FlightBox is a DIY-ish ADS-B solution based on the Stratux open source project.

You can read my first use impression here.

Last week I put my FlighBox / AVNav EFB (Android) through a rigorous test flying from the east coast to Colorado.

For a quick review of my equipment:

  • Single engine aircraft
  • Garmin GNS430
  • Aspen 1000
  • MX WX fed into Aspen

As one might expect, my biggest concern for this trip was the weather.

 

Let’s start with my standard “rig”…XM WX.
This is all I’ve known for “live” aviation weather, other than actual radar. I like XM XW for the most part. I like it because it is tied into my Aspen. I like it because it works. I will say, I’ve had my share of disagreements with what the radar is showing vs. real life, but I’ve also had those disagreements with WX radar and real life.

My FlightBox rig consists of the FlightBox itself (dual band version), the FlightBox recommended cigarette lighter USB plug, my quite old Samsung 9″ P3113 running Android 4.0.4 on CyanogenMod and AVNav EFB.
Again, you can read my first use experience with this setup here.

I’m fully aware that my tablet choice is not optimal – it is old for sure, yet it is an excellent size. Plus, at least initially, my intention was to just see if this FlightBox thing would really work (it does).

I’ve used FlightBox now for almost 20 hours. My overall consensus of the FlightBox is simple – it is great. At the beginning of each leg, we power it on and it just works. I frequently viewed the “raw” data on the FlightBox out of curiosity and never noted a single hiccup from the FlightBox.  FlightBox is an excellent foundation on which to build your EFB solution.  It gives you all of the information of ADS-B, it gives you a much better GPS than your tablet can provide and, since you can turn the GPS on your tablet off, it can greatly extend the battery life of your tablet.  I know that when I was using my tablet with the GPS to navigate, the battery would last about 3 hours.  Using FlightBox, my tablet battery lasted the entire day, all 3 legs.  I didn’t have the screen on the entire time, but it was on quite a bit as I looked for aircraft and at the weather.

I do like AVNav. I don’t love it. It crashes semi-frequently, but I’m willing to attribute that to my ancient tablet. Other than that issue, I quite like how AVNav works. I’ve not seen how other EFBs work, so I don’t know if the display capabilities are the same. In AVNav, I have it set to show traffic, WX radar overlay and airports set to show ceiling.  (If you have other EFB experiences, mention them in the comments below.)

I like the ceiling display as it also color codes the airports according to the ceiling. This is nice as you can get a big picture view on your route of the weather. This combined with the radar overlay and you have tons of info.

This is were ADS-B weather begins to edge our XM WX.

With XM, you simply get the radar picture.

With ADS-B weather you get that, plus the weather at any airport you choose. From the quick look of is the airport “green”…to detailed METAR with a tap on an airport.

This added level of weather capability is what really adds value to ADS-B weather.

Fortunately, weather was not much of an issue on my trip. The first leg was the only real weather. We had to go around a few build ups and both XM and ADS-B showed the cells which we flew around.
Interestingly, the radar picture from each showed the cell about 10 miles different in location, and neither was exactly correct. I’m sure this is due to the delay each system has in refreshing the radar picture.

Also nice with ADS-B is you can go much further out than what my Aspen will show.  The reality is beyond 300 miles may not matter, and close is if really important, but when you are flying half way across the country, it is nice to be able to take a peek at what is down the road.

In summary, FlightBox is a rock solid ADS-B system. ADS-B weather is much preffered to XM WX. Your choice of EFB is something you’ll have to make, but AVNav is pretty good.

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