Review of Sporty’s Stratus ADSB
My review of Sporty’s Stratus ADSB comes after 20 hours of hands on flying. I have been flying with the Stratus since a warm August day in 2012 when I purchased it directly from Sporty’s Pilot Shop in Batavia Ohio. The first mission for my brand new ADSB was to help me cross the country from Ohio to Los Angeles in Estelle, our 195. I have spent thousands of hours crossing the country in G1000 equipped aircraft and so I am quite accustomed to having XM weather capabilities in the cockpit. I had very high expectations for my new $800 box, this probably set me up for disappointment.
The first few hours of the flight I had weather and data but as the flight continued on so did the “aging” of the reports. I had been flying roughly an hour and the latest “radar” download was about an hour ago (when I was sitting at Sporty’s with an internet connection). The second hour droned by with no appreciable updates and then the third hour. Now the weather was deteriorating and I needed fuel so a stop was made. My first leg with the ADSB was not great, I was hoping it would improve. The first leg of the day ended up being the last leg of the day, the weather moved in and trapped me on the ground. I found a hotel and called it a night. The next morning I arrived at the airport at 6am and started checking weather on my iPad (with a network connection). The weather wasn’t great, it was marginal. Visibilities were are showing 8-10 miles with 1500 foot ceilings for the next 150 miles. There was a nice wide band where the visibility and ceilings were high enough but on either side of this band the visibility and ceilings dropped below VFR minimums, I needed to stay within the better weather band. I departed by 7am and climbed to 1000 feet agl. As I later found out by reading the fine print, this is no place for the ADSB box, it was worthless to me. In order for the ADSB to get any weather data it needs to be within range of a ground station, at 1000 feet AGL you should not expect coverage anywhere in the United States.
I just made another trip in a Husky from Alpine Wyoming to Henderson Nevada and the ADS-B only worked a couple times during the 12 hour day. What amazed me is that it didn’t work while flying over Salt Lake City Utah at 12,500 feet.
With all of this, maybe my ADS-B box doesn’t work. All the lights are green and it isn’t reporting any errors and it does work sometimes.
Anyway the one thing that I have learned from all of this is that the $50 a month for XM weather on my portable GPS is worth a lot more than I thought. If you are a serious cross country flier, in small GA airplanes, I would strongly recommend getting XM for reliable weather service.