Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Flying Pedant

Well, chances are that at least one of those definitions wasn't necessary.

Chances are equally good that at least one was. At least it was for me - I knew what 'pedantic' meant, but I wasn't sure that there was such a thing as a 'pedant', but as it turns out, there is.

I came about asking myself that question in a somewhat circuitous way, and if you've been frequenting these pages for any great length of time, you already know that I'm getting ready to recount that journey.

It would be convenient to say that it all started with the introduction of a fantastic little piece of camera technology called a "GoPro" camera, but it actually predates that. While the GoPro is so perfectly adaptable to my needs, my needs for such a camera existed prior to its advent.

You see, I have long desired to have the ability to not only record video of what it is like to fly a small airplane, but to also capture the sounds that provide the background auditory ambiance. Recording the sounds of the engine and the airflow brushing its way across the airframe has always been easy; it is the talk between pilot and passenger and the talk between the pilot and the air traffic controllers that has been very difficult to capture. The built-in microphone in the camera was suitable, to a degree, for the former, but wholly deaf to the latter.

At a minimum, recording any of the voice traffic required a camera with an external microphone input, which at the consumer level is a relatively rare thing to find. Once having acquired a camera with that necessary feature, the challenge then was how to feed it the appropriate signals. Most often, this was attempted by using small lapel microphones stuffed into the ear cup of a headset.  This worked, more or less, but nearly always ended in disappointment as the microphone inevitable slipped out unnoticed. All that served to do was record even more of the engine and wind sounds.

The GoPro solved for the capture of the voice stuff indirectly in that its massive appeal to thrillseekers, athletes, and people that like to strap them onto animals created an equally massive market for accessories, one of which is a cable that interfaces with both the camera and the audio jack of a standard aviation headset.

Seriously. People attach them to animals.

So, the hardware existed. The only remaining barrier was price. They are not cheap. At current prices, one would expect to pay at least $500 for the most capable contemporaneous model.  I have never been willing to pay that price.

But then...

No, Amazon doesn't sell them more cheaply than anyone else, but they do have a way for parsimonious people (or people married to a parsimonious person) to buy things like that used while still being assured of receiving the product they were promised. If an individual seller on Amazon advertises a product as "Like New" and it arrives in any condition other than that, Amazon will accept the return.

Cool, that.

So it is that I bought a lightly used GoPro and a bag of accessories (but not that aviation headset cable) for roughly half of what would have cost to by all of that stuff new.

As you can imagine, I couldn't wait to try it out!

So, I have to divert our course for a brief sidetrack down What I've Been Doing Blvd.

For those that may have missed it, I've been tutoring a young aspiring pilot who is working towards a private pilots license in the short term, and a career as a military aviator in the longer term. You can catch up here, if you so choose.

Austin and I have now had a second flight.  I recorded it. I watched the recording. While doing so, I felt that I had exhibited an almost preternatural degree of pedantry.

In other words, I never shut up during the entire hour. Jabber jabber jabber.

With that in mind, I would like to now introduce you to...

The Flying Pedant.

That having turned out so well, I made another recording using a head strap to mount the camera on my head, just as one of the folks above did with an eagle.

This flight was interesting in a number of ways, one of which was how I was surprised by having to deal with three or four other airplanes in the traffic pattern when I arrived at what I thought was going to be a nice, quiet little airport.  If you watch it, you will hear me working out a strategy for entering the traffic pattern safely.  Having gone through that, I think one of my future postings here is going to be a pedantic post purporting to provide a practical guide to proper pattern entries.


In any event, here is episode two of The Flying Pedant for your presumed pleasure:

As you can see/hear, the headset audio is very well captured.

Unfortunately, this is accomplished at the loss of the engine and wind sounds.

It will do for now, but the final solution is still waiting in the wings, so to speak.

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