Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflection 2015: By the Numbers

Reflecting back on flying in 2015, what struck me the most were some of the numbers.

131.9: Total flight hours for 2015. That's the most I have ever accumulated in a single year.

81.1: Hours of cross country flight time (flights with landings 50 nautical miles or more from the point of origin), my highest to date.

27: The number of people who shared Warrior 481's cockpit with me this year (not including Kristy and The Bear). Thanks to John C (safety pilot), Max B (1st GA flight), Rob L (WFC member), Dave P (safety pilot), Mike B (checkout in N9855W), Kent A (nostalgic trip to HAI), Mom, Tom H (flight review), Bill E, Penny B ("Granny", 1st GA flight), Nathan S (2nd GA flight, his first was with me several years ago, and he is now pursuing certification), Dave S (1st GA flight), Mike S (1st GA flight), Lee S (WFC member), Marv S (final flight, WFC member), Pat N, Marilu N (1st GA flight), Dan A (safety pilot), and nine passengers flown during the Williamson-Sodus Airport Apple Blossom Festival Breakfast in N9855W.

10: The number of years between landings at Monroe County Municipal Airport in Bloomington, IN. Prior to 2015, my last landing there was on the return from Florida in June of 2005.

9.8: Hours of flight in actual instrument conditions, my highest to date, boosted significantly by my first flight entirely in IMC from departure (KPTK) to landing (KSDC).

8: The number of new airports explored in 2015, spanning a geographic area from central Indiana to coastal Maine. Two of these, Alton Bay and Burke Lakefront, had long been on my aviation bucket list. These airports were:

7: The number of live lobsters my high school buddy Alex had for our backyard lobster bake after we flew to coastal Maine.

4: The number of flights to Oakland County International (KPTK) in 2015, one of the reasons for the high cross-country time, despite not having ventured too terribly far from home base.

3: The number of visits to one of my favorite destinations, Lake Placid. Occurring in winter, summer, and fall, those three visits generated a lot of spectacular photographs.

1: The number of FAA-approved ice runways that I used in 2015 (Alton Bay).

1: The number of wheel pants I ruined after flying for hours in the rain.

Flights in 2015 as generated by MyFlightbook and Google Earth

It was a good year to fly, with the exception of ruining that wheel pant. Clearly, though, I was able to exercise the instrument rating, which pleases me to no end. This includes doing my first localizer backcourse approach into Oakland County International. This was not only a first for me (the LOC BC part), but the first time the entire family got to experience an instrument approach in honest to goodness IMC (descending through clouds from six thousand feet to about 900 feet).

2015 also saw Warrior 481 upgraded to comply with the FAA's 2020 ADS-B mandate and, on the last flight of the year, the new gear came in very handy.

Here are my favorite flying images from 2015 (presented in no particular order, just scrambled for variety):

Marv, Lee, The Bear, and me
("Final Flight")

In August, I had the privilege to fly with Marv, a pilot and long time Williamson Flying Club member. Marv lost his battle with cancer in September of this year. His time in Warrior 481 was not only his final flight, but also his last time at the controls of an aircraft.

Lake Ontario (foreground) and Sodus Bay
("Living the Dream on Alton Bay")

N21481 at the Liberty Air Museum, Erie-Ottawa International Airport (KPCW)
("Tales of the Tin Goose")

Ultra-short final at Williamson-Sodus Airport in a Champ with Mike S
("Hooded and Champin'")

Sunset seen en route to Williamson-Sodus from Lake Placid
("Stark Winter Beauty")

Over Rush, NY looking north along the I-390 corridor toward Rochester.

Ice accumulation at the base of Niagara Falls
("A License To...")

Olympic ski jump towers (foreground), Lake Placid Airport, Whiteface mountain (background)

Chimney Bluffs, Lake Ontario shoreline

Crossing the border between Canada and Michigan
("Nature's Power Washer")

N21481 parked on frozen Lake Winnipesaukee, Alton Bay, NH
("Living the Dream on Alton Bay") 

Landing at Alton Bay was particularly exciting for me. This had been on my list of things to do for years and all the variables finally lined up just right for it to happen.

Sunset over Lake Ontario

Adirondack Mountains
("Stark Winter Beauty")

Lake Placid and Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondacks

Ontario, Canada
("A License To...")

Approach to runway 24R, Burke Lakefront Airport, Cleveland, OH
("Drew Carey Was Right (Cleveland Rocks)")

As a destination, Burke Lakefront was another goal that went unrealized for many years. To my mind, it is the closest thing left in the United States to Meigs Field.

Olympic ski jump tower at Lake Placid
("Stark Winter Beauty")

Adirondack Mountains in the summer

The Bear with Warrior 481 on the ground in Williamsport, PA
("Future Memories Made and Captured")

Warrior 481 and two WFC aircraft on the ramp at Lake Placid

Thunderstorms over Cleveland viewed across Lake Erie from Canada at sunset.
("Tourist Empire of the Inland Seas")

Rochester, NY looking south along the Genesee River
("Old Haunts")

Eastbound out of the Williamson-Sodus Airport

Late afternoon haze over the western Adirondacks
("Stark Winter Beauty")

"X" marks the spot of the Oswego County Airport, Fulton, NY

For me, these images still inspire passion and serve as reminders of how fortunate I am to behold such wonders on a routine basis. They are why this blog exists and I am looking forward to the images of flight that next year will bring.

See you in 2016!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

"This Could Never Happen To Me"

Owing to their common depiction in popular media as roguish rule-breakers, the culture of safety that pervades the pilot community often comes as a surprise to non-aviators. A portion of that culture is the frequent review of aviation accidents. We do this not because it is fun reading (no rubbernecking or schadenfreude going on here), but to gain insight into what went wrong in an ongoing effort to learn and become safer pilots.

Blogger and professional pilot Ron Rapp recently posted a thoughtful discussion on pilot error focusing on a 2014 Gulfstream IV crash in Bedford, MA (see Ron's excellent post here: "Bedford and the Normalization of Deviance"). A point that Ron makes in his article is that, sometimes, the errors committed are obvious, even bordering on the egregious. The trap for any pilot reading such an accident report is to decide that they know better and dismiss the event as something that would never happen to them. Ron's point is that this is dangerous thinking because these things do happen to well-trained, intelligent pilots.

I confess that I have had these dismissive thoughts when reading accident reports, particularly when I was a less experienced pilot still in my first year of aircraft ownership. Then this happened:

NTSB Identification: CHI05CA144
14 CFR Part 91: General Aviation
Accident occurred Thursday, June 16, 2005 in Marcelles [sic], MI
Probable Cause Approval Date: 09/13/2005
Aircraft: Cessna 150M, registration: N9327U
Injuries: 1 Serious, 1 Uninjured. 
The airplane sustained substantial damage during a forced landing to a field after a loss of engine power. The certified flight instructor (CFI) reported that they had been flying for about one hour. The airplane was in cruise flight at 3,000 feet above mean sea level with the student pilot at the controls when the engine sputtered and quit. The CFI reported that he took control of the airplane and determined that the airplane was out of fuel. He executed a forced landing to a field. The inspection of the airplane revealed that the left fuel tank had about one gallon of fuel and the right tank was empty. The student pilot reported that he had conducted the preflight and walk-around of the airplane. The student pilot noticed that the airplane was low on fuel but failed to inform the CFI that the airplane needed fuel before takeoff.
The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
  • The total loss of engine power due to fuel exhaustion as a result of the CFI's inadequate supervision and inadequate planning/decision. The student pilot's inadequate preflight planning was a contributing factor.

Friends and long time readers might recognize the registration number of the accident aircraft. It was Two Seven Uniform, the 1976 Cessna 150-M in which I trained, soloed, and flew during my private pilot check ride.

Photo by Scott, June 29, 2003

They ran her out of gas over a field in Marcellus, MI and broke her back in the ensuing hard landing. Most important to this discussion, however, is that this happened to Bill, the instructor who taught me to fly. The airplane was the only true casualty of the accident, though it is my understanding that Bill never instructed again.

I was utterly baffled and unnerved by the accident. Bill drilled into me that I must always visually verify the fuel level in the tanks before launching. How could this happen to him? The answer is a simple one: complacency is insidious. It was a valuable realization to make as a young aviator.

Bill, Two Seven Uniform, and Me, September 23, 2002. Photo by John.

Since then, when I read accident reports and my inner smart ass pipes up with a disparaging opinion about the accident pilot's aeronautical prowess, I realize that I know better. Was the pilot inadequately trained or stupid? Not usually. If a fuel exhaustion accident could happen to Bill, who so successfully ingrained in me the pre-flight habit of visually checking the tanks every time, then it could happen to anyone under the right circumstances. Complacency creeps in through many vectors. Was Bill running late that day? Hurrying? Was he hungry or tired? Did the routine of so many instructional flights in the same aircraft, perhaps in the same day, lead to a loosening of standards? 

An important part of aviation safety is learning from the mistakes of others. But no learning happens when we fail to take the lessons seriously. There is no room for a "this could never happen to me" attitude. Bill taught me many things as he molded me into a certificated private pilot. This lesson, imparted two years after I completed my training with him, was by far his most important. Even with that valuable lesson well-taken, I still had a bout with complacency that grabbed my attention in 2009.

Complacency is insidious, particularly for those who believe that it can't happen to them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Chesapeake Delights in Central Pennsylvania

Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
20 Dec 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - IPT (Williamsport, PA) - SDC 2.5 1495.4

December Sunshine

We climbed into a sky bisected; overcast east of the Williamson-Sodus Airport, clear to the west. A southeasterly morning sun cast its brilliant gaze over a rare December landscape devoid of snow. For our first flight together as a family since September, we set a southerly course for Williamsport, Pennsylvania and breakfast at Cloud 9. The Bear and I have been to Cloud 9 several times, but it was to be Kristy's first visit.

In the back seat, The Bear crouched low to escape the blinding visage of the sun. Being a Flying Bear can be rough sometimes.

Proceeding south, away from the warming effect of Lake Ontario, we encountered a narrow band of snow accumulation running parallel to the Pennsylvania state line.

Looking east across Keystone State terrain, haze diffused the sun's penetrating rays.

For her part, The Bear achieved tenuous respite from the sun behind one of the Warrior's window pillars until we made our approach into Williamsport.

No Greasy Spoon, This

Of the many airport diners that we have patronized, Cloud 9 is my absolute favorite. The restaurant affords a beautiful view of a high ridgeline south of the sleepy towered field. The food is a cut above the greasy spoon fare at many other airport diners. Because of its food quality and unique ambiance, the restaurant thrives as a destination for locals rather than a place dependent on the fickle nature of private aviation for support. Ours was the only aircraft parked on the ramp, but the restaurant was busy. Santa Claus was even working the crowd.

"Do you have a reservation?" The hostess looked at me expectantly.

"No." Then I added, as though it was somehow an acceptable excuse, "we just flew in." This seemed to matter to the hostess, who peered around the restaurant a second time, then seated us at a high table usually serving a more decorative role. Note to self: next time, make a reservation.

Shades were drawn to filter the intense sunshine, restricting the usually excellent view. "That sun is really bright," commented a nearby diner.

Trying staring into it for an hour while flying an airplane, I thought. I know: First World problems.

Cloud 9 does not have a children's menu. Kristy and The Bear split an order of blueberry waffles, my wife ordering a side of bacon and The Bear indulging in sausage. Everything was delicious, but what really impressed me was the sausage; plump, tender, and sourced from a local farm. I chose the Chesapeake frittata made from three eggs scrambled with sauteed asparagus, tomatoes, onions, and potatoes. It was cooked to perfection (I'm picky about browned or overcooked eggs) and the whole thing was topped by one of the best crab cakes I have eaten in recent memory. In a word, it was fantastic; all of it.

As we finished our meal, a family entered the restaurant led by a youngster who burst through the door, cast her gaze about the restaurant, and cried out, "where's Santa?" Evidently, word had spread.

Santa or no Santa, it does not get much better than dining on Cloud 9.

Ten Minutes of Winter

Back on the ramp with the airplane, we affirmed that The Bear has not grown out of her "bunny ears phase" yet. Maybe next year.

With the sun at our backs, we were smiling more and squinting less than on the southbound journey.

We returned to the narrow band of winter, existing in the tenuous equilibrium of a sufficiently northern latitude, but not so far north so as to be spoiled by the still-warm Lake Ontario. We cleared the microclimate to the north, the landscape returning to hues of brown and muted green as our airplane carried us back out of winter in a matter of minutes. Science and technology aside, flight is still magical.

Corning, NY

Kristy does not fly with me as often as she once did. I found myself reflecting on how this flight differed from our cross country flights of ten years earlier, both in terms of the hardware in the panel, the way we interacted with air traffic control, and the fact that I am now instrument rated. In some ways, it is hard to believe that those early flights occurred in the same airplane under control of the same pilot.

ADS-B: Distant Early Warning

Inbound to Sodus, my iPad depicted ADS-B traffic five miles to the starboard on a heading that apparently converged with ours at the Williamson-Sodus Airport. I took note.

Ten miles out from Sodus, I cancelled flight following. "Warrior 481, traffic, 2 o' clock and five miles, northbound. I'm not talking to him. Frequency change approved, squawk VFR," Rochester signed off. I gave Kristy the privilege of pressing the cool [VFR] button on the new transponder as I flipped to the next frequency. ForeFlight continued to depict the target on a convergent course. I slowed down and began a shallow descent.

"Williamson-Sodus traffic, Warrior Two One Four Eight One, five southwest, landing two eight." There was not a peep from our target. I diverted west to provide better spacing with the other aircraft. We reached pattern altitude with our traffic target still 1000 feet above us. Given its altitude, I wondered if the other aircraft intended to overfly the field rather than land. I continued trying to pick it up visually.

Moments later, ForeFlight gave a traffic alert. Our target was descending rapidly ("like a rock" as I commented to Kristy in the moment). Despite my avoidance maneuver, our target had also diverted west and was directly above us. Then I saw it, ahead and slightly above pattern altitude. It was much closer than I like to see other aircraft in flight, close enough to easily identify as another Cherokee.

The frequency was not terribly congested, but it was not idle, either. In addition to myself broadcasting position reports inbound to Sodus, Dan from Le Roy was flying a practice VOR Alpha approach into my former home field, and the Canadians across the lake at Markham were transmitting their usual garrulous radio calls.

On seeing the other Cherokee drop into view at the top of my windscreen, I mashed the push-to-talk and broadcast, "Williamson-Sodus traffic, Warrior 481, two point five southwest on the forty-five, two eight, Williamson Sodus." (translation for non-aviators: "we're two and half miles southwest of the Williamson-Sodus Airport making a 45° entry into the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for runway two eight").

That got his attention.

"Where are you?" A completely new voice on frequency; elderly, hoarse and tremulous. It could have been from anyone at any number of airports on 122.80 MHz, but I was certain that it came from the Cherokee that had just dropped into the downwind leg of the pattern. To his credit, in the beat of silence that followed, the Cherokee driver realized the vagary of his call and tried again.

"Warrior, where are you?" Well, that was a little better. I responded that I was behind him and had him in sight. He continued to fly the pattern, calling final for runway "eight two", a transmission that utterly failed to engender any improved confidence from me.

Though the encounter ended without incident, I wondered how it would have gone had I not seen and been tracking the other Cherokee via ADS-B, if I had not slowed down and diverted westward to give him more room before I could get a visual on him. For anyone wondering about my opinion of ADS-B, on the basis of this incident alone, I have to say that the pricey upgrade was worth every penny.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

"I'm an Outie!": Squittering My Way to ADS-B Compliance

I recently had my airplane upgraded to comply with the FAA's ADS-B mandate. For anyone in the dark about what that means and interested in learning more, read on! For those already familiar with ADS-B and what it's all about, the discussion of my chosen path starts under "Choices".

A Brief History of ATC Tech - Abridged

Air Traffic Control (ATC), that benevolent overseer of the National Airspace System, exists for one principal purpose: preventing airplanes from bumping into each other. ATC's implementation of radar after World War II provided the ability to "see" aircraft at a distance rather than relying on estimates of ground speed and track periodically called in by en route pilots (though those practices still persist decades later in remote areas with poor radar coverage).

By itself, this "eye" is imperfect. It can be confounded by terrain, weather, or other obstacles. It is best reflected by metal, meaning that small fabric-covered or contemporary composite airplanes return weak echoes. When air traffic density increases, radar returns tend to become large undifferentiated blobs, making it difficult for controllers to keep track of which aircraft is which. Most importantly, although radar enables controllers to see aircraft range and bearing, all ships are depicted as though stuck to a flat plane; there is no insight given into altitude. Considering that aircraft operate in a three dimensional realm, this most basic form of radar (now called "primary radar") is a relatively crude tool for separating traffic.

These limitations led to the development of secondary surveillance radar (often simply referred to as "secondary radar"). Secondary radar uses a stronger signal for greater range and relies upon an active response from an interrogated aircraft rather than a passive reflection of the radio beam. Secondary radar was developed from another World War II innovation, the appropriately named "Identify Friend or Foe" (IFF) system in which a transponder on board the interrogated ship responds with identifying information. Modern transponders are pilot-programmable to respond with 1 of 4,096 possible identifying codes. These "squawk" codes are assigned by ATC on initial contact and correlated to, aircraft type, registration number, and flight plan. This information can then be displayed directly on the controller's screen. Thus, the "undifferentiated blob" problem from primary radar is greatly reduced and individual targets can be positively identified provided that they are participating in the system (squawking a discrete code).

Coupling the transponder to an on-board altitude encoder means that the transponder will not only identify itself upon interrogation (Mode A), but also broadcast the ship's pressure altitude (typically to the precision of 100 feet). This altitude reporting capability, known as Mode C, provides ATC with a three dimensional picture of air traffic.

Mode C Mandate

In 1986, a Piper Archer climbed without clearance into overlying controlled airspace above suburban Los Angeles and collided with a DC-9, resulting in the deaths of everyone on board both aircraft and several on the ground. Part of the issue was that the Archer was not equipped (nor was it required to be equipped) with a Mode C transponder and ATC did not know its altitude. This incident led to, among other things, a mandate for all aircraft operating in controlled airspace, within 30 miles of a Class B airport (Newark, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, etc.), and/or above 10,000 feet (MSL) to equip with (and use) Mode C transponders.

I don't know how common Mode C transponders were at the time. Warrior 481's documentation indicates that she was originally delivered in late 1978 with a King KT-76A Mode C transponder. Warrior 481 notwithstanding, these expensive boxes were not ubiquitous and aircraft owners howled about the cost to equip. Everyone was faced with a choice: equip or stay out of controlled airspace. Simple aircraft like Piper Cubs and Aeronca Champs, lacking electrical systems and possessed with limited range, were generally not upgraded. Many of these aircraft are still called-out by ATC as primary targets only; they are invisible to secondary radar and ATC has no inkling of their altitude.

Another transponder type, Mode S, was not originally broadly embraced by civil aviation in the United States. In addition to squawk code and pressure altitude, Mode S boxes broadcast specific identifying information about the aircraft and provide capability for an uplinked Traffic Information Service (TIS, now called "TIS-A" to differentiate it from what's coming next) that provides traffic data displayable on a moving map in the aircraft. TIS is somewhat limited in that it only functions within line of sight from certain radar installations.

TIS, FIS, and Squitters

The times, they are a-changin'. Again.

The FAA is transitioning air traffic control away from a dependence on radar to a "satellite-based" system (i.e., GPS). The technology is called Automatic Dependent Surveillance - Broadcast, shortened to the unwieldy initialism "ADS-B". Equipping to ADS-B standards is mandated by January 1, 2020 for all aircraft flying in places that require Mode C transponders today. This translates to new, expensive hardware for a lot of aircraft. Owners are howling again, just as they did over the Mode C mandate back in the Eighties.

The basic principle of ADS-B is to use an accurate GPS position source in all aircraft to broadcast each ship's altitude, airspeed, and position along with identifying information. WAAS ("Wide Area Augmentation System") GPS systems are recommended as position sources because they meet ADS-B performance requirements, but official FAA documents do not explicitly require WAAS. This broadcasting of identity and position is known as "ADS-B Out" and is received by ATC and other airborne aircraft equipped to receive "ADS-B In". In other words, everyone should be able to see everyone else; an intriguing idea in concept. The ADS-B mandate, however, only requires ADS-B Out. ADS-B In is optional.

Benefits touted for ADS-B from the perspective of ATC include more precise location data on aircraft to enable reduced separation in congested airspace, better coverage than the current radar system, and more frequent aircraft position updates (once per second, rather than the once per every five to twelve seconds provided by radar). For end users, ADS-B carries the promise of subscription-free datalinked weather (FIS-B) and traffic (TIS-B) available in the cockpit.

The international frequency standard for ADS-B is 1090 MHz, the same frequency used by Mode S transponders. That's convenient; however, ADS-B Out requires a richer data burst (or "squitter") from aircraft than legacy Mode S transponders can deliver. This led to the development of Mode S transponders with ES ("Extended Squitter") capability. The difference between a "squawk" and a "squitter" is that squawking is done in response to interrogation (by, for example, secondary radar) whereas squittering is a data broadcast without an external stimulus (it's also an archaic term for diarrhea, which seems vaguely appropriate).

Still with me? Great! Here's where it all gets complicated.


Within the United States, the FAA uses an additional second frequency for ADS-B: 978 MHz (known as the UAT or "Universal Access Transceiver" frequency). FAA uses the UAT frequency to broadcast that wonderful free weather (FIS-B, "Flight Information System-Broadcast") that I can receive with  my Stratus ADS-B In equipment. The primary reason for adding a second ADS-B frequency was to avoid overburdening the bandwidth on 1090 MHz with the additional data.

Thus, US-registered aircraft may comply with ADS-B Out by either equipping with a 1090ES Mode S transponder or a UAT device broadcasting in concert with an existing Mode C transponder. The Mode C is still required because radar will remain in service as a backup in the event of satellite outages.

Aircraft owners are thus confronted with a choice. Typical mission profiles may be used as a guide to determine which ADS-B solution is the best choice. Those airplanes flying above 18,000 feet or operating internationally are required to use a 1090ES solution. Therefore, large airliners can be expected to adopt this path to compliance. Aircraft strictly operating in the United States below 18,000' can utilize either frequency. So, amusingly, 1090ES is actually a more "universal" frequency than the so-called "Universal Access Transceiver" frequency.

By creating a situation in which aircraft are broadcasting position data on two different ADS-B frequencies in the United States, the FAA also created a conundrum. An airliner broadcasting its data on 1090 MHz might be invisible to another ship only equipped to broadcast and listen on 978 MHz. Demonstrating the truism that complexification begets complexification, the FAA slapped a Band-Aid on this issue by installing ground based repeaters around the country that collect aircraft ADS-B Out information on both frequencies, then re-broadcast it on both frequencies to ensure that all participating aircraft can see each other (a rather elaborate and expensive Band-Aid, I think). Some ship-based hardware, like the inexpensive Stratus 2 that I use for ADS-B In, conveniently receives on both frequencies. ADS-B Out solutions, on the other hand, will utilize one frequency or the other to avoid wasting bandwidth.

When it comes to ADS-B Out and the 2020 mandate, aircraft owners have decisions to make.


One choice is to not equip at all. Equipping a basic Cessna 150 that does not already have a suitable GPS position source may easily exceed 50% or more of the value of the entire airplane! Operators of small, inexpensive aircraft that do not frequent controlled airspace may choose not to equip and join the segregated community started in the Eighties and already populated with a lot of Piper Cubs. 

Given the type of flying I do, this is not an option without a significant loss in capability and freedom.

My Warrior, as a normally aspirated aircraft with a service ceiling in the low teens, will never fly above 18,000 feet (unless something goes very, very wrong). But we do often pass through Canada, which uses the 1090ES standard for ADS-B. Though Canada does not have a mandate to equip at the present time, who knows what the future holds? Most owners of aircraft like mine flying within the borders of the United States can pursue a 978 MHz solution. As a result, I investigated both paths. Although there are many products from various suppliers, I found myself narrowing down the options to Garmin's product line on the basis of cost, performance, compatibility with equipment already on board my aircraft, and the experience of the avionics shop I use.

If I pursued a 1090ES solution, I could leverage my existing WAAS GPS (the Garmin GNS 430W) and simply replace my venerable King KT-76A transponder with a 1090ES Mode S transponder. I looked specifically at the Garmin GTX 330ES transponder. Installation would be relatively straightforward and there would be no need for invasive work like the installation of new antennae. This would be an ADS-B Out solution only, but I could continue using my Stratus 2 for ADS-B In weather (FIS-B) and traffic (TIS-B).

For a UAT solution, I considered the Garmin GDL 88, which serves as an ADS-B In and Out solution. For this option, I would keep my existing Mode C transponder (the GDL 88 detects the Mode C squawk code and synchronizes its output to match) and add a FlightStream 210 that would send the ADS-B In data via Bluetooth to my iPad for display. Honestly, I am thrilled by the idea of the FlightStream 210, which also allows passing flight plans back and forth between the iPad and the Garmin 430W in the instrument panel. It is MUCH easier to enter flight plans on the iPad than the Garmin.

However, the GDL 88 / FlightStream 210 option was a more costly solution (by a few thousand dollars), particularly on the labor side owing to the need for a more invasive installation, including new antennae. Though excited about the potential for FlightStream, particularly now that it is compatible with ForeFlight, I struggled with the added expense. Furthermore, 1090ES remains the best bet for Canadian airspace and the way I use my airplane currently. As a result, I chose the less expensive and internationally-compliant Mode S transponder route.

Installation and First Impressions

I delivered Warrior 481 to the Genesee County Airport on November 28, 2015 for Brian at Boshart Enterprises to do his thing. I had the privilege of  hitching a ride back to Sodus in my hangar-neighbor's very capable Bonanza. Via FlightStream, he had his Garmin 530W talking to ForeFlight on his iPad and the passage of data back and forth was seamless. I was envious, but not envious enough to shell out the extra cash.

Installation on my aircraft went without a problem and I picked up the airplane on the following Friday.

My ship is now compliant with the ADS-B mandate. In concert with my Garmin 430W as a position source, the GTX 330ES (bottom of the radio stack, pictured squawking 1200) broadcasts the airplane's identity and flight information as required. I was able to use ForeFlight/Stratus to verify that Brian programmed the transponder to broadcast the correct tail number (not that I was genuinely concerned).

Now that my ship broadcasts ADS-B Out, I receive a more complete traffic (TIS-B) picture on ForeFlight/Stratus than before because the ADS-B ground transmitters only work when activated by a nearby aircraft equipped for ADS-B Out. This was the FAA's sneaky way of saying, "if you want the traffic information, you need to equip." I also see TIS-A traffic information on my Garmin 430W courtesy of the Mode S transponder when I am within range of a suitable radar facility (e.g., Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse). It aligns well with what I see by ADS-B In on the iPad, at least until I fly out of range of the TIS-A service and the nice British lady that lives in my audio panel proclaims, "traffic unavailable".

I'll be honest, I'm disproportionately thrilled to have a "VFR" button on my transponder for one-push squawking of 1200. The new transponder also has some nice features like display of pressure altitude (through which I have learned that my ancient altitude encoder is slow to warm up) and a collection of timers that includes a programmable count-down timer that ends with an audio call out of "timer expired". It seems like the latter might be nice for timed instrument approaches during those high workload moments nearing the missed approach fix.


Over the last twelve years of owning Warrior 481, a lot of new instrumentation has gone into the panel. Those replaced components without appreciable core or resale value have begun to accumulate on my desk.

I think I'm getting closer to having my own realistic flight simulator. Thankfully, my desk is exempt from the ADS-B mandate and I can just keep squawking VFR as seen here.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Date Aircraft Route of Flight Time (hrs) Total (hrs)
25 Oct 2015 N21481 SDC (Sodus, NY) - FZY (Fulton, NY) - SDC 1.5 1484.4

There's no story to tell today, just images caught with an iPhone. I was reminded of evenings over South Haven, Michigan many years ago.