WSI Upgrade to Sirius AV-300 Receiver
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 problem....so 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.
Here are a few things that you might find helpful as you make
I've also got some tips for the upgrade to help you along the
- Save yourself the trouble. No, the AV-300 is NOT
pin-for-pin identical to the AV-200/100 units, but, the AV-300 comes
with an adapter cable to give you the identical functionality with your
new unit. The new AV-300 comes with a 62-pin HD connector that
gives you some additional features. You can have up to 2
independent displays using RS-232 COM1 and COM2, and a 3rd display on
an RS-422 port as listen-only. Unless you need some of this
functionality, or you choose to get an AV-350 with audio functions that
use lots of other pins, you don't need to bother with re-wiring you
unit....just use the cable.
- The Ethernet port is a very helpful diagnostic tool.
Get a copy of the FREE WSI In-Flight 3.1 (then upgrade it to 3.2)
software (the 4.2 version requires an ADD-On license to your standard
subscription), and use that during
the installation of your AV-300. The AV-300 has an IP address of
10.0.0.2 / 255.255.255.0, and the WSI In-Flight software can connect to
it on Port 9000. (Note that the software default is 10005, which
is not correct) There may be additional function via telnet, as
the port does reply, but asks for a login. The only bad thing
about the Ethernet port is those engineers put the lock-tab side of the
port towards the back of the box, so getting your fingertip in to
unplug the cord can be a trick.
- There's a USB port on the box for software updates, but no
cable is provided and no information is available.
- If you don't already have an antenna wired, you'll need an
antenna cable with TNC connectors on both ends. The antenna
mounts with the same hole locations, but the new antenna has a very
slightly larger footprint to help cover any scratches or rings in the
paint where the old antenna used to sit.
- Use the WSI In-Flight for a more accurate measurement of
your BER (Bit Error Rate). Lower is better. My Cheltons
Display a BER but it appears to be much more rounded off than the fine
resolution of the WSI In-Flight. When you first fire up, you'll
go from NO LOCK, to a high BER, and then the lower it gets the faster
it seems to drop. I eventually got down to a BER of ZERO.
- The AV-300 will take much longer to boot up than you're
used to. It's a full 3minutes 15seconds to boot. During
this time, your MFD may display a warning such as "AUX SENSOR" to let
you know that you can't communicate. During this time period, the
ethernet port is also unavailable.
- When you're trying to see if you're really activated or
not, use your WSI In-Flight software and hit the "PIDs" button on the
Status Page. From there it will verify your downloads and let you
know what products you're activated for.
- If you ever decide you want to upgrade to an AV-350 with
Sirius Satellite Radio integration, your AV-300 receiver does have all
the necessary "guts", so you just have to add the audio accessories to
access the system, and you do have to do the additional wiring to your
audio panel. If you're thinking of going that route, and you're
paying an avionics shop to wire things, you may want to have them pull
and connect those wires during your install, or at least evaluate your
audio panel's capabilities so you know what you'll be facing.
- I found the Ethernet port and Laptop had a kind of
love-hate relationship. For instance, once, no matter what I did,
even rebooting my PC, I couldn't get the Ethernet port to talk. (check
it using "Ping 10.0.0.2" from a command prompt) I was using an IP
like 10.0.0.4 or 10.0.0.6. But, rebooting the AV-300 brought it
back to life. So, when all else fails, reboot....I guess it's the
same with anything electronic. Your best bet is to boot up the
AV-300 and THEN plug in your PC once you get past that 3:15 bootup
wait, from what I've heard. Also, be aware that the Ethernet port
uses a CROSSOVER cable, at least from what I was told. I did get
link lights and my laptop port to come alive with a straight-through
cable, so it may auto-sense, but I know for SURE that I had it working
with a crossover on a fresh reboot.
- Although I'm told that the Serial PC Cable can still be
used for diagnostics, and the settings are the same as previous (57600
N/8/1), I didn't seem to get anything readable by using those settings.
I didn't play with it long enough to make a determination, but I
did try E/7/1, and some other baud rates from 9600 to 57600.
- My AV-100 and Chelton combo required me to go in and use
the serial terminal to turn OFF Flow Control. The AV-300's ship
with Flow Control off, so this is unnecessary on the new systems.
- Although the install manual states that you want a ground
plane for the antenna, a ground plane is not required for this antenna,
or for most GPS antennas for that matter. What is needed is a
GROUND to the antenna base, through the screws. This is a ground
return for the power for the active antenna, that gets it's power from
the coax feed. Without the ground return, the active antenna
might not work for you at all. I mounted this antenna
permanently about 10-12" from my GNS-480's GPS antenna, and find no
interference issues with my GNS-480, and the quality of weather
reception is great!
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.
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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