Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Intercoms for the experimental aircraft



I got a note from Mark Scheuer, the boss of PS Engineering today. He and I met up at Lake Elmo Airport a few years ago (he's originally from Flyover Country), where he introduced me to the PS Engineering PMA 8000 intercom. It was a beautiful little intercom that I fell in love with but, when it came time to actually pay for one, the PS Engineering 1000II did the trick for about $400. It was, I think, my first run-in with the notion of making concessions to the budget.

Anyway, Mark has forwarded more details on a product his firm his introducing. I think I read about it in Kitplanes, but here's the whole news release.

PS Engineering introduces the PMA5000EX, a low-cost, feature rich, audio panel for EXperimental marketplace.

Lenoir City, Tenn. PS Engineering heard the voices from the experimental and LSA aircraft community, “Give us IntelliVox® at a reasonable price” and “We don’t need it certified”. So the company directed its engineering staff to give these pilots and aircraft builders what they want. The result? PS Engineering is announcing the addition of the all new audio control panel to round out their Experimental Audio Panel offering. The PMA5000EX achieves a new level of price/performance for the homebuilder.

Company president and founder, Mark Scheuer, said, “We listened to this extremely important group of astute customers, and we responded the way only PS Engineering can, with proven design that is packaged just right for the needs of the Experimental market. The PMA5000EX nicely fills out PS Engineering’s audio panel product line offering for the homebuilt aircraft. It joins the PMA4000 basic audio panel and the ultimate panel that does it all, the PMA9000EX.”

The PMA5000EX has just the right blend of practical functionality as well as some high end features that will complete any cockpit. It has a 4-place hi-fi stereo intercom that uses PS Engineering’s legendary IntelliVox® squelch protocol. This proprietary system uses computational power to differentiate instantly between cabin noise and human speech, allowing seamless conversation among the crew and passengers without any adjustments.

Since 1997, there have been more than 60,000 IntelliVox® systems installed in various aircraft, ranging from J-3 Cubs to the legendary P-51, and by all reports, the systems performs flawlessly.

Plus the IntelliVox® that is built into the PMA5000EX even has a High Noise capability, making the highly acclaimed automatic VOX that much more effective in the most noisy environments. This special “High Noise” capability is configured, if needed, by switch settings inside the audio panel.

Not having to go through the expense of certification helps reduce cost, as does removing the Marker Beacon Receiver and Speaker Amplifier—as a result, the company was able to price the PMA5000EX at a remarkable price of $995.00.

The PMA5000EX supports two VHF COMs, two switched navigation receivers, and has two switched Auxiliary (AUX) receiver inputs for any other audio sources where switch control is desired. One unique feature of the AUX inputs is the ability to automatically mute the audio for 60 seconds. This is useful in cases where the audio is an alert that has been recognized, but becomes annoying. After 60 seconds, the audio is automatically restored. Pilots have asked for ways to temporarily disable audio alarms, and PS Engineering has responded.

Music has become integral to the enjoyment of flight. That’s why the PMA5000EX offers a front panel utility jack that accepts most cellular phones, music inputs, and audio advisory inputs from portable devices. Volume of the music input is easily controlled through front panel buttons

In addition to the switched inputs, the new audio panel also has four unswitched inputs for the priority alert audio sources such as engine analyzers, traffic and terrain monitors that are becoming common in experimental and Light Sport Aircraft. One input is even provided to the pilot with the power off.

Another useful capability is the Monitor (MON) mode. This feature will automatically mute the audio from the Com receiver that is not selected for transmit, when the selected radio audio is active. In this way, the pilot may listen to AWOS on COM 2, but prevents the AWOS audio from interfering from the primary Com audio which is typically ATC.

A frequently requested function is more music mute modes. The PMA5000EX provides four different mute modes. By pressing the Mute button, the pilot can select Mute On, Mute Off, Intercom Mute, and Radio Mute. A new capability that the pilot can enjoy is to enjoy listening to music even when in Isolate mode.

The Telephone function will put the pilot, crew, or everybody in the aircraft on the phone. This mode is selectable from the front panel.

The PMA5000EX is not intended for installation in certified aircraft, and is not FAA-approved. “We continue to offer a full slate of fully internationally certified audio panels, including the ‘flagship’ PMA8000B that sets the benchmark for audio control capability,” said Gary Picou, Vice President of Quality Systems and Certification, “The PMA5000EX doesn’t take anything away from our existing products, but gives us another competitive tool in a significant market.”

The new audio panel will be available in February 2010 and will have 1-year Pro-Support warranty.

Founded in 1985, PS Engineering has become a leading manufacturer of general aviation intercoms and audio control systems. The company’s sole corporate focus is excellence in the design and manufacture of audio control systems for General Aviation Aircraft. PS Engineering is credited for many innovations in the field, including IntelliVox®, Softmute™, Karaoke Mode™, Split mode™, Swap Mode™, and the IRS™(Internal Recording System). With a network of over 600 authorized dealer/installers worldwide, the company is a leader in retrofit avionics as well as a supplier to other major avionics manufacturers for their audio panel requirements. Visit our web site at www.ps-engineering.com


Let's talk. I've been making pretty good progress on ye olde RV-7A in the last year or so. But some of the stuff I've bought for it are already being eclipsed by some of the new stuff. I'd actually like one of these. The price is right, although I hadn't planned to spend $900 I don't have. And it has a lot of functions.

This is where I need more discipline and more focus. I have an intercom. It's a good intercom. I usually will be flying by myself and I only have one radio. It is, as I like to say, "a working man's panel."

It's also important, I think, to keep going -- ahead -- when you get into the home stretch (in my case, that's defined as within 2 years of first flight), and not spend a lot of time undoing stuff I've already done, where matters of safety are not concerned.

All that said, if I had a little more money, if I hadn't already bought an intercom, if I had more than one radio, I'd snap one of these babies up in a minute.

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