Preheat from afar with Far Start Technologies!
By Max Lundin
Since the advent of mobile technology, the aviation industry has slowly been optimizing and automating every process that would typically require manual labor and extra prep time. From GPS peripherals to logging apps, every facet of aviation has found its app store counterpart. There is, however, one process that you do not instantly consider when you think about aviation apps—engine preheating.
While the average pilot would have to call up a friend or head to the hangar early to get an engine heated, pilots with a Regal Pro or U-Phone-iT switch system can get their engines toasty warm with an automated phone call, text, or simple click of a button on their smartphone! One of the companies responsible for this innovation is Far Start Technologies (FST, LLC).
FST has been around since 2010, when Carl Bumpurs and his wife began developing prototype technology to make their lives simpler. Carl was a member of his local flying club and lived close to the airport. Due to his proximity, Carl was frequently called up and asked to turn on the club plane preheater for other members. Growing weary of being the club’s designated “engine prepper,” he decided to turn the chore into a business venture.
Inspired by the concept of a remote car starter with an exponentially larger range, the fledgling company originally created three prototypes. They worked through a variety of designs before settling on a model that functioned on a dial-up operating system, which they dubbed the LDR (Long Distance Remote). Through a designated phone number, one could dial up the LDR and a preprogrammed heating cycle would run. This first model had designated time parameters that it would run whenever called. While this allowed for simplicity, it had no potential for feedback. Although one called into the LDR, you could never tell for certain if the heater had actually started. They then developed the Regal WDR (Wireless Digital Remote) to be more interactive and bumped its wattage up to 1700W. This became the company’s second official release, thereby addressing customer demand for more sophisticated, interactive switches. This model was released as FST’s original Regal.
The Regal Pro ($379) is an upgraded version of the original Regal. This new-and-improved model implements the power outage warning system, an auto clock function, and a power LED. The switches are compatible with a variety of pre-heating systems, such as those made by Reiff, TANIS, Design Logic, E Z Heat, and other 115V equipment rated less than 1700 watts resistive load. The Regal Pro sports two 115 VAC outlets that can be operated individually and at selected times of day. The Pro is housed in a rugged, all aluminum, powder coated case, with non-marring feet. The Regal Pro is available exclusively at www.FSTLLC.com.
The U-Phone-iT ($279) is the Regal Pro’s cost-friendly little brother. It sports the same two 115 VAC outlets as the Regal, but supplies an overall wattage of 1000W, as opposed to 1700W. Unlike the Regal Pro, it does not have the auto clock function which makes the U-Phone-iT slightly less feature-laden. The U-Phone-iT is available exclusively at www.AircraftSpruce.com.
If cell reception insider your hangar is poor, you can invest in a remote antenna extension. FST offers an antenna extension for both models which can be purchased for $48.50. It has a 20ft lead cord and a magnetic mount so that it can be placed in a more receptive location.
General Specs and Quick Facts
FST specifically describes their products as “interactive cellular switches for aircraft pre-heaters.” Each switch is hardwired and fashioned with two outlets and an antenna. The outlets can be manipulated through an application or a phone call or text message. The dual outlets allow for two engine heaters to be operated simultaneously, allowing multiple people to share the same unit. Other features:
- Each product has an integrated password system so that only designated users can activate them.
- The systems offer remedies for inevitable power failures. Upon power restoration, the system reports the failure to the user allowing the user to restore interrupted commands.
- Both models are built in the name of simplicity. There’s only one button (an on/off switch) on the console.
- Every function and component of the system is controlled remotely.
- FST provides free support for purchasers. This includes troubleshooting, system programming, modifications to security settings, and other services after sale.
- Last, but not least—All of FST’s products are made in the USA!
Cell Service and Application
The interface has been improved substantially since the original iteration of the product was put on the market. FST’s newest line of products can be operated through proprietary Android and iPhone apps that relay commands via the ATT GSM system. Both products can also be operated by SMS and call, per the user’s preference.
There are multiple payment options for cell service, likely dictated by how often you use your aircraft. There is both a pay-as-you-go option and a flat rate option. If you only use the dial-in system and do so sparingly, it will cost around $3.50 per month. If you frequently use the interactive system, as opposed to the dial-in system, it may be a little pricier, as messages cost $.10 each. If you’ll be using the Regal or U-Phone-iT frequently, you may want to invest $80 per year for the flat rate.
Although the app offers additional benefits and simplicity, a cell phone or computer is NOT required to use the Regal Pro or the U-Phone-iT. Using a land line will still activate the switches.
If you’re tired of getting out of bed earlier for pre-flight prep, it might just be time to step up your technology arsenal and invest in a mobile pre-heater switch—or at least convince your neighbor to buy one so that you can get some extra sleep in the morning!
For the full specs, testimonials, special offers, and more, visit www.FSTLLC.com.