The skies were not clear and it sure as hell wasn’t calm.

I have 16.3 hours and asked if we might go do something different. I realize I need to be drilling on quickstops and autos but I needed to cruise down to a college about 1.5 hours from STL and thought it might be a good time to break out the maps and foreflight. I also wanted to try a ADS-B I had thrown together, stratux. You can’t really call it “building” because it’s basically plug and play. Stratux is all over reddit and for good reason, it’s VERY well done.

Start here if you’re curious: or here: or here:

What is ADS-B?  The wiki definition is: Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS–B) is a surveillance technology in which an aircraft determines its position via satellite navigation and periodically broadcasts it, enabling it to be tracked. The information can be received by air traffic control ground stations as a replacement for secondary radar. It can also be received by other aircraft to provide situational awareness and allow self separation.–_broadcast

The person that put together stratux, cyoung, is incredibly talented and generous. Working with engineers all day allows me to say that. It would be very easy to capitalize on something like stratux but he/she just gave it away for free. Nice work cyoung.

So, what does stratux do in plain English… well, you can use it with your EFB (Electronic Flight Bag) to grab live weather and find out where the other aircraft are hiding around you and if you have a GPS hanging off the pi(a cheapy USB will do) you can track where you are in the world. It’s far more complicated than that but for now, that’ll have to suffice.

I will try to write a longer post about it because I am blown away at the level of polish it has for an open source product.  I actually ported mine to an Intel Edison and then went back to a pi ZERO.  I wanted something smaller.  The Guimbal is tiny and there isn’t much room so I fired up the 3d printer and made decent case for it, spent some time wrecking NESDR receivers and doing a bad job of soldering.  Finally I got something that is 1″ X 3″ X 1.5″ and will plug into a cigarette lighter.

In the picture below you can see the big stratux on the right and the pi zero on the right.


In order to see any traffic, radar images or plan any flights you need an mobile device or tablet and an app like Foreflight.

Foreflight keeps all of your charts, planning docs, plates, sectionals, weight and balance data, mother’s birthday, basically anything you could ever need – all in one expensive little app.  To be honest $100/yr isn’t bad.  As mentioned too many times my company builds apps and this thing is pretty well done.  It’s EXTREMELY stable and doesn’t seem to eat battery life.  I’ve tried to break it and find bugs and gotta say the QA guys at Foreflight are on point.  Impressive work.

midwest helicopter academy foreflight

So, on to the flight.  It was windy, far more so than I’d been up in to date.  The wind was at our backs on the way down, we were averaging ~110kts IAS.  I was concentrating on staying in trim, maintaining an altitude which Grant wanted to change every 5 minutes, radio calls and generally enjoying not screwing up quickstops.  When we got close to MDH, Grant made the calls and we landed without fuss.

The way back was a different story.  Our tailwind turned into a headwind, it wasn’t rough or turbulent just slow going, we made 50-60kts.  The view was AMAZING and sadly the 1.75 hours flew by.  I navigated by picking something in the distance and then something in front of it and watched my heading and the GPS.  Fairly simple.  The rest of the time I spent looking for places to land if something were to go wrong.

I air taxied us in and Grant took the landing.   2.4 more hours of flight time.  I regret working on my license so late.  I know now that this is something that I’ll need to do as long as live.

Midwest Helicopter Acadamy over IL