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Beware of 'Pilotaware'

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Beware of 'Pilotaware'

Old 2nd Aug 2020, 13:46
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Beware of 'Pilotaware' weather reports (METARS)

Discussion on another forum which is not allowed to be mentioned on here regarding an 'automaatic' weather report feed to aircraft which uses a 'colour state' system.
The colour states reported are totally unlike the system used here, it being an American system giving visibilities in statute miles and using only 4 'colour states' starting with 'green' as the best weather and having no 'white' or 'yellow 1/2'..
You can view the colour states used at www.aviationweather.gov//metar/help?page=plot
I've pointed out this is a potential flight safety hazard' I don't even know if the system has been approved by the CAA.

Last edited by chevvron; 4th Aug 2020 at 11:40.
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Old 2nd Aug 2020, 14:27
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Im glad they explained that was for LWV, because the symbology shown for that is virtually illegible.

Have another potential cheese-hole.
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Old 2nd Aug 2020, 16:19
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Isn't PilotAware done by a British developer? I think it's a one man band thing which is primarily used by GA in the UK - does things like traffic awareness etc?
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Old 2nd Aug 2020, 19:20
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Originally Posted by chevvron
I've pointed out this is a potential flight safety hazard'
Of course it isn't!

Originally Posted by chevvron
I don't even know if the system has been approved by the CAA.
Whyever should it?
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Old 3rd Aug 2020, 14:32
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If anyone in aviation is using a piece of kit where they haven't studied the manual, and doesn't know how to use it, the flight safety hazard is not the piece of kit.
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Old 3rd Aug 2020, 15:49
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Originally Posted by chevvron
The colour states reported are totally unlike the system used here, it being an American system giving visibilities in statute miles and using only 4 'colour states' starting with 'green' as the best weather and having no 'white' or 'yellow 1/2'..

I've pointed out this is a potential flight safety hazard' I don't even know if the system has been approved by the CAA.
To be fair Chevvron - Pilotaware is a civvy pice of kit. When you talk about "the system used here" you are presumably referring to the UK mil colour state system - Not commonly understood, used or trained amongst civvy pilots.

I find the four colour system (which is, incidentally, used on several other aviation apps including aeroweather) to be a good first glance indicator of the weather state at a given airfield. Does that mean that you should go flying without looking at the specifics - of course not.

As fitter says - If you don't RTFI then it ain't the fault of the kit.

As for approved by the CAA - of course it does not have to be approved by the CAA!

I do find your reaction to this to be somewhat disproportionate.
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Old 3rd Aug 2020, 21:48
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As for approved by the CAA - of course it does not have to be approved by the CAA!
Nor could it be, given that unlike UAT or ADS-B which use aeronautical frequencies within ICAO specification, PAW (aka 'Explosion in Maplins') uses an unprotected frequency of 869.5 MHz.
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Old 4th Aug 2020, 07:15
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For the avoidance of doubt - The "System" i refer to and to which I interpreted Chevvron's post as referring to was the system of colour coding references for weather.

The wider implications of the PAW system i leave to those with greater knowledge of wriggly amps than me.
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Old 4th Aug 2020, 23:45
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I wouldn’t touch Pilot Aware with a barge pole! I watched a presentation on it once from who can only be described a dodgy used car salesman - they even brought the wretched things in a suitcase! It’s cheap and nasty, plus as BEagle points out, it uses all sorts of ‘amateur-built’ kit for its use from the now defunct Maplins - I’ve seen Raspberry Pis, cheap Chinese GPS dongles, cheap Chinese WifFi dongles and all sorts of antennae and battery lash-ups in light and microlight aircraft. Some of the ground stations aren’t much better, with amateurs (with good intentions) building their own and piping out all sorts of info (weather, aircraft position estimates and rebroadcast FLARM) - none of it is to any certified standard. Of course, to those that use it, it is cheap and better than anything they might have, so they are seduced by it. Having seen some of the installs in GA aircraft I fear for them meeting their lookout responsibilities.

As BEagle says - ADS-B is the international standard for such things as agreed by ICAO - not some dodgy car dealers and CB radio enthusiasts! Oddly enough, the military would never be allowed to fit Pilot Aware due to it’s amateur nature and lack of any proper certification. So that means that the GA pilots will only detect the estimated Mode S locations from our aircraft or if we are pushing out ADS-B. So it’s better than nothing I guess. Sadly, if Pilot Aware is the only thing the light aircraft is carrying to transmit it’s location, then the military aircraft will see nothing apart from what they see with their eyeballs.

CPL Clott

PS. This is one on the coaming - about the size of a large walkie-talkie and either a battery pack or fag lighter power supply via wires. It displays to a separate tablet device.


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Old 5th Aug 2020, 15:07
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@Cpl Cott, My modest machine is not transponder equipped, so I am looking at SkyEcho 2 for Electronic Conspicuity (as it is the mandated standard). I fly in North Yorkshire, and would like to be seen by the various RAF aircraft in the area - do you know which fleets do 'push out ADS-B', and or receive it?

Last edited by Hollman; 5th Aug 2020 at 15:49. Reason: 'and or receive it'
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Old 6th Aug 2020, 22:15
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All of these UK Military aircraft types can and do use ADS-B:

Jupiter
Juno
C17
Voyager
C130J
Merlin
A400M
Prefect
Texan
Phenom
Hunter (FRADU)
Sentry
F35B
Poseidon

Most of these also have ADS-B receive. Also, some other aircraft like the BBMF’s carry PowerFLARM that receives ADS-B. Other types have modification plans too - it’s becoming more and more widespread outside the UK so they need to get the capability.

Then there are USAF and other visiting forces that use it too.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 08:13
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I fly a performance light aircraft here in the UK - Vans RV-6. I've equipped it with an Electronic Conspicuity (EC) suite for safety. My first line of defence is a new Mode S transponder with Extended Squitter enabled - this is the bit that performs the ADSB-out function. I feed GPS positional info from a Pilotaware unit which is directly wired into the transponder and has it's own dedicated power supply. A professional avionics engineer was involved in this so no "explosion in Maplins" thank you........

Thus I am visible to all ATC units with seconadry radar, and other aircraft that can receive my ADSB transmission. Using PAW means that I can receive ADSB from other traffic, as an aid to my VFR "see and avoid" principal, and have had numerous encounters where it has proved it's worth as an aid.

Just to correct a bad piece of fake news from the OP, the forthcoming met uploads from Pilotaware are standard Metars with visibility in nautical miles as is usual in the UK.
The colour coding proposed has absolutely nothing to do with military operations - many light aircraft pilots will have no knowledge of RAF procedures anyway.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 08:31
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Originally Posted by Hollman
@Cpl Cott, My modest machine is not transponder equipped, so I am looking at SkyEcho 2 for Electronic Conspicuity (as it is the mandated standard). I fly in North Yorkshire, and would like to be seen by the various RAF aircraft in the area - do you know which fleets do 'push out ADS-B', and or receive it?
Sky echo 2 looks like an excellent piece of kit, and I commend you for taking steps towards EC! Puddle jumped the other day in a TAS/mode S equipped aircraft and it was scary how much stuff was called by ATC that wasn't on TAS. I'm seriously considering skyecho to get ADS-B and FLARM in, but the more folk get it, the more useful ADSB is.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 12:29
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@Cpl Clott. Thanks for the list - so it seems that BAe146, CH47, Griffin, Puma, Tutor, BBMF, Rivet Joint, Shadow, are not ADS-B equipped. Nor are Hawk T1/T2 or Typhoon which are frequently in the area.

@pba_target. I agree. Although I want ADS-B and Flarm-in (there are plenty of gliders around here) I'm more interested in SkyEcho's ADS-B emissions, as I'd like to be seen, especially by the occasional fast movers. I have no idea whether or not Leeming, Topcliffe or Linton have ADS-B Surveillance capability, or for that matter whether the regional airport zone/approach units do and can see me for traffic reporting purposes.

Last edited by Hollman; 7th Aug 2020 at 12:33. Reason: clarity
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 12:39
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Originally Posted by Hollman
@Cpl Clott. Thanks for the list - so it seems that BAe146, CH47, Griffin, Puma, Tutor, BBMF, Rivet Joint, Shadow, are not ADS-B equipped. Nor are Hawk T1/T2 or Typhoon which are frequently in the area.

@pba_target. I agree. Although I want ADS-B and Flarm-in (there are plenty of gliders around here) I'm more interested in SkyEcho's ADS-B emissions, as I'd like to be seen, especially by the occasional fast movers. I have no idea whether or not Leeming, Topcliffe or Linton have ADS-B Surveillance capability, or for that matter whether the regional airport zone/approach units do and can see me for traffic reporting purposes.
Yeah, to be honest with SkyEcho /similar being cheap and walk on, I genuinely don't know why we wouldn't mandate minimum battery powered EC for everything that flies, go the way of the USA. Display on a tablet/smartphone and I'd say you've just significantly cut the chance of mid-air. ADS-B in is such a step change in SA in the cockpit (if properly displayed).
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 16:13
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Hollman Yes, but mods are in the pipeline for the majority that you list unless they are soon up for the chop. Many have Extended Squitter Mode S or Mode 5 that just needs wiring to the GPS. As ever, sounds easy but is expensive...

Also, your ADS-B emission may well be rebroadcast on JTIDS/Link16/MIDS as a track, so others may well see you that hasn’t been listed. The good news about these datalinks is that they are ‘nodeless’ and don’t need to rely upon ground infrastructure to share their combined picture between aircraft. So you may be quite surprised who can see you.

The bottom line is to poke out Electronic Conspicuity that is ICAO standardised and not from the ‘explosion in a Maplins shop’ devices that BEagle has described. It sounds like ETOPS has the best idea in using a Mode S to give ADS-B Out but using Pilot Aware for ADS-B In. Although there are cheaper amateur built devices like Stratux - that could cost you less than 50 with no subscription to receive ADS-B. I’ve used SkyEcho and it is good for a low power ADS-B device for transmit and receive, plus also for 20 a year you can buy a licence to de-encrypt FLARM on it too. Completely standalone and no massive antennae like the others - it’s about the size of a fag packet with an 8hr internal battery - also, less than 500, so definitely my choice for now. I even took it for the Rapid Capabilities Office to have a look at.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 17:10
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LJ - That's reassuring on the mil receive side. When I'm tooling around at 500-3000' at just over a mile a minute or so in the open FIR I've often felt a bit exposed. As you note, there a few low-cost solutions for receiving ADS-B, but if your not emitting ADS-B then you're not contributing to the coherent picture and you're fragmenting it further. There are some highly charged debates taking place in the GA forums on EC options, but I see SkyEcho 2 plus Flarm as a positive choice which supports ADS-B out, and it's self-contained nature is what I need in my machine.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 21:51
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SkyEcho2 with the UAT element switched to FLARM is probably the best option available.

UAT uses an ICAO approved protected aeronautical frequency and is the system of choice at lower levels in the USandA. The UK hasn't invested in either the Recognised Air Picture or ground infrastructure to support it yet, unfortunately.

France is quite keen on UAT, but it'll be a long time before Europe has the same FIS-B and TIS-B availability as the US.
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Old 7th Aug 2020, 23:05
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Whilst I favour SkyEcho with ADS-B as it is the approved protocol operating on an approved frequency, I note that PAW is hard over on its argument that they will not support ADS-B out on the premise that the frequency does not have the capacity to handle the volume of ADS-B traffic that would result from all potential users utilising it. I have no idea to what extent that is true, but PAW pressing ahead with an unprotected frequency and bespoke protocol, looks like wishful thinking - however much I respect their efforts to achieve a UK EC solution.
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Old 8th Aug 2020, 07:35
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pressing ahead with an unprotected frequency and bespoke protocol
I use it because it is available today and works as advertised. I use my aircraft for flights up and down the country passing through controlled airspace/TMZs as required and detecting gliders, light aircraft, mil av and commercial traffic along the route. Other systems are available but none match up to my set-up and my experience gives me confidence that I'm doing all I can EC wise......
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