I often get questions about the gear I use for flying, and about the gear I use for recording video and audio in the cockpit. I try to answer all of these questions in this post. I will start with an overview of the contents of my flight bag. I will give comments on each item as I see fit, in order to provide some background information supporting my choices, and to make it easier for you to see if a similar item would make sense for you. Then I will cover the settings used on my main media recording devices. Finally, I will provide a few tips and tricks about editing flying videos.
So what is in the bag?
My flight bag is an old North Face laptop bag, I don’t even know its type anymore (as it is not in production anymore for a long time already). I did not manage to find anything better which would fit all the stuff that I personally need in the plane, even though I must have checked out at least a hundred flight bags online. It is showing heavy signs of wear and tear already, but I think I will be using it until it really breaks.
To become night rated (at least in the EASA countries in Europe), one must follow theoretical knowledge instruction, and have at least 5 hours of flight time in the appropriate aircraft category at night, including at least 3 hours of dual instruction, including at least 1 hour of cross-country navigation with at least one dual cross-country flight of at least 50 km (27 NM) and 5 solo take-offs and 5 solo full-stop landings.
After sitting through five hours of theoretical briefing, I had an additional one-hour simulator session to go over some basic instrument flying principles in a controlled environment, including – for example – recovery from unusual attitudes in IFR conditions without external visual references, and some more advanced VOR flying. Nothing special if you remember what you did during your PPL training, especially when you have some flight simulator experience under your belt.
Since that went very well, we immediately proceeded with flying patterns at night at Charleroi over two consecutive evenings, which is the main topic of the first video. During the first flight, we covered the differences in ground procedures (especially checking that all lights are operational), the night landing, and some emergencies with stress on unusual runway and aircraft light configurations/availability. I will quickly go through these, but I have to apologise for the video quality, as recording at night is not easy, and the necessary longer exposure times do not play well with the airframe vibrations (by the time of the 2nd flight I decided to hang the camera from the canopy again, which proved to be a more stable platform).
Fast forward to the second flight, we started with one more circuit to cover the one remaining special situation: landing without instrument lights – this is the main reason why you must always have a flashlight (for each crew member) available in the cockpit. Then I went on to complete the solo requirements of the night rating. There was a significant crosswind, but it helped a lot that I had the track also displayed on the HSI thanks to the digital Garmin (GI 275) instruments which are available in the two new planes (OO-NCE and OO-NCF) that I have flown with during these flights.
After finishing my PPL training, I just had to wait 3 weeks for my licence to arrive, and then – slightly unexpectedly – another 3 weeks for my radio licence (BIPT – Restricted radiotelephone operator’s certificate for aircraft stations) to be ready, I could finally book my first flight as a private pilot.
Originally I was thinking about going to Spa or even Breda, but at the end my time slot had to be cut down to two hours as a result of a forced reschedule, because one of our other planes did not get its parts for maintenance in time. So at the end I decided to just do a local flight around the CTRs of Charleroi and Chièvres, and visit some sights on the way, aiming to arrive back around sunset. The flight went perfectly fine, the conditions were nice and smooth, the lights were beautiful, the landing was good, and in general I was just very happy to be finally able to fly on my own, without having to do anything extra for it (like get signed off by an instructor). If you look at the video you will see that while now I use SkyDemon exclusively for navigation and planning (although I had a paper map as backup, I did not prepare the navigation on it anymore), I still had a printout of the navigation log (from SkyDemon) and I still crosschecked the printout with the actual data, and did, e.g., the well learned HAT flow before every turn.
After the success of the previous flight, now I really wanted to go to Spa next (since I still have not made a full stop landing here on my own), but luckily I still checked the NOTAMs in the morning, because the airport got limited to home-based aircraft for a few days in the last minute (for reasons unknown to me). No problem, since I had a backup plan: going international!
While the pace of collecting flight hours have slowed down after I completed my required solo navigation flights with my long cross-country on the 23rd of March (see details in the previous post), there was still plenty of things to be taken care of in order to complete my PPL training: I had to pass the final progress test, pass the theory exam, get an English Language Proficiency Certificate, and finally pass the check-ride (a.k.a. the skill test, or practical exam).
I typically set aside one day a week for studying (even when flying to Girona for a few days of cycling holidays, I was busy reading on the plane), but then I typically studied 8-12 hours continuously.
Three weeks after the last solo navigation, I decided that it was time to fly again, and just booked a simple training with the goal of doing more soft & short field practice (having had only one full stop landing and take-off from a grass field until then). We decided to fly to Grimbergen (EBGB), where I got my first introduction to general aviation back in 2019 in the right seat of a Cessna 172, which gave me the last necessary motivation to start with the PPL training. Now I could also put this aerodrome in my actual logbook ;)
The flight [#30, on the 16th of April] was a bit bumpy, the soft field landing and take-off went better than the first time (but I knew that I still needed a lot of experience in this field [haha, field, get it?]), while the instrumental flying exercises were easy but fun. It was also good to fly with an instructor again, not only for the exercises, but also for the chat along the way.
Unfortunately I had some issues with the GoPro setup for this flight (when I fly with an instructor I always feel bad about spending time with the setup, so I made some mistakes with the external power supply), meaning that on the first leg the wing view camera died already around take-off, and on the return leg my main camera died before landing. And even the audio gain level was set a bit incorrectly… :( Anyway, the video is still worth watching ;)
After another month of studying, I wanted go for a flight just to keep my flying skills in order, and maybe refine the soft field operations a bit further with the same instructor as on the last flight. Unfortunately or not, the administration of my flight school thought that I had made a mistake in booking, and so they changed my flight to a Final Progress Check with a different instructor. Even though that was really not my intention, the idea of doing the PT3 got into my head, and thus I went along with the changed plans. Continue reading →
As expected the winter months were – to put it mildly – not really optimal for flight training, so between my last flight on the 12th of November and the end of February I only got to fly twice (first on the last afternoon of the year, and then once in January). But then the weather finally turned better, and I put exactly 10 hours into my logbook between the 26th of February and the 23rd of March, starting with passing my navigation progress test, and then going on three solo navigation flights, with the last one being the required long solo cross-country.
Now I have 54 hours and 12 minutes in my logbook (13h 24m as PIC – pilot in command, or simply put: flying solo), and only three flights (two trainings and a final progress test) remaining before my PPL checkride (the practical exam). “Unfortunately” I still need to pass the theory exam(s) first, but thanks to all the bad weather earlier this year, I have finally ticked off every module on the online learning platform, so it is only a matter of going through the theory books once more and then I will take care of that (plus there is also an English Language Proficiency exam too, but that should be a formality). But this means that now I need to take the remaining flights a bit slower, otherwise I will run out of flying before I am actually allowed to do the checkride…
Recently I added an extra GoPro to the cockpit to be able to include additional camera angles in my training videos (which of course made the editorial work significantly longer), and I finally started using my iPad Mini in an awesome FlyBoys PIVOT mount instead of my phone (for now just as backup, as I still have to use my paper maps for navigation…). Thanks to the popularity of my videos I was recognised by two different air traffic controllers on the radio during my last two flights, and simply by chance I was also photographed by plane-spotters a few times :)
Flight 24: After seven weather cancellations over the span of two months, I finally got to fly again on the last day of 2021. The weather was beautiful, albeit a bit windy, but nothing too bad so I could do another solo session. This time I stayed at Charleroi, and I only saw my instructor for five minutes for a signature, before I was left alone with the plane.
It was the first time I did a solo session without flying with an instructor first, so it was also the first time I started the plane and did the run-up unsupervised. It really felt like being a real pilot in command. The training was great, I got to fly both right and left hand circuits, I had to orbit a few times, and position myself in sequence on approach multiple times. At one point I was even asked to make a full stop landing before being cleared to take off again (to avoid the wake turbulence of a departing commercial jet), which I have never seen before.