Back From Sun-N-Fun

Byssokol

Back From Sun-N-Fun

Sun-N-Fun 2016

Last week was something of a blurr. On Sunday I loaded up the Tiger with everything I needed for an exhibit (table, banner, demo FlightBoxes, tablet stands, tablets, etc.) and flew from Liberty, Missouri to Thomasville, Georgia. I spent the night there with some old friends (thanks, Ryan and Gina!) then got up on Monday morning and flew on to Lakeland for Sun-N-Fun 2016.sun-n-fun

If you’ve never done an arrival into a busy show like SnF, I highly recommend it – it’s both challenging and a lot of fun. I was really glad to have ADS-B traffic on the way in, as the airspace became rather crowded as I approached the rendezvous point near Lake Parker. Everything went exactly as described in the NOTAM – everyone queued up and flew west to I-4, then followed it south-west until we crossed a golf course. We turned south and entered the pattern mid-field. The controllers called our entry into downwind, base, and final from that point using our aircraft type and color. Huge kudos to the controllers – that has to be a stressful job, and they all handled it with grace and humor.

I’ve been to Oshkosh several times, but this was my first time at Sun-N-Fun. It’s not as big, but that hardly tells you anything as Oshkosh is huge. I parked the Tiger in General Parking, picked up my rental car, and hauled my gear over to the exhibit area. I partnered with Avilution for SnF. They make Droid EFB, an excellent flight planning and navigation app build for Android tablets and phones (it works brilliantly with FlightBox). They also are in the process of rolling out XFS, or eXtensible Flight System – a new concept in avionics based on the idea that the hardware should be generic and the actual functionality should be entirely driven by software. Big thanks to Mark, Jacek, and the rest of the Avilution team for sharing space and helping cover the booth when I stepped out.

Most of the week was spent talking FlightBox with hundreds of pilots. We had a system up and running, receiving data from all the ADS-B out equipped aircraft around Lakeland and from the ground tower located across the field. That fed traffic and weather to two tablets: a Samsung Galaxy Tab S2 running Droid EFB and Avare and an iPad Mini 4 running ForeFlight* and Aerovie Reports. I used a second FlightBox kit to show potential customers just how easy it is to assemble. I think I must have put that kit together 200 times, and every time somebody in the group gathered around the table said, “Wow, that really is easy.”

First Crack In The FAA Wall

One of the most interesting things to come out of Sun-N-Fun was the announcement that Dynon Avionics and EAA had collaborated to receive STC approval for Dynon’s D10A mini-EFIS. This is huge news because it’s the first time that a product built for the experimental market has been approved for use in certificated aircraft without going through the usual TSO process. The AML currently covers the Cessna 172 and 150 families as well as the Piper PA-28 and PA-38 lines. Additional aircraft will be added to the AML in the near future. I’m friends with several of the people at Dynon and immediately volunteered the Tiger as a test platform. (I suspect that many other people did the same.)

Dynon and EAA made use of a new ASTM Standard: 3153-15 Verification of Avionics Systems. I’m extremely proud to mention that I served on the task group that developed that standard. Where the TSO process makes use of a very complicated, expensive, and frankly rather hand-wavy approach to software safety called DO-178, the new ASTM standard follows best practices used by manufacturers serving the experimental and LSA markets. Where DO-178 is several hundred pages of process, ASTM-3153-15 is two pages long and uses a simple, practical procedure to identify critical functions, specify tests, execute those tests, and document the results. The cost to the manufacturer is a fraction of what it would take for TSO approval, with a level of safety which is appropriate for a light, personal aircraft.

I really can’t overstate how important this is. It’s a small step but it may be the first of many that will ultimately allow owners of legacy aircraft to update with safety-enhancing technology. The D10A is officially seen as an attitude indicator, not an EFIS – you can’t remove any of your other instruments. Only the attitude is “primary” with the many other features being advisory. Understood. I’ll take it.

Remote GPS Option For FlightBox

We’ve had a number of users contact us looking for an easy way to remote-mount the GPS. The radio noise from the wifi transceiver, the brushless motor on the fan, and the Raspberry Pi all impact the sensitivity of the GPS. Add to that the radio noise from various aircraft systems and you can wind up with only modest performance. While we would never recommend using the FlightBox GPS as a primary navigation source (that requires FAA testing and certification) we are considering offering an option that would allow you to remote-mount a somewhat more sensitive GPS for greater accuracy.

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The FlightBox case is designed to allow you to cut out the U-shaped notch at the end and insert a USB extension cord. This can be used to remote the existing GPS, but you then need to build some kind of housing for it. We’ve done some research and it looks like we may be able to offer a somewhat more sensitive GPS that comes with a 4′ USB cable. This would give you the flexibility to locate the receiver “puck” away from the FlightBox. It would also make it much easier for anyone who wants to blind-mount their FlightBox by remoting the standard antennas or by using a belly-mounted transponder or DME antenna.

If you’re interested in a remote GPS or antenna option, please send me an email. If I get enough interest, I will place an order and write up some instructions.

Tech Tips

Low Power Blues: Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of people call up with systems that appear to be working but which do not establish a “FlightBox-XXXXX” wifi network. In every case the cause has been weak power supplies: either a 1 amp wall charger or even the low-power USB port on a laptop. PLEASE don’t try to run FlightBox off of any power source – battery or adapter – that is not rated for at least 2 amps. It will not work!

Floppy Antenna: I’ve also received a number of calls regarding the 978 MHz antenna flopping over. This happens when you can’t screw it on tight enough for the SMA connectors to properly mate. You need to either tighten up the nut on the SMA bulkhead connector. If that doesn’t fix it (and don’t go crazy and strip the nut or the connector) you may need to remove the lock washer. That will give you enough thread on the SMA barrel to properly tighten up the antenna.

This Fan Sucks: When I wrote up the instruction guide, I failed to mention that the fan needs to blow out through the top. I covered it on the video, so if you watched that, all is probably well. If you didn’t, there’s some chance that your fan is sucking in air from on top of the box and blowing it out the vents in the side. That’s backwards. You want to mount the fan so that the sticker is facing the plastic top and not visible. You’ll find arrow marks molded into the plastic showing the direction of spin and air motion. Air should go out through the top!

New FAQ and Troubleshooting Guide: We’ve compiled some of the most common questions about FlightBox into an FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) page. We’ve compiled many of the most common issues users experience into a Troubleshooting Guide page. If you have questions or troubles, take a look at either / both for answer. If you don’t find what you need there, give us a call or drop us an email.

Share FlightBox

If you like what FlightBox does for you and think other pilots at your airport might want give it a try, please download this flyer, print it, and post it on the bulletin board. We truly appreciate your help in making aviation safer and more affordable.

About the Author

ssokol administrator

31 Comments so far

Hank RauschPosted on  11:10 pm - Apr 13, 2016

Hello I just read about flightbox on a pilot’s bulletin board and I bought one. I fly a lot of long-distance VFR flights and I’m looking forward to getting weather in the cockpit. Do you guys have any plans to make an adsb out solution available prior to 2020?

    ssokolPosted on  11:18 pm - Apr 13, 2016

    Hi Hank,

    We’ve had a lot of people ask us about that. If we did, it would probably only be useable in experimental aircraft, since they are allowed to use non-TSO-approved equipment. (Though with the Dynon news, perhaps that will change – who knows.) There’s also a lot more liability involved in an ADS-B out device, so that would have some impact on the price (i.e. we probably couldn’t do it for $250).

    Thanks,

    Steve

Barry WilkinsPosted on  11:14 pm - Apr 13, 2016

I am definitely interested in remote mounting the GPS antenna. I already have two 6′ SMA extension cables for the antennas. I am thinking of placing the antennas under my AA5B (Tiger) dorsal fin.

Kerry RobersonPosted on  11:15 pm - Apr 13, 2016

Hi Steve, finished my kit last week (took 30 mins), and started getting traffic on my ipad mini running Foreflight while setting at my desk in the house, it works great, loaned it to a friend at the airport, you should be getting some orders asap. Just wanted to say it works great. Cant wait for the ahars module.

Bart howellPosted on  11:16 pm - Apr 13, 2016

I would like to add an external gps

LarryPosted on  11:17 pm - Apr 13, 2016

Ssokol,

I sure am interested in a remote GPS for the FlightBox I have on order.

Steve StahlPosted on  11:41 pm - Apr 13, 2016

I would be interested in a remote mounted gps.

Matt PoffPosted on  12:04 am - Apr 14, 2016

Hello Steve, I’m very interested in your product and would like to know how progress is going with the Pi 3 and AHRS. I’m also interested in a remote location option for my Archer. If the Pi 3 is ready first then I will go with it and add AHRS later. Thank you for your efforts. Matt, Destin FL.

Fred JoyalPosted on  12:38 am - Apr 14, 2016

Also definitely interested in the remote mount GPS antenna.

Bob snowPosted on  1:05 am - Apr 14, 2016

Hi Steve, I have received, assembled and been using my flightbox for three weeks and am very pleased with the cost and overall performance. Thanks for your time and contribution in providing a low cost very valuable tool in general aviation safety.

Dave SheldonPosted on  1:59 am - Apr 14, 2016

Count me in on the remote GPS option.

Gerry KlauberPosted on  11:30 am - Apr 14, 2016

I am also interested in the remote mounted GPS count me in.

Dave OlsonPosted on  1:28 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Steve — Add me to the remote mount GPS list. Thanks.

Tom FisherPosted on  1:32 pm - Apr 14, 2016

My antennas flop all over the place. How about a 3D printed support piece between the antennas to keep them upright? Or a way to tighten them down so that they don’t fall over.

    ssokolPosted on  1:44 pm - Apr 14, 2016

    Hi Tom,

    You might want to tighten up the nuts on the bulkhead connectors, then tighten up the barrels on the antennas. Floppy antennas are usually the result of not enough tension on the barrel connector. See the troubleshooting guide on the support page for details.

    Thanks,

    Steve

BillPosted on  1:51 pm - Apr 14, 2016

I’m in for the remote GPS. Take my $!! Great product. Thank you.

Pat MPosted on  2:24 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Count me in on the remote mount GPS option Steve. Pat

StevePosted on  3:38 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Steve, I would like to try an external GPS. Presently using the flightbox with WingXpro on my mini-ipad which requires an external GPS, the flightbox information and GPS read comes and goes.
Thank you for your help.

Bob HathawayPosted on  4:16 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Hi Steve
My unit seems to be working perfectly but I have this question:
Why does the flightbox need its own GPS?
I have both the built in GPS in the IPad and also a dual xgps150 which both work very well with both Foreflight and Flyq. What am I not seeing?
Does flightbox need the Gps wired directly?

Robert MorrisonPosted on  8:28 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Interested in remote antenna.

william holtPosted on  10:53 pm - Apr 14, 2016

Would purchase remote gps, also, what about remote antennas (mounted) on windows with suction cups?

Roy MankinsPosted on  12:42 am - Apr 15, 2016

I would like remote gps also. I would be willing to pay the extra for the adsb out.

John UhlPosted on  12:11 pm - Apr 15, 2016

Yes – interested in the remote antenna

Roy MankinsPosted on  4:31 pm - Apr 15, 2016

I looked on amazon and there are a lot of usb gps antennas. Is there a preferred one on will any work. I also have a dual buetooth gps antenna. if the gps is not requied to integrat with the fightbox would it work. I like the idea of remote mounting with remote antennas and a dedicated power source. Too much clutter on the dash anyway.

    ssokolPosted on  4:46 pm - Apr 15, 2016

    Roy,

    One note on this: what I’m working on right now is *not* an external (outside the aircraft) GPS antenna. It’s simply a way to relocate things inside the airplane.

    A true external, powered antenna is on the list but will take some additional doing.

    Thanks,

    -S

John DonkusPosted on  2:27 pm - Apr 17, 2016

Steve,
Count me in on the remote GPS antenna. Thank you. JD

Thomas WardPosted on  7:46 am - Apr 20, 2016

Assembly was a snap, as was pairing with ForeFlight. Great design and instructions. Looking forward to testing/familiarizing on some VFR cross country soon. I’ll be sharing my experience with my EAA chapter. Count me in on the external GPS antenna, and let me know when you have the AHRS option worked out. Thanks! TW @ LVN

Chad B.Posted on  1:41 am - Apr 29, 2016

Haven’t ordered mine yet but ready too. I’d wait though if there ends up being a more sensitive remote GPS.

George KiracofePosted on  3:03 pm - Apr 29, 2016

Thanks for your effort, persistence, and results.

Brian GingrasPosted on  2:46 pm - May 1, 2016

Steve,

I wanted to let you know that my Flight Box has worked flawlessly since I received it and logged 8hrs VFR Cross Country flying. I never right reviews, but felt this one was a must. A BIG thank you from a Very satisfied customer. Very interested in the AHRS when available.

Brian
Lakeland FL

GenePosted on  2:19 pm - May 30, 2016

I just ordered a FlightBox with dual freq and remote GPS. Hope is comes soon. I loaned out my iPad and iPhone to 2 students to practice using WingX Pro in their car so the Flight Box is the perfect addition. I probably need to order a second Flight Box so I have a Flight Box for the iPad and another Flight Box for the iPhone so 2 different students can start learning to fly with the Flight Box weather. I will buy the AHRS option as soon as it is available.

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