panels are
built to tougher physical and vibration standards - and typically offer
more channels for voice communications . This is acknowledgment of
the high percentage of the helicopter fleet used in law enforcement,
emergency medical and firefighting work - any work environment
involving regular coordinating with
multiple agencies using different
radio types and frequency bands .
Same job, varied in
Helping an owner or pilot pick
an audio panel for a stack upgrade
should take into account any other
work planned for the same job,
of course, and a look at plans for
the future . The answer to those
questions can have a bearing on
choosing the best option for the
flying and equipment.
But regardless of the panel and
its needs or space, an audio panel
likely exists that can fit and fulfill its
Some are small enough to fit
into a standard 3 .5-inch instrument
hole; others take up as much space
as a 1960s nav/comm .
As previously noted, some take
up no panel space at all . Instead of
mounting in the panel, the remote
mounts ride in a bay or on an
avionics shelf somewhere remote
from the panel - but still controlled
by a pilot-accessible device, like
a multifunction display or primary
flight display with the ability to control remote devices .
Continued on page 68...
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