I really wanted to add ADS-B to the RV-12, for some pretty obvious reasons. Getting weather and traffic data for improved situational awareness seems like a really good idea. I’m also not thrilled with the tiny buttons and small screen of the Garmin 496 currently mounted in the panel. So, I started looking at various alternatives for ADS-B IN. I figured I had several choices…
- Do nothing. No weather, no traffic, no expense. Punch flight plans into the Garmin 496 by hand, let that drive the autopilot. It’s not the worst fate, but there are better ideas. Cost: None. Benefit: None.
- Pay a ridiculous amount monthly for XM WX, still get no traffic. No freakin’ way. Cost: High (several hundred per year). Benefit: Very low.
- Replace the Garmin 496 with a 696 and GDL-39. I was almost there. I bought and repaired a used 696 and it’s very nice. The GDL-39 is not cheap, but I’d have traffic and WX. Flight planning is easier, but the maps need updating ($$). Plus it would take MAJOR surgery on the panel — like rip everything out, rearrange it all and rebuild the entire panel with everything custom. Cost: Mid-high, even after selling the 496 (it’s a little scuffed and gouged on the edges). Benefit: Mid-high.
- Foreflight running on an iPad Mini, with Stratux. It’s almost a perfect solution… but it won’t drive the autopilot, which means I’d have to enter the flight plan twice (once in FF, once on the 496) and any enroute changes would need to be done in two places to keep the AP on course. Foreflight would require an annual expense, though it’s not too bad. And of course iPad Minis are not cheap. Cost: High. Benefit: High.
- Avare running on a Galaxy Tab S2 8″, with Stratux. Avare is completely free including charts, maps, approach plated, A/FD, all of it. It’s not QUITE as nice or as smooth as ForeFlight, but fairly close. And it will drive the autopilot with a bluetooth-serial converter, which FF cannot do. I can keep the 496 in the panel as a backup just in case. Cost: Medium. Benefit: High.
I seriously considered 3 through 5. If I’d been able to figure out how to reduce the amount of panel rework for the 696, or if the cost of the GDL39 wasn’t so high ($400+ used) I’d have probably done that. As it is, I picked up a used 696 cheap, repaired the battery connector, and will sell it — probably for enough profit to pay for the Galaxy Tab. That would make my total ADS-B/EFB setup cost under $200, even after mounting good antennas on the plane.