Tag Archives: flying

How to update NATS Aware using a Mac without losing saved routes

According to www.airspaceaware.com in order to update the NATS Aware unit using a Mac, you simply overwrite the SD card with the contents of the airspace update.

More specifically, you download the latest airspace update file which will be named something like


e.g. Airac0212.update

The problem

Using the above example, we rename Airac0212.update, to Airac0212.zip, unpack it, and then copy the contents of the resulting Airac0212 directory into the root of the SD card. Simple enough, but this totally destroys any saved routes on the device.

NATS Aware Routes DatafileThe solution

I found that by copying the file


from the SD card to somewhere safe (shown opposite) – then performing the update as usual, and then finally copying my old Route file back onto the SD card, that any saved routes are preserved. I notified Airbox Aerospace of this, and they confirmed that “all seems to work fine with this process”.

NATS AWARE GPS Lanyard Problem


A fantastic and simple aid to safety!

OK, so you have the nice little NATS AWARE GPS unit for your microlight. Because you are doing things by the book, you are going to submit TIL109a to the BMAA to show that you have been duly diligent in the fitting of the unit to your aircraft.

However, if like most pilots, you fit your AWARE unit in a removable manner, Section 2 on page 4 of the TIL (specifically section 2.1) asks “Lanyard fitted – Ensure GPS is not a hazard if supported only by the lanyard.”

OK, I’m not knocking the AWARE or Airbox in any way. I love my Aware, and heartily recommend one to anyone who wants a simple GPS device to help keep themselves away from controlled airspace – but…

It’s ironic that the AWARE, developed by Airbox in association with NATS, and supported by the BMAA with it’s own fast track TIL minor mod submission, doesn’t actually have a Lanyard loop anywhere on it’s shiney orange and black casing.

To make an omelette

To make a lanyard hole I needed to know where to drill (oh my! there goes the warranty!) two holes. So, it was time to take the back off. Doing so would also reveal the location and type of LiPo battery powering the unit – thus making it easier to replace in future.

Note: I really shouldn’t have to say this, but taking your AWARE apart is at least going to invalidate the warranty, and if you’re ham fisted, quite likely to end in tears…

The case is a bit fiddly to open up – 4 tiny grub screws (circled in BLUE) hold the back of the case to the orange screen mouting frame, so whizz those out, and then there are four snap tabs on the inside of the case loacted as shown below (circled in RED):

Opening up the NATS AWARE

Opening up the NATS AWARE

You just have to sneek a small blade/tip into the gap between the black and orange plastic to locate these and apply a bit of pressure to click them free. Be carefull not to push too hard and break the tabs!

I first considered the corner where the speaker is mounted but discounted this as it would be too weak, relying on a little bit of the black casing, which is pretty thin.

The better solution would be a single hole near the stylus hole itself. If drilling into the case blind while it is still assembled, be VERY careful, as if you bodge your drill bit in too far you may rupture the LiPo battery with spectacular results… The drill bit should not go in any more than 2mm.

Potential Lanyard Hole Sites

Potential Lanyard Hole Sites

Once drilled, pass a nylon tie/zip/cable wrap into the stylus hole, and out of the new hole in the case and pull it tight. A standard/generic lanyard can then be fitted around the exposed portion of the cable tie and fixed to a point in the aircraft (or the mounting bracket – see below). Although this denies the stylus it’s storage hole, this is a very strong solution, which easily passed a 9G load test.

Another solution

Large piece of PCB circuit board glued to the back of the case with a hole in! – Hysol 9462 is probably one of the better epoxies to do this with.

Mounting bracket

We used the RAM-HOL-PD3 universal PDA mount in our Skyranger, which has plenty of opportunity for an extra hole for a lanyard fitting. It’s a great mount, with a spring loaded side claw, so popping the GPS in and out is easy.


Recording cockpit video and audio

Hopefully this will help any Microlight or GA pilots out there who want to record their flights with crisp clear audio direct from the cockpit intercom system.

There are a number of solutions around, but most are quite bulky, and, frankly somewhat more expensive that the hudred and thirty odd quid that this lot came to. The main difficulty is in finding a camera system that has external microphone inputs – this alone usually precludes any of the consumer level equipment, so you are left with buying devices that cost over £200. Read More…

Mission NPPL – 2nd Cross Country Flight Completed

During the recent hot spell we’ve been having I haven’t gone flying very much. Enclosed cockpits with rudimentary window ventilators get a little cosy on hot summer days – too cosy for my liking. And, as anyone who has done their HPL exam will know, getting too hot and sweaty while trying to focus on something that requires total attention is not the best recipe for safe flying.

Anyway, July 8th was a little cooler than previous days, and despite having done some preliminary planning to go to Croft Farm (near Defford, Worcestershire), I was half in mind to just spend a little time with my instructor consolidating precautionary landings, and some other areas that needed brushing up.

There was a weak warm front approaching the south coast, and despite my chicken little approach to bad weather, I was persuaded it wouldn’t spoil the conditions in the midlands for a good few hours. So, with my full english breakfast rolling about my already nervous stomach I set about completing the flight log for the route. Croft Farm is PPR (Prior Permission Required) only, so I gave them a ring, and booked in my arrival, allowing myself 45 minutes. Then, armed with my cross country ticket, I topped up the fuel tank, and set off. It was a great flight, and although it still got nice and warm, I coped fine. Croft Farm, like so many farm strips, completely vanished from my view on downwind, and I only managed to re-aquire it once I was on base. After a bit of side slipping, I got things nicely set up for landing on 27, and managed to get her down, and off at the halfway point.

Read More…

Free microlight pilot flight log – flight planning plog

Microlight Flight LogI spent a little time designing a flight log sheet for my NPPL microlight flights. Although there are commercially available flight log pads, I find them to be a little over the top for the kind of microlight flying many people do. This version has a reduced amount of information, and is perhaps more suited to the restricted space available to microlight pilots. If anyone is unsure what some of my marking mean, it goes like this:

  • PILOT/POB : Pilot name, and number of Persons On Board
  • A/C : Aircraft callsign and type
  • DATE : Obvious!
  • ROUTE : Total route
  • TOT DIST : Total Distance Flown (including return trip if part of the log)
  • TOT BLOCK : Total block time – from initial engine start to engine stop
  • FUEL : Total Fuel Carried (must cater for Total Block time plus at least 30 minutes more)
  • RWY, TAXI, QFE/QNH : Standard movement and pressure information at departure airfield
  • W/V/T 2000′ & 4000′ : Wind Direction. Velocity, and Temperature at 2000 and 5000 feet (from Met Office Form 214)
  • ALT : Cruise Altitude
  • MSA : Minimum Safe Altitude
  • TAS : Total Air Speed
  • TRK : Track Required True
  • G/S : Ground Speed
  • DIST : Leg Distance
  • Start Fixes : Prominent visual references – Gross error checks.
  • o/head : Overhead departure time
  • HDG ºM : Heading Magnetic (including any variation and deviation)
  • TIME + : Estimated time for leg
  • ETA : Estimated Time of Arrival
  • ATA : Actual Time of Arrival

Read More…

Mission NPPL – 1st Cross Country Flight Completed

Another mission in the Ikarus C42 completed

Just an update on the Microlight flying front. For those who are reading this (does anybody?!) and don’t already know, since last year I’ve been training to get my pilot’s license – albeit the NPPL (a slightly more restricted version in terms of aircraft weight, but then I can’t afford to fly “real” aircraft on a regular basis). Last week, I managed to do my first qualifying solo cross country for my NPPL license. Quite a warm day, so I knew it was going to be a challenge for me, so I didn’t fly until the afternoon.

Once I had checked the NOTAMs, METARs and TAFs, I printed out the Met Office 214 and 215 charts and headed off down to the field to finish off calculating the wind/drift and fuel calcs, and inspect the trusty steed for flyability.

The plane (my old instructor, Ben, used to hate me calling an aircraft a plane) had recently been serviced, so was running sweet as a nut. Apart from almost flying into a buzzard on the way out to Shobdon, the trip was uneventful (the best kind).

Again, many thanks to Steve Wilkes of hadair.co.uk for letting me loose in his lovely Ikarus C42, and to Les for the constant encouragement!