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FlightPro For Android: Intuitive, Data-Rich: we think the FlightPro for android is one of the most straightforward and intuitive apps we've used. don't expect an iOS version any time soon.

In a flight planning app market that's been dominated by Apple i0S, it's easy to overlook apps designed specifically for the Android platform, but we think that's changing. Tablets from Samsung, Google and others are proving to be just as capable as Apple's offerings for less money.

If you've been away from Android for a while, don't underestimate its processing power and overall ability to support a new breed of highly capable cockpit apps. An example is FlightPro. Even after using it for a short time, we were impressed with its intuitive feature set, shallow menu structure and speed. We also like that it presents at-a-glance waypoint and weather data, in addition to seamless DUATS flight planning.

SIMPLE MENUS

The FlightPro app is compatible with most every Android device with software version 4.0 or later. FlightPro says it regularly tests on Nexus 7 and Xyboard 8.2, so these are sure-thing compatible devices. We evaluated the app on a Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, which sells for around $350 and at 5 x 8.62 x 0.28 inches, found it to be nearly the perfect size for the cockpit. We give its screen quality and battery endurance a slight edge over the iPad mini.

FlightPro has minimal menu icons, adding to the apps simplicity. There's a basic navigation bar at the bottom of the screen that displays active navigation data fields (distance to waypoint, ETA, ETE) and there's also a selectable onscreen magnetic rose. It can be configured to display a CDI that automatically uses terminal, en route and approach course-width scaling. As you would expect, a magenta course rhumb line is displayed on the map.

There's an integral, map-overlayed altimeter label that auto-adjusts every 15 seconds when the app is receiving valid weather data. When altimeter data is between 60 and 75 minutes old, the altitude will display in yellow. When the altimeter is more than 75 minutes old, altitude will display in red.

Nearest airports are selected from a dedicated icon from the menu bar at the top of the screen. The upper menu bar also has a POI icon, for point of interest, to manually key in a waypoint name. The app has a full-screen or split-screen mode that's useful for displaying various maps, in addition to side-by-side waypoint and weather data. A major function of the app is the Info Box, which appears after touching an airport on the map. There's also a Details View (a digital version of the airport facilities directory), which tells you everything you could possibly want to know about a waypoint, including frequencies, runway data, available fuel types and also the current weather, including the METAR and TAF.

At the bottom of the waypoint Info Box is an action bar with three icons, including a direct-to corn-mand that navigates directly to the associated waypoint.

The Info Box runway highlight icon is for selecting the intended runway for departure or approach. When in the runway highlight mode, the map shows extended runway centerlines with arrows that indicate the direction of the traffic pattern. Nifty and helpful.

There's also a weather icon for displaying textual and weather images, including METAR history, TAF, local radar and radar tops, to name a few products. You'll need an Internet connection or a compatible ADS-B or XM receiver. Currently, FlightPro is compatible with Baron MobileLink XM, SkyRadar and the iLevil ADS-B, plus the Dual XGPS170 ADS-B receiver via Bluetooth connection. Weather is configured with the onscreen Layers Tab. While open, it enables options for displaying or decluttering weather products, based on compatible driving receivers.

If you ever get lost on the onscreen map (after panning a long distance on a busy sectional, for example), there's a dedicated icon that automatically centers the chart on the current position. There's also the option to change the size of the on-chart font and the ownship icon, accessed in a generous preferences menu.

SUBSCRIPTION, DUATS

The $149.99 Premium yearly subscription package includes georef-erenced charting that's provided by Seattle Avionics. You get airport taxi diagrams, approach plates, sectional charts and high and low airway charts. The Standard subscription tier has the same charting, but no approach plate and taxi chart geore-ferencing (the aircraft won't appear on the chart). Charts are selected from a drop-down chart menu on the upper left corner of the screen.

There's a dedicated flight plan tab, with drop-down options for clearing, inverting and loading flight plans. Flight plan data is automatically transferred to the Flight Pad Briefing tab, where it can be edited or sent to your [MATS account. A dedicated Request prompt in the Briefing tab requests a weather briefing, with the option to file the flight plan.

The Flight Pad also has a runway-finding feature. It displays a representation of your aircraft in relation to the runway that's in use. The Scribbles function is a note pad for writing clearances and illustrations.

WHY DROID ONLY?

That's what we asked FlightPro's Paul Coleman, who told us that the Android platform is edging Apple iOS in popularity.

"An announcement was made recently that Android surpassed i0S, making it the most popular mobile platform in the world. The development platform for Android is more common and there are significantly more developers for Android versus i0S," he said.

We're not so sure that's the case with aviation app designers, with top apps including ForeFlight Mobile and Jeppesen only serving Apple i0S. On the other hand, if Android tablets continue to increase in popularity as they seem to be doing, these aviation tablet app developers could have some serious programming to do. Based on our trials, FlightPro would be the one for them to beat once it gains a few lacking features, including terrain and synthetic vision. Contact www.flightpro.com for a trial subscription. across the Italian border east of Trieste. Company founder Ivo Boscarol fed his lifelong aviation interest by building and flying hang gliders beneath the regulatory and security radar.

Following the dissolution of Yugoslavia and Slovenia's eventual entry into the European Union, he began building powered gliders and now a line of European ultralights that sell as LSAs in the U.S. The Virus and Sinus are Pipistrel products and between those and the gliders, Pipistrel builds about 120 airframes a year.

Boscarol's ethos has been less pure speed than efficiency, a philosophy the company used to win the $1.35 million NASA Green Flight Challenge in 2011 with the Taurus G4. The challenge required the winning aircraft to fly 200 miles in under two hours on less than one gallon of fuel per occupant, or the equivalent electrical energy The twin-fuselage G4, an all-electric design, crushed the challenge, using but half of the allowed energy allotment.

The G4 was both faster--by 6 MPH--and more economical than the second place finisher, with the equivalent of 403.5 MPG. The competition had both promotional and practical applications, demonstrating Pipistrel's prowess in low-energy flight and employing the same type of brush less DC motor Pipistrel will use in the electric version of the Panthera.

HIGH AMBITION

You read that right. In addition to the gasoline powerplant, Pipistrel plans a pure electric version and also a hybrid-drive variant. Pip istrel's Tine Tomazic showed us the plans for the latter and although it appears to be quite far along, we can't judge how realistic it is for the short term. For the time being, Pipistrel has its hands full re-engineing the gasoline model.

When it first appeared two years ago, Pipistrel predicted the Panthera would fly at around 200 knots on 10 gallons per hour, burning readily available mogas, at least in Europe.

The planned engine was Ly-coming's 210-HP 10-390. However, as the project unfolded, Ly-coming revealed that it couldn't make the 10-390 deliver full rated power on mogas with sufficient detonation margin. So in early 2014, Pipistrel announced that it was switching to the 260-1-HP Lycoming 10-540-V4A5, which is approved for 93 AKI fuel, if not necessarily exactly automotive gasoline.

This appears to be a point of contention because Lycoming's Si 1070 approving 93 AKI fuel for the model of10-540 Pipistrel plans to use specifies a Reid vapor pressure requirement of 9 PSI or less, which is in the range of avgas. In Europe, fuels with 98 research octane (93 AKI) are available, including at some airports. While these meet the octane requirement, they may or may not meet the vapor pressure requirement, according to Lycoming. Sources in the fuel industry we've spoken with are mixed on this issue. "To us, the important thing is not which fuel or mogas, but that the airplane's future isn't tied to lOOLL," Tomazic said.

"The decision on the engine was twofold; "says Pipistrel's Tomazic. "Forty percent is that the 10-390 turned out to be not feasible to run on mogas.' The 60 percent comes from checking the current backlog and seeing where these airplanes will fly. A big majority of the people who order the airplanes fly hot and high every day," Tomazic added. That includes South Africa, Argentina, Mexico and Colorado, to name a few locales from which 65 Panthera orders have come. Tomazic said Lycoming made a credible effort at making the 10-390 run on fuels other than avgas, but the physics just didn't work.

With the 10-540, he says, owners will have at least 200 HP available at the prop shaft except in extreme conditions, something that can't be said of the 10-390. And what of the weight? Tomazic concedes it'll be a 90-pound hit over the smaller engine.

"Because the low-speed flight side of the envelope turned out so well, we can bump the maximum takeoff weight by 200 pounds. So in the end, we have an airplane that can deliver what we can call the original design horsepower between 190 and 200," Tomazic says. Physically, the larger engine will fit under the same cowling because Pipistrel had envisioned both the possibility of a larger engine and the planned hybrid drive. (See sidebar above.)

LIGHT, SLICK, STRONG

Viewed from any angle, the Panthera looks like an airplane built by a glider company--light and slick, although given the initial performance shortfall, it's evidently not as slick as it looks. Basic fuselage construction is composite throughout, with two skins laminated over honeycomb or foam. The material is largely carbon fiber for stiffness, although the cockpit structure incorporates Kevlar plies to reduce sharding in the event of crash impact. The cockpit area is a safety cage consisting of stiff beams connecting the firewall to the cabin ceiling.

The control surfaces are composite layups, with no foam or honeycomb. This was done, Tomazic says, to make them easier to field repair and to mass balance during construction. All of the control circuitry is push-pull tubes, except for the rudder, which is via cables. The landing gear system is Mooney style; all-electric with a motor/trans-mission raising the gear through rods to each leg. Emergency extension is done via a crank between the front seats. The retracted struts and trailing link gear are fully enclosed behind tightly fitted doors. Flaps are similarly electric with about two-thirds span. Although they're plain flaps, they do produce a slot as they extend, so it's more accurate to call them a hybrid design. But the wing is dean of any rails or guides, for drag reduction.

Anticipating mogas in which vapor pressure might be an issue, the fuel system consists of a pair of wing tanks plumbed through smaller header tanks with return lines and flapper valves for vapor suppression. Capacity is 28 gallons per side (105 liters) for a total of 56 gallons (210 liters). For a four-cylinder engine, that capacity is about right and would give a little over 800 miles of still-air range at 170 knots, but doser to 1000 miles if Pip-istrel gets the airframe to 200 knots. But 56 gallons strikes us as stingy for a six-cylinder engine, even if Pipistrel insists the fuel burn won't increase more than about half a gallon an hour. An extended-range option will offer another 16 gallons or 30 liters per side for a typical endurance, with reserve, of about six hours. That's an easy 1000 miles, even at the slower cruise speed.

It's too soon to say where the Panthera will come out on weight, but it could be impressively light. The aircraft we flew weighed 1590 pounds empty (723 kg) and without the gross weight increase Pipistrel envisions, that's a useful load of 1050 pounds (556 kg) on a stated gross weight of 2640 pounds or 1200 kg. Full fuel payload with standard tanks is 714 pounds (324 kg). If those numbers stand, the Panthera is a full-seats, full-tanks airplane. If the gross is bumped up 200 pounds, it will gain enough load capacity for more fuel and baggage. The empty weight includes a ballistic recovery parachute system.

FLIGHT TRIAL

Ingress into the Panthera is through a pair of gullwing-style hatches for the front and a single hatch on the left side of the airplane for the back-seats. You'll graze your head on the open hatch the first time, but not the second. The cabin is expectedly wide--49 inches (124 cm) at the shoulders--with plenty of headroom above a headset. Despite the raking windshield and a wide center beam that's part of the cabin protective structure, the view forward is good and utterly expansive out the sides.

The panel in the airplane we flew had a Dynon Skyview, but Tomazic says Pipistrel isn't sure what production versions will have. It seems likely to be a choice of the Skyview or Garmin G3X. But it won't be a G1000 airplane. It will carry what-ever autopilots support those systems.

Elsewhere on the panel, the center stack contains a Garmin GTN 650/750, electrical rockers below the main display on the pilot's side and backup instruments along the top eyebrow. A nice digital climate control display is on the pedestal under the radios. Less nice, in our view, were switch/annun-ciators above the displays. It's a minor point, but we thought these looked a little dated and didn't match the exotic good looks of the rest of the airplane. Although they're functional, they would benefit from some spiffing up.

Takeoff in the airplane is not unlike other slick retracts; the Mooney Ovation comes to mind. The Panthera accelerates quite briskly at first, then settles into a slower pace. Rotation comes at about 65 knots and the airplane waddles rather than bolts off the runway. But like the Mooney, once the gear is up, it gathers itself up, speeds up and heads for a climb rate north of 1000 FPM. Way north; at one point, we saw 1600 FPM in relatively smooth air.

The Panthera has center sticks, perfectly positioned for one-handed, fingertip control. Control forces are, well, smile inducing. The airplane is a delight in steep turns and once the sight picture is locked in, easy to keep on altitude. Tbmazic said the Panthera's slow-speed behavior is good and he's right. But it needs a higher Vlo which, at 108 knots, takes some effort to achieve. Pipistrel hasn't taken the envelope in that direction yet and our guess is unless there's something quirky about the gear doors, the cert version may have higher speeds, including Vfe, which is also 108 knots.

The airplane looks like it should have the slow-speed habits of something similarly slick, say a Glasair III. Not really. The Panthera happily wallows around in the burble with plenty of warning that the stall is pending. When it comes, the Panthera feels like a more docile airplane, bobbing the nose and almost recovering on its own. We didn't poke the cat's cage with abusive inputs, but what we saw looked promising. But a little less so on the cruise speed. Pilot Robert Likar trimmed the airplane for level flight at 6000 feet, leaned to 39 liters (10.5 GPH) and we recorded about 174 knots TAS. What happened to the promised 200 knots? Toma-zic says several things are at work. First, original modeling anticipated antennas buried in the fuselage, but initial certification reviews precluded that. Second, the company has been through five props and isn't certain it's got the right one yet. Tomazic says the 10-540, because of its additional takeoff thrust, will allow prop selection to bias toward cruise speed without having to compromise toward takeoff performance. He insists the airplane will be capable of 200 knots with the prop and drag cleanup. In our estimation, that's a lot of speed to find. We're hopeful, but not convinced yet, either.

CONCLUSION

Even without the promised cruise speed, the Panthera already hits a solid mark. Like Mooney, Pipistrel's grail is efficiency and at 174 knots on 10.5 GPH, the Panthera raises the bar, if only incrementally. That's 16.6 NMPG and we can't find another four-place airframe that beats that. If Pipistrel can eke out another 10 knots on a half gallon with more robust takeoff performance, it'll have a contender, in our view, perhaps just on looks alone. Its best-case useful load is shy of the Cirrus SR22 line, but its fuel economy is far better.

The Panthera has become somewhat of a poster child for less expensive aircraft certified under the CS23 revision. That's what will allow the company to use uncertified avionics like the Skyview or G3X. Simpler certification requirements are supposed to reduce costs throughout the cert process.

When it debuted, the Panthera's price was expected to be about $500,000. But Pipistrel's latest price for the certified gasoline version is $614,000 ([euro]445,000). That's less than an equipped Cirrus, but only by a couple of percent.

We're not surprised. CS23 or not, no one has yet delivered on the less expensive, fully capable new airplane. The reality is likely to be that airplanes of this class will cost $600,000 or more; $500,000 would a winner, but at this juncture, it doesn't look realistic.

CHECKLIST

A shallow menu structure keeps the app intuitive and easy to navigate.

It excels at delivering detailed airport information in a logical layout.

There's no terrain alerting or fuel pricing functionality at this time.

RELATED ARTICLE: HYBRIDS AND ELECTRICS

If nothing else can be said of Pip-istrel, this is a company that doesn't lack guts. Or creativity. In its price sheets, it lists both a pure-electric version of the Panthera and an intriguing hybrid-drive variant. The all-electric version is, in our view, difficult to parse. Is there really a market for a $600,000-plus airplane with the short endurance that electrics are likely to have for the foreseeable future? Call us skeptical.

But smaller trainers, which Pip-istrel is also considering as electrics, have more promise for the short term. And so, perhaps, might a hybrid drive. When we visited Pip-istrel's factory in Slovenia, they gave us an eyes-only--no cameras--tour of their hybrid-drive project.

Pipistrel is pursuing a serial hybrid design that envisions a 260-HP brushless electric motor driven by both batteries and an engine-driven generator. The batteries are kind of a booster, capable of full power for only six minutes, but at massive horsepower unaffected by density altitude.

In cruise, the airplane's electric motor would be powered by the generator driven by a four-cylinder engine vaguely modeled on the turbocharged Rotax 914. The engine would be capable of 130 HP on about 8 to 9 GPH. At low altitude, the engine/generator/battery combination would be slightly less efficient, but because of the turbocharging, Pipistrel says it will be slightly more efficient than the straigt Lycoming gasoline engine at higher altitudes.

The airplane will Iikely ave a five-blade prop to absorb the electric motor's considerable torque and the entire system--electric motor, gasoline motor and critical compo-nents--will be watercooled. The weight penalty for all this is about 150 pounds (70 kg) over the gasoline engine, so the Panthera hybrid will never be a four-place airplane with much practical range.

Advantages? Pipistrel sees five. The engine will burn about any fuel--but not Jet A; it's nonplussed by high density altitude; it's much quieter, especially on takeoff, than the gasoline engine and it offers dual power sourcing, so it's essentially a twin within a single. Last, performance. With a minimum of 260 HP always available when the batteries are charged, the hybrid, at least on paper, should be a heroic climber, reaching 10,000 feet in five minutes or so.

But Pipistrel's Tine Tomazic says the overriding value of the hybrid project to the company is to form a research base for what comes next. It will test battery technology, inverters and distributed computing, all of which may lead to the next generation or two of practical electrical airplanes. Tomazic says the hybrid drive will run in 2015 and fly in 2016. Prices aren't for the fainthearted: You can order an experimental version for delivery in 2017 for $696,000.
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Title Annotation:TABLET APPS
Author:Anglisatto, Larry
Publication:The Aviation Consumer
Article Type:Product/service evaluation
Date:Jul 1, 2014
Words:3489
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