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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September 13, 2012

NFlightcam Wants to Record Your First Solo

nflightcam.jpgNFlightcam has launched an interesting campaign called the Solo Hall of Fame. It is their goal to help students share the accomplishment of their solo flight by documenting the experience with an in-cokpit video of the achievement. The great thing about this program is they will send you a free Nflightcam+ and suction cup mount for you to use on the day of your solo.

Once you come down from the cloud none that is soloing, you simply send them the video camera back and a week later they send you a link to a professional edited video of your flight for you to share with the world. I absolutely love this program and applaud them for giving students this opportunity. With a shrinking pilot population we all have a bigger burden to inspire others to fly and here is a company that at no cost to pilots is giving students a great means to inspire others and to celebrate their own achievement.

That being said would you have wanted a camera in the airplane for your first flight? I seem to remember bouncing with excitement and maybe even talking words of encouragement & celebration to myself on downwind leg of my first solo. Maybe those are private moments that should live on in my own memory only. But, I think instead I would have enjoyed having that video for my own personal collection and to share with others.

Check out the video below of Emily Carter on her first solo flight. She is the wife of NFlightcam's founder Patrick Carter and author behind The Pilot's Wife blog. Any pilot who has soloed will see a bit of themselves in this video. At the beginning there is that slight apprehension about stepping of the ledge and agreeing to let your instructor out of the plane. We all have the confidence needed, but it takes a moment for it to manifest itself when we were asked if we wished to solo, or atleast that is how I recall it from my experience. My favorite part of this video is the smirk at the end of the video (see the 3:32 mark in the film) which captures in visual format the sheer joy of flying and the thrill of an amazing achievement.

I think we all have the photo of us standing next to the plane or holding a slice of t-shirt post solo, but I would trade any of those for video or a picture of my version of that smirk when I successfully completed my first solo flight.

Do you know of a student that is close to soloing? If so make them aware of the Solo Hall of Fame program. NFlightcam is a small camera that records HD video, plus audio from the intercom; it is unobtrusive and self-contained, weighing a mere 5 ounces and has limitless mounting options for both inside and outside the aircraft. The Solo Cam kit includes an easy-to-use suction cup mount that works on any smooth flat surface inside the cockpit.


Posted at 6:55 AM | Post Category: Aviation Products | Comments (2) | Save & Share This Story

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.

October 7, 2010

VFR Sectional Chart: My Love Hate Relationship

skysectionals.jpgAs a cost cutting measure I have forgone my time in the G1000 and been flying the steam gauges as of late. Several of my flights were even without the luxuries of any GPS (oh mercy me). Whether you call it cheap, old school, or more authentic flying does not matter. What matters is I have enjoyed these recent flights without all the bells and whistles and spending more time with my head out the window looking for landmarks (don't worry G1000 I will return to you soon enough).

One of the things I have rediscovered is my love-hate relationship with the VFR sectional chart. Often when flying in the G1000 enabled Cessna my sectional chart plays a supporting role which finds it left folded in my flight bag. Recently however, I have been pulling out and referencing the sectional chart on a more regular basis. I forgot how much I enjoy the sectional. Preflight, I can spend hours looking at sectionals and dreaming of all the cool places to fly, choosing routes and spots to fly over, plus I like the smell of sectionals even more than a magic marker.

On the other hand inflight, I feel like I need to have trained under an origami ninja to fold the charts into a useful shape that allows me to fly safely without being distracted by this cloud of a five foot by four foot map covering my windshield. How often have you asked your co pilot to take the plane while you wrestle with an uncooperative sectional? Happens to me too often.

I guess I was not the only pilot frustrated with sectionals, enter Eric Boles and SkySectionals. SkySectionals are downloadable, print on demand sectionals (also available for TACs & Enroute charts) broken into letter-sized panels meant to a more manageable chart solution. Eric was kind enough to share with me a sample of his product for a recent flight in Northern Wisconsin.

Here are the pros and cons of SkySectionals:
Pros:


  • I liked being able to make notes on the printouts without worrying about using a pencil, erasable highlighter or destroying a sectional.

  • I was flying a short cross country so I was able to print just the panels I intended to use (packed a few extra neighboring panels to be safe)

  • It was convenient to download on demand and print prior to flight. I have at times intended to buy a sectional at the airport only to have them be out of stock.


Cons:

  • I can only imagine how much ink I am burning through printing these off (Not much good in black and white)

  • The flight I was on was a short cross country but due to the location of the airports in relationship to breaks on the page required me to flip between four different panels which was unwieldy causing it to be as inefficient if not more inefficient than pulling out my chart.

All in all I think it is a creative solution and for the uber-organized it is probable a gift from above. I think for my needs I will likely stick with the standard sectional, something about the smell of them I just can't live without.

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.

July 22, 2010

Aviation Products for the Whole Family

airplane_onesies.jpgIn June my life changed considerably with the birth of my twins, Peter and Sarah. Over the past month, despite sleepless days and nights, these new additions have brought endless amounts of joy to my wife and me.

One thing my wife and I have learned thus far about parenting infant twins is that we are lucky if in a given day we can accomplish one non-care based chore or project. As a result, my time to fly, read about flying, blog or twitter has been drastically curtailed as of late. Though with each week that passes and as our parenting confidence and experience grows, I find myself realizing I am getting closer and closer to carving out enough time to get out to Palwaukee to go flying.

In the meantime I am enjoying merging my newest joys, Peter and Sarah, with my joy for aviation. I have recently become a big fan of Etsy, a site that connects sellers of custom crafts with buyers globally. I searched Etsy for "Airplane Products" and then filtered by products for "Airplane Products for Children" and have found tons of neat products for my kids and for gifts for friends of ours. Some of my favorite products thus far have been Airplane Onesie in Green - $12.99 (as seen on Sarah in the photo above - left), Personalized Airplane Onesie - $17.99 (as seen on Peter in the photo above - right) and M'liss Lil Airplanes Burpy - $4.95.

Speaking of aviation products and gifts for kids I have to say it is interesting to note that in three instances we have been blessed to be given gifts from friends or family where the gift for my son featured an airplane and for my daughter featured a flower or some other "more girly" design. I guess that is why sites like "Girls with wings" as a resource to let girls know they to can be pilots. Luckily Sarah has a father that will be sure to share aviation with her equally as I do with Peter.


Posted at 8:13 PM | Post Category: Aviation Products, Kids | Comments (4) | Save & Share This Story

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.

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.

October 5, 2008

Flying with an E6B on My Wrist

aviationtoys.jpgI celebrated my birthday a few weeks ago. I was blessed to receive a wonderful gift from my lovely Wife. She gave me a Torgoen T06 Pilot Watch. The watch includes an additional hand to track Zulu time and also comes with an E6B Flight Computer.

I have to admit it has been years since I picked up a traditional E6B flight calculator. I do most of my flight calculations with the Sporty's Electronic E6B Flight Computer. But on many flights I forget to pull it out of my flight bag before storing it in the backseat. So I have a feeling having an E6B on my wrist will come in handy. The watch also gives me a great excuse to relearn how to use the traditional E6B and to become familiar with doing calculations or adjusting calculations on the watch while in the cockpit.

My Grandmother, a frequent MyFlightBlog reader, was generous and sent me a check for my birthday. I used that to order the Amod AGL3080 GPS Data Logger. Peter over at FlyinginChicago recently recommended it to me after he took it on a flight and used it to capture the flight track and then add it to a map after the flight. It can also be used to geotag photos which should be fun. I am looking forward to taking this along on my next flight and sharing my route here on MyFlightBlog.