Has anyone had any experience of using GPS tracking devices such the SPOT PLB to keep track of their aircraft....?
From what I understand of its functionality & the rules governing transmissions from an aircraft (I'm talking GA specifically here), it is a different beast to your standard 406Mhz ELT. It also gets round any bar on mobile phone SMS transmission by transmitting its text messages via its own proprietary sat network, just like a satellite phone.
Have I read this right?
Price of complete package appears prohibitive, but wondering if any clubs/FTO have used it for tracking, or even post-flight analysis...??
Used Spidertracks to track myself ( let friends follow my progress) on a visit to Glenforsa last year.You can set the transmission interval.It even showed me taxying from parking to pumps at Carlisle. It's a web based device. Quite pricey though.... MM
Ive got a Spot. I'd say its ok. Pretty basic but I guess could help save your life someday. Can take a while to send a message and a few can go missing. That said Ive never really used it in anger since I acquired it.
I put it on my windowsill this morning in track mode to make sure it works ok. You can see the results at SPOT Shared Page. No idea how #18 ended up over there.
If you have mode S then I understand the guys at www.aircraftbooking.co.uk have developed a tracking feature as a no cost option for their online booking system.
Also its worth mentioning that the SPOT will let others track your whereabouts online. And summon help if you get into poo. However if all you want to do is review your own track once on the ground then a GPS is probably a better option and certainly more accurate. I have Memorymap and Garmin 296, both will log your track and let you download it to your PC.
Last edited by 140KIAS; 6th Jun 2009 at 23:55.
Reason: canny spell
One major concern has to be the fact this it's unclear when you send a 9-1-1 message that anyone has actually received it! Bit like transmitting a mayday on 121.5 & getting no response - you'd assume no-one heard, right? All you get apparently is a bunch of flashing lights, much like any other transmission. Shame that - is it related to this "simplex" vs "duplex" network they use I wonder??
Any satellite phone I know of has a built-in GPS and can send text messages (not always reliably, especially with Thuraya) containing the GPS position which was current when you first entered the send text message menu (NOT the GPS position which was current when the message was sent).
Not aware of any which can do this automatically every x minutes, and only some satphones can be interrogated for their GPS position, but it is easy enough to program a satphone (using standard Hayes modem commands) to send any text message, from some kind of computer.
It's just not very cheap. Worth doing is flying over a hazardous area, perhaps. In which case one could have an "emergency location transmit" button which just sends the current position.
Satellite phones are much cheaper than most would believe (£300 for a Thuraya 7100, plus USD 160/year for the PAYG scratch card) and are standard equipment on expeditions etc. The main players are Iridium (worldwide coverage and pricey) and Thuraya (basically Europe / Mid East, and much cheaper).
The SPOT looks pretty good and is cheap. I saw it in the USA for $149 plus a $50 mail in rebate. In Europe it is about £150 then €90 / year for the satellite subscription which allows unlimited tracking.
I'm going to get one as although it is not an ELT, it is as good as and more useful in everyday life (i.e. hopefully an ELT will never be used). The 911 option goes to the nearest centre to your location who then inform the emergency services. The tracking allows anyone you choose to allow to be able to track you and the "check in" feature seems like a good option.
I was flying over the desert close to the mexican border a couple of days ago, no flight plan and no flight following. Sand dunes and nothing else there, we (stupidly) had no water on the aeroplane, no survival equipment, and were in shorts. It was 40C, and there was nothing for miles. Had we gone down we'd have been dead, unless picked up very quickly. Built in ELT combined with SPOT seems like a good investment (along with the $150 survival bag from REI )
(along with the $150 survival bag from REI )
You have a very expensive taste in survival bags! In the UK for mountain walking I carried a Karrimor survival bag - a large heavy-duty bright orange bag, big enough for a large man in a sleeping bag. They are no longer available but something just about identical is for about $7, and a cheap sleeping bag won't be expensive either.
However - if you really do have an accident - will you be able to leave the wreckage and clamber into all this gear?
Have been experimenting with a Garmin eTrax this last couple of weeks in in the air & on the ground in the mountains.
Works a lot better in the air needless to say.
Does anyone know how to get a "Saved Track" out of the device when it hasn't generated a .gpx file??
Basically, for my first airborne sortie, I forgot to ask it to "Log Track to Data Card" (rather stupidly, but first go with device!), however can see the full details of the "Saved Track" in the main "Track Log" section (including altitude "Profile" etc).
Rather frustrating as information is in there for this one sortie but can't work out how to transfer it via the USB link!
I have an eTrex which I just turn on and chuck in the back seat which I use as a data recorder. Battery life is 10 hrs plus, and I have put a load of waypoints in it so I can use it to navigate in an emergency. When I get home I download it to MemoryMap or Google Earth....
You have a very expensive taste in survival bags!
Just saw this - I meant survival kit - with water, space blankets, food, medical supplies etc etc , not a sleeping bag type of thing!
The same site has an interesting review of SPOT here. (Same link as in #5 above).
It's probably a viable alternative to a PLB for some scenarios, but I'm not sure that bobbin' in the Oggin after a GA ditching is one of them.
For example: How long, from initiation of SPOT alert to SAR on scene? As quick as a PLB? Last week's ditching was almost in the narrowest part of the Channel and yet it still took a good hour for help to arrive. It was late June, and yet hypothermia had already begun to set in. Is a potential additonal delay something you want to risk?
Also, SPOT doesn't have 121.5 transmission for terminal homing to you, as 406MHz PLBs do.
Does no-one here seem to care that untested transmitting devices such as Spot, Spidertracks, mobile phones, etc are prohibited from use in any aircraft, and particularly during IFR? Or is this just the "to-hell-with-aviation-safety-so-long-as-its-cheap" attitude still prevailing?
A little less conversation, a little more aviation...
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Bracknell, UK
Originally Posted by Gravytrain
Does no-one here seem to care that untested transmitting devices such as Spot, mobile phones, etc are prohibited from use in any aircraft? Or is this just the "to-hell-with-aviation-safety-so-long-as-its-cheap" attitude still prevailing?
Right then Gravytrain, time for a custard test.
Provide a link to the relevant piece of legislation, or get thee hence back to the Trollery.
Any piece of equipment that has not been tested to RTCA DO-160 standards is considered unapproved for aviation use, and for the systems we're talking about, would therefore be considered Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs). Furthermore, "determination" of interference actually means that if the manufacturer has not certified the equipment to DO160 standards, it is up to the operator to do so, before it can be used. Switching it on and listening for crackling over the comms is not sufficient (nor even likely to find) interference of the kind tested for. The high power required to transmit between the aircraft and satellite can and has been shown to cause subtle interference in GPS avionics (including loss of GPWS), as well as compass, recording and other essential systems.
Basically, unless a piece of electronic equipment has DO160 certification, it must be switched off as soon as the doors are closed - and please understand that this isn't just for commercial airliners, it applies to every aircraft. Yes, you still shouldn't be using your mobile phone, even though it "seems" safe.
The difference is that in GA it is left to individual pilots to make the "determination", which is the weakness exploited by SPOT and the rest. Some caution should be exercised by good pilots (as everyone considers themselves) and make sure something is safe for use before introducing it into the aircraft. The reduction of GPS accuracy in your nav due to some gadget could have catastrophic consequences in IFR, and you wouldn't know because the interference is subtle.
So whilst these gadgets are a fantastic idea, and will undoubtedly improve aviation safety, make sure that the one you're using is part of the solution, and doesn't make the problem worse...
Furthermore, "determination" of interference actually means that if the manufacturer has not certified the equipment to DO160 standards, it is up to the operator to do so, before it can be used. Switching it on and listening for crackling over the comms is not sufficient (nor even likely to find) interference of the kind tested for.
I think you're extrapolating a bit there. This is the actual relevant paragraph from the FAA link you quoted above:
(5) Any other portable electronic device that the operator of the aircraft has determined will not cause interference with the navigation or communication system of the aircraft on which it is to be used.
(c) In the case of an aircraft operated by a holder of an air carrier operating certificate or an operating certificate, the determination required by paragraph (b)(5) of this section shall be made by that operator of the aircraft on which the particular device is to be used. In the case of other aircraft, the determination may be made by the pilot in command or other operator of the aircraft.
As you can see, it does not say a) that this "determination" must be made before operating (IFR or otherwise), and b) it does not specify how this check must be done, so you can't say that such an such approach would not suffice, as regards compliance with the rules.
Lastly, please note that the above piece of legislation refers specifically to IFR flights, so it does not substantiate your assertion above that these gadgets are "prohibited from use in any aircraft, and particularly during IFR".
My reading of that is more like "if it's causing your plane to flip upside down during an IFR flight, then you may not be entirely legal to use it". But of course you are free to switch off all your electronic gear (including your and your passengers digital wristwatches, I assume?) before flight anyway... even on a plane like the one I fly, which hardly has a radio and a compass.