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Flightcom™ Press Releases
September 24, 2012 : Flightcom Extends Wireless Headset Communication for Ground Support with New Multi-Radio Digital Intercom Flightcom, the leader in wireless headset communication systems for Ground Support, today announced the availability of its new FL-400 Series Digital Intercom, which enables Flightcom wireless headset systems to be interfaced with up to four radios and four additional devices, such as cell phones and global positioning system (GPS) units. The new product supports over 400 different radio models to provide interoperability between multiple crews and ground control radio, improving operational efficiencies and worker safety. The FL-400 Series is compatible with existing Flightcom communication headsets and can be used with new or existing radios.
November 1, 2012 : Flightcom Receives Largest Model E-13ANR Military Aviation Headset Order – Flightcom, a leader in communication solutions for aviation, today announced that the United States Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) has awarded the largest order to-date for E-13ANR aviation headsets. Widely deployed for use on C-5, KC-135, C-130, and other airframes, the E-13ANR headset is in demand for excellent passive and active noise reduction (ANR), long-wearing comfort, durability, and extra features such as auxiliary inputs and long ANR battery life. The E-13 program has been running for over eight years, supplying superbly engineered and affordable communication products to the military.
October 30, 2012 : Flightcom Receives Comprehensive Patent for Wireless Ground Support Communication System
Portland, OR – Flightcom, a leader in team communication solutions for aviation, today announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has awarded the company a patent for its wireless ground support communication systems. Flightcom’s systems improve pushback, towing, deicing, maintenance, and cargo operations for flight and ground crews through completely wireless, full-duplex, hands-free communication.The patent covers key system features including connection to the aircraft, secure communication links among the flight and ground crew, and Pilot Alert™ to ensure removal of the system before flight. The patent was issued to Flightcom’s parent company, Sonetics Corporation.
December 5, 2011 : Southwest Airlines and Flightcom™ Announce Agreement for Wireless Aviation Ground Support Systems Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in innovative team communication solutions for aviation environments, today announced an agreement with Southwest Airlines to deploy Flightcom’s wireless aviation ground support communication systems at all of Southwest’s gates at its 73 destinations across the United States. Deployment of all systems is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2012. “Southwest Airlines continues its commitment to use innovation to provide the highest level of Customer and Employee safety,” said Marc Stank, Senior Manager Safety, Standards, and Regulatory Compliance, Ground Operations at Southwest Airlines. “We are the first major airline to widely deploy this type of wireless system, and we expect it will strengthen our team communications and operational efficiency.”
November 28, 2011 : Flightcom™ Whitepaper Addresses How To Reduce $10 Billion Annual Cost Of Airline Ramp Incidents Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™ today released a whitepaper aimed at preventing the estimated one accident and nine injuries per 1,000 departures that occur on the aviation ramp and cost airlines $10 billion per year. Flightcom™, a leader in innovative team communication solutions for aviation environments, is releasing the whitepaper today at the Ground Handling International Barcelona Conference. “Team communication is absolutely essential in creating a safe, productive and effective work environment,” Flightcom’s whitepaper says. “This is especially true for aviation ground personnel, who depend on communication not only for their own safety, but for the safety of others as well…In fact, poor communication is the number one human-factor error in airline accidents.”
November 21, 2011 : Flightcom™ Announces New Wireless Ground Support Communication Solutions for Europe, Asia, and Pacific Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in innovative communication solutions for aviation environments, today announced the release of new wireless ground support communication systems for commercial aviation designed to reduce accidents, increase safety, and improve efficiency during aircraft ground pushback, towing, de-icing, and maintenance operations in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific. Similar Flightcom™ wireless systems are already being deployed at more than 50 U.S. airports. The new systems utilize DECT 1.8 GHz frequencies that comply with communication standards in Europe and countries in the Asia-Pacific region while providing extended line-of-sight range of up to 600 meters.
November 14, 2011 : Flightcom™ Releases New Generation of Wireless Ground Support Communication Systems Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in innovative team communication solutions for aviation environments, today announced the release of a new generation of its wireless ground support systems for commercial aviation designed to reduce accidents, increase safety, and improve efficiency during aircraft ground pushback, towing, de-icing, and maintenance operations. Flightcom™ wireless systems are already being deployed at more than 50 airports.
July 25, 2011 : Flightcom™ Announces New Wireless Aircraft Ground Support Systems for Military Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in innovative team communication solutions for aviation environments, today announced the availability of wireless aviation headset systems specifically designed to meet crew communication requirements for military aircraft marshalling, de-icing, maintenance, and loadmaster operations.
July 21, 2011 : General Petraeus Wears a Flightcom™ Headset on the Cover of Newsweek Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in innovative team communication solutions for aviation environments, announced today that the photograph on the cover of this week’s Newsweek depicts General David Petraeus wearing a Flightcom™ E-13 headset. The cover photograph can be viewed on the photographer’s website.
July 27, 2009 : Flightcom™ Introduces the 403LSA 2-place Stereo Intercom Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™ Corporation, a leader in the development and production of headsets and intercoms for the aviation, military and ground support industries introduces the 403LSA intercom at the 2009 AirVenture Oshkosh, July 27 – August 2. Flightcom’s 403LSA is a 2-place stereo voice activated intercom designed for Light Sport Aircraft (LSA). It is simple to operate and easy to use. The 403LSA enhances the fun of flying, as well as safety, by optimizing communication clarity.
April 12, 2004 : Flightcom™ Introduces Next Generation of the Award Winning Denali Headset Portland, Oregon — Flightcom™, a leader in the development and production of headsets and intercoms for the aviation industry, introduces its new Denali headset with impressive comfort features including soft, supple, genuine leather ear seals and headpad. The Denali headset, which also boasts significant performance improvements including increased passive noise reduction and improved ANR, will be available for the first time at the aviation industryís second largest tradeshow, Sun-n-Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Florida.
Classic ANR Review by Alton K. Marsh (Reprinted with Permission from AOPA Magazine – October 2002.)
Flightcom’s Denali ANR and Non-ANR Headsets by George Wilhelmsen (Reprinted with Permission from Private Pilot Magazine – April 2001.)
ANR Headsets & More by Ed Maher (Edited and reprinted with permission from the October 2001 issue of Avionics News magazine.)
Other headset companies had better watch their six, as the fighter pilots like to say. (In case you don’t speak fighter pilot, that means be careful of who is behind you.) At $389, the Flightcom™ Classic ANR (active noise reduction) headset appears to offer all the advantages of comparable noise-canceling headsets costing twice as much.
I tested the Classic ANR, so named because of its more traditional design compared to Flightcom’s Denali headset, rightside up and upside down. With the aid of another AOPA staff member, I tested the headset through the rapidly changing airstream and engine noise levels experienced in a Cessna Aerobat during a loop. The airspeed goes from 120 to 60 knots, and engine power varies from full power to nearly idle power. Any electronic noise-reduction circuitry would be sorely tested, but the Classic kept up with the changing decibels. Although a few ounces heavier, it has the same ANR electronic circuitry found in the $559 Denali. I found that, like all ANR headsets, the Classic canceled mostly the lower frequency sounds, such as the rumbling of the engine.
The Classic was lighter than my more expensive personal headset and as comfortable, canceled noise just as well, and included features I wish mine had-like the drop-in nine-volt battery. Nine-volt batteries usually require a snap-on connection; with the Classic, just drop the battery into its case against two metal contacts. Close the in-line compartment door and the battery is shoved against the contacts. You’ll get 20 hours of continuous use from one nine-volt battery, says Flightcom™. The battery box has indicators for power-on and low-battery conditions and a stereo/mono selection switch.
For more information, contact Flightcom™, 7340 Southwest Durham Road, Portland, Oregon 97224; telephone 800/432-4342 or 503/684-8229; fax 503/620-2943 or visit the Web site (www.flightcom.net)
(Reprinted with Permission from AOPA Magazine – October 2002.)
Why have ANR? Many jet aircraft have high cockpit noise levels, which makes communication between pilots difficult providing an element of risk and possibly laying the groundwork for pilot error. If pilots cannot clearly hear instructions from Air Traffic Control (ATC), crewmembers or aircraft warning horns such as gear, flaps and stall, it could lead to a fatal accident. Besides the potential for a disaster, there is also a lesser problem that will eventually become more critical as the pilots continue to fly in high ambient noise conditions. There is considerable risk of unrealized hearing damage that will continue to deteriorate, as the pilot tends to increase the volume to compensate as ear damage spirals downward. Eventually, the pilot will need hearing aids and may even fail their medical. The increased noise levels may promote poor decision making such as ignoring recommended higher airspeeds for lower and quieter cruising speeds. Systems that are noisy may be turned off to reduce ambient noise when they should be on, such as air conditioning or other noise generating equipment. Noise affects our comprehension, attention span, response time, and short-term memory, so the pilot should take responsibility to help themselves by using noise reducing headsets. Do all ANR headsets work the same?
For the most part, they all employ electronics to produce a 180 degree out-of-phase signal to cancel ambient engine noise. Because of the differences in dome cavity design techniques, electronics, the shape of the ear and the variation in the aircraft environment the end user will find that individual performance will vary significantly between manufacturer’s active noise reduction (ANR) headsets. For this reason, the pilot must compare the respective specifications of each manufacturer then conduct their own tests under actual flight conditions. Remember, design parameters for many of these headsets are restricted by a simple rule, “If it works, use it.” In other words, there will be many similarities between headsets because they will use existing engineering designs that are known to work, so why design something new when the old way works?
How does ANR work? Located inside the dome housing there is a miniature microphone that senses noise frequency and amplitude at a given instant in time. The ANR electronics creates a signal that is 180 degrees out of phase with the initial noise sensed by the microphone, with the two signals canceling each other out.
Who regulates cockpit noise levels? As it stands now, under U.S. Federal law, OSHA does not regulate cockpit noise; that responsibility was given to the FAA, who in turn has decided not to become involved in controlling the cockpit environment. So, what we are left with is the airlines and pilots being responsible for noise exposure well beyond 80 dB. What is ironic about this is the FAA does regulate the noise levels in ATC. The noise levels there are not to exceed 55 dB, which interestingly is lower than the level for business conversation, while pilots are exposed to dangerous levels of noise in the cockpit. The FAA reasoning is valid; they want to make sure that the personnel manning the radar can hear the radio communication from and between the aircraft, plus any warning signals. The lower dB levels are recommended to reduce fatigue and resulting confusion from the stress of high background noise. The only logical and reasonable way pilots can protect their hearing from jet cockpit noise is to purchase ANR type headsets. Dome style headsets such as David Clark and others will provide at least 15 to 17dB of noise reduction. One of the new passive noise reduction headsets from Panther Electronics has a much greater reduction because the earphone and microphone are both inserted deep into the ear canal, sealing off ambient noise and allowing for outstanding audio in the earphone and transmitted by the ear microphone.
Active Noise Reduction Headsets Headset manufacturers produce ANR (active noise reduction) headsets in three styles: open ear cup, closed ear cup and passive insertion. The open ear cup style is lighter, rests on top of the ear, but provides no passive noise reduction. They are very simple in construction with a “one size fits all” cup or ear piece that inserts into the ear or sits directly over the open ear cavity like a muff. The closed ear cup style is slightly heavier and provides some passive noise reduction because it covers the ear. With all headsets they will reduce, to some degree, the pilot’s ability to hear passenger comments where an intercom is not installed, some more than others. The third headset uses passive noise reduction, which is a by-product of the manufacturing method and pilot use. Instead of depending on electronics to counteract the noise, the passive device simply eliminates it by physically not allowing it to enter the audio circuitry at the source, the ear. The microphone portion of the headset works much the same way; it is installed into the opposite ear requiring the pilot only to talk. Sidetone and reception is much clearer and pronounced. In fact, helicopter pilots will complain that they have to learn not to turn the volume up as they previously did with much bulkier headsets.
Selecting a headset is as much a matter of virtual perception as real world need. Each pilot will have to make their selection based on individual needs, experience, peer recommendation and past history. Without specific data, the pilot has only a general guide when deciding to purchase an active noise reduction headset. Individual comfort, fit and performance are subjective and very personal. The wearer should ensure that any headset they buy is the right one by trying it out under actual flight conditions. In most cases, the headset should have a return policy should the headset not prove out.
Some U.S. airlines require that headsets used in the cockpit comply with Technical Service Orders (TSO) that are published by the FAA, however, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that not all headsets on the market comply with the TSO. Simply contact the manufacturer and simply ask; they will tell you if the headset was built to TSO specifications.
What is Noise? Sound becomes noise when it is undesired, irritating, disturbing and even painful. The smallest, basic unit of sound an individual can hear is the decibel (dB), which is measured on a dB scale. The scale ranges from zero, the average least perceptible level of sound, to about 130, the average pain level. The dB scale is logarithmic; 90 dB of sound is 10 times louder than 80 dB and 100 times louder than 70 dB.
Using a measurement method that has an articulation index ranging from 0.0 to 1.0, with higher indexes between .25 and .3 to be acceptable levels for crewmembers that are approximately three feet apart. In other words, at .3 crewmembers would understand 41 percent of unpredictable syllables, 72 percent of rhyming words and 92 percent of sentences. Essentially, the FAA believes if you hear part of a sentence, you have a reasonably good chance to guess correctly what the rest of it is. For all practical purposes this would be a truism, but under the stressful conditions of the aircraft cockpit the percentages would drop dramatically!
In my opinion, the FAA evidently doesn’t take into consideration the lack of visual communication between controllers and pilots when it considers an AI of 0.3 acceptable (they don’t face each other). Sure, most routine communications may be predictable, but what about non-routine, non-predictable communications? ATC might announce an emergency warning and if the crew isn’t expecting the message, they might misinterpret creating a critical situation.
At least we can have some relief that our military recognizes the need for higher noise protection standards in the cockpit. The US Air Force has a higher standard for noise protection than FAA, EPA or OSHA. Their standards parallel European standards.
Health Effects from High Noise Levels The medical profession defines hearing impairment as a threshold shift of 15 dB. A threshold shift means a pilot can’t tell the difference between sounds in certain frequency ranges as measured on an audiogram until the volume is increased or “shifted” above an established control level. One study indicates that airline pilot hearing loss increased with age and logged flight time, and is greater than that of the normal population. The FAA does not require audiograms for pilots so there is not much to prove noise related hearing loss in pilots flying for US carriers, however, Netherlands’ pilots have documented 5 percent mild to moderate hearing loss. One interesting note about the Netherlands’ documentation is that the pilots are amazingly able to understand the routine communications just as the U.S. FAA stated. The downside to this ability is the pilots will continue to have hearing loss and won’t know it because of their subconscious adaptation to their environment. If the correlation between the United States and the Netherlands is correct there may be over 2,500 airline pilots with functional hearing loss related to cockpit noise.
High noise levels can have serious effects such as impaired concentration, fatigue and insomnia. Pilots may demonstrate this in the form of irritability, anger and anxiety. High ambient noise is only part of the noise problem that pilots may experience in the cockpit. Radio communications must be 10 to 15 dB or louder than the ambient noise in order to be heard, however, intelligibility decreases at high volume settings so increasing the radio volume does not always help in understanding radio communications. When the volume is increased crewmembers must speak at high volume to be heard by others in a noisy cockpit, which also reduces intelligibility.
So what is the answer? For now, it has to be improved headsets that are capable of controlling the ambient noise levels by passive or electronic canceling systems such as ANR. There are several headset manufacturers that have viable units that are capable of doing the job. Some use tried and proven designs and others have some innovative approaches that actually work. As mentioned earlier, choosing the right headset is a matter of personal choice and close observation of the specifications.
Flightcom™ Headsets Flightcom’s Denali Headset’s contoured ear seals help abate noise and offer a comfortable, near custom fit. As a result, the ear domes stay securely in place with less side force than many products on the market.
Flightcom’s Denali was given the 2001 iF Award by the Hannover Institute and a Silver IDEA award for 2000 by the Industrial Designers Association. It comes in two high-tech dynamic colors, graphite blue and J3 yellow.
The Denali has a passive noise reduction of 21dB NRR rating while the ANR model achieves an additional 18-20 dB at certain key low frequencies while keeping its weight a 17.9 ounces. A noise canceling electret transducer microphone is a key element of the ANR system.
Most people hear better in one ear than the other. Strategically placed dual volume controls allow the user to easily adjust the respective ear cup’s volume as needed. The provided stereo/mono switch ensures compatibility with any intercom system.
Edited and reprinted with permission from the October 2001 issue of Avionics News magazine.
(Reprinted with Permission from Private Pilot Magazine – April 2001.)
Headsets have become a virtually indispensable part of the average pilot’s flight gear. While the most obvious benefit of wearing headsets comes in your ability to hear and understand ATC and your fellow pilots, the other advantage is how they protect and preserve your hearing. My own hearing would probably be far worse if I didn’t wear headsets, especially ANR headsets.
Flightcom™ has been in the headset market for a number of years, selling the same kinds of headsets as other vendors. That changed in 1999, when the company released its Denali line of headsets. To see how the new Denali line performs, we tested one of each of the ANR and non-ANR Denali headsets at the same time while on a long flight.
Whether ANR or not, the Flightcom™ Denali line has several common features. The first feature is color. Rather than stick with the standard light green, black or gray, Flightcom™ chose colors that make a statement. Two color offerings are available on both the ANR and non-ANR models: a bright yellow or a moody graphite blue. Both of the striking colors represent a pleasant departure from other headsets on the market.
The next feature is fit. Flightcom™ has done its homework, and as a result, it came up with a headset with a number of interesting innovations. First, the ear domes are canted to match the angle of your ears. As a result, the ear seals are wedge shaped and are thicker at the back than the front. The compromise for this enhancement is that the mic can only be used from the left side, but this is hardly worth mentioning.
By following the company’s instructions on how to obtain the best fit with headsets, we found that the headset pressure, both in clamping and weight on the top of our head, was minimal. Part of the reason for this is the design; the other part is the construction, which is entirely from lightweight plastic materials. This allowed the ANR headset with gel ear seals to tip the scales at 13.5 ounces, not including the cord or battery. The non-ANR model weighs 11 ounces.
Both models are stereo/mono capable. The non-ANR model has a small fob on the cords, near the jacks that controls this feature, while the ANR model hides the switch on the back of the battery pack. Both models also feature independent ear volume controls, located on the lower front end of the ear cups. Finally, the headsets have flexible boom mics that allows easy positioning.
One word of caution: If you park your airplane outside, be careful where you leave your Denalis. The exotic materials used in the headsets are lightweight, but they’re not made for temperatures in excess of 156 degrees F. The instruction manual cautions owners not to leave their headsets on the seat of the airplane or car, hanging from the yoke or anywhere in intense, direct sunlight.
Flightcom™ ships the headsets in a nice carrying case. The insulated and padded black case is constructed of a high-quality nylon mesh and is lined with high-density foam to protect the headsets. Mesh pockets on the inside hold your instruction manual, while a similar mesh pocket on the outside holds a shoulder strap that can be used to supplement the existing handle on the case.
On our first leg, we used the Flightcom™ Denali ANR headset ($525). We plugged the chrome-plated jacks into our intercom system and started the 1962 Debonair’s engine. As the IO-550 roared to life, we flipped the slightly recessed power switch and turned on the Denali ANR. The result was an immediate reduction in the low-frequency noise from the engine and airframe, without any apparent attenuation in the high-frequency sounds we needed to hear. The amount of reduction appeared consistent with the 19 to 21dB claimed by Flightcom™.
On our initial departure, we had to punch up Chicago Center to pick up our IFR clearance while climbing toward our destination. Despite being stuck in the bumps below the clouds while ATC dug up our clearance, the headsets performed well. We were able to listen in to ATC, along with the usual radio traffic, and we didn’t have to strain to hear what ATC was saying. When we spoke to ATC, the mic – although not muffed -was clear and did not pop.
After our climb, we leveled off at 9000 feet and followed the indications of our GARMIN GNS-430 toward Columbus, Ohio, and waited for the usual hot spots and jaw squeeze to set in. Nearly two hours later, we were still waiting, and neither had arrived. Normally, we would’ve adjusted our usual headsets once or twice to relieve the pressure, but the Denali seemed to be free of the usual problems with fit.
While it was cool outside, the sun was beating into the cockpit, heating everything. The yellow-colored ANR Denali did a good job reflecting the heat, keeping our ears fairly cool. Cooler ears mean less dampness and sweat, making the entire trip more comfortable.
Flightcom™ notes that depending on the noise levels of the cockpit, the ANR Denali should have a minimum 20-hour continuous-use life for the single 9-volt battery that powers the system. When the system is powered up, the green LED on the battery pack flashes to indicate proper operation. When the battery is close to exhaustion, the red LED on the display comes on to alert the pilot. Battery replacement is easy, requiring a single flip of a panel on the battery pack to drop out the old battery and install the new one.
One of the most often-missed tests of an ANR headset is how it performs with the ANR off. We turned off the Denali’s ANR in cruise and noted that the headsets exhibited the same performance of other ANR models on the market: It got louder with a lot more bass noise evident. While it was not unbearable, the noise attenuation seemed to be only slightly improved over not wearing headsets at all.
After a few hours with the ANR Denali model, we switched to the non-ANR model ($275) for a few hours on the return trip. Again, the fit of the non-ANR was quite nice, although it was reduced somewhat by the non-ANR Denali’s foam ear seals, which were wedge-shaped, just as their ANR gel-filled cousin’s had been to provide a better fit.
The fit between the ANR and non-ANR headsets is identical, with the weight of the headset evenly distributed over the head. Like our hours in the ANR version, the fact that we were wearing the non-ANR version was basically forgotten. No hot spots developed on the top of our head, and the pressure on the ear cups was even and comfortable over the course of the flight.
Compared to other traditional headsets, the noise attenuation of the non-ANR models was fairly good. While the passive noise-reduction rating is not published, based on a comparison with other models on the market, we pegged the noise reduction at around 24 to 26dB by ear.
The instructions with the Denali headsets call for specific mic placement. The reason for the placement is in the design of the mic, which has an integral muff. When we placed the mic where we normally would (in front of the mouth), we experienced a good amount of “popping”. However, when we placed the mic at the corner of the mouth (where Flightcom™ had recommended), the annoying popping was gone.
The differences in fit and mic placement are important enough to warrant that pilots take the time to read the short instruction manual provided with the headsets. The few minutes it takes to read the manual will help you get the most out of the headphones on your first flight.
We had a few minor issues with the Denali headsets. On the ANR model, the cord from the battery pack to the mic and headset jacks was around a foot long. This made the clip on the back of the battery pack useful only if your headset jacks happen to be next to a map pocket. Longer lead wires would allow this to be clipped to a belt or shirt. Our other issue was with the graphite blue color, which absorbed solar heat on our daytime test flight. It wasn’t enough to make our ears sweat, but it was enough to notice when touching the ear cups. This issue was not shared by the yellow color, which stayed cool.
Overall, the Flightcom™ Denali headsets have a good design and sound engineering. Both headsets come with a three-year warranty against defects in material and workmanship. Lightweight, with a custom fit and uniquely designed ear seals that help to keep long flights more comfortable, the headsets would be a good addition to the cockpit of any airplane.
For more information, call Flightcom™ at 800/432-4342
Reprinted with permission of Private Pilot Magazine.