I’ve been compiling frequently asked questions about FlightView and now have a pretty good start on a “living” document. I will be adding to this on a regular basis. If you have a question that’s not on the list, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll do my best answer it.
I’ve published a copy of the installation guide and diagram on the FlightDock product page. If you run into any questions or issues with the installation, please let me know. Here are direct links: FlightDock Mounting Diagram and FlightDock / FlightBar Installation Guide
Just a quick note to let everyone know that the move is complete and we are now located at Breakaway Airpark in Cedar Park, a suburb of Austin Texas. Our new address is:
Open Flight Solutions
2901 Kenai Drive
Cedar Park, TX 78613
Production has resumed on the FlightBox and FlightView lines. We’re currently running about 10 days on a FlightView Core Kit or FlightBox Pro. FlightBox portables are expected to be back in stock the week of June 15. Apologies for the delay. It seems that there has been a bit of a run on Raspberry Pi computers as a result of the pandemic.
So if you’ve been following this blog for the past several years you might recall that we moved from Liberty, Missouri (a suburb of Kansas City) to Cupertino, California in 2018. That move was the result of a fantastic career opportunity for my wife Amy. Well, two years later she has been offered a promotion with a relocation to Austin. There are few things worse than moving, but in this case I’m looking forward to it. The Bay Area is beautiful, and the weather is fantastic, and it’s so absurdly expensive that growing a small “bootstrap” (i.e. self-funded) business is a significant challenge. The move to Texas will reduce costs (like my $630 / month T-hangar) and make it much easier to grow.
The down-side to the move is that it will disrupt things for a couple of weeks while everything is in transit. Orders for FlightView systems, FlightBox Pro systems and most accessories that come in after May 15 will be shipped as soon as things get unpacked – probably somewhere close to June 1. Orders for FlightBox Plus systems (the portables) should ship next-business-day in most cases. I will be providing tech support by email / trouble ticket throughout the move, but there may be slightly longer delays in response time.
The new address for the company will be:
Open Flight Solutions
2901 Kenai Dr.
Cedar Park, Texas 78613
Thanks in advance to everyone for their patience. I look forward to working with you from the new digs in Austin.
We’re getting close to a 1.0 release of the FlightView app. I just pushed the latest beta version to Apple’s TestFlight. It should be approved and available to all beta testers in the next 24 – 48 hours. I’ve had several users ask for a way to see FlightView in action without actually having to install all the hardware. Understandable. Fortunately, using off-the-shelf gear makes that pretty easy.
The demo flies a continuous circuit around California through heavy air traffic (300 random simulated targets), through a rain storm, and over some challenging terrain. The emulator sends a constant stream of data for all the key subsystems including the engine monitor, radios, and transponder. To get the full effect you’ll want to install the base map for California and the “US North-West” and “US South-West” terrain images in FlightView. (NOTE: Because of a change in the way we’re handling file access, you will need to install Beta version 0.3 before you can install the terrain files. Apologies for any inconvenience that may cause.)
Here’s the instructions in somewhat greater detail:
If you don’t have a copy of FlightView yet, you can install it from TestFlight. To do so:
Ironically, you might think, I waited until the very last minute to get ADS-B Out installed (well, re-installed) in my RV-6A. The RV arrived back in 2017 with a Dynon system which included Dynon’s (which is actually Trig’s) Mode S transponder. Within a few weeks I swapped out the standard GPS for the 2020-complaint version (SV-GPS-2020) and was fully legal. That worked great until this past summer when I went and ripped everything out to install FlightView. Transponder integration was a long way down the FlightView feature list, so I punted and installed an old but reliable Garmin GTX-327.
Late this fall I finally got around to working on the transponder. It turns that it uses a rather complex low-level protocol called TMAP which both configures and remote controls the transponder. Fortunately, I have friends who are much smarter than I am. With a huge amount of help from Eugene (thanks, Eugene!) I managed to put together a working TMAP implementation. It allows FlightView to do all the transponderish stuff you would expect: squawk, ident, switch from standby to altitude mode. Exciting stuff. So that took care of the transponder requirement. Unfortunately, getting the ADS-B Out feature working was not so straightforward.
The Dynon GPS meets the performance requirements of the 2020 mandate. So does the Trig TT22 transponder. And they work together beautifully in an all-Dynon system. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of a challenge to get them to work together without the Dynon EFIS. The GPS operates at 8 volts (weird) and communicates at 115,200 bit per second (sounds fast, but it’s not). The Transponder operates off of standard ship’s power (12v – 28v) and communicates with the position source at a maximum 38,400 bits per second. The transponder is built to communicate directly with a 2020 position source, and does in many installations. Unfortunately, not in Dynon installations. In a Dynon install, the EFIS acts as a bridge between the GPS and the transponder. It digests the data from the GPS and pushes it to the transponder using the aforementioned TMAP protocol.
Ok, so under ordinary circumstances that would be fairly easy to replicate, but unfortunately the GPS includes one special message that tells the receiving gear (transponder or EFIS) the current accuracy and integrity of the position fix. That message is, unfortunately, proprietary. You need the documentation from the GPS chipset manufacturer to know how to decode the accuracy and integrity information in order to pass it along to the transponder. Without the details on that message you can’t know the accuracy / integrity. Ouch.
Ok, so the transponder also supports a direct RS-232 connection to a position source. The FlightBox can bring the data from the GPS in at 115,200 bps and spit it back out at 38,400 bps. All it takes is a pair of RS-232 adapters and two available USB ports – not a problem, right? Well, it turns out that it’s not at all hard to do but there’s still one small snag: the transponder firmware apparently doesn’t speak the GPS dialect used by the Dynon GPS. At least not with the firmware it has now. It almost works. It sends out ADS-B squits* with the correct position data, but without the all important integrity value. Without acceptable integrity data the towers ignore your squits and you’re not compliant.
By the time I figured all of this out it was late December. Time for Plan B, which in this case was to install an EchoUAT transceiver. The Trig would stay, but would be relegated to doing only basic transponderish stuff. The ADS-B function would be handled by a tiny black box from uAvionix. The Echo, fortunately, speaks a wider variety of GPS than the Trig, including the dialect pumped out by the Dynon. It’s also very simple to install – just power it up, configure it using a mobile app, and away it goes. It reads the squawk code and altitude inductively via the power connection, so all it needs is the feed from the GPS. The one down side: it can’t share an antenna with the transponder. Fortunately, I had a second transponder antenna that I was using for ADS-B In.
I finished the installation and the ground tests just after noon on December 30th. A half hour flight around the Santa Clara valley was enough to generate a passing PAPR report. I would estimate I spent at least 100 hours coding and burned at least 20 gallons of av gas trying to get this right. Not the most efficient path to ADS-B compliance.
Eventually I intend to revisit the Trig, as I would like to be able to use the second antenna for ADS-B In functions again. I think (and please speak up if you know) that the trick might be getting the transponder firmware updated, something which requires the assistance of an authorized Trig dealer. A more recent update added support for the Trig TN72 which is rumored to use same chipset as the Dynon SV-GPS-2020. If anyone knows the detail, please post a comment.
Transponder control isn’t one of the sexiest FlightView features, but it is nice. Getting the TMAP driver working is a good first step. At some point I hope to add support for other transponders including the Sandia STX line and possibly the Garmin GTX models if I can figure out their protocol.
* No, squits are not some unfortunate digestive condition. ADS-B is “automatic” – meaning the transmitters don’t require an interrogation but instead send out an update known as a “squit” once per second. The ES in 1090-ES actually stands for “Extended Squitter”.
For the past few weeks I’ve been working on an interactive checklist feature for FlightView, our iPad-based EFIS. This checklist feature lets you create lists containing items which FlightView can display and also play as an audio prompt. (Think: “Flaps to 20 degrees.”) You acknowledge the list item by either tapping a button or by saying an acknowledgement word. (Think: “Check” or “Twenty”.) I wasn’t sure how well this would work out, since in most cases speech recognition requires an Internet connection, which can be hard to come by at 10,000 feet.
Fortunately, Apple managed to surprise and delight by introducing a new feature in iOS 13. Offline speech recognition is now a standard feature available on all iOS devices equipped with an A9 or newer processor. This is a game changer: the same technology will ultimately allow us to build a comprehensive voice assistant into FlightView. (Think: “Artoo, plot a course to KRHV” or “Hal, open the pod bay doors.”) Cool stuff!
In the long term this will make FlightView an even better EFIS, which is great. However, the number of people who can use FlightView is fairly limited (for now) so I decided to build a stand-alone app that anyone can use. The Chekov app runs on all recent iPhones and iPads running iOS 13. iPad Multitasking lets you to use it concurrently with your favorite EFB app.
You can install Chekov now from the App store:
As with all of our products, we appreciate your feedback. If you try Chekov and have suggestions or questions please drop us note or open a trouble ticket.
And finally, a tip of the hat to our namesakes:
“Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.”
– Anton Chekhov (author)
“Excuse me. I am looking for the nuclear wessels?”
– Pavel Chekov (space ensign)