Recording Your Flights
By now I’m sure you’ve seen lots of YouTube videos shot in the cockpit in flight. The best example of this is Steveo1Kinevo, as far as audio quality is concerned. Here is one of his videos:
So, a question that might come up is – how do I get that sort of sound quality? Well, unless you can afford a Bose A20 headset, it is unlikely that you will get quite that good quality, but there is something you can do to capture good sound from the cabin. You’ll need cameras! I recommend GoPro – reliable, great video quality, mount anywhere (including out on the wing or elsewhere on the air-frame), and easy-to-access files with good compression. Hard to beat all that! A good default set-up is a camera on the wing (you’ll have to mount it under a rivet or epoxy a mount onto the skin), a camera in the cabin, looking over the pilot’s shoulder (with a view through windshield to capture the takeoff, approach and landing with pilot’s POV), and a reverse shot from the dash with the pilot and co-pilot’s faces on camera.
(not my photo)
If you do go with GoPro cameras, the next limitation is battery life. If you roll all the cameras before starting the engine, you’ll be well into your flight before the batteries in those cameras are drained. Changing batteries in-flight is not convenient, and downright impossible for the wing-mount camera. Here is my GoPro on the wing of a SportCruiser, coming in to land at KSMO:
And, this is what that particular camera sees – I personally love that angle!
The problem with this camera, unlike the cameras mounted inside the cabin, is that you cannot plug in an external power source. You are stuck with the internal GoPro battery, and if you are flying in colder climates, the battery will last half of what it does here in sunny Southern California, or about 30 minutes.
You are more fortunate with the interior cameras – you have the infinite power option at your disposal. Just don’t make the mistake of running a power cord from your onboard 12V power source – you will end up with static noise from the ignition system. You will notice this in some of the cockpit videos on YouTube. A smarter option is an external battery. The biggest one I found is the Anker 26,000 mAH, one that you can find here. In order to mount the cameras inside and allow for running an external mini-USB power cord to them, you’ll also need some skeleton frames – these are the best, in my opinion.
Finally, and most importantly – how do you get good audio into one of your cameras? Well, what is a good source of audio inside the cabin? Bingo! The main comm/intercom channel – basically everything you hear in your headsets. ATC, chatter with passengers, etc… The best tool I’ve found to tap into this data stream is the Nflightcam cable, available here. Here is the packaging it comes in, to make sure you are getting the original.
The procedure is simple – plug one 1/4″ plug from the Nflightcam into your intercom, plug in your headset as usual, with one plug going into the Nflightcam 1/4″ extension. The mini-USB plug goes into one of your interior GoPros, and they’ve even provided a way to power your GoPro with an extension ending on a female mini-USB, where you can plug in an external battery. With external batteries, the recording time on your interior GoPros extends out to 10+ hours! Stock up on fast micro-SD cards, while you’re at it!
Finally, the last step in recording is capturing your actual position via GPS positioning. I use Cloud Ahoy on my iPhone 6+ and iPad Air2 in the cockpit to do just that, as well as ForeFlight’s record path feature. Both apps are here to stay and get my unequivocal support. Here are some screen caps of the path as recorded by this app:
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