WSI Upgrade to Sirius AV-300 Receiver

Added 9/12/2007
Updated 3/17/2009

After a loooooong wait for the WSI AV-300's to come out, we finally made it to the big day.  I was early in the queue for shipment, so those of you waiting for your receivers, rest assured they're starting to come out.  Below I'll give you some tips for the upgrade that might help you along the way.

For me, the worst thing about this upgrade was my initial choice of trading in my original WSI antenna for a Comant ComDat CI 401-620.  That antenna would have been sweet, had it not been for my bad luck, and this Sirius upgrade.  The antenna combined the capabilities of a WSI antenna and a WAAS GPS antenna for my GNS-480 into a single unit, which cut down on the number of warts on my plane.  I was able to mount it center top of the cabin and it was in the ideal location for both signals.  In theory, I had the dream antenna.  Too bad after only a few hours of use the GPS started dropping out with "Loss of integrity" warnings, and my weather reception was spotty at best.  Comant told me that I could buy a new antenna (over $600) and send mine in, and if it was bad then I could send mine in for a refund on the purchase.  I said "NO WAY" and told them to just test mine and if it was bad, replace it.  Sure enough, they claimed the GPS side was bad.  Didn't say anything about the WSI side.  When I got a new one finally, my WSI worked a lot better, but still not perfect, and my GPS was good....for about 20 hours.  Then it started doing the same thing.  The WSI would sometimes go an hour between updates, and sometimes it would work wonderfully, the GPS antenna side was probably blown up just as the first antenna.  The problem was, about that same time, WSI announced their Sirius conversion upcoming.  So, those antennas ceased production, and I was unable to get a new one.  Even worse, it became harder to get the old teardrop antenna for the WSI, so I could actually have a good independent antenna.

So from that I learned, don't put your eggs into one basket (antenna) unless you know the basket is not only a GOOD basket, but one you can use for a long time!  I pursued the idea of swapping the combo for a GPS/Sirius combo if it ever came about, but a few months ago the story was that it might not happen that a combo comes out....although this might have changed.  We'll just have to wait and see.

Anyway, this time I'm not waiting around for something that may cause me to have headaches with 2 systems, because of one bad, or perhaps leaky EMF antenna I'm installing the standard AV-300 and the Standard antenna.

Below are some photos of the hardware that you get with an AV-300.  Note that the AV-300 also has an Audio SID, so it looks like the receiver is the same between an AV-300 and AV-350, but you just get the add-ons of a remote control and remote antenna and the additional required items to do that audio when you upgrade to an AV-350.  This is just my guess.

Also notice....although I had heard early on that the footprint was exactly the same between the AV-300 and the prior units, I found that there are differences between the mounting of the AV-300 and the AV-100 for sure.  See a couple of the photos below and you'll see that the mounting holes on the feet are wider in one dimension by maybe 3/4" on the AV-300, so I did have to re-drill 2 of the holes when mounting the new unit, and the other dimension was off about 1/16", so I oblonged those holes on my mounting surface.  Nothing too troublesome, but don't use an AV-100 as a drilling template.

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System Information

Here are a few things that you might find helpful as you make this transition.

I've also got some tips for the upgrade to help you along the way:

Post-Activation Checks

At activation time, you need to call with your SID (MAKE SURE TO WRITE THEM DOWN BEFORE YOU MOUNT THE UNIT!), and they will then turn on either a test or your paid-for signal for you.  They inform you that you should within 4 hours, pull your plane to a place with a full view of the sky and fire up the receiver to download the updates.  You need to run the receiver for 45 minutes, reboot, and then 10 or 15 minutes later you should, in theory have data flowing.  Although you don't HAVE to power it on within 4 hours (24 hours is supposedly fine), your activation code is apparently propogated more often in those initial 4 hours.  Your best bet is to make sure you can get out during business hours, and fire up your receiver, then call them and have them activate you on the spot.

My experience wasn't quite so perfect, but through the help of their phone support at 800-USA-2FLY (Thanks a million to Jennifer and Victoria!) I got it going.  My first attempt at activation I waited 45 minutes, rebooted, waited 30 minutes, and got nothing.  I did get the WSI In-Flight software running and although I could see that I had a BER of Zero, I wasn't receiving any data products.  Seeing the BER of zero though, I knew I had a good satellite signal, so I was still very hopeful. It was getting late, and after-hours at WSI, so I decided to try again the next day.  Today was that day.  This time it was a great success!  Victoria sent the activation and I let it run 30 minutes.  I then powered it off (left the Chelton's running) and powered it back on, and about 10 minutes later I started seeing data show up.  See below for screenshots from WSI In-Flight 3.1.  You can see the product ID's being delivered, and then on the status page you can see your BER both Average and Max, and you can see the frames coming in on a graph.  There's also a table available that gives you a timed chart with which data products were received over which time period.  Very nice for diagnostics.

You can also click on some major airports and view TAF's and METARS, which I was able to use by verifying that I could see MSP's METAR on the Laptop and also see the METAR on the Chelton screen.  I did not post any Chelton screenshots here, because it doesn't look any different than it did before.  I just hope to find that with 2 satellites available instead of 1, and a dedicated, WSI/Sirius ONLY antenna, I have a much more reliable system.  With only 1 satellite before, and that questionable antenna, I found that my direction of flight, or region of the country had a great effect on how good the weather kept up to date.

PIDs.jpg Status01.jpg Status02.jpg Status03.jpg
Status04.jpg WX_Data_01.jpg WX_Data_02.jpg WX_Map_01.jpg

Does it work?!?!?
Yeee Haw!!  Today (9/15/07) I took my first x/c flight of 200nm with the new AV-300 system and I have to say my reception and quality of weather blew away what I had with my AV-100 system.  I never went more than 6 mintues between NexRad (WSI calls it NowRad) updates, and it worked the entire flight from start to finish!  My old antenna and receiver worked well on many flights, but if I were going on a 200nm flight, chances are I'd at least get up to 10-15 minutes between updates by the end of the flight.  The service quality was spotty at times, and I could usually count on at least some issue on most every flight.  I can see already this is much more solid.  You're all gonna be very happy.

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