Oh yes, I came up with that title while cleaning some goo out of my smoker…just made some tasty ribs.

Anyhow, in general aviation, ADS-B is a thing…a looming thing.
My current setup is this – GNS430 (not WAAS), old King transponder, Aspen 1000 unit that receives XM WX.

I’ve been looking at what to do to meet the 2020 deadline and nothing really jumps out at me. Currently the best thing (I think) would be to update my transponder to a Garmin model that will only give me ADS-B out. To get the in, I have to do something about my non-WAAS gps. While that transponder is about $3000, and will make me legal for 2020, I want ADS-B in both directions.

Things start to move to 5-figures when we talk about a WAAS gps.

PLUS – we have 4 years. I’m guessing ADS-B devices will improve greatly over the next few years…and possible become a bit more affordable, so I’m dragging my feet.

Then I read a small blurb in AOPA magazine about a guy who isn’t a pilot, but cobbled together some pieces and built his own ADS-B device.

Seems pretty wild.

But, this device got good words from the writer, plus I like to tinker. Let’s not forget, the parts add up to about $75.

I looked a little deeper and found this “guy” had taken things a step further. He will sell you all the parts, plus a 3-D printed enclosure. This costs about $250.

Still cheap. Still comes in pieces and you have to put it together, but it isn’t that tough.

So I bought one.

What is this thing I bought? It is called FlightBox by Open Flight Solutions.

I must say it is pretty slick.

I got it about a month ago.

I had my 15-year-old put it together (I watched) and it was easy.
Very good instructions.
Simple.
Basically you have a Raspberry Pi computer board. Into that plugs a WAAS GPS, two different radio modules and a wifi adapter.
It is all very straight forward.

Then you just crank it up.

It’s that simple.

Wait, why did it turn off?
Hmm.
Reboot.
Started, then froze.
Reboot.
Started then worked.
Fiddled.
Reboot.
Started then froze.

Damn.
I sent an email to support and was told that it was probably that I was using an inferior USB power plug.
My initial reaction was BS.
But, I switch to a better USB plug (the kind that plugs into a power outlet) and the thing booted right up.
I re-powered it multiple times to be sure.
Yep.
The thing is this: a Raspberry Pi has 4 USB ports. Those 4 ports are now being used. Each of those items draws quite a bit of power.
So, you want to ensure quality equipment.
Note: I did purchase the cigarette lighter USB power plug they recommended for this reason.

Once cranked up, you can connect to the device from any browser. I used my phone.

There are a few pages you can go to and see exactly what is what.

There is a page for ADS-B and all the aircraft the unit sees.
You can go to the GPS page and see raw info.

One of my first usage questions was, “where to I input my transponder code?”

You don’t, part of your setup config, really the only software setup config needed is to do is get the hex version of the ICAO code from the FAA’s data page for your airplane.

Go here.

Enter your tail number (leave out the leading “N”) and hit submit. You’ll find the item you need in the “Aircraft Description” block listed as “Mode S Code (base 16 / hex)”.

That’s all I did.

There are many EFB apps that support FlightBox, also known as Stratux.

I’m mainly an Android user.

I haven’t used a tablet for flying since I got this plane with the 430 in it.

Before that I was using Naviator.
It was fine, but I thought I’d try something else.

I decided on AvNav.

The unit sat in my bag for about 2 weeks before I got a chance to test it.

We had about an 1.5 hour let, so plenty of time to check things out.

Powered up device, connected table to the wifi.

Then in AvNav went to ADS-B setting and turn it “on”.

I’m not sure if it is due to the age of my tablet, but AvNav crashed a number of times.
Upon crash it also turned ADS-B off, so I kept having to turn it back on.

Ok, everything up and running. Not seeing any traffic or WX.

I went to the FlightBox raw data page and saw there were a number of planes “in sight”, of course they were 15,000+ above us.

Still, I couldn’t get traffic to show up on the tablet.
Also no weather.

On the return let I looked a bit deeper into AvNav and realized I needed to turn on the traffic “layer”.

I also expanded the range of view-able traffic to 100 mile ring and plus/minus 30,000 feet.

That did it!

It was the layer.

I narrowed the range down and things looked great.

I turned on the WX layer and had a great radar picture.

In short, this thing is great.
Is AvNav the best EFB?
Probably not, but I’m going to keep using it for a few flights and decide.

The FlightBox, though is great.

Very happy.

No, this won’t full-fill the 2020 ADS-B requirement, but it will allow me to cancel my MX WX account and buy me time before I have to buy the fancy equipement.

0 thoughts on “Taming the ADS-Beast

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *