AVweb

« Back to Full Story

Disruption, We Know Ye

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Remember back in 2002 when the faddish phrase of the day in aviation was "disruptive technology?" It was being flogged mercilessly by Vern Raburn, who was then launching the Eclipse on a river of hype that spectacularly ended in the muddy flats of bankruptcy. The notion of disruptive technology—which is really just a techno-babble word for progress—was that some revolutionary products are so awesome that they completely rewrite the basic rules of the game. Digital cameras disrupted film; the internet disrupted the postal service.

Didn't happen with the Eclipse, but that's not to say it's not happening in aviation. And it's not without its downsides, either. Two trends are approaching disruptive levels of progress: One is tablet computers, the other ADS-B. Related trends appear to be accelerating these shifts.

Some years ago, when companies were writing aviation programs for the early PDAs such as Compaq's iPaq and the Palm devices, some predicted that these would disrupt the portable GPS business. They didn't. Those products were just too slow, too clumsy and too compromised to ignite much demand. The iPad changed that because Apple was—and is—famously competent not at generating original ideas, but in executing existing ideas more creatively.

As a result, the dedicated aviation portable GPS market is disrupted. Garmin has basically owned it for more than a decade, but with so many tablet apps out there—including some from Garmin—it's hard to imagine a new dedicated GPS portable emerging. At the very least, they won't appear on the same short product cycles they once enjoyed. That's progress, but it's also a knife that cuts both ways.

For as capable as the best apps are, I still don't swoon over the hardware. I love my iPad mini, but hate the high-glare screen and its inherent flimsy feel. Although we now consider them laughably overpriced, dedicated portables are at least robust and durable and rarely would one just up and quit, as many apps routinely do. I doubt if I'd buy another portable, given the price against tablets and apps and the overall utility and value of the underlying platform. They're just a slam dunk, but for me, there's something to be lost, too. And the app market is just now entering its white-hot phase of competition. Wait'll you see what comes out this week. Wait till Garmin decides to get into the portable AHRS business. It's not for nothing that Garmin this month announced an aggressive move into sophisticated avionics for experimentals. Other companies are doing the same, representing what amounts to a shadow system of capable, uncertified avionics.

As for ADS-B, I've been using the portable boxes that tap the ground network and although they perform well, the weather products are somewhat underwhelming. But the price is right. Free always works for me and I'm sure it will for many others, too. Then what of XMWX Weather? Will ADS-B chew into its business just enough to make it unviable? I'm hoping not, because XM's weather products are considerably better than anything on ADS-B. The weather picture is simply painted with a richer palette. But I recognize some will accept an inferior product if they don't have to pay for it and then just put up with any quality fade or loss of service. It is, after all, mission adequate. That's the essence of competition and we should all be glad we have it, even if it disrupts products and services we like.

The related trend I referred to above is what I sense is a rising rejection of the high price of staying in aviation and of the products and services it takes to do that. This sentiment has always been there, but with $6 avgas and the requirement to buy $2000 worth of data before the airplane even rolls a wheel, the number of people saying the hell with this is accelerating, in my view. Juxtaposed against a flood tide of inexpensive consumer-grade aviation gadgets, is this the set-up for a massive disruption of some sort? Are we on the verge of an aviation population about to revolt and demand lesser regulation to bring costs to more affordable levels? I got a sense of this from our tower survey in which hundreds of pilots wanted towers closed at the quietest airports because they see them as just another expensive intrusion of regulation that they don't want being forced down their throats, with the alphabets aiding and abetting in the name of the holy spirit of safety.

The odd thing is, as flying gets more economically inaccessible, the sale of apps almost suggests we're selling ever more sophisticated gewgaws to lend ever more precision to that which we're doing ever less of.

If that's a form of disruption, I'm not sure I want to know where it leads.

Comments (36)

I don't understand the fuss about in flight weather. Weather radar shows only rain, not clouds. I need to know what the cloud base up ahead is. That would be disruptive to VFR flight.

Posted by: Bill Berson | April 7, 2013 9:27 PM    Report this comment

If we get forced to buy even more More expensive gadgetry on top of the $6,- per gallon AVgas, many more people will throw in the towel and give up 'Aviating' - That is how it is and there should be some fight left in every one of us pilots to keep that from happening! Especially the "One size fits all" type of regulation is what we have to fear, the ADS-B for all planes in all airspaces... While it might be reasonable to have Bizjets in controlled airspace have it', it sure ain't doing any good for those of us that are barely keeping up flying, and in uncontrolled barely used airspace and fair weather on top of it all. I see it as "If the stuff would be that great and that much worth having they would not have to spend that much money on advertising and campaigning for it! Most in GA say: We don't need it - we don't want it ! Where is their voice?? Of course the Alphabet Soups take lots of money from those that make the Gadgets, so they aren't saying anything con! -May their members steam all day long...

Posted by: Lars Gleitsmann | April 8, 2013 2:38 AM    Report this comment

I like gadgets as much as the next guy. Indeed I used to design them for a living. Still, I don't like Apple (never did) and while I love my Android tablet for some things flying isn't one of them.

I learned several years ago that use of general purpose computers in the cockpit just doesn't work for me. My policy since then has been for a gizmo to make it into my cockpit it must be designed exclusively for aviation, must be mounted in the cockpit (not flopping around on the spare passenger seat), and must run off ship's power.

Se even as the amateur pilot apps move up to Android platforms I am not interested in using them in any primary function. I do have one of the free apps in my tablet for possible backup use with its built in "Non approved" GPS function, but I haven't tried actually flying with it yet. Instead I have a Garmin Aera 500 (which wasn't all that expensive) wired into my Dynon HSI and Garmin Nav/Comm along with the 12 volt power from the battery/alternator.

I am still waiting for a reasonably priced all included ADS-B product and will install it when it arrives.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | April 8, 2013 3:57 AM    Report this comment

I trucked along for several years with my garmin 296, still have it,so easy tio use. Oh but here comes the 696, finally picked up a barley used one cheap, I hate it, to get it to do what I want is a pain in the butt. push this turn that toggle it, then push it. Unbelievably complicated. I flew a race Sat, could not get it to bring up and fly the flight plan, Bought an ipad 2 years ago installed the popular flying app, more crap to learn. Then in use the ipad would overheat and shut down. It has been siting in its box since first time I used it.

Posted by: Charles Heathco | April 8, 2013 5:56 AM    Report this comment

I love gadgets which make my flying easier. I used to carry a bag full of approach plates to the entire US. I lusted for a device which would replace a whole bunch of items in my cockpit.

Then one day, my digital ECG,CHT died. Because I have all of the old style instruments and gauges in place, the loss of one instrument was inconvenient but not the flight stopper that it would have been if my DOALL thingy had been installed.

Then I changed my attitude. I like my approach plates in Kindle DX. The thing works if it is very cold or hot. It is visible day or night. The battery lasts more than a month. I have a Garmin Aera 500 driven by my 430W.

But, even though having a fully digital panel may be way cool, it is also is an excessive expense to purchase and to keep up to date and if it dies, is a flight stopper.

Most of the pilots at my home base are only interested in flying for fun, on weekends and going to an occasional breakfast. All these people want is a airplane that starts, flies well and does not require a whole lot of expensive updates before it can be flown. The only battery needed is the one to start the airplane. The only moving map needed is a paper one.

The radios are uncomplicated and have worked well for 30 years, so why change?

Perhaps the cost of flying all over the country may be rising, especially in class B airspace, but for the rest of the country, the primary cost is the fuel used.

Posted by: THOMAS PELZ | April 8, 2013 6:50 AM    Report this comment

I'm kind of fed up with all of these gadgets. These days I rarely meet a fellow pilot who can actually read a VFR chart well enough for primary navigation. I am lucky for the fact that I learned to fly in the Army in the 70,s and we had to learn to read maps and navigate using the map, DG, and whiskey compass. I still navigate in my RV8 using a map and my old Garmin 92 which of course has no color or fancy maps. I flight plan using the map and fly using the map with the GPS to confirm my position every now and then. I also have an old Bendix King color GPS in the panel but I rarely use it since it's kind of complicated. But, fact is all of these gadgets are here to stay and a lot of pilots flying VFR never even bother to look at a map. I guess that's OK if they have a back-up GPS. But I think we have turned a corner somehow where we are going to see more and more pilots with more and more gadgets and less and less looking out of the aircraft like they should be.

Posted by: larry maynard | April 8, 2013 7:29 AM    Report this comment

Paul, as usual, you hit the nail on the head. After 42 years of flying and owning airplanes and now in retirement, all I really want to do is enjoy a nice trouble free VFR flight a few times a week. But everywhere I turn there are issues to worry about, expenses that are mounting and less and less enjoyment for more and more cost. The FAA -- once hell bent to make aviation 100% safe -- is now closing towers ... first they invent them for safety then tell us it's safe to close them when THEY run out of money. What gives? It's obviously they were only promulgating their own empire.

Are they going to dictate that we all spend thousands upon thousands of dollars equipping for ADS-B, et al, and then pull the plug on it? Could happen.

They're wanting all of us to install ADS-B as the next paradigm shift yet I'm finding that marrying a system into my airplanes isn't as simple as it seems. And, of course, cost is an issue. Just as I'm zeroing in on what I want to do on THAT front, along comes the FCC wanting the old TSO 91A ELT's gone in favor of the new units. When will those people just sit still and let the market dictate speed and complexity and etc. I HAVE just about "had it!"

Posted by: Larry Stencel | April 8, 2013 7:48 AM    Report this comment

Like it or not, Apple has become the gold standard for portables and portability is becoming the practical standard for avionics. I don't like Disney either but when you have to choose a platform, continuity and quality play serious factors. What Garmin may have lacked in their low-end stuff they more than made up for with quality advertising. We bought the name, not the box. We're doing it today with Apple.

We are years away from the next wave of avionics but purpose-built is not likely to win over sophisticated portables.

Posted by: Richard Herbst | April 8, 2013 7:49 AM    Report this comment

Richard - the "Gold standard" in computer systems is a very short lived status. Many top computer companies go bankrupt shortly after being on top. I don't think Apple will face that outcome soon, but I wouldn't buy stock in them.

The ideal avionics solution varies considerably depending on the user and what they fly. Aircraft owners have completely different needs from renters. Owners of certified planes face different issues from owners of experimental and LSA airplanes.

I still think portable avionics is a very poor choice for functionality compared to installed systems. Even among portables my guess is Garmin portable GPS systems will give more use in flight than cheap consumer tablets with a mishmash of software written by several different companies who don't talk to each other. The tablet and aviation software apps sound really great when you read the marketing glossies, but I don't know anyone who uses this stuff and is happy with it.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | April 8, 2013 8:05 AM    Report this comment

Weather and traffic info via ADS-B won't stay free. It will be like what we've seen with digital charts, plates, etc. Why enjoy lower costs only when they can keep (or enhance) the revenue stream. It's the "American Way."

Posted by: BRADLEY SPATZ | April 8, 2013 8:16 AM    Report this comment

Remember when airplanes were a disruptive technology? "Glory Gamblers" is a book about the 1927 Dole Air Race to Hawaii. The back cover says eight departed, two made it. In response to calls for govt regulation, Air Secretary McCracken is reported to have replied that hazards are inherent in pioneering and the Commerce Department would only do its best (imagine his job expectancy if he said that now).

It's almost a natural law that human organizations construct rules and write manuals until they achieve regulatory "hardening of the arteries". Lars Gleitsmann's point on "one size fits all ergs" and Paul's observation on the tower survey and ADS-B support a similar point. On the other hand, left to their own devices, humans will experiment. Some will win accolades, and others get a Darwin Award. No amount of regulation will stop the attempts, and occasional progress will result (no judgement here about the cost benefit of that transaction).

NTSB's current focus on getting GA accidents down seems a good effort (so far) without being overbearing. If they distinguish between consciously preparing to taking risks and those who foolishly roll the dice, this could be a good exercise. In contrast, some security folks would ground aircraft to eliminate the source of their problem. Either way, these efforts seem to believe one can make aircraft ops like toaster ops -- functional, safe, and mindless (except for warning labels to keep fingers out of slots while heating ;-).

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | April 8, 2013 8:44 AM    Report this comment

(continued)

I like Paul's thought that there is a shadow system churning out capable, uncertified avionics in the experimental (and LSA?) area. Garmin was good at this 15 years ago when FAA would not recognize portable GPS devices for navigation. The collective response was a yawn and "so what is your point". They were so good, even Air Force pilots, could be found with them strapped to a leg. Not long after, all opposition to GPS was swept away.

I have to admit, on the whole the body of FAA regulations is pretty common sensible, having had most of the sharp points worn off over time. It seems the only big problems are in the areas of innovation (progress), new rules (sharp and prickly), and managing the transition (prickly compliance vs progress). The pendulum has swung a long way since Mr McCracken.

I'm in favor of soft institutionalization -- capturing the reasonable lessons learned with all the sharp edges worn off both the written and the compliance aspects. That, however, would require a consistent level of informed judgement we've not seen in a while (if ever).

Oh, and by the way, ADS-B is not free now. Remember those prickly user's fees?

Posted by: DANIEL DEDONA | April 8, 2013 8:45 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

I don't know whether its "disruptive," but I will tell you that my portable iFly 720 GPS is excellent and cheap! Purchase price on-line for the top-of-the-line unit is $749 with both aviation and street databases; it can be had for as little as $549 without some bells and whistles. The unit has a 7-inch color, hi-res touch screen that's right-sized for yoke or suction-cup mount in my Cherokee. The non-glare color screen in my iFly 720 is easily readable in direct sunlight and the several aviation display modes are all excellent, including the simulated panel. No remote GPS antenna is required because the internal antenna never loses lock. The 720 is ADS/B compatible, wifi capapable, and data updates are CHEAP: $69 PER YEAR for VFR, $109 PER YEAR for VFR/IFR, including downloaded weather displayed as you fly, as well as charts, approaches and departures, etc. AND iFly updates the operating system periodically to add enhance capabilities FOR FREE. In my opinion, the iFly GPS offers one of the best cost-benefit ratios of all the VFR and supplemental IFR nav/weather solutions available today. It is a bargain, it works, it is stoutly built and data is inexpensive. Does it get any better?

Posted by: JOSEPH CORRAO | April 8, 2013 8:47 AM    Report this comment

"portable avionics is a very poor choice for functionality compared to installed systems"

I disagree. I would hate to read my 700 page POH on an installed system. Or my checklist. Or the FAR/AIM. With an installed system, how would I find the VOR that's 20 miles south of that storm cell I want to navigate around?

Also, installed systems cost 20x as much as the latest, greatest iPad (or whatever) with all the apps. Installed systems stay in the plane for at least 10 years. In those 10 years, the portable gadgets will have made advances that we can't event imagine now.

I had a UPSAT MX20 with Chartview on a plane I flew. I had it installed before tablets even existed. Looking at approach plates on the MX20 was painful. But it saved me from carrying around 20 lbs worth of approach plates.

But now, there is no installed system that can beat the functionality of an iPad for looking at approach charts. Not even the G1000. In 10 years, the G1000 will still be the same. Who knows what the iPad will be able to do.

Posted by: Marc Clemente | April 8, 2013 9:09 AM    Report this comment

I have been flying with ForeFlight Pro on my iPad 2 for about 10 months now and have to say it's the best thing in my cockpit. So many things are available at the touch of a finger I cannot even think of using paper charts or AFD's ever again. The best thing is it goes with you no matter which plane you fly. Try doing that with panel mounted avionics.

Posted by: Ric Lee | April 8, 2013 10:03 AM    Report this comment

It looks like so far, opinions here range from "panel-mount only" to "portable only", and everything in between. The technology certainly seems to disrupt commonality.

Personally, I have settled on using a tablet-based (Android) solution as purely a paper chart replacement. For that purpose, I found the Garmin Pilot app to be the best one for this, with it's relatively simple operation and comparatively limited feature set. I find having a SIMPLE tablet app works best, since I don't want to have yet another device where I'm spending time with my head down fiddling with it to get it to do what I want. Save the fancy features for the panel-mounted unit (which is still required in order for me to shoot the GPS approaches at my destination airport).

I think the choice we are provided with the portable solutions is the true "disruptive" part about them. Sure, once can simply use the "direct to" feature on a panel-mount unit, but if that's all you want to use, it's certainly overkill to buy the $15k+ unit. But now we all have the choice to buy something much cheaper, and pick the one that best meets our needs.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 8, 2013 10:43 AM    Report this comment

Disruptive tech for me is a used Lycoming-powered 2 or 4 seater for less than 20K. One must actually be flying to engage in any of this article's subjects. That is the issue. Using information tech comes after having a piece of hardware to actually do the activity of flying in the first place.

Posted by: chris mcmillin | April 8, 2013 11:03 AM    Report this comment

I wouldn't call today’s situation disruptive, rather I’d use an old IT term, “the bleeding edge of technology.” We’re seeing a lot of new stuff, some good, some not so good, and quite a bit of integration of all this stuff. Along the way there will be improvements, as well as unforeseen problems emerge. The trick is to stay far enough behind the leading edge, to avoid being caught in the bleeding edge. (i.e. buying a bunch of expensive stuff that doesn't work.)

ADS-B is also part of this bleeding edge. The mandated implementation is still 7 years out, and there likely are pot holes along this yellow brick road to the Land of OZ yet to be discovered. One, that causes me some concern, is a potential for bandwidth congestion on the ADS-B frequencies. About a year ago I attended a seminar where this was discussed. The congestion described could occur where too many planes were all in busy airspace, all using ADS-B In and Out, and during heavy weather. The example was a busy Class B airspace on a Friday afternoon with lots of thunderstorms in the area. The solution to the frequency congestion was for the FAA to stop transmitting the traffic and weather, to enable receiving all the ADS-B replies from all the aircraft. Not a pretty picture if everyone has come to rely on the weather and traffic displays.

Posted by: Jerry Olson | April 8, 2013 11:10 AM    Report this comment

(Continued from previous comment) On the bright side, we’re starting to see some product announcements that appear to be bundling many of the ADS-B In & Out components into one box, and including wireless interfaces to hand-held devices for display purposes. Give this trend another 3 – 5 years and there may be a reasonably cost effective solution; i.e. one that doesn't cost half the value of the airplane.

Posted by: Jerry Olson | April 8, 2013 11:11 AM    Report this comment

Jerry - one of the really neat parts of ADS-B is it doesn't depend on the FAA or any ground equipment to keep airborne folks updated on local traffic. The FAA equipment is important today because it translates radar information and sends it to aircraft, but in the future all aircraft will be equipped (maybe) and inform each other of their positions.

This ignores the problem of transmitting weather information. We don't get that today unless we want ten minutes old stuff from XM, so loss of FAA weather transmissions should not end our ability to fly.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | April 8, 2013 11:32 AM    Report this comment

Paul, another very well written intriguing article sure to stir up a lively debate. Reading the comments from top to bottom, I see a common thread that the gadgets need to be intuitive. If you have to take a weekend course on how to use it, a gadget that isn't used often will end up not being used at all. Manufacturers should recognize that many pilots don't fly every weekend, and make products with on screen hints and menus.

There seems to be disagreement on whether GPS, ADS-B, or other avionics should be panel mounted or portable. I fly an airplane that does not have a battery or generator, so portable is the only way I can go. But even a pilot of a more advanced airplane can benefit from a unit that is portable. When you get to the airport you want to get going. By having a portable unit you can program a flight plan at the same time you check the weather and file. There is no reason a manufacturer can't have a product line for both panel mount and portable.

Posted by: Richard Pearson | April 8, 2013 11:34 AM    Report this comment

My Opinion is mostly different. Yes, I use Apple and Foreflight and love them. Had Garmin products and loved them, but now seem hopelessly outdated. My iPad has proven more reliable and it is backed up by iPhone with same program at no extra cost. Save hundreds of dollars per year over paper charts and get other utility from iPad. ADS-B out is a question, but I've heard the $2000 figure a lot. This is steep, but compared to price of Avgas it seems petty. Fuel prices are killing small players. $2000 only buys about 23 hours of flying in my single. It's not government regs killing us, although that doesn't help. What's curtailed my flying by 70% is corporate greed.

Posted by: LeWayne Garrison | April 8, 2013 2:15 PM    Report this comment

Some folks seem confused about the fundamental reason for mandating ADS-B. ADS-B allows ATC to track and identify you precisely. It is critical to implementing NEXTGEN. Any benefit to you is incidental. Think of it as a transponder on steroids. I'm sure lots of people complained when the FAA mandated transponders, just as they are complaining about ADS-B. They'll get over it.

Personally, I'm sticking to what I have: a 430W and a 496 with XM weather in my Comanche. I'll let the next owner figure out what to do in 2019.

Posted by: Carl Hensler | April 8, 2013 3:10 PM    Report this comment

@LeWayne--"Corporate greed?" What corporation are you referring to? The fuel companies? How is it that fuel companies are "greedy" by making a few cents per gallon--after taking the exploration and development risk--paying government leases and royalties, transporting crude, refinining it, delivering it, and selling it--but GOVERNMENT is NOT "greedy" for taking TWICE the amount corporations make per gallon for doing nothing?

I just came back from England and France last week--Diesel fuel was the equivalent of $8.55 a gallon, and auto fuel was the equivalent of $9.07--despite the government ownership of North Sea oil. It makes the cost of our fuel look pretty cheap.

If you really think that the fuel companies are greedy--you should put every penny you have into stock ownership of them--then you too could be making "greedy" profits.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 8, 2013 3:49 PM    Report this comment

Ads-B--typical government screw-up. They institute the system "to get away from ground-based radars"--yet they are DEPENDENT on "ground based transceivers" for data link. That's crazy.

The system is years behind schedule and grossly over budget. The "product" it turns out (uplinked weather) is inferior right out of the box to the existing and proven satellite weather we already enjoy--IF you can receive it at all at low altitudes or in mountains.

Then we are told that we should be "thankful" for this "giant leap in technology" that we will be FORCED to purchase--because it is "free."

If it was so danged good--why would be FORCED to buy it? Forced participation in Socialized Medicine doesn't sit well with most people--this is yet another government boondoggle that could only be dreamed up in Washington.

Posted by: jim hanson | April 8, 2013 3:59 PM    Report this comment

I own a 1947 Aeronca Chief. Pretty basic flying with no frills. I have an IPad with Foreflight and it sure saves money when compared to updating paper charts every 28 days. Everyone does that, right? Anyway, yesterday I was telling lies in the FBO when I decided to look at what my annual cost was in 2012 for 123 hours of flight time. I had the usual suspects - hanger, insurance, annual, oil, and fuel. It calculated out on a monthly average of $595.00. Wow!

I really need to start thinking about the use of that money. I could fly one heck of a number of times on the airlines and have some pretty nice trips for that amount of money. Perhaps I'll move to boating. Then again........

Posted by: jay Manor | April 8, 2013 6:46 PM    Report this comment

I almost got into the fuel cost issue but I am grateful Jim Hanson did it for me. It is not corporate greed that determines fuel prices. It is world wide supply and demand combined with the ever shrinking dollar. Bernanke and Obama think they can magic back unskilled labor jobs by making our money so cheap nobody in the world can compete.

ADS-B is not about the FAA tracking aircraft. Rather it is about other aircraft being able to track aircraft without any help from the ground. Once everyone is equipped, if that happens, then ground stations and the FAA will be excess baggage. The only purpose for them will be to sequence heavy traffic into dense traffic areas. Traffic separation will be child's play for airborne pilots since they will be able to "See" everything the current radar systems see now and then some. (Weather transmissions from the ground was just the little bit of icing on the cake that some vendors push to sell premature equipment.)

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | April 8, 2013 8:20 PM    Report this comment

Paul, "disruptive" was a term used by Clayton Christensen in his very good book, "The Innovator's Dilemma".

It doesn't just mean "innovative". It means "innovative" and "inferior" (at least, at first) - and "radically cheaper". Christensen's genius was to explain why the three of those characteristics are key to breakthrough technologies.

It is typically the case that a disruptive product will cause "power users" to complain that it is inferior, useless, not as good as what "we had in the old days", etc. The iPad, for example, isn't as good as a dedicated GPS. But it's dramatically cheaper and, at that price point, it's good enough.

We need more of that - especially in airframes and engines. When we get it, the self-appointed "real pilots" will complain that these are not "real airplanes" and not "real engines". In itself, that's not enough: they also have to be "radically cheaper" and "good enough" for enough pilots. LSA comes close, but it's not there (yet).

I hope we'll see more of it.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | April 8, 2013 8:57 PM    Report this comment

When I was in the middle of building my RV-6, I had some spare cash so I purchased a UPS AT stack of avionics. Thats was 11 years ago and I didn't finish the RV until 2008. By that time Garmin had purchased UPS AT and technology advanced mightily. But I installed the stack anyway, even though the SL-70 xponder and GX-65 GPS/COM were now orphaned. I purchased an Ipad with Garmin pilot a year ago and have to say it provides alot a bang for the buck. But there is something to be said for panel mounted DO-160 certified avionics, 1)the ipad is pretty finicky on a bright/hot Florida summer day. At full brightness the unit overheats and shuts down! 2) The GX-65, even with it's moving map, really makes it easy to navigate the complicated airspace of central Florida. That tiny 3 inch monochrome screen is not cluttered with all the minutae of the sectional charts like the Garmin app. It simply shows what I need to know so that I don't go busting the busy airspaces of Tampa and Orlando and the restricted areas. Even with these aging eyes it makes my flying less stressful and thats what it's all about.

Posted by: Dean Psiropoulos | April 8, 2013 9:17 PM    Report this comment

About 3 years ago, I bought into a nice plane with the speed and fuel range that I wanted for cross country trips. At first, I thought it would be nice to have a glass panel and the latest WAAS nav/com/GPS box that could send GPS steering commands to the autopilot. But I decided I could buy a lot of avgas for the cost of all the certified stuff. Then I thought a tablet might be nice to have for approach plates, weather data, etc.. But finally I decided I just don't do the kind of flying that justifies all these toys! I decided that looking out the window is just fine for me. (and I design this kind of stuff for a living) On another topic, I think Garmin is on to something with their experimental line of avionics. I would buy a system now at their price point, and it would be a great complement to my vacuum pump and gyros. Unfortunately it is not possible in a certified airplane.

Posted by: STEVE BOWLING | April 8, 2013 11:03 PM    Report this comment

Another "benefit" of ADS-B is universal aircraft monitoring. Through ADS-B data, the FAA will be recording your N-number, altitude and airpseed at all times. Most pilots try mightily to comply with all the FARs and are proud to do so (including myself). But, if you happen to fly over a marginally "congested" area at say 975 feet (just try to define "congested"), or maybe you are at level cruise and not exactly on odd/even altitudes (because you're busy fiddling with the fancy iPad apps)or any nubmer of other regs, expect a letter from the FAA...or maybe a certified email :-) Just ask any ATC controller about the "snitch" machine they have to live with; this wiil be the same thing but on a massive scale. Yes, it will be "safer", but so is the inside of a rubber-padded room (which I may need after all this is over)...

Personally, I despise the idea of turning the airplane into yet another computer. And that's from an electronics engineer that programs/looks at this stuff all day long...it's taking over our lives.

Posted by: A Richie | April 9, 2013 9:29 AM    Report this comment

A Richie: Yes, that is true, but the same is true already if you file IFR, request VFR Flight Following, or have a Mode-S transponder. It really isn't anything new, and you can always fly without ADS-B outside of the airspaces that require transponders (or is it just limited to staying out of class-B and C airspace, I forget).

The concerning part for me is, what happens when there's a problem with the GPS signal and we've shut down all the ground radar stations? Or what if power is lost to the ADS-B transponder? Now that would be disruptive.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | April 9, 2013 11:00 AM    Report this comment

As a tech guy, I've really struggled to equip the cockpit with better equipment. The dedicated aviation equipment is just way too expensive/complicated and the consumer grade stuff is of unacceptable quality. Will I throw an iPad with digital charts in the airplane. Sure, but it's actually just a backup in case I don't happen to have the right paper chart printed out at home. The app crashes, shutdowns due to overheating, and the terrible screen (glossy, so you get crazy glare) on the iPads make them unacceptable for primary use. If paper charts were still readily available at FBOs, I wouldn't even bother with the iPad at all. However, since we've lost ready access to pre-printed paper charts and approach plates, I have to print out what I think I need rather than just buying a full set.

Despite advancing forward in technology, we've really gone backwards in usability (as far as the entire system goes).

Posted by: Brian Knoblauch | April 9, 2013 12:32 PM    Report this comment

Dont put all your eggs in one basket...this out today...

A hack that allows an attacker to take control of plane navigation and cockpit systems has been revealed at a security conference in Europe.

The exploit allowed security researcher Hugo Teso to use a Samsung Galaxy mobile phone to take control of flight and cockpit display systems running on the ground. The hack would allow him to change a plane's course and speed using the phone's accelerometer, he told the Hack In The Box Conference in Amsterdam yesterday.

He told Forbes he was able to use the exploit "to modify approximately everything related to the navigation of the plane". The researcher was also able to compromise the Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) system that relays an aircraft's position to ground controllers. Teso found he was able to eavesdrop on the system's communications over its 1MBps link, as well as blocking information and injecting data into link.

Posted by: Geoff Reid | April 12, 2013 7:01 AM    Report this comment

What I love about my Ipad and Foreflight is that it brings the industry kicking and screaming into this century. One of the things I've hated the most aviation is all the old "this is how we do it because we've always done it this way"-bull**it that's been going on for far too long. My Ipad gives me FA reports in plain language, it gives me TAFs and Metars in lain language, it shows overlaying radar and satellite images as well as graphic TFR's, PIREPS and what else. I do all my cross country flight planning right there on the Ipad more accurately then I could ever do looking at NOAA or calling the briefer. Not only that, the device gives me graphic instrument approaches at a fraction of the of the price of old boy network compnaies like Jeppesen. They've sucked us dry for far too long all these companies, I hope the go under and give way for more competitive alternatives.

Posted by: Adam Frisch | April 12, 2013 11:29 AM    Report this comment

Hmmmm. The previous post about the flight systems hacker. The news report about the Boston marathon bombers. The twin towers attack. Hmmmm. On normal days our air traffic works on autopilots and ground-bases surveillance using xpdr returns. What would happen if terrorists could redirect multiple airplanes at multiple cities simultaneously, while "spoofing" the atc system? Even if the spoof only worked for a few minutes before someone clicked up the primary target and realized it did not match the xpdr plot. At JFK. LAX. MIA. ORD. DCA. Minimal cost, no dead terrorists, no lost equipment, repeatable at will for what, days? weeks? before a countermeasure is discovered. Hmmmm. Makes TSA searches look obsolete.

Posted by: MICHAEL MUETZEL | April 20, 2013 6:58 AM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?

Register

Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration

« Back to Full Story