I've been interested in flying a formation and an aerobatic. If an
aerobatic flight is not possible, I want to learn to fly a formation.
If I am able to fly a formation with a historic airplane, that would be
A Cessna 172 cannot only fly a limited aerobatic maneuvers like steep
turns and stalls, and I am not allowed to fly a formation by the rental
But, I am at least allowed to fly in the same traffic pattern with a historic
airplane. I don't even need a permission to do so.
The only remaining flyable B-29 bomber "FiFi" was visiting Allegheny
County airport this weekend. (The second one "Doc" is almost
restored to the flyable condition.) I visited the airport
yesterday, and the person at the counter told FiFi was going to give a
ride at 9AM. I was scheduled to fly the next day in the morning
from Beaver County airport. If I join the traffic pattern of
Allegheny County at the right time, I should be able to fly the same
traffic pattern with FiFi.
Those who bought a ride was supposed to come at 9am. They must
receive a briefing before taking off. A B-29 takes aweful long
time for pre-flight and before-takeoff checklist. Probably, it
actually would take off at 10am. Then, it should return to the
airport around 10:30. A Cessna 172 takes about 10 minutes on the
ground and 20 minutes from Beaver to Allegheny. If I take off at
10am, I should join the pattern at Allegheny County about 10:30am.
So, I took off 10am. I requested a flight following from
Pittsburgh approach, but they looked to be very busy. The ATC
replied "Stand By" and never called back. I flew on my own.
I contacted Allegheny Tower about 10 miles north. The tower told
me to fly right-base runway 28. Then I saw a silhouette of a
massive airplane flying over Allegheny County airport. No mistake,
that was a B-29 "FiFi"! At first, I was supposed to do a touch &
go before FiFi, but maybe I slowed down too early. The tower told
me to join and extend downwind to let FiFi land befor me.
"Number two, follow B-29 on left base."
I replied to the tower. Yes, I was flying the same traffic pattern
with the B-29.
If I kept 110kt a bit longer, I could do touch & go before FiFi, and
could be able to take a photo of FiFi just before landing, but all I
could take was FiFi taxing back. It was such a priviledge to be a
pilot to see the historic B-29 bomber from the same traffic pattern that
it was just flying.
You can find the 2016 tour schedule of B-24 and B-29 in the following
CAF AirPower History Tour
Actually I had one more mission on this flight, which is to take a
picture of Pittsburgh from 3,000ft above Forbes avenue+Murray avenue
intersection. From that point, I can capture Carnegie Mellon
university campus, University of Pittsburgh, and downtown in one line.
I think that is one of the best view of Pittsburgh. But, the
condition was too hazy to capture a good picture. I'll try again.
Repairing a Tripod Screw Hole with a 3D
Nikon Coolpix P50 was a miracle camera (as I said in the last post.)
Can record 640x480 30fps movie for one hour continuously. Once I
press the shutter button, I don't have to touch it again for an hour and
two minutes. No distortion and spaghetti propeller due to the
rolling-shutter effect. Can run on two AA batteries, therefore I
can still use it. Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries are bad
batteries. I am not saying the technology is bad. But
because every digital camera manufacturers are selling proprietary
batteries and there is no standard. What's even worse is they
change the battery every time they sell a new model. The new
batteries are not backward compatible. Older models dies when the
battery comes to its life, even if the camera body is still perfectly
functioning. Lithium-Ion batteries are used as a tool for
disabling older models and are massivly turning healthy cameras into
industrial waste. Shame on those selfish engineers who are making
proprietary lithium-ion batteries! In fact, once my friend visited
Pittsburgh, but her digital-camera battery was already dead, and she
could not use her camera here. She was not using her camera for a
while and did not notice the battery was in such a bad shape until too
late. We see digital cameras are not selling in these days.
One reason is of course everyone uses a smart phone to take pictures.
There are many reasons. I think proprietary battery is one of the
reasons why people don't buy a dedicated digital camera.
By the way, I wondered if the digital camera from a different maker that
was sold at the same time as P50 can also take 640x480 30fps video for
an hour or so. I acquired a Canon PowerShot A570 IS and tested.
Turned out the compression rate of A570 is not as high as P50, and it
hits 4GB file-size limit after 36 minutes. I need to go down to
15fps if I want to take an hour video continuously. So, I suppose
P50 is a better camera in terms of long-duration video recording.
I saw a demo video of the newest Go Pro video in Walmart a few days ago.
It was saying something like it reduced the distorsion from the
rolling-shutter effect by increasing the scanning speed. Looks
like it really did. I didn't see too many pictures with bank
rotation though. I doubt if it is fast enough to eliminate the
spaghetti propeller. If the general distorsion is reduced, they
may not care about the propeller any more. I think I stick with
P50 for a while.
So, I have a backup of backup P50, and have been using it with care.
However, the tripod-screw hole of the one that I was using for recording
the instrument panel was worn loose. I was expecting it to wear
since it was made of plastic. I thought about several ways to
repair. Using epoxy material may not tolerate repeated screwing in
and out. Inserting a heli-coil is only good for metal frame.
The plastic base of P50 may not be able to hold a heli-coil.
Super-gluing a plate with a screw hole will hide some screws and
eliminating a possibility of repair (or using it as repair parts for
another P50) in the future.
My solution is to make an external cover for the camera, and make a
hexagonal hole, where I can insert a 1/4 20 nut. The problem is
how to make such a cover. It was a very good application of a 3D
printer. I could make a geometric model using
I could use a laser-range scannera in the university lab, but this time,
I didn't bother I used a ruler to measure dimensions. The first
version was this.
I thought I made about 0.5mm gap between the top-surface of the camera
and the case. However, it was rather about 1mm short. I had
to insert a plastic plate between the upper- and lower-parts. But
the horizontal dimension was very accurate. Also the material
feeled like harder than I was expecting.
So, I made an improved version.
I removed some materials to make it lighter. Also I made two
hexagonal holes. This time, the material I used for the first
version was not available, and I had to use a different material.
I made it 1mm taller this time. So, it was supposed to fit the
camera almost exactly. However, this one was 1mm taller. I
had roughly 1mm gap above the camera body. Maybe it is due to the
difference of the material. I suppose the 3D printer is not
precise in the height direction (perpendicular to the printing layers).
I inserted sticky rubber pads inside the cover, and then it fit
perfectly to the camera.
I think I can make a tripod-screw hole anywhere. Maybe if I make
version 3, I will add a side screw hole, too. Actually, I should
be able to mount almost anything on a tripod with this method.
I don't know if someone has a same worn screw-hole problem with a
Coolpix P50. But, if you do, you can try printing
Backup of Backup of Coolpix P50
Nikon Coolpix P50 was a miracle compact digital camera. It was
sold in 2007. So, it is already 9 years old. But, I conclude
that this is the only one camera that can be used for taking
forward-looking video from the cockpit of a single-engine airplane.
I always capture videos with forward-looking and instrument-looking
camras when I fly an airplane. I can review the flight after
coming back home. I took half-day off today, and went flying.
In the last landing, the airplane didn't want to touch the ground longer
than usual and I ended up using longer runway to stop. My
instrument-looking camera tells if my airspeed control was bad or it was
due to the wind. Looks like it was wind. I was keeping 65kt
on final, which is exactly the airspeed I am supposed to keep.
I have been using two Nikon Coolpix P50s for long time for
forward-looking and instrument-looking videos. I was using Pentax
Optio S55 and taking 320x240 resolution video, but later I switched to
Coolpix P50 and now I take 640x480-resolution video. But, nothing
lasts forever. I wondered what camera should replace my P50 in
case it is damaged, when I came to know an unbelievable stupid rule that
is making all compact digital camera disqualify for my purpose.
Can you believe that virtually all digital camera models released after
late 2007 have limiting the duration of video recording to 30 minutes?
The reason is real stupid. EU defined that a device that can
capture longer than 30 minutes video as a video recorder, and applies
ridiculously high tax. Digital-camera manufacturers countered this
rule by limiting the maximum duration of video recording to 29 minutes.
I wish whoever made this rule burnt in the hell. Coolpix P50 had
been made available just before EU made the stupid rule.
Therefore, it doesn't have the video-duration limit.
Also, less and less compact digital cameras are powered by AA batteries.
For some reason, camera manufacturers sell a new type of battery
whenever they sell a new model. The new battery is not compatible
with the older models. A battery doesn't last long. In a few
years, the battery capacity decreases to the point that the camera is
practically useless. Even before the battery dies, how many
chargers do I have to carry for a trip? Coolpix P50 runs on two AA
batteries. That's why I still am able to use it. Actually,
it can capture more than 2-hour video with a pair of fully-charged
If I replace my Coolpix P50 with one of the current models, I will have
to push the shutter button every 30 minutes. Maybe I can live with
pressing a shutter button once an hour. But, ideally I want start
recording before take off, and don't want to touch until I land.
Re-pressing the shutter button every 30 minutes is unacceptable.
If I want to record long video, the only choice looks to be an action
camera like Go Pro. If I use such an action camera in a shaking
airplane, the image will be substantially distorted. Also the
propeller will be stretched and split like spaghuetti. It is due
to the rolling-shutter method that all of action cameras are using.
There is no real solution to this problem until those action cameras
change to the global-shutter method. A weak solution to this
problem is to add a filter in front of the lens to reduce the shutter
speed so that propeller becomes invisible. But, reducing shutter
speed should theoretically distorts the image more. No solution at
this time. I suppose those who are making Go Pro doesn't care
about the picture quality. 4K resolution means nothing if the
image is substantially distorted and the propeller appears like
spaghuetti. (It is similar to the sensor-dust problem lf digital
SLRs. Camera manufacturers didn't even admit it was a problem for
long time.) What they should do is not to increase the resolution,
but to use global shutter
Short-final at Greenville (4G1) No image
distorsion, and the propeller appears in one piece.
After considering those points, I came to the conclusion that Coolpix
P50 is the only one camera that can capture decent video from the
cockpit. Actually, I chose this camera just because it was not too
pricy and could take AA batteries. I bought the first Coolpix P50
at B&H Photo Video store in New York just by occasion. I was lucky
to pick exactly the right camera for cockpit video.
I should have purchased one more back up of Coolpix P50. Right
now, I have one for forward-looking video, and the second one for
instrument-looking video. And, if one breaks, I can still take
instrument video with my Pentax Optio S55. But, just in case, it's
a good idea to have one backup.
I looked for a used Coolpix P50, but it was difficult to find because
the model is so old. Luckily I found one in Japanese online
used-camera shop. I purchased it and sent to my parents' home.
I'll pick it up when I visit Japan this summer.
If you have one Coolpix P50, take good care of it! It will serve
Flying over the snowfield
I have recently purchased E-Z Pass. E-Z
Pass is a transponder for automated toll gate of the toll roads.
It is good for many of the north-eastern states. During the
end-of-year party, I was chatting with a friend, and he was talking
about how convenient E-Z Pass is. I said to him that I rarely use
a toll road, so there may not be much benefit for me. As soon as
my words left my mouth, I realized that I am using a toll road every
time I go to Beaver County airport. If I use a toll road twice or
three times a month, it may be beneficial enough. So, I purchased
an E-Z Pass transponder, and I used it for the first time to go to
Beaver County airport last weekend.
I used to drive through downtown, Ft. Pitt tunnel, and by the Pittsburgh
International airport to go to Beaver. It takes about 50 minutes
with no traffic. But, it is almost always slow near the downtown
and near Robinson. There is some construction work all the time.
I was getting sick and tired of that road.
Recently I go to the north via Cranberry and then approach Beaver from
the south. This route is longer. But, I don't have to go
through downtown and the road is rarely crowded. It takes 50 to 55
minutes to get there. I used to be wasting 1 to 2 minutes at the
toll gate before, but now the stopping time at the gate is zero. I
am hoping E-Z Pass reduces the travelling time by 4%. (4% is not
negligible!) I wish I could rent an airplane from Allegheny County
airport again. I used to be able to hop on a Cessna 172 just after
20 minutes drive. It used to be so convenient.
Flying over the snowfield
North eastern U.S. was hit by a historic snow storm over the weekend.
South east of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.,
were hit hard. But, here in Pittsburgh was really on the border
between heavy snow and clear sky. The roads around my place were
covered by snow and unpassable from Friday night to Saturday morning.
But, it was normal in the afternoon of Saturday.
On Sunday, I took two of my teaching assistants to a sight-seeing
flight. The low cloud didn't clear as early as forecasted so I
delayed the take off by an hour. But, when I arrived at the
airport, the sky was clear. Maybe I didn't have to delay after
I took off Beaver county, made two circles over the Carnegie Mellon
University, one touch & go at Allegheny County and Washington County
each, then flew back to Beaver county. I thought about flying
farther south to see how much snow fell over there. But, in case I
need to make an emergency landing, calling a rescue to a deeply
snow-covered place wouldn't be easy. So, I just stayed close to
Pittsburgh. But, the snow-covered terrain was beautiful
This time I have used a new headset, Telex Stratus 30 headset for the
first time. My wife bought this Active-Noise Cancelling headset
for my birthday present. An ANR headset used to be at the price
range of $1,000. But, the price of some ANR headsets came down to
the order of $500. ANR headsets are more affordable than before.
What's good about this Telex Stratus 30 is it is powered by two AA
batterieds. It can take rechargeable AA batteries as well (the
instruction manual confirms it.) So, I am using the AA batteries
that came with the headset now, and I will switch to Eneloop
rechargeable batteries after these batteries are depleted. Eneloop
really works as advertised. Once charged, it retains the charge
for long time unlike traditional rechargeable batteries. I can ust
then just like a conventional (non-rechargeable) batteries, and when
depleted I can simply re-charge and good to go.
I didn't feel it was quieter with Telex Startus 30. But, the
difference was that the voice was clearer than my previous Lightspeed
QFR Solo. Not just what ATC says, but also my voice feedback was
clear. Actually, when speaking, human depends on the voice
feedback. If you cannot hear your voice, your brain automatically
tries to adjust the volume, and you end up speaking louder. With
Telex Stratus 30, because I could hear my voice clearer than before, it
was also easier for me to speak over the radio.
Washington County airport Short final
I realized that the battery level of my portable GPS, Garmin 96c, was
low. Well, if it runs out of battery, I would have been left with
the on-board GPS and Garmin GLO. Well, if these two go dark, I had
a backup Garmin 96c in my flight bag. After the back-up Garmin
96c, I had FltPlan Go installed on my iPhone. I am trained to fly
by looking at the ground in case of total navigation-equipment failure,
but I am very well backed up before reaching that point. I am
considering to get Sporty's SP-400 aviation radio that has VOR receiver.
Since I had a big mess with my medical-certificate renewal. I now
know that how blessed I am to be able to fly. And, how .precious
it is. I will try to fly more often than past a few years. I
want to fly three times a month, but I could go only twice during
January. I wish the weather to stabilize soon.
[Click here for posts from 2015]