A few fellow aviation bloggers and I have decided to hang our Christmas stockings to the same virtual fireplace and take turns at blogging about what we wish for Christmas. This ranges so far from a Cirrus SR-22 to Monika Petrillo's FlyAbout DVD, aviation coasters and one very impressive pilot watch.
For Christmas, I would like a Portable Collision Avoidance System, such as Zaon's PCAS MRX. This system is just as portable as a hand-held GPS unit and provides alerts on nearby traffic as long as other traffic is transponder-equipped and there is an interrogating system nearby, such as a secondary radar or an airliner overhead.
Priced at USD 449 on skygeek.com, this is a very good investment for anyone who has come too close for comfort with another aircraft and wish he had identified the threat before it turned into a real danger. I'm thinking for example of entry points to busy GA airports such as the only two compulsory entry points for Sydney's Bankstown airport. Max Trescott also identified a number of similar local hotspots such as navaids and prominent geographic features.
Blogger pilotbrad ordered the Zaon MRX, unpacked it, started using it and already reported one instance of the system picking up an aircraft Brad and his instructor would have missed otherwise.
A portable system is ideal for pilots who do not always fly the same aircraft such as private pilots who hire aircraft from flying clubs and flight instructors who may instruct in a dozen different aircraft in the course of one week. A large flying school in the US just decided to buy the Zaon product for all their flight instructors rather than equip the airplanes.
For the price of two or three hours of aircraft hire, a PCAS system may well represent the best investment for improving in-flight safety. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Santa always takes his PCAS with him whichever sledge he's flying, even though NORAD is tracking him.