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April 1, 2014

Opening Day: Planes and Baseball, Does it Get Any Better?

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I have been in a complete and utter rut recently, mostly because I feel a little overwhelmed with managing, work, school, family, and the things I want to do like talk about planes.  As the country song goes, “sounds like life to me”, and it is.

Nothing has really changed today, but honestly it is hard to not say something about Opening Day, and in particular a picture I just saw on Twitter.

After planes, baseball is my next love and one of my favorite things at a baseball game, or really any event are the flyovers.  Probably my most memorable I saw in person was a flight of F-16s at a BYU football game that seriously looked like they dipped into the stadium.  It was nuts.

As cool as that one was, I think the above picture would have been even more memorable in person.  It doesn’t hurt that it was at my favorite ballpark, The Ballpark in Arlington (I know they sold out to a sponsor, but it will always be the Ballpark to me).

I don’t really have much to add as the picture speaks for itself, but I will mention that the planes are from the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.

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February 27, 2014

Crew Resource Management: A Crew Save is a Good Save

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Flying is a part of my life is most everything that I do.  At the very least I think about flying during just about anything else that I am doing.

Growing up I always thought of flying as a solitary exercise.  Even if I had become an airline pilot with a plane full of people it just seemed like most of the work would be done alone.  Even as I went through training I thought I wanted to be on a plane with just me and the pilot.  I could not have been more wrong.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

The C-130H generally flies with a crew of two pilots, a navigator, engineer, and two loadmasters.

I ended up on the mighty C-130 Hercules with a crew makeup of up to 6 people on most missions, and honestly, that is one of the things I like most about my job.  I love the chance that I have to work with other people to accomplish things that could not be done otherwise.

Sure, technology is great, and it can do a lot, but there is really no replacement for a group of people working together to get things done.  I have already seen this numerous times in my short career.  There have been times where a crew member simply came up with a better idea, or easier way to do something, and other times they have literally saved my life.

When we go in for a check-ride one of the common phrases that the evaluator often uses is, “a crew save is a good save.”  What they mean is that even if the person being evaluated misses something they won’t be penalized if someone else on the crew catches it before there are any adverse affects.

I’ve always loved the message that sends.  The message that you are all there as a crew and that the actions of the crew as a whole are what will bring the final results.  While it is true that any individual can do things that lead to an unsafe result, there is almost always a chance that someone else on the crew can save them before any damage is done.

I am so grateful for the hundreds of different people I have flown with in my career already.  They have each provided me with insights and knowledge that could not have been developed in any other way.

Our crew with a special guest visitor.  Best crew I've ever flown with.

Our crew with a special guest visitor. Best crew I’ve ever flown with.

In particular I am grateful for the crew I flew with while in Afghanistan.  I learned more in the two months I had with that crew than in the rest of my flying time combined.  Our most experienced crew member was a loadmaster who taught all of us every chance he got, and I will forever be indebted to him for the lessons he taught me.

That is the other message that I want to share today.  Whether you just started flying, or have been flying for 50 years, you have worthwhile knowledge that should be shared with others.  As aviators we can never stop learning if we want to remain safe.  We must constantly be broadening our understanding of the wonder that is flight, and it is the duty of all who have gained experience to share it with others so that we all may stay safer.

Even if you are the only licensed pilot in a 172 with friends, educate them on the basics so that they are an active participant.  You never know when their eyes may spot something that saves everyone’s lives.

Never forget, “A crew save is a good save.”

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February 12, 2014

Boeing Phantom Eye Promoted to Experimental Status by US Air Force

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The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

The Phantom Eye could change the future of ISR forever.

I’m sure I sound like a broken record with how much I talk about Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) being one of the most exciting and interesting topics of discussion in aviation, but they are.  Right now the focus is really on their value as an ISR asset, and I think that is largely where the focus will stay for quite a while.  One of the most intriguing stories is the development of the Boeing Phantom Eye.

I have written about the Phantom Eye in the past and all of the incredible goals they have set.  It is a high altitude long endurance (HALE) airframe that is designed to cruise at 60,000 feet for anywhere from 7 to 10 days at a time.  Yes you read that right, over a week which is made possible by the liquid-hydrogen powered engines.

The platform has only performed six flight tests, but was just promoted from unproven to experimental status by the US Air Force 412th Operations Group.  That upgrade was based on the recommendation of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center.

This promotion allows the Phantom Eye development team to expand testing by flying to a nearby test range instead of strictly flying in the protected airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.  The team will now be able to really push the altitude and endurance limits that they are shooting for.

Military use is often the first thing people think of when they talk about UAVs, but there are so many other uses for a platform like this.  What other uses can you think of for the Phantom Eye, or other similar platforms?  Please share in the comments below.

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January 4, 2014

Becoming a Licensed Pilot This Year

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By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

By the end of the year I will have one of these with my name on it.

I know I say it all of the time, but I love planes and everything about them.  Most of you probably do too, and that is awesome.  I read about aviation all of the time, I write this blog, and I talk about it every chance I get, much to the dismay of the non-avgeeks I interact with.

Despite this passion, I have an admission to make, I don’t have my private pilot’s license.  I started it about six years ago, but the birth of my daughter and dozens of other excuses have since gotten in the way.  I currently have just over 22 hours in the C-172 and DA-20 aircraft which is roughly less than half of what I would need to finish.

However, the writings of others, namely Dan Pimentel and Brent Owens, has inspired me to commit to finishing my PPL this year.  I already shared Dan’s article about increasing the number of pilots on the FAA records to 1 million which is really where this all started for me.

Then last week Brent wrote about how if you really want to fly that you can find a way.  Pretty much all of us have things we could cut out of our lives that would allow us to spend more time/money on flying.  The reality is that if you want something bad enough, you will find a way, and after dreaming about being a licensed pilot for essentially my whole life I have decided now is as good of a time as any.

The reason that I am posting this is because I would greatly appreciate your support and encouragement as there are a few challenges in my way.  The difference is that I am trying to find ways to make it happen as opposed to just making the excuse and moving on.

The first challenge that I have is that I am in the middle of a Master’s degree program that I have to finish first.  I have to have it for professional reasons, and I am already financially invested so I can’t just set it aside.  There is no reason that I shouldn’t be able to finish it by the end of the year and still have time for the PPL though.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

I think I know what my goal for next year is going to be already.

The second challenge is one that I have written about before, and the one that prevents so many of us from finishing, or even starting.  I have to have the money.  I still haven’t figured this one out yet, but I am determined to beg, steal, borrow, and cheat to get it done.  Okay, I’m not going to steal or cheat, but I am begging you to support me through visiting this blog as well as any other suggestions you may have.  Brent has provided me with quite a few ideas in his great eBook The Pilot’s Guide to Flying on a Budget, but I am always open to new suggestions.

The last challenge is a wife who doesn’t think it is possible.  However, if I can find a way to help her see the possibility I know she will be supportive because she always has been with the adventures we have taken together.

I intend to post occasionally about my progress for anyone that may be interested.

Lastly, I am looking for people who are also willing to commit to this challenge of mine.  I have found that I am more successful when I have people with the same goal as me where we can help encourage each other.  If you already have your PPL then by all means pick a different flying goal and let’s support each other in that.

If you are interested in working together, please leave a comment about what your goal is and how I can help you reach it.  You can also contact me on Twitter or Facebook.  I am always willing to help in any way that I can.  Maybe we can create a community of people that are committed to helping each other get there, and not just talk about it.

Then by the end of this year we can all celebrate reaching our goals, and make new ones for the next year.  I look forward to hearing about your goals and dreams.

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January 2, 2014

Angel Flight Video by Radney Foster Featuring the C-130

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Like most avgeeks I am a sucker for a good airplane video.  While one of these videos is just a compilation of pictures, those pictures, along with the words to the song brought tears to my eyes.  Maybe it is my current position, but it just really hit home for me.  It truly is the most sacred work that we do on the C-130.

It is only four minutes long so please take a minute and watch it.  I actually found a couple of different versions people have made.  There are even more on YouTube.

You are gone, but never forgotten.


Angel Flight Video by Radney Foster Featuring the C-130

Huge props to Radney Foster for writing such a moving song.

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December 25, 2013

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 12 Airplane

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The Global Express has long been my favorite corporate jet.

The Global Express has long been my favorite corporate jet.

The last day has finally arrived, and like I said earlier, I have saved the best for last.  For the twelfth and last day of Avgeek Christmas, I strongly recommend you buy your favorite avgeek an airplane.

But it can’t just be any airplane.  If you really love them a lot then you should buy them a Bombardier Global 5000.  That’s right, for the incredibly reasonable price of only $30,500,000 the beautiful plane to the left can be yours.  I mean is there really any question here. Just buy it, and thank me later. (If anyone does buy this plane I expect a finder’s fee.)

Okay, so maybe a Global Express is not the right plane for everyone, or most people actually.  If however it is in your price range, please send me an email with your contact information, we need to become friends.  For the rest of us, there are still quite a few options believe it or not.

sd-1-minisport

The SD-1 minisport is one of many LSA’s that really opens up flying to more people.

One option if you are looking to buy a new plane at a comparatively reasonable price is a Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).  Not only are they cheaper to buy, the training is simpler, and you don’t even need a special medical certificate.  There are quite a few out there now, but one that I found that looks like a lot of fun is the SD-1 Minisport by Skycraft Airplanes.

This LSA cruises at 120 knots with a range of just under 600 miles.  The engine is so efficient that it burns only 1.8 gallons per hour at cruise, and has an overall operating cost of only $12/hr.  It even has a glass display in the cockpit with GPS and wings that can be removed to transport it in a trailer if you want to.  All of this can be yours for the reasonable price of $55,000 and only a $2,000 deposit.

In the event that price is still a little to high for you might I suggest something in the used aircraft category.  As always there are tons of options depending on what you are looking for.  Sites like Browse the Ramp and Aviation Classifieds will give you plenty of fun stuff to browse through if you have a free afternoon.  Here are a couple I found recently.

The Piper CUB is an iconic aircraft that any avgeek would love to fly.

The Piper CUB is an iconic aircraft that any avgeek would love to fly.

Again in the LSA category, I found this Piper Cub for sale at only $33,000.  The Cub is one of those planes that just about every avgeek can admire.  Even people who are diehard followers of a certain company will often have a soft spot in the heart for the Cub.  I don’t even really know what it is, but they are just a fun little plane that hearkens back to the early days of aviation.

The second one I found is an experimental tail-dragger that you may run across at your local airshow because it is also fully aerobatic.  This Pitts S1S is simply stunning and according to aerial demonstrator Lauren Richardson, “They are the best fun you can have with your clothes on. Trust me!”  That right there is a pretty ringing endorsement if you ask me, and all of that fun can be yours for the rock bottom price of only $31,500.  If you think about it, I bet most people spent more on their last car, and I don’t think any car could be this much fun at that price.

Pitts

The Pitts S1S is a fully aerobatic plane that will take you for a trip every time you start it up.

I for one was surprised to find such nicely maintained planes at prices that low, but there is still no way I could buy a plane even at that price as I am sure most of you couldn’t either.  But that’s okay, there are still a few more options that I had never even really considered until just a couple of weeks ago.

If you read my blog very often, and I hope you will, then you probably saw my post titled, “Becoming a Pilot at a Discount”.  The post was mostly just my thoughts on how we could make flying cheaper, but the comments were what truly inspired me.  One person in particular, Jeff, left a string of comments about how restoring an older aircraft is possible for just about anyone who is willing to do the work.

The best advice that was given over and over was to find a mentor who can help you pick the right plane and get you through the process.  Another great resource is your local EAA chapter who is devoted to helping with experimental aircraft in particular, but any budding aircraft enthusiast.

A couple of other sites that were mentioned for finding aircraft were Barnstormers.com and eBayMotors.com.  In just a few minutes of searching on those sites I found dozens of aircraft for less than $20,000 and many below $10,000.  Obviously, the cheaper they are, the more work that may be involved, but that sounds like part of the fun to me.

One of my recent excitements that I hope to carry through the rest of my life is the desire to spread aviation to more people who have the interest but just don’t know where to start, or don’t think it is even possible for them.  I know those people are out there, it is just a matter of getting them involved.

I know I started this post with a ridiculous option that most of us couldn’t afford with our lifetime earnings, which is still fun to dream about.  However, I hope that I have shown you in some small way that owning your own plane is a very real possibility.  If I haven’t, go read through the comments from the post that I mentioned and maybe the great people who commented there can get you just as excited as I am.

My Christmas Day is coming to a close here on the other side of the world, and it has been a fine day with some good friends around some awesome aircraft.  I hope that you are able to enjoy this day doing something you love with the people that you love, because that is what these holidays are all about, people.

So whether it is Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, or whatever holiday you may celebrate.  My best wishes to you and your family, and lots of wonderful aviation adventures in the new year.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

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Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 11 Random Aviation Accesories

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There are lots of aviation inspired items for your home out there.

There are lots of aviation inspired items for your home out there.

As I mentioned at the very beginning of all of this I’m not sure why my wife thinks I am hard to shop for.  As an avgeek there is tons of stuff that I would love to have for Christmas.  There hasn’t been a single thing I have posted that I wouldn’t be happy getting.  On top of all of the things I have already posted, there are tons of little odds and ends that are sure to make any avgeek happy.

There are lots of fun ideas people have come up with utilizing aviation instruments as their inspiration.  One of the most common creations are clocks with an instrument as the background all of which would look great on a desk or wall.

For the little avgeeks out there you could always go for an awesome pair of Dusty Crophopper slippers from the amazingly wonderful movie Planes.  I know my son got a pair and he flipped out he was so excited.  Just about anything from that movie, or the movie itself, would make an awesome present.  The funny thing about us avgeeks is that most of us never really grow up.  Flying keeps you young.

My son loves his Dusty slippers, I just wish they had them in my size.

My son loves his Dusty slippers, I just wish they had them in my size.

For a little more gown up clothing option, you can always go with a leather bomber jacket.  I know it was a pretty big deal to me when I finally got mine from the Air Force.  Along with the sunglasses, it is just one of those classic looks that you think of when you think about a pilot.  There are plenty of good options out there starting at around $100, but just remember, you often get what you pay for.

Personally, I have always hated getting clothes for Christmas, so I would be more interested in something useful/fun as opposed to something I would buy for myself anyway.  One of the most useful things you could buy an up and coming aviator is an iPad.  Just browse through these few posts alone and you will see how often I mention the usefulness of iPads.

Now for the sake of full disclosure I am an avid Apple hater, but even I can’t ignore the practical applications of the iPad.  I would hope that Android options would catch up, but for now aviation is clearly an Apple dominated world.  If you are looking to save a little bit of money, an iPad mini will be just as useful, and in many cases a little easier to handle in a smaller cockpit.

Leather jackets are something that have always been synonymous with flyers.

Leather jackets are something that have always been synonymous with flyers.

Maybe you are more of a refined avgeek and in that case you may be more interested in an aviation poster or painting.

Another great suggestion I received from a fellow avgeek was a trip somewhere.  It may be hard to believe, but many of us avgeeks take as much pleasure in the plane ride as in any destination we may be going to.  If I might make a particular suggestion of an amazing trip that would be incredible for any avgeek I would suggest a trip to Seattle (technically Everett and Renton) to visit the Boeing factories.

If this sounds intriguing to you, might I recommend a particular weekend for this trip.  President’s Day weekend is the annual gathering of avgeeks in Seattle known as Aviation Geek Fest 2014 in this case.  It is an incredible weekend of serious avgeekery.  Put on by the AirlineReporter himself David Parker Brown, it is full of special tours and events that you cannot normally experience. The official details have not yet been released, but it gets bigger and better every year.

Outside of the actual events it is an amazing opportunity to meet up with fellow avgeeks and do what we do best, talk about planes.  There are often even unofficial gatherings at local bars and restaurants throughout the weekend for further bonding and merriment.  Last year there was even one group that came all the way from Europe to join in, and they said it was totally worth the trip.  You can sign up to be on the email list on the Airline Reporter website.

As you can see we avgeeks are not hard to shop for, it is just that most people just don’t understand the joy that we derive from such simple things.  They don’t understand how we could enjoy sitting around an airport for five hours in the hopes that you might see that one plane you have longed to see forever.  For us it is an adventure, it is thrilling, and it is not something that you can describe to someone else.  There was a time when flying was a wonder to just about everyone, we have just continued that wonder through to the modern-day.

Due to a miscalculation on my part that I blame on the time difference, there will be two posts today, and I have saved the best for last.  No matter how unrealistic you may think day 12 is, I encourage you to give it a read because you may find yourself as inspired as I am right now.  Just read the post and I hope you will understand.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

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December 24, 2013

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 10 Cameras and Video Recorders

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The Canon EOS Rebel T3i will improve your pictures from the first time you use it.

The Canon EOS Rebel T3i will improve your pictures from the first time you use it.

One of my favorite parts of aviation is documenting the cool stuff I see.  For the longest time I just used my cellphone, which is good enough with as good as they are these days.  However, if you are looking to get some nicer pictures and get some real quality in documenting your adventures I would highly suggest purchasing a high quality camera, or video recorder.

Cameras are no different from most anything else I have talked about in that each person generally has a preference and they think there is really no other option.  I think it is mostly a matter of what you are used to and how comfortable you are with it.  Whether you get a Canon, Nikon, or some other brand, just get your hands on the camera and figure out which one fits you best.  As for me, I’m a Canon guy.

My weapon of choice is the Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  It is a relatively simple to use SLR camera.  I don’t claim to be very good with it yet, but it has made my pictures look infinitely better just by using it.  It came with two lenses and a handful of other extras.  That is really the beauty of a camera as a gift for an avgeek, there are always plenty of other accessories that you can buy for it.

A good camera will also give you the ability to take short videos, but if you want a better product, then a video recorder of some sort is likely your better choice.

In the event that you don’t have the excess capital for a camera because you spend all of your money on flying, there are a few companies out there, like Nflightcam, that make various mounts, filters and cables for iPhones to improve the quality of your video.  They also make accessories for the ultimate in active video recording, GoPro.

GoPro cameras can help you relieve your flying adventures over and over again.

GoPro cameras can help you relive your flying adventures over and over again.

There are a handful of different versions of GoPro out now, but we will just take a look at the newest model, the Hero3+ Black edition, because it is obviously the best.  This newest edition is lighter, lasts longer, and creates clearer videos than any of its predecessors.  These electronics are developing faster than you can even keep up.

This newest model records at up to 1440p to create incredibly clean videos.  One of the biggest knocks on these cameras is that the battery doesn’t last very long, but they have increased battery life by 30%.  That being said I would still strongly recommend a backup battery or two just to be safe.  The Hero3+ also has wi-fi capability to allow you to transfer videos quickly to your laptop for sharing or editing.

One of the coolest new features is that you can actually control the camera from your phone or iPad so there is no need to bump the camera for starting and stopping.  You can also view playback and easily share videos and still shots to your favorite social media site.

Much like a normal camera GoPros also have an incredible number of accessories you can buy.  There are numerous different mounts for all different kinds of applications.  It is also a good idea to buy extra memory cards and batteries so that you are prepared for even the longest day of recording.

Most of us avgeeks love watching videos of any kind from an airplane.  If you can get a camera like this then you can be the one sharing and leave all of us in awe of the amazing stuff you are doing.  Whether you go normal camera or video, just make sure you share, because sharing this stuff is what makes aviation awesome.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

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December 23, 2013

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 9 Handheld Radio

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A simple scanner can be fun for plane spotting, or just listening to ATC.

A simple scanner can be fun for plane spotting, or just listening to ATC.

I know what you are thinking, “What kind of idiot flies a plane without a radio?” Actually, there are some that do, because they don’t technically need one, and they also don’t want one.  In that case, this may not be the best choice of gift.  However, there are a few different types of avgeeks that would appreciate a gift like this. So for the ninth day of Avgeek Christmas I suggest the gift of a handheld radio.  These are not to be confused with simple two-way radios that you may use when you go camping or something but actual VHF radios to listen to, and make, ATC communications.Let me start first with a group that you may not be thinking of. Plane spotters. It is entirely possible that there are more plane spotters out there than pilots.  For one, it’s free, and two, you can do it just about anytime and anywhere there is an airfield.  Generally when people think of plane spotters they think they would want a nice camera or accessories to go along with it.  While that is true, a little handheld radio can be quite useful.

This VHF transceiver from Yaesu can make your life a lot easier in the event of a radio failure.

This VHF transceiver from Yaesu can make your life a lot easier in the event of a radio failure.

A handheld radio, or even just a scanner will allow you to know when aircraft are coming in, in real-time, as opposed to the delays with apps like LiveATC and FlightAware.  That way you know when to get ready to get that perfect shot.  They really aren’t that unreasonable either.  This handheld scanner from Uniden comes in at just over $100.  Not cheap, but by no means out of reach. Now listening is great if you are on the ground, but when it comes to being in an aircraft, you kind of need to be able to talk back.  While most aircraft have a radio or two of some sort, it certainly never hurts to have a backup.  Even the most meticulously maintained aircraft can have an issue where either the radio goes out, or there is an electrical issue that prevents the radio from working.  In those situations a little handheld radio can make life a lot easier. They really aren’t that expensive either.  A simple VHF radio transceiver can be bought for around $200.  For example, this radio from Yaesu goes for about $230.  It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but you also don’t need it to.  You just need to be able to talk to ATC to get back on the ground safely.  For the vast majority of civilian flyers, it is literally all you could ever need. Now you may be looking for me to write more, but for most people that is really all you need.  Sure there are some with a few more simple features, or longer battery life, or better range, but they really aren’t all that different from these.  Like I said at the beginning, this is really just a simple gift that could make a really big difference if you need it.  Let’s just hope you don’t ever need it.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

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December 22, 2013

Twelve Days of Avgeek Christmas: Day 8 Handheld GPS

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The cheapest way to go is attaching a GPS receiver to your iPad, phone, or other device.

The cheapest way to go is attaching a GPS receiver to your iPad, phone, or other device.

You can have lots of flying with nothing more than old steam gauges in your cockpit.  In fact, sometimes all of the technology can bog us down from enjoying the actual flying itself.  That being said, there are a couple of pieces of equipment that can make your life easier in certain situations.  We’ll look at the second one tomorrow.

For the eighth day of Avgeek Christmas we will take a look at a couple of different GPS units available for flying.  I should mention that it is possible to buy an attachment for your favorite tablet, phone, or laptop and use that as a GPS device.  That is generally the cheapest choice, and in some ways the best because then you can have the GPS interact with any other flight related apps you may have also purchased.

When it comes to actual handheld devices there are two companies that essentially own the market, iFly from Adventure Pilot, and Garmin.  I’m sure many pilots will talk your ear off about why one is infinitely better than the other, but I would venture to guess, like most things, it is personal preference.  Garmin is definitely the more widely recognized name, as well as what I have the most experience on.

The iFly 720 sports a nice 7" touchscreen that is easy to read, but not bulky.

The iFly 720 sports a nice 7″ touchscreen that is easy to read, but not bulky.

Both systems offer many of the same features like aviation charts, terrain avoidance alerts, and airfield maps/directories. Some of them will even give you a map of the airport to help you taxi more effectively.

Both companies also offer the ability to use your GPS on the roads too, so once you land you can still figure out where you are going with turn by turn directions on some models.

The iFly system comes in both a 5″ and 7″ touchscreen model.  They are also somewhat cheaper than the Garmin models likely, because they are not as well-known.  The 5″ model starts out in the $450 range, and the 7″ comes in closer to $700.

The Garmin aera796 3-D view is almost like a flight-sim version of your plane, as you fly.

The Garmin aera796 3-D view is almost like a flight-sim version of your plane, as you fly.

There is also a subscription fee involved to keep your charts updated which comes in at $69 a year for the basic package, and an additional $40 a year for IFR charts.  Compared to buying all of that in paper that is a very reasonable deal.

Garmin on the other hand offers a whole range of shapes, sizes, and complexities that range anywhere from about $600 to $15,000 or more if you get some of the in-panel models.  Even some of the higher end handhelds will be in the thousands of dollars, but they do offer some pretty cool features.

One of the coolest features that is on some of the higher end models is the ability to look at a 3-D view of you flight.  In essence you can watch a little window on the screen that will give you a 3-D rendering of your plane in the airspace.  So you can essentially watch your 3-D plane land as the real one does.  Kind of cool, just don’t watch it instead of the real ground.  I could see that as being very reassuring in IFR conditions though.

ADS-B receivers will be mandatory in the US in 2020.

ADS-B receivers will be mandatory in the US in 2020.

I would go into the pricing for their update subscriptions, but let’s just say it is a 16 page document on their website, so I will spare you.  In simple terms, a single update will run you around $50, with yearly subscriptions starting in the low hundreds, and going up into the thousands for the higher end models.  Just keep that in mind as you are deciding what to buy.  A GPS receiver can be a great tool, but if it is out of date, it quickly becomes less valuable as accuracy is paramount in aviation.

The last thing I will mention is the upcoming need to have ADS-B in your aircraft.  I won’t get into what exactly it is capable of doing, but it is their to help make the airspace safer and more efficient.  It is also going to be a requirement in the not to distant future (2020 in the US).  So it might be worth considering a GPS unit that also has ADS-B capability.  There are a number of different units out there that do one or the other, or both.

12 Days of Avgeek Christmas:

Day 1: Aircraft Models and RC Toys
Day 2: Aviation Books and Guides
Day 3: Aviation Apps and Flight Simulators
Day 4: Flight Lessons
Day 5: Headsets
Day 6: Bags and Kneeboards
Day 7: Sunglasses and Watches
Day 8: Handheld GPS
Day 9: Handheld Radio
Day 10: Cameras and Video Recorders
Day 11: Random Aviation Accessories
Day 12: Airplane

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