When I first began my flight training I, being a media dork, decided to record my training flights. I made audio recordings from engine start to shut down. Now it’s been a few years and I wish I had continued the practice.
In the aircraft I was flying at the time, recording in-flight audio required me to go and buy a portable comm system because the aircraft were not equipped with audio in/out jacks on the panel other than for headsets. I picked up a modular four position comm that had the in/out jacks I needed and began using it with a small digital recorder. The quality was not great but it worked surprisingly well. I have seven or so hours of me and my instructor at the time, bouncing in, out, and around Oakland International Airport (KOAK) in September and October of 2003.
I started listening to the recordings this last week while I added ID3 and IPTC tags to the files. While listening to the recordings I had several revelations about my training and about that instructor. I am not going to go into the details of the revelations just yet, but I decided to post about in-flight recording in general. It is a simple process and does not require a whole lot of technical knowledge to do, and depending on your aircraft’s capabilities (in/out jacks in the panel and such) it could be darn near effortless.
Why do in-flight recording?
The most obvious is reason is to have a record of your training flights that you can show off to your friends (impressive to non-pilot folk). Beyond that though, I becomes an effective tool for post-flight debriefing. An instructor can go over a segment of the flight with a student with perfect recall. Demonstrating bad habits, from the left and right seat, like maintaining a sterile cockpit at critical phases of flight, positive exchange of controls, missed radio calls, all kinds of things. It can be an invaluable tool for education.
In-flight recordings are also a good tool for instructor evaluation, how you as a student interact with an instructor. This gives the student pilot a tremendous tool to use at a time when the new pilot does not have the experience to recognise lapses in the instructors skills. Had I thought about it, I could have presented information to the chief instructor at the academy that could have helped my instructor improve his skills and enhanced my training.
Lastly, it is a permanent record for you to review years later, maybe on a stormy day when couch flying is the only good option for the day. Listen to one of those old flight recordings and see just how much has changed. What you can do better, what areas needed work. Use it not only for enjoyment but for providing reference points for your current skills. A record you can pass down to the next generation of pilots.
What did I learn?
On first listening I felt awkward, not wanting to share any of the recordings because I look back at what a dufus I sounded like, then I started to analyze what was going on, in my head and in the cockpit, I began to see things, nuances in my training that I had not recognised before.
I had looked back at my early training while I was in a CFI/I academy later and had several revelations about my instructor and the training program I was in at the time, I think It would have been beneficial for me and the rest of my academy class to hear some of the recordings to demonstrate several points.
Now that I am older and wiser I look back again at those first few flights. I now know that It is a good idea to use in-flight recording on training flights as a student or an instructor. I can use those recordings as tools to improve my skills and those of my students. Don’t be frightened of by the thought of sounding like a dufus, the recordings can only help you improve your flying experience as a student or an instructor.
Spend a few bucks on a comm and a digital recorder if you have too. It is a wise investment that will pay rewards throughout your aviation carrier.
Blue skys and tail winds,