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ForeFlight’s New Airport 3D View Delivers Next-Generation Airport Familiarization

ForeFlight’s New Airport 3D View Delivers Next-Generation Airport Familiarization

Immersive, interactive familiarization tool delivers a new paradigm for airport arrival briefings

HOUSTON, TX | February 7, 2019: ForeFlight, creator of the widely used ForeFlight Mobile Integrated Flight App, now gives pilots and aircraft operators a unique, interactive, and global airport familiarization tool with Airport 3D View.

Leveraging ForeFlight’s leading mapping and synthetic vision platform, the Airport 3D View feature combines stunning global aerial imagery with Jeppesen-sourced high-resolution terrain to create a realistic and interactive simulation of the airport environment.

"Airport 3D View is a powerful new tool that helps ForeFlight customers familiarize themselves with airport surroundings and explore new places to fly," says Tyson Weihs, co-founder and CEO of ForeFlight. Weihs added: "In the past, aircraft operators used static pictures of airport environments to get familiar with an airport area. Airport 3D View changes the paradigm and delivers an immersive, next-generation familiarization capability that works world-wide and will help customers more efficiently prepare for flights and ultimately improve safety."

From within the ForeFlight app, users can pan and zoom 360-degrees around any airport to see a photorealistic 3D representation of the airport and the surrounding terrain. The "camera" view tilts from a 3-degree approach path all the way to a top-down view so users can easily preview the airport or approach path from any angle.

At the top of the 3D View, a data readout contains information about the camera’s current position, including its altitude, distance from the pivot point (airport center or runway ends), and inclination in degrees, along with the airport and touchdown zone elevations.

Buttons for each runway allow users to quickly reposition the camera to one nautical mile from the end of the selected runway, with an inclination that places it on the published glideslope, or at a 6-degree approach path angle if no glideslope information is available. Users can then zoom in and out without rotating the camera to get a view of the runway and airport environment from any point along the glideslope.

Airport 3D View is also available inflight when customers use the Pack feature during planning on the ground. Pack makes it easy to download all of the current charts, data, weather, fuel prices, and NOTAMs for a flight, and now includes 3D Views for any airport in the planned route string.

To learn more and watch the video, visit foreflight.com/3dview.

ADS-B vs. SiriusXM

ADS-B vs. SiriusXM

Michael Leighton compares two popular portable units that can receive in-flight weather and more. 

Perhaps the most significant safety improvement in aviation in the last 20 years is the availability of cost effective, quality, real-time weather and traffic in flight. Once found only on high-end corporate aircraft, real-time weather is now available to any pilot with an iPad using a portable receiver. The most popular portable options are the Stratus 2S ADS-B receiver from Appareo and the SXAR1 receiver from SiriusXM Aviation.

I did a side-by-side comparison of both systems with each receiver dedicated to one of two iPads. My test flights were conducted in a single-engine piston and a single-engine turboprop. 


Both receivers are small and lightweight. Both utilize rechargeable lithium-ion batteries with a life span that exceeds the average fuel leg in most General Aviation aircraft. The Stratus 2S has an eight-hour battery life, while the SXAR1’s battery life is up to six hours. In-flight recharging is easily accomplished with a USB cable, if necessary. 

The light weight of both devices makes a suction cup window mount or a piece of Velcro on the glareshield two practical solutions for mounting the receiver. Both units are simple to operate, featuring exactly one button to turn the unit on or off. 

Both units use indicator LEDs to identify which functions are operating and the status of the battery power. In flight, both receivers display weather in real time on an iPad. 

I use ForeFlight in my cockpit, and both receivers are compatible with ForeFlight. Though some tech-savvy users claim to have made these receivers work with other apps, only ForeFlight is officially supported.


Though both units provide weather information, they do so in very different ways. 

Stratus 2S and ADS-B

The Stratus 2S utilizes the government-developed Automated Dependent Surveillance Broadcast, commonly referred to as ADS-B. 

ADS-B weather is ground-based and subject to line-of-sight limitations; that’s why it’s typically not available when the aircraft is on the ground. Additionally, there are “holes” where ADS-B reception is intermittent. Since ADS-B is the cornerstone of the Next Generation (NextGen) air traffic control, the FAA says that when the system is fully operational in 2020, any in-flight reception issues should be resolved. 

Geographic coverage for ADS-B extends about 20 miles beyond the United States’ borders. On our trips to the Bahamas, we receive ADS-B coverage to about 30 miles offshore at 10,000 feet—our altitude and the lack of terrain obstructions allow the signal to reach farther. 

The weather products available with ADS-B are adequate for the average General Aviation mission. When in flight, composite NEXRAD is available. Base reflectivity and cloud coverage are available on the ground using an internet connection, but not in the air. 

Airborne ADS-B also provides METARs, TAFs, SIGMETs, AIRMETs, TFRs, visibilities, ceilings and flight conditions for graphic display and in text format; notams and Special Use Airspace alerts are also available.

ADS-B with the Stratus 2 includes features you cannot get from SiriusXM Aviation weather. Traffic and a backup PFD are phenomenal features provided by Stratus. I love the backup PFD. I teach my students how to shoot an approach with it in the event of a total equipment failure. 

If your aircraft does not have a traffic avoidance system, ADS-B traffic is useful, but until 2020—when all aircraft are supposed to be equipped with ADS-B—it does not depict all traffic. 

The best part of ADS-B is that the service is free, while SiriusXM uses a paid subscription. However, the receiver to get free ADS-B data can cost more up front: a Stratus 2S lists at $899, not counting any antennas. In contrast, an SXAR1 is priced at $699, and may qualify for a $200 rebate, but subscription fees will be extra.

SXAR1 with SiriusXM Aviation weather

The Sirius product, SXAR1, gets its data not from the ADS-B source, but from SiriusXM satellites. It also has a GPS/WAAS embedded receiver. 

The SiriusXM aviation weather subscription includes the same weather products provided by ADS-B, as well as icing icing, winds aloft, lightning, in-flight base reflectivity radar, radar echo tops, cloud tops, turbulence and surface analysis. The range of coverage includes most of Canada, parts of the Caribbean, and extends much farther offshore. 

A subscription for the SiriusXM Pilot For ForeFlight package is around $40 per month. More comprehensive weather information is available with Pilot Preferred ($59.99/month) and Pilot Pro ($99.99/month) packages. For all SiriusXM aviation weather packages, the ability to listen to your favorite music and news channels in flight, if you so choose, can be added to your weather subscription at a discounted rate. 

One unexpected issue arose with the SXAR1 receiver during my testing. The electrically-heated windows in turboprop airplanes interfere with data reception. Moving the unit to an unheated side window improved my reception. Depending on which side of the plane the receiver was placed also affected the unit’s ability to receive data from the satellite. (We contacted SiriusXM and about this and received this reply: “Heated windscreens on some aircraft may block or interfere with the SXAR1 Receiver data reception. If you experience a weak signal condition, place the SXAR1 close to either side window or you may choose to purchase an optional External Antenna at shop.siriusxm.com or at sportys.com. The antenna can then be placed in the cockpit for best signal and the SXAR1 receiver can be placed out of the way.” —Ed.)

Another difference to address is the display resolution. The resolution is the same for the SiriusXM Aviation via SXAR1 and for ADS-B through the Stratus 2 when viewing weather within 200 nm of the aircraft. Beyond 200 nm, the resolution of the SXAR1 really shines; beyond that range ADS-B reduces the radar resolution, making the radar appear more coarse and pixelated. SiriusXM is consistent with its resolution at longer range. 

Final thoughts

Do you have to choose one over the other? When flying with both units, you do not need to choose only one to use because SXAR1 connects because SXAR1 connects to your iPad with Bluetooth, while Stratus utilizes Wi-Fi. This means you can have both at the same time—on the same iPad. Playing with the displays of Stratus on the backup PFD and the SXAR1 shows the advantages of each; the advanced weather features and better range of the Sirius product and traffic on the Stratus. 

Is SiriusXM worth $39.99 a month? It is to me. From my observations, I can say that I love SiriusXM Aviation weather. Since I regularly fly in real weather, the echo tops, icing and selectable winds aloft features make a difference for me. I love that the weather data is usually loaded and displayed before I take off. I do a fair bit of flying in the Bahamas and XM’s radar coverage, particularly when trying to cross the Gulf Stream, is very useful. 

I have had SiriusXM weather in my plane for 12 years, but it is displayed on a Garmin 530. The limitations of the older Garmin devices preclude receiving all the benefits of the service. The portable SXAR1 unit coupled with an iPad allows a pilot to receive every benefit of the SiriusXM service. The value of in-flight real-time weather cannot be emphasized enough. 

For the owner-pilot who must comply with the ADS-B mandate by Jan. 1, 2020, it is typically far less expensive to install an ADS-B Out-only transponder and buy a portable ADS-B In receiver than to purchase a combined ADS-B Out+In device. A portable receiver allows these operators to enjoy the benefits of ADS-B In—without the installed-in-the-aircraft cost. 

In addition, the portability of the Stratus 2S and the SXAR1 are perfect for a pilot like me who flies several different aircraft. 

The SXAR1 receiver delivers the most complete and comprehensive in-flight weather data available on a portable device. The safety features in the Stratus 2—especially after the ADS-B Out mandate takes effect—are phenomenal. I plan to carry both. 

Michael Leighton is a 11,000-hour, three-time Master Flight Instructor and an A&P mechanic. He operates a Part 141 flight school in South Carolina and South Florida. You can find him on the web at flymkleighton.net. Send questions or comments to editor.




SiriusXM SXAR1
Stratus 2S


SiriusXM Aviation 
Troubleshooting Your Navcom

Troubleshooting Your Navcom

Try these troubleshooting tips before you visit your favorite avionics shop for service.

We all know it takes fuel to fly our aircraft from point A to point B, but we sometimes take for granted that communicating and navigating along the way is just as important to knowing how to manage your engine and fuel reserves.

After more than 20 years running an avionics shop, I have seen, heard and experienced many different types of navcom problems. Some are really complicated, but many times the issues can be very simple.

The techniques outlined in this article will help you determine if you truly have a problem with your aircraft’s navcom system, or if it’s just a “switchology” problem.

Transmit or receive? Antenna or Audio?
Communications transceivers (i.e., com radios) have been around for aviation use for almost 100 years and were a huge step ahead of the prior method of hand signals and flags.

Problems with com radios can be broken down into two major categories: transmit and receive. Sometimes a pilot may experience problems with both transmit and receive, but usually it is one or the other.

Com receiver problems may also be broken down into two major categories: problems with the antenna, and problems with the audio system. The majority of the problems I see are associated with the audio system. (Antenna problems do occur, but are less frequent.)   

Most of the time, antenna problems are associated with a broken or deteriorated antenna—and this can be picked up on by the owner-operator during a walkaround. As long as the antenna is not physically broken and the white fiberglass resin isn’t flaked off, it’s probably okay.

Troubleshooting the audio panel, headsets and speakers
Receiver audio problems are most of the time associated with the pilot’s headset not being fully plugged in. Or sometimes, the pilot’s leg rests against the jack and causes it to short out. A short can cause intermittent operation or even static.

Always, always, check that your headset is fully plugged into your jack(s) if you can’t hear the receiver or intercom. Then check to see if your passenger jacks are fully plugged in and that no one has their leg resting on the headset cables.

Keep your headset cables in good working order and inspect the cables regularly because many people shut them in doors, slide seats over them or even worse.

Do not leave headsets plugged in all the time; they will corrode. Regular plugging in and removal is good for the jacks and the headset plugs—it cleans off any tarnish that might be on them.

headset cable 1web

If you’ve determined that your headset is plugged in properly and no one has their knee laying on the jacks, double-check your audio panel and make sure that you have selected the desired COM 1, 2, or 3 to listen and/or monitor.   

Next, make sure that the volume on the radio is set to an acceptable level. The easiest way to do this is to enable the squelch function on the radio and listen to the white noise that the radio produces in order to adjust the receiver to your hearing.    

Next, check the headsets themselves. I always recommend that pilots turn their headset volume fully up, and to make sure everyone’s in the aircraft is fully up. Then adjust the receiver volume with the squelch turned on in order to suit the PIC’s hearing.    

Once that has been done, adjust any other receiver the same way. If the intercom or receiver audio is too loud for a passenger, instruct them to lower the volume on their individual headset.   

Finally, does anyone remember what we used before every aircraft we sat in had headsets and intercoms? That’s right, the overhead speaker. Test your overhead speaker regularly and replace it when it is no longer audible.

These days, so many people take for granted that they don’t need the speaker, but it might keep you from having to remember those dreaded light gun symbols. You just never know when you might find yourself in IMC and a nervous passenger has laid his knee against the headset jacks.

Now you have silence just when you know you should be getting your next vector to turn final call—and you’re flying right through the final approach course. You quickly reach up and engage the squelch on your radio and there’s still silence.

But when you hit the speaker button, you can hear ATC repeating your call sign and urging you to acknowledge. That cheap $15 speaker just might have saved your life!

Troubleshooting a com transmitter
Com transmitter problems are much like receiver problems and can have many of the same issues that plague the receive side.

The biggest complaint that I get from owner-operators is that they have “carrier and no voice.” What this means is that ATC is able to determine that a COM is transmitting on that frequency but there is no “intelligence,” or modulation, present.

Most of the time, this is due to a problem with the headset itself, or the connection between the headset and the COM (such as the jacks). Make sure that the intercom microphone is working and that you can hear that first.

If the intercom mic is present, do you hear a change in your voice (side tone) when you transmit? If you do hear the side tone of yourself talking, it usually means that the audio from your voice is making it to the COM. 

Next, did you check to make sure that the frequency is properly selected on the com? Sometimes you will load the next frequency into the standby on the com, but when you hit it to flip-flop, the radio does a double-take and puts you back on the old frequency. This is common with some older radios.  

If ATC still isn’t hearing you, reach down in the middle console and grab your trusty old hand mic and try that. (Hopefully it isn’t buried in your glove box or in the seat pocket behind you and out of reach!) Make sure the hand mic is fully plugged in before you try and use it. Regular inspection of the hand mic cable to make sure it isn’t frayed will also save you from transmitter headaches. 

I can’t stress this hand mic point enough: I see aircraft come into my shop regularly with transmit problems and often it boils down to the hand mic being just a little bit unplugged. Make sure it stays plugged in all the way and that the cable isn’t frayed.

Troubleshooting navigation
According to our friends at the FAA, airborne navigation was first conceived by the U.S. Postal Service in the 1920s, with VHF/UHF navigation developed during the 1940s.    

Troubleshooting airborne navigation receivers is a relatively simple process and can be either antenna- or indicator- related. (This article focuses on VHF NAV (VOR/ILS) and GPS receivers, not other types of airborne navigation. —Ed.)   

Navigation antennas are often mounted on the top of the tail of the aircraft and resemble what most people call “cat whiskers” or “towel racks.” When trying to isolate a problem with range in your VHF NAV, it is usually a good idea to look at the condition of the NAV antenna. 

Does the antenna appear bent? Are both radials present on both sides of the vertical stabilizer? Here again, make sure the radials are covered in white fiberglass and that the fiberglass isn’t beginning to flake off, a sign of a deteriorating antenna.    

Many owners of older aircraft need to consider updating their VHF NAV antenna. More and more, these antennas are causing weak reception issues due to the age of the resistance matching network in line with the antenna called the balun.  

Many of these antennas and antenna baluns were installed at the time of the aircraft’s manufacture and are approaching 50 years of age. If your VOR can no longer indicate more than about 20 miles from a station, then this is probably what you are experiencing.1 

Navigation indicators come in many shapes and sizes with many different types of capabilities—but even if they are digital on an EFIS-type display, they should be tested periodically at a known VOR test point.  

Even if you don’t fly IFR, periodic testing is in order to make sure the indicator is showing as it should.

More tips about nav radios
 Familiarize yourself with your navigation system each time you get in the aircraft. Make sure you know where each switch is set and what it does. Many times I’ve had folks taxi back to my shop telling me they can’t get the nav to work when it was just a switch that we set differently than the owner was used to and he was unaware of that mode altogether.    

Regularly exercise your nav systems and make sure you know what each mode does. Select that nav radio on the audio panel and make sure that you can identify the station. A simple action like this can help save you money and keep you at the top of your game with your nav system.

Troubleshooting GPS
Most pilots are using GPS navigation these days, and one important thing aircraft owners and operators need to know about GPS is that the signal strength is very low by the time it makes it from space to earth.   

Most of the problems we see in the avionics shop with GPS are associated with bad receivers or bad antennas. The GPS antenna is always on top of the aircraft and is usually shaped like a teardrop. GPS units are usually sophisticated enough to tell the user that they are having problems through a continuous internal self-test, but there are a couple of things to watch.  

Look at the signal strength page on the GPS and make sure that you have at least six to nine satellites showing at all times with plenty of strength. Most receivers today are at least 12-channel, and you should see at least that many.  

Should the signal strength indicate low, the easiest thing to do to determine why is to systematically start turning electrical sources off to see if the strength returns.   

The very first thing I always tell my customers is turn off your cell phone. The tiny transmitter inside the phone in your pocket is usually no more than three to four feet away from the GPS receiver or the antenna, and it will knock a GPS offline. It doesn’t happen that often, but it does happen.   

Always, if you are having GPS problems, first try turning off your cell phone. Then start shutting off other portable items one by one to see if the strength of the GPS signal goes up. If not, begin turning off whatever you can on the panel until you isolate the source of the interference.  

This action won’t always find the source of your GPS receiver problems, but it might. Then you can feel accomplished walking into the avionics shop already knowing the source of the problem.

The answer can be simple
Sometimes the most obvious reasons for failure of a navcom system are overlooked. These troubleshooting tips can save you time and money, and keep your aircraft flying in top shape. As I said at the beginning of this article, you need fuel to fly an aircraft—but if you don’t have radios, you’re unable to go anywhere.

1 According to an article in the Winter 2012 issue of SatNav News published by the FAA, the agency will “transition to a minimum operating network (MON) of roughly half of the 967 VORs by 2020 to serve as a backup navigation system in the event of a GPS outage,” and will later remove all, or nearly all of the VORs.

Jason K. Moorefield operates the avionics shop currently owned by Freedom Aviation at Lynchburg Regional Airport (KLYH) in Virginia. He is an electrical engineer, A&P-IA and a private pilot that has spent more than 20 years working on privately owned aircraft and avionics. Send questions or comments to editor.

Contact Freedom Aviation: www.flyfreedomaviation.com

Phone: 434-237-8434


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