Sunday, December 29, 2013


VIRB Flight 1

Santa left a VIRB Elite camera under the tree for me. This is Garmin's competitor to the GoPro camera. Kathy and I had seen this demonstrated at the AOPA Summit and were interested in the GPS Overlay capability. It seemed to me that this would be an outstanding way to debrief a flight.

In addition to the camera, I purchased a 64g micro SD card for ~$50. (The camera doesn't come with ANY SD card.)  The top receipt is from and includes the suction mount hardware (kit) to fasten the camera to the canopy. The second item is an adapter for an external microphone. The bottom receipt is from Aircraft Spruce for the external microphone to aircraft communication adapter.

The assembly of all of the pieces took me about an hour but was not at all difficult. (I was probably overly cautious.)

I placed the assembly on the left side canopy shown here. It would be just about at the pilot's left ear.


The viewfinder can be checked with an App on an Android phone or tablet. It is a BIG help for the initial set up but once the camera has started the view finder App can't be used.

I also downloaded a desktop app (VIRB Edit) to retrieve movie clips from the camera.

The Flight:

I overslept a little bit, left the house about 8:00am. Milder temperatures than expected at about freezing. More importantly there were no clouds and very little winds. The weather forecast had moderate turbulence just west of Reading and I was a little concerned that I would find gusty winds later in the day.

As I drove north on Rt100 I noticed a hawk on the telephone wire beside the road. A field mouse was nicely draped over the wire and was being held in his left talon. Breakfast. I thought about stopping for a good country breakfast but have already put on too many Holiday pounds. I took another sip of coffee and continued on my way to the airport.

Butter Valley was very busy with golfers. It must have been a tournament because the parking lot was nearly full. Good, I hope it helps his business. I drove through the lot and parked across from the hangar. It was good to see Sally again. She was dirty. I had failed to put the tarps and covers on following my last flight so drainage from the melting snow had left their mark. After storing my gear and doing a lights check, I found the canopy cleaner and went to work. The rest of the plane would have to wait. I pulled her out and finished the preflight.

It took more than the normal 3 or 4 blades. I added just a touch of throttle and she finally caught, rough at first but smoothed out quickly.

Virb Flight 1 Video Here

Post Processing:

I made a mistake using VIRB Edit. By importing the video off of the camera and putting on my computer, I lost the GPS data and was unable to apply any of the Overlays. Lesson learned is to leave the videos on the camera until the SD card is full.

I used the highest quality setting (1080 HD) and it took about two hours to process about fifty minutes of video. This could be reduced by trimming out unneeded pieces of video before processing. Finally, I used my own desktop software to trim the final version and add the text.


Overall I'm very pleased. The picture quality is what I had hoped for and the audio quality is great. While the glass panels couldn't be seen I think their brightness can be adjusted. Once the overlays are added it will really enhance the value of using this as a review tool.

*Note: Information on the VIRB can be found here.
*Note2: Another communication cable

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Winter Solstice

Winter officially arrives today at 12:11pm EST, although most areas got a jump start to winter and have doubled or even tripled normal December snowfall already this month. Butter Valley is snowed in. The asphalt runway has been cleared but the plow left piles of ice along each edge. The taxiway has been packed down by snow mobiles and that icy mix just isn't very good for steering using differential breaking.

What to do while waiting on the thaw? Read and study:
  1. New Owner for SportCruiser in America : One of the most recognized aircraft in the LSA space is the SportCruiser, which ranks high on our LSA Market Share ranking (2012 figures). Solid in the #4 spot, they are likely to move up with another decent year in 2013, thanks to what some might call the "halo effect" of having had the Piper name on the airplane (photo) for a year, and now, a new owner. Don Ayers retired and handed the reins to his partner and new company president, Patrick Arnzen
  2. The Dynon ChannelIn this video we provide step-by-step instructions on how to enable and control the autopilot using SkyView's Simplified Control Scheme. This control scheme is ideal for VFR flying that doesn't require the more complex modes that our IFR-centric Expert Control Scheme offers.
  3. Look up, Look Out : Consider it a cautionary tale. If you fly with what I like to call “pretty pictures,” more often known as EFIS, PFDs or MFDs, or even Garmin / iPad GPS moving maps on your lap or clamped to your yoke, please remember this: those are just representations of the world outside
  4. Five ways to make bad landings: After beating me handily in a spot landing contest, he reinforced the practice of stabilized approach parameters.  Find the target speeds you need to hit on every leg.  Once you have the pitch set for speed, make distance adjustments with the power
  5. 3rd Class Medical Exemption:  Lots has been written and speculated about what the FAA might do about the requirement that a Private Pilot has a medical. “For the non-aviators out there, most pilots need two documents to fly: 1) a non-expiring pilot certificate and 2) a medical certificate that gets renewed every six to sixty months. I said “most” since there are some pilots exempted from having a medical certificate at all. Some pilots who fly balloons, gliders, and certain small, sport planes (LSA) need only to self certify that their medical condition is appropriate for their flight.” - Here  Some speculation suggested that the LSA industry would suffer if GA pilots were allowed to fly larger aircraft without the medical. My Thoughts:
    • I fly for fun. Your definition of fun may differ, but for me it starts when the nose wheel lifts off until the mains squeak back on the runway.  I can honestly say that I have yet to find an airplane that is not fun to fly, although some are more fun than others.
    •  I fly the best airplane I can afford. Your definition of affordability may differ, but for me the primary factor is operating costs. The loan is a burden, but the low day to day operations really impacts how/when I fly. Also, my CFO would not approve $1/4M of fun. (A few other items rank higher on the household budget.)
    • ...and the intangible.  I like the group of people that call themselves Sport Pilots. When we sat at the dinner prior to the CT Flyin out at Page we were with people from all over the country, different lifestyles, different experiences, but all there to enjoy flying their little airplanes on new adventures. Yes, pilots in general are like this, but Sport Pilots seem to relish it just a bit more.
    • I believe that people shouldn't have to buy things they don't want (talking LSA here). If a pilot wants to fly a C172 rather than an LSA he should be able to. Some people like trucks, others don't. I find very little value add in the medical certification process we have now. If getting rid of it hurts the LSA industry than the industry needs to provide a more "valuable" product.
    • So with all of the turmoil would I buy LSA again? My only regret is that I didn't buy one sooner. 
Just maybe I'll get one more flight in this year.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


The thermometer read 2°C under gray skies. No wind. Most of the local airports were reporting marginal VFR in 5 or 6 miles of haze, overcast at 5000'. The forecast said to expect some sunshine later but I was skeptical. There was still a pile of work on my desk left over from the Thanksgiving Holiday. Sunset would come at about 5:00PM.  If I was going to do it it would have to be over my lunch break.

At noon I turned on my "Away" light and bundled up to go to the airport. I put on my pair of unlined leather gloves before I touched the cold steering wheel and put the heater to full hot. I was getting heat by the time I got to the hangar. Someone had left one of the hangar doors partially opened so the floor was covered with leaves. I'll bring the blower out next time. A flight of honking geese, about 15 in a single line flew overhead. More would follow which made me pause to think about the possible hazard.

Sally looked good. The canopy was a bit dusty but overall she was still clean from the detailing done in Addison. I took my time with the preflight and was pleased with the exterior of the airplane. She burped after about 30 pulls, much sooner then I expected on a cold day like this one. The battery was good, all of the lights worked. I pulled her out into the daylight to do the sumps. Avgas that I bought in West Virginia was still in the tanks and tested clean.

After I climbed in the straps needed to be adjusted to fit the extra bulk of my winter flying jacket. I shouted "Clear" to no one and turned the switch. A very smooth start. I taxied up around the silo to look out over the runway. The little pond looked thick with a layer of ice, ripples frozen in place. A month's worth of rust had accumulated on my brain so as I waited on the oil temperature to rise I reviewed the checklist to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. At 122° we taxied over to the run up spot and completed our ground checks. I was still fighting my own inertia until I took the runway. Lethargy turned to excitement simply by adding full throttle. And then lifting the nose.

My landings were sh.....didn't meet my expectations. Only four of them, but all ended with a thud rather than a squeak. Only about a half hour on the Hobbs. Was it worth all of the effort? Oh yeah.

December 2nd is the day we celebrate our anniversary with Sally. This was #3. It was great to get reacquainted.