April 3, 2013

The Classic Flight Bag Adds a Touch of Class to the Cockpit

classicflightbag.jpgPaul Lemley, a fellow pilot, was dissatisfied with the quality of flight bags available on the market. At first he settled for what was available. Then finally decided he would solve the problem and build his vision of the perfect flight bag. In homage to the Pan Am era of aviation where aviation was a luxury and passengers and pilots were well-dressed he has created the Classic Flight Bag. The hand stitched bag is made with genuine Crazy Horse leather and has a very sturdy feel. The inside is cotton fabric lined and has what I would deem an appropriate amount of pockets.

I admit to having used a wide variety of bags in my nine years as a pilot, never being fully satisfied I had the right bag. I went from one extreme a duffel bag sized flight bag that could carry anything and everything I might need in the cockpit down to cramming all my needs into a headset bag. With technology taking over I think most people can fit there equipment into something between those two extremes.

This weekend I took the Classic Flight Bag for a test flight. I loaded the following into the bag with ease:

  • Zulu Lightspeed Headset
  • iPad
  • FlyingEyes Sunglasses
  • Canon T2i Digital Camera
  • Logbook
  • Notepad and pens

The downfall of most flightbags is that they provide too many pockets and compartments that I can never find what I am looking for easily. Paul suggest pilots with these types of bags "throw out that over pocketed trapper keeper and take pride in what you pack your travel essentials in". The only downside I could find in the classic flight bag was that it has three buckles, which is fashionable but makes getting in an out of the bag a little time consuming. This was not a design flaw so much as Paul ensuring he developed something beautiful "It's an attempt at highlighting style over function and craftsmanship over mass production."

Sounds like a reasonable tradeoff for someone like me who flies for recreation and is not in an out of the bag all day long seven days a week. The bag worked for my purposes and surely looked nicer than my previous bag. Sadly, I don't think I fly frequently enough to justify using this bag solely for flying. Instead I think I might use this bag for commuting to work knowing that each time I look at it I will evoke a feeling of that Pan Am era of travel and flying.

The Classic Flight Bag is available online and retails at $495 but is currently on sale for $395 and ships for free.


Posted at 7:15 AM | Post Category: Aviation Product Review | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

November 29, 2012

Flying Eyes Review: Protected Eyes and Comfortable Ears

flying_eyes_masthead.jpg
flying_eyes_todd3.jpgI recently had the opportunity to test a new take on aviation sunglasses. Flying Eyes have created a pair of sunglasses made specifically for pilots that solve the problems of the temple bar of the sunglasses breaking the seal of ANR headset and the pain associated with that bar. The Flying Eyes can be worn in two different states that I am calling "cockpit mode" and "gravity-enforced" mode.

When in cockpit mode, you simply replace the temples with the adjustable webbing that can be tightened for a perfect fit, securing the sunglasses in place. The webbing passes seamlessly under the seal of your headset for a comfortable feel. Creator Dean Siracusa pointed out that, "If you're paying upwards of $1,000 for quality headsets, don't you want to ensure that you're getting the best performance out of them?" So why wear sunglasses the cause noise leaks? Although comfortable, in this state the sunglasses might earn you some odd looks when you are among your ground-dwelling friends. To combat this, simply replace the webbing with standard temples when you leave the airport, and you have an everyday pair of sunglasses.

The lenses themselves are perfect for the cockpit. They are non-polarized lenses with UV400 sun protection and medium lense density that protect your eyes and ensure you can use your in-cockpit gadgets like the iPad and Glass panels with ease.

Classify this product in the "why didn't I think of this?" category. After many hours in the cockpit and enduring the discomfort from wearing sunglasses with thick temples under a headset, Dean Siracusa, a pilot for 14 years, decided he might as well create a solution. Three years later he has a patent pending and has been selling his Flying Eyes since September.

My only complaint was the first few times you make the transition the clips are very difficult to release. However, after a few transitions they work smoothly.

I think Dean has a great thing going and his Flying Eyes now have a permanent spot in my flightbag.


Posted at 6:10 AM | Post Category: Aviation Product Review | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

October 5, 2012

CloudAhoy Review: A Flight Data Recorder in your Pocket

datalogger.jpgOn my most recent cross country flight I tested out the CloudAhoy app to track and store flight data including route of flight, altitude and speed for the entire flight.

CloudAhoy is a free app for the iPhone and iPad that lets you keep a visual record of each flight. For whatever reason I have always enjoyed the idea of documenting flights. The process of tracking and creating a visual representation of a flight used to be much more intense, so much so that I think few people did it. For me it required bringing along a GPS Data Logger then somewhat manually merging that data with a Google Earth to create a map of my flight including speed and altitude information (see such a flight). The process was kind of messy and time consuming.

I was pleasantly surprised with how well CloudAhoy accomplished this task. Before my last cross country I downloaded the app and signed up for a free account. Prior to take off I signed into the app and then entered the aircraft tail Number, my name as the pilot and clicked "Start". Simple as that. When I landed in St. Louis and came to a complete stop it automatically stopped, which is a nice feature as I would never remember to stop it on my own.

After a flight you can debrief on an iPad or on the CloudAhoy website. From there you can see your flight track from various views. Overhead gives a good view of the path of flight, from the side or at an angle provides great information on altitude. But, the most fun view is "Cockpit" view where it shows you what the view would look like based on a Google Earth image. You can view my public debrief of this flight here. I saved out a flash video where you can view my takeoff from Chicago Executive from Cockpit View. I should note I manually added in the LiveATC communications from that flight.

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cloudahoy_inset.jpgI reached out to Chuck Shavit, creator of the app to learn more about what his goals were for this app. Chuck has been a certificated pilot for more than five years and holds and instrument rating and is working on a commercial license. He basically developed the prototype for this app while he was pursuing his Instrument Rating as a way to debrief after each training lesson. In fact I think that is one of the most valuable features of this tool is to be able to merge data from your actual Instrument Approach with the published approach to see how you did (as shown to the right). I believe this product could be extremely beneficial for private pilot students too to track their cross countries and to track maneuvers like turns around a point and then review with their instructor. Check out this video of an ILS Approach via Cockpit view.

Chuck mentions he tracks ever flight but does not necessarily with the intention to debrief each flight. He mentions that you never know when that flight might occur that you would wish you had this data. For him it was a year ago on an IFR flight in an Arrow with no auto pilot. He lost electric power and went NORDO while in Class B over Boston and continued to his destination. He debriefed after the flight and looked at how he handled the plan while working to restore power. He mentioned it was a reminder why pilots are taught to Aviate first.

I expected this app to be a battery hog, but it was not. It is also important to point out you can use this app in conjunction with other apps like ForeFlight, it just continues to run in the background then stops tracking when you land.

I had video from my landing at my destination from this flight. Below I have merged a small snippet of the CloudAhoy Cockpit view with actual video from an iPhone of that landing.. I was not able to sync them up perfectly or add in LiveATC but you will get the picture. This sure makes for a fun way to keep enhance a memory from a flight.

Download CloudAhoy and give it a try on your next flight!

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December 5, 2011

Claire Bear Flies to Oshkosh

cbfto.jpgI am constantly looking for ways to share my love for aviation with my kids. We started by making planespotting a daily activity whenever we are outside. Then I added a few trips to the airport to sit in a few cockpits and spotting some takeoffs and even grading a few landings. However, most exciting as of late is their interest in books. They are getting to the stage where they enjoy sitting in my lap to read a book or even to sitting on their own and flipping pages and pointing at neat images (what is neater than an airplane?).

A new favorite in our household is the fourth installment of illustrated books featuring Claire Bear, a pink-clad aerobatic performer and mentor for aspiring young pilots. Claire Bear Flies to Oshkosh follows Claire Bear on one of the greatest rights of passage in aviation a flight to AirVenture. The book is beautifully illustrated by Linda Terentiak who does an excellent job bringing AirVenture to life with many familiar sights for those who have attended the annual airshow. The book is my second in a now growing collection of childrens books oriented around Oshkosh sitting on our bookshelf next to Treat Williams and Robert Neubecker's Airshow!

Author and Pilot Sue Hughes is founder of Powder Puff Pilot, a great online resource for pilot accessories and gear oriented towards women. Hughes is successfully inspiring the next generation of aviators through her series of books and products on her website. Girls with Wings, is another great resource for aviation products for girls. Check out my Aviation Products for the Whole Family post to find more products geared towards young aviators in the making.

December 2, 2010

Rod Machado's Aviation Books Available on iPhone and iPad

RodMachado-IFR_Pilots_Handbook.jpgLast month Rod Machado released his entire series of aviation handbooks as custom iPad and iPhone applications. Anyone who has read one of Rod's books knows that a side benefit of the knowledge gleaned from his books is the definition those books can provide to your biceps. Out of curiosity, I weighed his Rod Machado's Private Pilot Handbook, and it came in at 5.5lbs, conversely my iPhone weighs just 4.8 ounces and goes almost everywhere I go.

I am just getting started working towards my instrument rating and had been thinking of buying Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook ($64.95) so I was intrigued when I learned the books were available as iPhone apps ($49.99). Many people can't think of reading a book on something as small as an iPhone but I have enjoyed several books through its Amazon Kindle app. I was curious how Rod's books would work as an app rather than an e-Book through Amazon or other provider.

I am happy to report that I have enjoyed the experience. I am only a few chapters into the book but that is several chapters further than I would be if I had purchased the hard copy. I read one chapter while on a commercial flight to visit family over Thanksgiving. I was sitting at 35,000 feet holding a sleeping baby in one arm and my iPhone with the Rod Machado's Instrument Pilot's Handbook app in the other hand. With the hard copy I would never have dreamed of schlepping along a 4 pound book.

Another benefit beyond the being able to take the book anywhere is the ability to receive updates. According to Rod's website, users will receive book updates any time he makes changes, with the frequency of changes to regulations and technology this is a great advantage to hard copy books. Traditional eBooks often require you to click on illustration to enlarge them and often don't scale well. However, since his books are stand-alone apps the standard finger spreading scaling works making the process of looking at the thousands of custom illustrations included in the book a cinch.

My main request is for Machado and team to update the app to allow highlighted text and to save annotations, functionality that is available for eBooks through Kindle. To make up for this missing functionality, I have resorted to making bookmarks of topics I would have highlighted, then giving them long bookmark titles to include my note or comment.

The knowledge that is required for the Private Pilot Certificate or Instrument Rating can be monotonous. Rod's use of humor and great illustrations has helped to keep me engaged while helping me to better understand the subject matter as well. The flexibility to take the book anywhere I go is an added bonus.

If you are looking to pursue flight training or a new rating and use either the iPhone or the larger iPad I highly recommend you check out his collection of apps.

Update to original post: I heard from Rod Machado and he has confirmed that highlighting functionality is being added to the next version of the app. Additionally, they are looking into video and animation inclusions for future enhancements. Glad to hear he has plans to continue to improve this already great product.

November 7, 2010

Mastering VFR Communications

vfr_communications.jpgIt is odd but often mastering radio communications is more intimidating to student pilots then learning the basics of airmanship. Student pilots have been dreaming of flight for years so they are excited to put their hands on the yoke and begin flight training. It is learning to master VFR communications that can often take some time and lead to trepidation in flying to unfamiliar airspace.

I began my training at a Class D facility but moved to a small uncontrolled airport when my flight school closed just a month into training. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I found myself very comfortable with both environments. I heard from other students who were starting off at an uncontrolled airport about how nervous they would get prior to solo flights to Class D Airports. Most pilots will have a bias for airspace they are most comfortable and often that bias is more about the communication that the rules and formalities of the airspace.

vfr_screenshot.jpgSporty's VFR Communications DVD, part of the What You Should Know Series, attempts to address this subject. This is a recently updated DVD with new footage, content and visuals. It is hosted by frequent Sporty's host Rob Reider. The course takes just over an hour and covers the basics and tips of communicating to Air Traffic Control, non-towered fields and emergency situations. It includes scenario based training for departure and arrival at Class B, C and D airspace. It briefly touches on flight following and obtaining weather enroute as well.

The course briefly covers "non-standard communications that you'll hear in the real world". I expected this to cover a variety of scenarios where communication breaks down or peculiar communications and situations. Unfortunately, it was a brief two minute segment that I wish they had expanded upon.

Personally, I have found the most important aspect to becoming comfortable with VFR Communications is learning to anticipate radio calls. Anticipating how the tower, or ATC will respond to your radio calls help you to prepare for their response so you can respond swiftly and appropriately. Listening to Live ATC for a Class D airspace is another great learning tool. I often listen to the communications for Lunken Field, the Class D airport I started my training at.

This is a great video for a student pilot who is looking to get comfortable with VFR Communications. Although, it was also a nice refresher and did provide some tips to help polish my communications, the content may be too basic for some pilots. For pilots participating in the FAA Wings Pilot Proficiency Program this course is accepted for training credits. I admit to sometimes being biased to the Sporty's videos. I learned to fly a short hop away from Sporty's in Cincinnati and love that the airports used in their videos are ones I am familiar with.

Note of Disclosure: Sporty's provided me with this video to review.

September 13, 2010

Airshow! A Children's Book for Young Aviators

airshow_childrens_book.jpgAirshow season is winding down, but if you have kids in the house you can still enjoy the excitement of an airshow with the new illustrated children's book from Treat Williams and Robert Neubecker, Airshow!

Treat Williams is an actor best known for his role in "Hair" and most recently in the television series "Everwood", though his real passion is aviation. Williams soloed when he was 17 and has been a pilot for more than 30 years. He met illustrator Robert Neubecker at a release party for "Wow City" where he learned that Neubecker was an aviation enthusiast. They decided they needed to work on a project to share their passion for aviation with kids.

I had the opportunity to check out the book and meet the author and illustrator when they flew into the Chicago Area in Williams' Piper Navajo to promote the book prior to the Chicago Air & Water Show. Their mutual passion for aviation was immediately noticeable as we toured the plane inside and out while sharing a few aviation tales. While touring the cockpit I noticed that the instrument panel looked liked the inside panel of the book. Neubecker confirmed it was inspired by that very cockpit.

Treat_williams_robert_neubecker.jpgNeubecker also drew much of the inspiration for the artwork from a trip to AirVenture a few summers ago. He and Williams attended the show together to find inspiration and for those who have attended Oshkosh, they will find a strong resemblance between some of the illustrations and their memories of touring the tarmac at Wittman Regional Airport.

The story follows a brother and sister, Gill and Ellie, (named after Williams' children) as they join their pilot father and his co-pilot friend for their first fly-in to an airshow.

As a new father, I am excited about having a book that will allow me to share my love for aviation with my children. The book includes illustrations of some of my favorite aircraft (B-17 Flying Fortress, P-51 Mustang, DC-3, Piper Cub and many more) and also includes some great aviation radio call dialogue which will be fun to read to my kids.

Williams and Neubecker succeed in creating a book that would share their passion for aviation with kids for years to come.

June 14, 2009

New G1000 DVD Training Course Released from Sporty's

garmin_g1000_checkout.jpgSporty's recently released Garmin G1000 Checkout ($89.95) a 2-Disc set dedicated to helping pilots transition from flying traditional steam gauges to flying the Garmin based Glass Cockpit. Having recently reviewed four other G1000 products I was interested to see how this latest entry into the G1000 training market would fare.

Included in the package is a DVD training video and a copy of the PC Software Simulator. The DVD is hosted by Airshow Announcer and frequent Sporty's Training DVD host Rob Reider. If you have used other Sporty's DVD products this course will feel familiar right from the start. I preferred this product over the previously reviewed Sporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits which split its time between the G1000 and the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. The Garmin G1000 Checkout provided some great scenario-based training as you fly along on two VFR flights and one IFR cross-country flight.

I enjoyed that this product came bundled with the PC Software Simulator. As expected after watching the video I wanted to jump in the cockpit but I did the next best thing and used the G1000 Simulator to try some of the steps shown in the video. Repetition is one key to learning and retaining lessons and tips learned from the DVD.

I strongly recommend this product as it is a great resource for pilots planning to fly the glass cockpit. However, the one shortfall of all DVDs is they are limited in what they can cover, and follow a pre-determined path. I suggest complimenting this DVD training course with Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook which will give you an in-depth resource that will help you to continue to learn while also leveraging your new G1000 simulator.

There is still some debate as to whether or not glass cockpits make flying safer. Either way, they sure are fun to fly. So use these DVDs to learn how to enhance your flying experience.

March 24, 2009

Four Great Products for Glass Cockpit Pilots

g1000_poster.jpgAll of my 2009 flight experiences have been in the G1000 enabled Cessna 172SP. I took a few introductory flights with an instructor then most recently flew a short solo cross country to continue to build both confidence and proficiency in the Glass Cockpit.

I have had the privilege of checking out several products that have been designed to help pilots transition into the glass cockpit and wanted to share my reviews with you.

Garmin G1000 Cockpit Poster Sporty's offers a free Garmin G1000 Cockpit Poster with an order over $4.50. If you are already planning on placing an order with Sporty's add this to our shopping cart before checking out. I found it to be a valuable reference while trying to memorize the location of the G1000 knobs and keys. I kept it laid out on a table while referencing many of the materials listed below.

g1000_maxtrescott_handbook.jpgMax Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook
I know several pilots that have transitioned into the glass cockpit and nearly all of them used and highly recommended Max Trescott's line of products. Max is a Master CFI and Master Ground Instructor that was named the 2008 National CFI of the Year. He did an excellent job of cataloging his knowledge on the G1000 in the Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook. I found it to be a quick and easy read that provided many valuable tips for getting the most out of the G1000. Many of the tips Max provided where either overlooked by my CFI in my introductory flights and things I am glad I learned before bad habits formed. I think the G1000 Glass Cockpit is a must own manual for G1000 pilots. Read it once then keep it on your bookshelf or in your flightbag for future reference. The book can be purchased on Max Trescott's website for $34.95.



g1000_maxtrescott_cdrom.jpgMax Trescott's VFR+IFR Garmin G1000 CD-Rom Course
I also checked out the complimentary CD-Rom course that Max Trescott developed for G1000 pilots. Much of the content that is on the CD-Rom is duplicated from the book but presented with narration and interactive imagery. If you are on a limited training budget you might be able to get by with either the handbook or the CD-Rom. Choose which is most appropriate for the way you prefer to learn. Personally, I enjoy having both options in my arsenal. I liked that the The CD-Rom did a good job of showing all the softkeys and how they interact with the different screens of the PFD and MFD. As, I have not gone through Instrument training yet I have not checked out the IFR CD-Rom. Priced at $99.95 this is the most expensive of the products I checked out.



g1000_4.jpgSporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits
The Sporty's Air Facts: Flying Glass Cockpits video download is another great resource for the G1000 bound pilot. The advantage of the video is it shows the G1000 in action, not through screen captures and still images but through live motion video. You can see how the G1000 is likely to appear when you are behind the yoke. I liked the portability that allowed me to bring this along via my iPhone for viewing at my convenience. The one downside to a video compared to a manual or CD-Rom is it is harder to jump to a specific spot for reference purposes. It is a great product for getting an overview and introduction to the G1000 and the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra. The video can be downloaded directly from Sporty's for $9.95.

If you plan to fly the Glass Cockpit I highly recommend all of these great products. Safe flying!

February 8, 2009

Jeppesen VFR+GPS Charts and AOPA Flight Planner Review

AOPAFlightPlanner_image.jpgIn preparing for my last cross country flight I took advantage of some newer tools. I started my planning with the new online version of the AOPA Flight Planner powered by Jeppesen. I have used the software based version of the flight planner in the past and enjoyed checking out their web-based version. It was fairly intuitive and only took me a few minutes to build my desired route. I was able to add GPS waypoints and airports simply by clicking on the appropriate icons on the online chart. I also wished to add one custom waypoint for the Arlington Park racetrack which was easy enough to do with a right-click.

After you select your route if you have aircraft entered into the system it will generate a navlog with the appropriate speeds. As you get closer to flight time you can run weather reports for the route of flight and then the AOPA flightplanner updates your navlog with the appropriate speeds and headings accounting for the winds. If you plan on filing a flightplan you can do that too from the system. All routes your create can then be saved for future reference. If you are an AOPA member I highly recommend you check it out.

VFR+GPS-Chicago.jpgFor this flight I brought along my traditional sectionals but left them in the backseat. Instead the Jeppesen VFR+GPS Great Lakes (GL-3) Chart sat in my lap for most the flight. I first learned about these maps while at AirVenture this summer. Most of my flying takes place in northern Illinois and throughout Wisconsin which would require a few sectionals. With this chart I could fly from Champaign, IL to Cherryland Airport in Door County, WI with a single chart.

These new charts have ditched the greenish color we all are familiar with from our sectionals and instead is white allowing colors used for airspace, airways and airports to pop more. I feel they have made these charts easier to read. One major improvement was the very clear markings of ceilings and floors of airspace. These charts took into account that so many pilots are using GPS in flight and are designed with that type of flight in mind.

Many pilot shops are starting to stock them but if you can't find them at your local shop you can purchase one directly from Jeppesen. I now keep one in my flightbag for all flights.