SkyDemon Review

So I am late to the game on this one but this is my SkyDemon review.
Skydemon Android
Now I am sure most of you are familiar with this software and most likely have used it a lot more than I have. I also know that there is a large group of people who are about to scream “children of the magenta line” or “maps and CRP”, however this is 2017 and not 1950 when the skies were clear and you could fly where you like. Both GPS and old school navigation techniques are needed.
I recently changed my home airport from Cranfield where there isn’t much restricted airspace around to Blackbushe where Heathrow, Gatwick, Oxford, Southampton and RAF Odiham are both literally on the door step along with all the restricted airspace that these airports bring not to mention danger zones etc. So as you can see it is a much busier restricted environment and you run the risk of airspace infringements more easily.
For these reasons I decided to invest in SkyDemon, a product that I have heard so much about and that I have never heard anyone say a bad word about. The cost is £139 for the first year and then £89 for subsequent years. I also brought a dedicated iPad mini 2 with LTE which is only for my flying apps so it doesn’t get fill up with the other rubbish. It is only 16GB but when you use it like I do that is more than enough. The 4G part is important as it is only these cellular devices that have the inbuilt GPS in the iPad’s. If you have a non cellular iPad then you will have to buy an external GPS receiver, but with Apple being Apple only certain (expensive) ones work.
NB – SkyDemon supports iOS, Android and Windows so you are not limited to an iPad. However, SkyDemon themselves state that the iPad is the best device to run it on and it also seems to have the least issues. I am an Android fan but I believe every pilot needs an iPad anyways.
In the cockpit I use a kneeboard mount which works great as I only need to glance at it every so often as my eyes are outside or on the instruments the majority of the time (as they should be). My mobile phone (Android) has it installed as backup but I haven’t actually used it on this device in the air.
NB – I always have my map with me.
So what makes SkyDemon so great? Well it is its ease of use. Planning a trip is as simple as clicking your start point and your endpoint and then adjusting your route as you see fit (to avoid airspace, dangerzones etc). From here SkyDemon does the rest, it gets all your NOTAMS, TAF, METAR, Winds and the weather for you to check before you go airborne. SkyDemon can also do your mass and balance however I still do this separatly at the moment.
Next you can print out a plog that will have your legs, the time it should take etc along with all the radio frequencies that you should need en route. I really can’t even put into words how simple the whole thing is and in my opinion these programs are becoming essential in our ever crowded skies. However yes I do agree that we should all still practice the conventional methods as no system is infallible and should my tablet and phone fail I will still need to be able to navigate using my map.
In the air SkyDemon will warn you if you are drifting of course, if you should change frequencies, of obstacles and most importantly of airspace. It really does allow you to concentrate on flying the aircraft as even when navigating with your map an accurate position is simply a glance away. Now of course we as pilots are never lost so to say but occasionally we can be “unsure of position”. This takes the high workload of flying the plane, holding the map and trying to work out where you are away and changes it to a “oh I need to go left a bit”. Anything that reduces workload in the cockpit and allows you to focus on flying is a positive thing in my opinion.
One of my favourite parts of SkyDemon is when you approach your destination it pops up and asks you what approach you want then draws handy arrows on the map so you can see visually what you need to do and circuit direction.
When you land you can pull up the Aerodrome information which will help you with your taxi etc, I mean SkyDemon even has fuel prices.
SkyDemon can also do your flight plans, give you estimation of leg times, warn of traffic, provide airfield layouts and information and probably a lot more that I haven’t even managed to dive into yet. The maps are updated frequently and they seem to have maps for most of Europe as well as places such as South Africa, USA, New Zealand & Parts of Africa.
With the amount of money we spend on aviation I must say in my opinion SkyDemon is probably one of the best value bits of software you can possibly buy and I would not hesitate to recommend it. 5/5.

Bose A20 review

So a few months back I decided to upgrade my David Clark H10-13.4 to a set of Bose A20’s. I wanted to fly a bit with the new headset before I gave my opinion of them, so this is my Bose A20 review.

Firstly I want to start by saying the David Clark are a great starter headset, in fact of the passive headsets I used they were by far the best and you may find they are perfect for your needs. I am working towards the airlines and as I have a lot of flying to do, I wanted to at least see what the Bose could offer.

Price
The main stumbling point in regards to the Bose is getting your head around the price. Bose strictly control the price of new headsets so you won’t find much variation in regards to price and the standard selling price is £999 for the bluetooth version and £910 for the non bluetooth version in the UK.
The non bluetooth does have a line in so you can feed your iPad or your phone into this headset also, it is just one wire. It does have a mix mode which cuts the line in when you get radio communications but I cannot comment on this as I have never used this mode.
In regards to price there is a second option and that is to purchase a used set. I managed to pick up a later model A20 headset for £500 which to me is a more justifiable cost. I mean £500 is still a lot of money of course but Aviation is not a cheap thing to be involved in and by this point you have probably realised that. It didn’t cost me much to buy a replacement mic sock and foam cups for the the headset.
However, just because something is expensive doesn’t make it poor value for money. You should really do what you can to protect your hearing as once it goes it doesn’t come back. ANR helps this and while you don’t have to spend £900 it doesn’t make a £900 headset poor value. As with anything try a few headsets, I am sure there is someone at your flying club who has a set they will be willing to let you try.

Value / Features
Anyways onto the actual headset and if I think it offers value for money in regards to the cheaper headsets (as it should at £900+).
The first thing to talk about is the active noise reduction. I read reviews where people say they plug it in and turn it on and think is the engine on? I don’t know about all of that as you can clearly hear the engine, but what does change is what level of engine noise you hear.
You can hear the engine running and any changes in it, the difference is how loud it is. When I am wearing the Bose A20 the engine noise is significantly lower. This also extends to communications with ATC, they are nice and clear and the communication is easy to make out. The headset removes the sounds you don’t “need” and just leaves you with the essential sounds. If you try a passive headset then put on the Bose headset you will hear a clear difference between the two.
The next main selling point for me is the comfort levels. As this headset is £910+ you would expect a high quality construction, which you do get. When you pick up the Bose it fees high quality and looks like it costs a lot of money.
I remember after long flights with the David Clarks sometimes I just couldn’t wait to get the headset of my head. As they are passive noise reduction they have quite a high clamping pressure to achieve this. When wearing the Bose I tend to forget it’s there, they are very light and don’t put pressure on my head when flying. After landing I am in no rush to get them off my head which sometimes I am with a long flight with the David Clark’s. In fact, the Bose really are a joy to wear, they are light and so well put together.
The batteries last for ages, in fact since I have gotten them I haven’t had to replace them. Bose state that the two AA batteries should last around 40 hours.
Bose also offer a 5 year warranty on the headsets and from what I can see their fixed price out of warranty repairs are very reasonable also.

Conclusion
So would I recommend the headset? Without a doubt I would say yes, protecting our hearing is important and the Bose A20 can grow with you as you can change the cable for the different type of aircraft you may end up flying.
If the cost of the headset is top much then cheaper headsets like the David Clark’s are still great. In fact these are now my passenger set and I have not had any complaints in regards to them, however now that I have gone ANR, I won’t be going back!

Why flight training needs to embrace GPS

One thing that I have always found weird is that despite the technology we have at our disposal, flight training at least at PPL level has a reluctance to embrace GPS and uses a training system that was designed well before these modern technologies existed. So this is why flight training needs to embrace GPS.
BLAC and BOVB
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand the importance of dead reckoning and map reading skills and yes they most defiantly should still feature heavily in the learning process. However GPS isn’t going away and it is here to stay, so why are we not being taught how to use it properly?
Of course following a magenta line on the screen is not how we should learn to fly, however in the UK at least there is so much restricted airspace and with the CAA now announcing that you may lose your licence if you stray into it, why should we take any risks?
There are free and paid for options that would be able to help us avoid this all together.
When you are lost temporarily unsure of position 🙂 the workload in the cockpit goes up as you are trying to work out where exactly you are. Obviously map reading skills are still essential and should your GPS fail you still need to be able to work out where you are, but doesn’t it make more sense to take a quick look at the GPS and know exactly where you are?
It just seems to me at least, rather than resist these aides, and they are just that, aides to the tried and tested methods. The training should be redesigned to incorporate them alongside what we are already taught.
Also a few flights with no GPS to keep skills sharp would also make sense knowing that if something did go wrong, you could just flick it on.
I see no reason in modern time to set of into unfamiliar airspace without some form of GPS, I mean we all carry a phone with us that has a GPS chipset so why not use it? The technology and apps are out there.

Which memory card (MicroSD) for GoPro cameras?

Lets face it, most of us are going to get a GoPro or some form of action camera at some point. I say a, I currently have 2 GoPro’s and one Yi camera. But the question you will soon find yourself asking is which memory card (MicroSd) for GoPro cameras. I figured I would put together a quick list for which cards you should be looking at.
gopro 4
I personally think you should only buy the 64GB + cards as believe you mean, you will need the space when recording.
Please bear in mind the internet is full of fake SD cards that will fail to live up to the performance of their real counterparts. Please only buy your cards from respected retailers who you know are going to sell you original cards.

4k Video / 2.7K
If you are shooting your footage at 4k then it would be best to go with the high-end cards with guaranteed fast read / write speeds. Now this does not mean that a slower card will not work, it just means these cards will for sure.

  1. Sandisk Extreme – This card will give you up to 90MB read and 40MB write, it is also UHS-3 certified which means it is good for 4k video. GoPro have also certified this card for use with their cameras.
    Buy on Amazon
  2. Lexar 633x – This card from Lexar has is UHS-1 certified and Lexar and GoPro both confirm it is plenty fast for your 4k needs.
    Buy on Amazon
  3. Toshiba Exceria M302 – This card from Toshiba is much cheaper than the other two on this list but is UHS-3 certified which means it is plenty fast for 4k video.
    Buy on Amazon

 

1080p / 1440p
The truth of the matter is you need a fast card but you don’t need as fast of a card when capturing 1080p footage, so you can make a cost saving from the ultra high-end microSD cards.

  1. Samsung Evo – This card is a great choice for 1080p video and even possibly 4k. The older version was certified by GoPro and best of all this card is just over half the price of the high-end cards. This card is UHS-1 certified which means it is compatible with 1080p recording.
    Buy on Amazon
  2. Sandisk Ultra – Another card from Sandisk that is ideal for 1080p shooting. A similar price to the Samsung EVO also so you can choose the card you prefer. This card is also UHS-1 certified.
    Buy on Amazon

So you have two great choice for the different video standards, if you are going to choose a different card then make sure the card is at least a class 10 card otherwise it may just be too slow to keep up with the demands of constant video recording. However ever as all cards have different speeds, if it isn’t on this list make sure you do some research.

 

GoPro vs Cheaper alternatives

As most of us as some point will want to film our flying I thought I would do this post on GoPro vs cheaper alternatives.
I have a GoPro 3+ silver and I also have a Xiaomi Yi camera, so is the GoPro worth the difference over the influx of cheap action cameras from China?
gopro 4

Audio
The audio captured from the internal microphone on the GoPro is significantly better than the audio from the Yi camera. The Yi seems to pick up everything very loudly while the GoPro seems to have an ability to capture the important sounds over capturing just a ton of background noise.

Battery
This is where the GoPro comes into it’s own. I did 0.6 hours of circuits (about 35 mins + 10 for set up etc) and when I got back down the Yi camera had already died. The GoPro was still recording with some battery life left. The GoPro can also be extended with an additional battery where as the Yi camera can not.
This means the GoPro is the better choice for filming your flights as with the additional battery it is more likely to make it through the flight than the cheaper Chinese cameras.

Build Quality
The GoPro feels more substantial than the Yi. It is built from higher quality materials and also has a useful display on the front which gives you some basic information. The Yi feels like a toy and you can tell despite it taking decent quality video that it was built to a price point.

Video Quality.
If you ask me the video quality between my GoPro and the Xiaomi Yi are pretty much exactly the same. I am no professional but while the colours might be slightly different they both give of a high quality image. I found this video comparing the image quality between a GoPro Silver 4, A Xiaomi Yi and A GoPro Hero so you can judge for yourself.
Both cameras record in the MP4 file format.

App
The apps are basically the same, there isn’t much between them and the main use is to see what you are going to record. Both cameras create a wifi network that you then connect to.
The GoPro does however have the GoPro editor studio to edit your videos, however you can use iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premier Elements as well as more professional programs like Adobe Premier or Final Cut Pro should you wish.

Accessories
The GoPro has a lot of accessories available but a lot of these Chinese cameras are compatible with them as they just copied the mount. A good thing is a lot of the expensive GoPro accessories have a much cheaper Chinese alternative that is a fraction of the price and works just as well. This includes mounts and the expandable battery.
On the higher end GoPro’s (Silver and Black) you can also do things like record audio from external sources.

Which one to buy?
Well if you ask me the camera to buy is most defiantly a higher end GoPro (the Silver or the Black depending on your needs). The reason for this is that it is a much more expandable device. Also the expandable battery makes a huge difference to the practicality of the camera. I know you can buy additional batteries (silver and black models) but you can’t exactly swap them out mid-flight can you?
There is a huge cost difference though, the GoPro alternatives are around £50-£100, the GoPro hero is around £100, the Silver is £270ish with the black setting you back the best part of £400!
I personally think the GoPro silver is the best value of the bunch but it all depends on your needs really.

Using Skydemon Light and UK Airspace Avoid as a free GPS

If you are just looking for a very basic GPS with NOTAM’s and airspace warnings there is actually a way to do this for free. I will provide a guide on Using Skydemon Light and UK Airspace Avoid as a free GPS.
For this guide I will be doing the demonstration using an iPad.

  1. First you open SkyDemon and plan your route by touching your waypoints and then moving the purple line should you wish.
    Plan route
  2. Next you want to set you height, speed and winds so you can get the corrected heading.
    plan route 2
  3. Then you want to export your route via email so you can import it into UK Airspace Avoid.
    export route from skydemon
  4. Send the email.
    export route skydemon to uk airspace aware
  5. Open the attachment and choose UK Airspace Avoid
    import route uk airspace aware
  6. UK Airspace Avoid will confirm your flightplan has been imported.
    import route uk airspace avoid
  7. Click the menu icon and choose load flightplan.
    import route uk airspace avoid
  8. Select your flightplan.
    select flight plan uk airspace avoid
  9. Your route is imported!
    imported route uk airspace avoid

Now personally I wouldn’t fly with JUST my GPS route like this, in fact, I wouldn’t even fly with this as my primary method of navigation. I would still use my map as my primary navigation (at the time of writing I am a PPL student so you do not use GPS) but having a GPS backup is in my opinion a good thing. It is the 21st century not 1956 and I think we should use all the tools that help us. I mean, who is still going on long road trips just using a map? Times change.
Everyone needs to know how to use a map for flying (no signs in the air) so you need to be able to navigate by using a map and features. However, have a GPS backup is most defiantly an aide! This will give you a very basic GPS with a few additional features, there are programs out there that provide way more functionality then you will get from this. They will provide approach plates, weather etc.

Anyways, safe landings 🙂 …. and accurate navigation.

The best watch for a student pilot

If you search Instagram for pictures of pilots you will see them flashing fancy watches, this is all well and good when you have passed, but these watches are not so great for a student pilot. In this post we will help you to find the best watch for a student pilot.

My flying watch

As a student pilot the watch you purchase must have the following three things.

  1. Stopwatch – The watch must have a stopwatch function. This is very important as you will use it to time your legs (how long it takes to get from one place to the next).
  2. Time – This may seem obvious but you need to be able to read the time very quickly and put it down on your plog (Pilot Log).
  3. Backlight – You need a watch with a decent backlight on it for when you are doing your night flying. You do not want the watches with the cheap backlight that only lights up from the sides, on a Casio the good backlight is called the Illuminator.

On my first navigation flight I made the mistake of wearing an analogue watch. When you have just a few seconds to glance at your watch and then write it down on your plog while still flying the plane, trying to work out if the time says 10:32 or 10:33 is a few seconds that you don’t really have.
For this reason a digital watch is a million times better than an analogue watch during training. You also really do not need anything fancy at all, a simple watch with a clear to read display is ideal.
I use a Casio Calculator watch simply because I already had it before my training and the display is nice and bright and it has all the functions I need.
On the recommendation of my instructor I have also purchased a stand alone stopwatch as well.
Any of the basic digital watches should work, in fact this basic Casio on Amazon is quite possibly the perfect watch for flying and the cost is just a few quid.
What watch did you go for? Let me know in the comments.

Why every pilot needs an iPad

 

ipad mini

In this post I am going to explain why every pilot needs an iPad. I am writing this article as someone who believes the Android operating system is more powerful and in my opinion the better operating system.
So why am I recommending that you buy an iPad? Simple, I believe in buying the best tool for a job, and when it comes to aviation, the iPad is just that! The industry seems to have standardised around this device and as the old saying goes, if you can’t beat them, join them.
I am going to list all of the things that you can do on your iPad. Yes I am aware that you can do some / all of these things on an Android device but when it comes to aviation some of the apps run better on the Ipad and believe me it’s just easier to get the Apple device..

  1. Flight Planning – You can plan your entire flight and correct for wind etc all using free apps such as Skydemon light. At the time of writing there is no Skydemon Light for Android but there is an online version you can use on your PC.
  2. GPS – One of the main benefit is that the iPad can become your inflight GPS. While you shouldn’t use this as your primary source of navigation it makes a great backup to your map! There is also an app for avoiding restricted airpspace that will also give you your Notams called UK Airspace Avoid!
  3. Weather and Notams – You can get all of these direct on your iPad and it just saves time looking them up online.
  4. Study – The two ATPL schools I am looking at do not even offer an Android app (which in 2016 is not good enough) but they do have iPad apps.
  5. Electronic Flight Computer – Your iPad could even replace your flight computer should you wish.
  6. Documents – Would you like to carry round 300 page books or would you prefer to carry around an iPad? I mean if you are anything like me, you have enough stuff in your flight bag!

On top of this you have all the non flying but nice to have things that you can do.

  1. Music, video, internet and apps – Keep yourself entertained while you are waiting around between flights or having a bite to eat.
  2. Email – Keep up to date with your emails.

I would also recommend you purchase the following items.

  1. Kneeboard / Yoke mount – You will need to put the iPad somewhere that you can see it and use it quickly.
  2. Tempered Glass Screen Protector – The iPad will be in an enviroment where it could possibly take knocks or roll around in your flight bag, so this will add that little bit of extra protection to the screen.
  3. Rugged Case – The small cases are nice but you should look into something with a bit more protection to help protect it from knocks.
  4. Spare Charger – You will probably want to keep a spare charger in your bag.

There are two sizes of the iPad and I personally think the Mini is the better sized device for small cockpits like the Cessna 152. The 4 is the latest version and the 2 and 3 are exactly the same bar the fact that the 3 has a fingerprint reader.
The main benefit of the 4 is that it is faster and has twice the ram of the mini 2. This doesn’t mean that the mini 2 is slow, it is still a more than capable tablet.
Both the 2 and 4 have a retina screen however I personally say you should by the version with cellular. The reason I say to get this version is because it has an included GPS chip. While this may be standard on most Android tablets unfortunately on the Wifi only iPad they have for some reason decided to leave it out.
You don’t actually have to have a sim plan to use the GPS function but it could be useful for live weather etc.
Furthermore, you cannot just buy a cheap bluetooth GPS like you could on an Android tablet as only certain GPS receivers work with the iPad and they are all pretty pricey.
In terms of storage size you can get iPad’s in 16gb, 32gb, 64gb, 128gb. Now when I was looking I thought the 16gb would be far too small, however I got a deal that I couldn’t turn down. The 16gb is big enough if you are going to use it ONLY as a flight tool. I don’t have any music or videos on my device as I have a Galaxy Note 4 with 32gb built in and a 64gb micro sd card where I can store all of that stuff.
If you ask me the perfect iPad for flying, VFR anways, is the 32gb iPad mini 4 Cellular. If you make it to an airline and have more space then you can treat yourself to an upgrade.
Put simply I feel this is a device that every pilot should have in their flight bag! Do you have one?

 

Pilots, what’s in your flight bag?

Flight bag
All this stuff is in there I promise

This is a question that will vary from pilot to pilot and the further we progress I’m sure it will change. I thought it would be cool to have a post where I share what I carry in my flight bag and other pilots can chip in with what they have in theirs.
So Pilots, what’s in your flight bag?

6/4/15
I have reluctantly sold my Venue 11 pro and replaced it with an Ipad mini 2.
I have purchased a smaller scale ruler & a Casio GT 85 calculator.

11/2/16 – 17hrs into a PPL

David Clark H10-13.4’s in a headset bag – Super comfortable headset and in my opinion one of the best passive headsets you can get.
Map of the local area – It’s always nice to know where you are going!
CRP-5, Scale ruler and square protractor – Knowing where you want to go is only half the battle, you need to work out how to get there!
Knee board – Have you tried to write on your knee while flying? I have, it doesn’t work.
Pens – Pens always going missing when you need them the most. A pack of twelve may last you 2 flights if you are lucky.
Dell Venue 11 pro 7140 – I love this hybrid tablet. The base also has an additional battery so I have full windows 10, 4gb ram, 128gb SSD and 64gb flash memory, Core M processor, wireless AC, touchscreen and an all day battery!
C152 checklist – To make sure that the plane is configured correctly and everything is working as it should.
Log book – To log these expensive hours down.
Copy of my medical – In case someone asked.
10,000 mah portable battery – When I am away from a plug, my phone still needs to be charged.
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 – Well this is more of in my pocket but it is always with me. It also has useful apps like Avia Weather.
Sunglasses – Being England I don’t need these that often 🙂
Xaomi Yi Camera, Olympus dictaphone and camera mount – Eventually I will start getting some video of these flights!

Wow, it is only after writing this down that I realise how much stuff is actually in my bag! Is this normal? What do you guys and girls carry?

Flying the route on Google Earth

We are quite lucky these days with all the tools we have available to us as pilots. A great thing I was taught by my instructor was about flying the route on Google Earth, which I feel is a valuable addition to the flight planning stage.

cranfield airport google earth

Google Earth has satellite imagining which means that you can go through your route and become familiar with what you should expect to see.
This allows you to know you are on tract when you are flying and to look out for landmarks on the way, to make sure you are still following the correct path.
Most importantly you will be able to know what your waypoint looks like so when you are approaching it, you already know what you should be seeing.
This will also help reduce your workload in the cockpit as you won’t be looking out to try to spot an airfield that you are not familiar with or a landmark you have never seen before.
The best part about it all is that Google earth is free on pretty much every operating system including  Windows, OSX, Linux, Android & iOS.
So after you have finished planning your nav with your map and flight computer and have corrected your headings for wind. You then load up your computer / tablet and go through the route in Google Maps, then you are ready to head out to the aircraft and get going.