ADS-B and Traffic

I thought I might share my experiences to date with ADS-B. I know this has been a very confusing subject, and though I thought I did a substantial amount of research and was well versed, I found that I made some mistakes that others might learn from.

I fly an Experimental and had XM Weather on a Garmin 696 and a Zaon MRX for traffic. I decided to upgrade my transponder and changed to a Garmin GTX330 so I could also receive TIS traffic on my 696 and be able to actually see where the traffic was, not just be alerted that there was traffic. This worked fairly well, but at AirVenture, I saw the Garmin GDL 39 and felt I could still have everything I currently had, but by adding the GDL 39, I could have free weather. The first “fly in the ointment” came when I was told I needed to “upgrade” my GTX 330 to Extended Squitter. There went $1,200.

I had an extensive conversation with the Garmin people in their tent at AirVenture (only one individual in the tent was knowledgeable about ADS-B and the GDL 39) and explained exactly what I had, which consisted of the 696 and the GTX 330ES. I asked if I would still be able to see TIS traffic if I added the GDL 39. I was told on multiple occasions: Yes, I would be able to see TIS traffic and ADS-B traffic.

Maybe a handful of airplanes are flying around right now with ADS-B OUT, but I have been out flying a lot and have not seen a single target come up on my screen. I was seeing weather but no traffic.

I called the support line. I thought that because I was able to receive weather but not traffic, perhaps I had some setting wrong somewhere. I finally insisted on speaking to someone who was familiar with the equipment and was transferred to another technician. This tech told me that I could only receive ADS-B traffic, and then I explained that I specifically asked the question about TIS traffic and was told I could receive that too. Yes, I could receive TIS traffic, but I would need to have a certified WAAS GPS, and the 696 is not certified. I do not intend to spend another $7,000-$10,000 so I can receive traffic.

When I complained that I was given misinformation that prompted me to spend $1,200 for my ES upgrade and $800 for the GDL 39, I was told that I am now fully compliant for 2020, and as more pilots install ADS-B OUT, I will be able to see more traffic. That was not very satisfying, because I am sure most people will put this off until they are forced to do it—just like the 406 ELT.Out of 51 owners in my hangar owner association, only three currently have the new 406.

So to summarize, I now have “free” weather that cost $2,000, or as related to XM weather LT, that is the equivalent of 57 months of XM Weather. I am ready for 2020, but I am not even sure that I will still have this plane eight years from now. Before you run out and plunk down the money for an ADS-B receiver of any sort, be aware of the drawbacks regarding ADS-B traffic. The weather part of it works fine, but it is not available on the ground. You must be up in the air. Be prepared to check weather on the ground using your smartphone.

Steve Cohen

Write to [email protected] or mail a piece of your mind to:
KITPLANES, P.O. Box 856, Friendswood, TX 77549, USA


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