By Rob Mark
Is there anything more stressful than knowing you want to buy your budding aviator something, but knowing full well that the economy has taken a toll on your pocketbook? Sure they might love anything you buy them now, but after Christmas when the bills show up … yikes!
So this year as a public service, Jetwhine is going to offer up a few nuggets of wisdom, born of experience of course, about a few trinkets that will keep your pilot or controller “wannabe,” busy for hours. If they’re already pilots or controllers heck, they’ll probably still love this list.
Number One – A great magazine. I’ve been lucky enough to write for most of the aviation magazines in this country during my career although Air & Space is not one of them. My loss I think, but I consider Air & Space to one of the premier aviation magazines in the world for a number of reasons. One is that the magazine zeros in on the soul of a true aviator, which makes this a superb Christmas gift.
The December/January issue contained a superb story on the F-4 Phantom, an ex-Viet Nam era air domination machine. It’s one I saw up close and personal during my time in the Air Force during the 60s and 70s so there was a real personal connection to the story. The Air & Space folks create that connection quite a bit though, so I’m sure I’m not the first to comment on it. Then there is the story of virtual flight simulator airlines or Red Whittaker’s robots or Tom Crouch’s interview with five people who witnessed the first flight of the Wright Flyer in 1903. The writing is just superb.
Even more than the writing however, is the photography. These are world class, National Geographic’s category photos. But good photos are diminished without an expert magazine layout person deciding how best to organize them. Air & Space wins here too. I have been giving this magazine to friends as gifts for years and they all love it. You will too. There simply is no publication for under 20 bucks a year that offers anything close.
Number Two – Despite competitors nipping at its heels, Microsoft still leads the pack with Flight Simulator. For $50 there is plenty of fun for everyone. My daughter learned the basics of flying in Flight Simulator long before I let her grab the controls in the real airplane and trust me there is quite a knowledge transfer for added value.
Just know up front that Flight Simulator is a memory and a computer chip speed hog, so don’t buy this unless you’re aviator owns a late model computer. Try these on a slow machine and your recipient will be crying on Christmas Day, an ugly thought.
If they tend to be more like a controller geek sitting in front of their computers for hours on end, there is ATC Simulator, something that’s on my Christmas list. It’s a tad more expensive at $74.95, but you can become a controller in much less time than it takes with FAA.
Then there are the peripheral sites that cater to Flight Sim geeks. We’ll have a story next week about how to build a realistic flight sim enclosure for almost nothing, a project I’ll be trying out myself in fact.
Number Three and Four – And finally comes a freebie or two. The link to the PASSUR Aerospace site offers up a chance to view live traffic at any of a dozen and a half different airports around the country projected on an area map. Not quite as cool as a real radar site, but you’ll be able to watch them come and go from places like JFK, O’Hare, Teterboro, LAX and Boston.
Of course, PASSUR, as cool as it is, is simply a look at colored airplane icons moving across a road map. Think about being able to listen to air traffic controllers up close and personal. Try Live ATC.net and listen in on the conversations of air traffic control towers, approach controls and enroute centers from all around the globe.
Still need more? Boy you are tough to please.
And don’t forget to tell that aviation aficionado in your house, or your best aviation pals, that a free subscription to Jetwhine is worth … well, a whole bunch too.
Now leave me alone so I can play Flight Simulator for a few minutes before everyone comes back in the office and sees me.
Merry Christmas everyone.