2011 Aviation Goals

It’s the end of the year again and time to lay out what I hope to get done next year. It’s hard to imagine but last year was an even worse year for flying than 2009, so I really hope to do better in 2011. We’ll see.

  • Fly more freakin’ hours! – will be hard not to unless I give up completely
  • Take some great video – can’t promise great but if I fly, I will film
  • Get and stay current in everything, VFR day/night, IFR, low wing/high wing, complex – harder that it seems
  • Go on some interesting cross countries – looking at you Big Bear and Sedona
  • Make at least one Angel Flight mission as Command Pilot – my natural shyness and hesitation for new things probably makes this unlikely
  • Get started on one major kit on the plane build – wings or fuselage, time and money will dictate this
  • Give some first flights, one person I know has been waiting 5 years for me to take her up
  • Win the AOPA Sweepstakes plane – out of my hands

Alright, that seems like enough. For once, no new ratings or checkouts. Wishing all my readers a safe 2011.

Video Camera Experimentation

I recently bought a Go Pro HD camera with which to take in-flight footage but before taking it up in the air I figured I’d try various options on the ground: the Go Pro doesn’t have a screen so you don’t know what you took until you get home and look.

The camera can shoot a variety of resolutions. In 1080p mode it shoots at 30fps with a 127 degree wide angle or in 720p mode you can choose a whopping 170 degree angle of viewing. There are other modes for 60fps slow-mo capture or a space saving WVGA. So I spent some time sitting in a 172 last evening playing with different mount positions and angles.

I think what I’d really like is a from the back looking over the seats but I couldn’t get that with the suction mount I had. So for now I might just go for the front view until I can find a better position.

No iPad For Me, Thanks

I used to be a huge Apple fanboy but over the last couple of years I think Steve Jobs has lost the plot somewhat and I decided I didn’t want to give him any more of my money, no matter how good his products might be. I terminated my iPhone contract early and moved to Android.

I’ve messed with the iPad in the store and really can’t find any reason to own one, there are many things I don’t like about the design but for the money it just doesn’t do enough over and above my Droid Incredible. But as a pilot one can’t help but be interested, no other platform has the wealth of aviation-related tools available and the big hitters like Fore Flight sure do look gorgeous. So I’m sorely tempted just for this purpose but I’m balking, and not just because of the $650+ it would cost.

Part of my problem with Apple Steve is that he decides what is allowed on his devices and that changes based on a whim (or more often media pressure). So right now people are in the air using their iPad as their primary navigation device (yeah we all know that isn’t right but don’t tell me people aren’t doing it), there’s a glitch, GPS failure, who knows what and the plane crashes. Evening news: iPad causes plane crash. Next day, Steve deletes all the aviation planning and map apps from the Store, and therefore your machine. And there ain’t a damn thing you will be able to do.

And this isn’t fantasy, there absolutely will be a crash at some point that the pilot, or their estate, blames on the iPad and no matter how much we as pilots will know that the device was no cause, Apple will notice and take action.

And then I’ll own a $650 brick.

Build My Own Plane?

I’m sure Mike didn’t intend this harmless tweet to occupy my thoughts but for the last week or so, it has.

I’ve long thought it would be very cool to build my own plane, I’m generally useless with my hands so have dismissed it (especially after reading the logs of some Van’s RV builders) but the STOL 750 from Zenith looks real simple to build, and in the aviation scale of things, fairly inexpensive.

I figure it would take us 2 years or more to complete (unless I can get a job that has me living at home during the week) and I have no idea how I’d finance the panel or the engine at this point, though I am sure at that stage of the process nothing would stop me!

The 750 is a Light Sport Plane and therefore doesn’t require a valid FAA medical to fly it. Sport pilots aren’t allowed to fly at night or in IFR but as an IFR-rated Private pilot I would be allowed to fly it in those conditions if the manufacturer’s operating conditions allow it. I’ve no idea if they do right now, though they do have an IFR-certifiable kit plane in the 650 so maybe it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. I’m not sure if I’d want to fly IFR in this type of plane (too light, too slow), but night flight would definitely be desirable.

What about that inexpensive part? You can buy the complete kit (which for some reason isn’t complete, you need a finishing kit too) for $14.5k which won’t include the engine, the pointy thing at the front or the instrument panel. The good thing is that you can buy it in sub-kits enabling you to “pay as you go”. This adds to the cost but does at least soften the blow, though if I had somewhere to store it I’d be tempted to drive to Mexico, MO and get the whole thing at once.

The really cool thing is that you can “try before you buy” by purchasing the rudder kit for $400. They say that if you can successfully complete the rudder then you are very likely able to build the whole thing. So I’m tempted to get that and see what I think – could I really build my own plane? Looking at the regulations, it almost looks like building it is the easy part but I’m sure once you have an airframe built there’s little chance a little FAA paperwork is going to stop you.

For now I’ve ordered the introductory materials from Zenith and this DVD on metalworking 101 which demonstrates the rudder assembly so I can see exactly what I’d be getting into. Once I’ve looked at these things, we’ll have another think.

Ready to Copy! Deep Breath And….

I was at the airport tonight watching the traffic go around, listening to the radio, and it struck me (not for the first time) that most pilots like to read back their instrument clearance in one breath.

Cessna 1234 cleared to Brown Field after take off left turn 270 radar vectors Mission Bay VOR direct 3000 feet expect 400 feet 10 minutes after 119.6 and squawk is 5244

You literally hear the poor guy collapse at the end, gasping for breath. I know I am often guilty of this and actively try to pause after the route or altitudes part. I wonder why it is that we do this, and how it is that we never hear Clearance give us the clearance in this fashion – do they get special training?

NAF El Centro Air Show Videos Part 1

Some videos from the air show.

First, a walk around the static displays:

Next, the C-17 aerial demonstration

Finally for this post a combination clip of a B-1 Lancer bomber flyby and the F/A-18 show

I think there will be a couple more next week, including the Blue Angels show, and then I am done.

NAF El Centro Air Show

Last weekend was the 2009 Air Show at the NAF El Centro base in, guess where, El Centro, California. Weather was fantastic as usual and lots of interesting things to see. The main event is always the first Blue Angels exhibition of the year (they train in El Centro all winter) but I very much enjoyed the C-17 demo and the B-1 bomber flyover. Something new this year was the “inaugural” acrobatic air race that they plan to have at many more air shows this year: two Pitts planes flew side by side, the winner being the first one to complete all 9 acrobatic maneuvers. Quite exciting and a very close finish.

I hope to have some video from the event online during the week but until then you can see some pictures at my Flickr Air Show set.

Any Tips for Video in the Plane?

I’m finally ready to take some video from the cockpit when I fly but wondered if anyone had any tips for what makes an enjoyable video, and what makes a really dull one. I’m also curious about whether you prefer to see the view right over the prop, or maybe you prefer the camera looking to the side of the nose ?

I’m going to mount my Aiptek GVS HD camera on the passenger side front glass, shoot at 720p and feed the COM into the camera so we have ATC chatter. The camera is pretty no frills but has done a really good job so far in my on the ground tests. But once it’s attached to the window I don’t plan to move it so no panning of the sky, or close up of what a great job I’m doing on the localiser backcourse approach 🙂

Anyway, any and all comments appreciated.

Gadget Overload

I’ve been looking at Foreflight Checklist as a possible addition to the virtual flight bag; as someone who flies several different types of plane it could have some value over buying several written checklists. But the problem is: where to put it?

There is no way I could go through the checklist whilst holding the iPhone so it needs to be mounted somewhere (much like the pilot in this video: StudentPilotJournal.com). I’ve also been looking at places to put my videocam to do make some better quality videos (the Flip Ultra doesn’t quite cut it, and has no audio in). I have the sticky pod mount that Student Pilot mentions but I also have another that has a much smaller footprint.

Then there is my Anywhere Travel Companion providing situational awareness on it’s moving map. It is usually mounted on the yolk except when I have an instrument chart there. Then it needs to go…. well, it could be mounted on the window too? They’ve recently released Pocket Plates which could make that problem go away, though it’s a pretty expensive way to do it (especially here in VFR SoCal).

I’m in danger of not being able to see out the window with all these gadgets in the way, this is obviously not a good thing. I wish I could get everything on one device.