by Dave Weiman
When “Foreflight” came out a few years ago, I was impressed with founders Tyson Weihs and Jason Miller – first for inventing the best pilot aid in the industry, then for selling us their app and service at a price everyone could afford. Tyson and Jason are also pilots and aircraft owners, so they understand the needs of fellow aviators and use the products they sell, themselves!
Another great product that saves aircraft owners time and money is the remote control “SwitchBox” that can turn on your aircraft preheater or other device with a telephone call or text message from your iPhone, iPad or Android.
Here in the Midwest and elsewhere in the upper half of the United States and throughout Canada, there is a real need for engine preheaters, but the problem has always been you either have to leave the preheater plugged in all of the time and risk engine corrosion, or make a special trip to the airport the night before each flight. A third option has been to inconvenience the airport manager or fixed base operator to plug in your preheater for you. I personally don’t like either of these options, so when I heard about a device I could use to operate my preheater remotely using my iPhone or iPad, I was very interested.
The “SwitchBox” is highly recommended by aircraft owners who have written testimonials, and product reviews like this one. The leader in aircraft engine preheat systems, Tanis Aircraft Systems, has likewise given the system a thumb’s up!
The device costs $299.99, and includes $3.00 of T-Mobile cellular time; a 10-foot antenna with a magnetic mount to ensure reception; mobile apps for your iPhone, iPad or Android device (available at the Apple or Google App Stores); and written instructions and a YouTube video to teach yourself how to use the device.
The SwitchBox comes pre-activated with a SIM card, online account and unique telephone number. All phone calls to your SwitchBox are free and will not subtract anything from your account balance. Text messages are $ .10 each through T-Mobile. To replenish the SIM card with more credit, you simply go to your online account at https://my.t-mobile.com, login using your phone number and password, and you are done! The minimum amount to add with T-Mobile is $10.00 for 90 days of service. Each month T-Mobile will subtract $3.00 from your credit and convert it to 30 messages for your use. Once your SwitchBox is activated, you receive a confirmation on your smart phone or iPad. You can also see your signal strength using the app.
The SwitchBox is well built with a heavy-duty plastic box with mounting bracket, and two heavy-duty 115-volt power cords. I use one line for my Tanis engine preheater, and the other for my battery maintainer. The SwitchBox will also work in conjunction with a cabin heater to warm up your avionics or a portable air conditioner, such as the “IceBox,” which is manufactured by the same people who manufacture the SwitchBox.
The SwitchBox can also work at home to turn on your heater, lights, and air conditioner, remotely from anywhere in the world!
If you are worried that you might cancel a flight and accidentally leave on your preheater or other electrical device, don’t be. A custom timer can be set to turn off the SwitchBox after up to 18 hours of being turned on. You can also turn off your device manually with another telephone call or by sending another text message. The advantage of sending a text message, rather than calling the device, is that by sending a text message, you receive a confirmation message that the device is on or off.
The SwitchBox comes with a 1-year warranty on parts and labor, and a 30-day money back guarantee.
SwitchBox Control is located in Providence, Rhode Island. Phillip Angert is in charge of sales, marketing and product development, and like the guys at Foreflight, he is also a pilot and aircraft owner: firstname.lastname@example.org
For technical assistance, setup and support, email: email@example.com
For T-Mobile Wireless customer support, email: T-Mobile@ecustomersupport.com