First it was leather bomber jackets. Then aviator sunglasses. Then big watches with lots of little dials. Now, it's flashlights -- the latest cockpit accoutrement to cross over into consumer appeal.
And as flashlights go, the Surefire A2 Aviator is about as cool as it could possibly get. Constructed of aerospace grade aluminum with a hard-anodized finish, and weighing barely four ounces, the Aviator was designed specifically for military and commercial pilots, who need a torch to both inspect the outside of their aircraft (the benchmark being the total illumination of the six-story rudder on a Boeing 747) and illuminate their charts inside the cockpit without damaging their night-vision.
Surefire's answer is a "smart" flashlight that uses a digital current regulation circuitry to control power to three LEDs -- available in white, green, or red -- and an ultra-bright incandescent lamp. The digital control ensures that the quality of the light remains consistent throughout the life of the battery, and the dual-mode lighting system permits easy selection of the right light for the right situation.
Tested at an airport on a small aircraft, the Aviator was indeed a powerful little instrument. Casting a substantially more even light than every other flashlight used -- including much larger D-cell lights -- it was also considerably brighter, permitting detailed examination of aircraft surfaces and inside various doors, panels, and openings. Once you use the Aviator for a few minutes, there really is no going back -- the next-brightest flashlight suddenly seemed virtually unusable.
The dual lighting will benefit many outside the aviation community, particularly boaters, hikers, law-enforcement officials (although Surefire has many other models suited to different military and police needs), and, of course, homeowners -- the beam is bright enough to temporarily blind intruders. At $175, the Aviator is a big investment, but it certainly won't let you down.
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.