The Flying Reporter - Frequently Asked Questions

Here are the most common questions I’m asked about my flying, my film-making and the equipment I use.

General FAQs

I want to start my own YouTube channel. Do you have any tips?

Unless you’re extremely talented, or unusually lucky, I doubt that you’ll be able to attract a huge YouTube following overnight. My advice would be to experiment, make videos you like, then grow from there.

There are countless videos of pilots flying. Many of them are great, some are really boring. Think about who you want your audience to be and what they want. Then work towards fulfilling that demand.

I started out, like many others, just filming my flights, then uploading them in full. That appealed to me initially, because I liked to review my flights to see what I can do better next time. But I suspect there are few subscribers who want to watch a 90 minute flight from start to finish.  You’ll have to edit the video down to a watchable length. Personally, I find it difficult to find the time to watch a video with a duration of more than 20 minutes. Therefore, I try extremely hard to make my videos between 15-20 minutes long.

So you’re going to need some editing software! I can’t advise you what to use, but in my former job as a TV video journalist, I’ve use Final Cut Pro X, Avid Media Composer and Adobe Premier Pro.  They’re all very similar, but it can take some time to learn how to use them. There is free video editing software you can download, but often this will have limited features and may not allow you to do multi-camera edits, for example.  I currently edit my YouTube content on Final Cut Pro X.

It took me a while to find my ‘style’. I experimented, trying different approaches, and eventually settled on the style you now see. I really like taking passengers on flights, because I think that adds value to the trip, and I include our conversations in the films I upload. I used to use quite a lot of music in my videos, but I came to the conclusion that people found this a turn-off. I now use music more sparingly. If you’re going to use music in your videos, you will need to make sure you have the copyright owner’s permission. I now purchase music licenses from commercial sites.

To make a watchable YouTube video of your flights, I think you’re going to need at least 3 cameras. One looking forward, one looking at you and your passengers, and one looking outside without you in shot. This should give you enough footage to edit.

My followers seem to like the exchanges between myself and ATC. I include as much of this as possible.

I have a policy of trying to be honest, neutral, balanced and fair in my videos. There are times when things go wrong, or people annoy me. I don’t think it’s fair to include footage/audio of someone else’s mistakes, unless there is a really good reason for it. Let’s say a controller messes up – it would be a bit unfair to plaster their mistake all over the internet without their permission or an opportunity for them to explain their position.

We all make mistakes – I’m happy to share mine, but not everyone wants to be a YouTube star for the wrong reasons.

Can I come on a flight with you?

I get quite a lot of requests from followers who would like to come on a flight with me, which is very flattering!  Presumably you’ve seen my videos, and the standard of my flying?!

I’m afraid I will only really consider a request if it would make an interesting video for the channel.  Some examples of such flights/passengers can be found here:

WW2 Thames forts

Gatwick transit with a controller

The passenger who landed an aeroplane

If you think you’d make an interesting video, please get in touch here on my contact page, and send me some information about yourself, and why you think it would be good for the channel.  I like to know a bit about you too, so please include links to your social media profiles.

 

Why do you charge for bonus content and have sponsors.

You’d be really surprised how much time goes into making the content I create for YouTube.  A typical flying video can take a couple of days to edit.   A special production might take weeks if you factor in planning, shooting and post production effort.

Until 2021, this was a hobby occupying my spare time, but over time it has grown and now Flying Reporter Productions is a full-time occupation.

I will always make my usual content available for free, but I will release it early to my Supporters’ Club members in recognition of their generous support.  They will also get bonus footage, behind the scenes content, access to my GPS tracks and can schedule a 1-1 chat with me.

Being a full-time occupation along with the considerable costs of running the video production operation,  I’m grateful to have sponsors who support me financially.

I thought you were selling your aeroplane

January 2021

In early 2020 I completed differences training on the Arrow 3, and I was selling my share in the Warrior based at Redhill.  I was looking to upgrade to a faster type, such as the Arrow, and was even searching for an aeroplane to buy outright.  I had a mortgage offer, and I had viewed several aeroplanes.

In mid 2020, my employer announced that I and my colleagues were being on notice of potential redundancy, and so I had to shelve those plans.

I continue to fly the Warrior while my employment future is determined.

Update July 2021

I have now sold my share in G-BHOR and I am looking for a replacement aeroplane.

How many hours flying experience do you have?

As of July 2021, I have 500 hours flying experience in total.

When did you get your licence?

I started learning to fly in September 2011, and I qualified as a private pilot in June 2013 after 78 hours of training.

What ratings do you have?

I have a night rating and an IR(R) rating (the UK’s restricted instrument rating).

Where did you get your plog and comm sheet?

I adapted a plog, in spreadsheet format that my flying instructor gave me.  You can download them here if you like.

You will need Excel or similar programme to view these files:

Plog & Navcom combined

PLOG only

NAV/COMM Sheet only

Tell me more about your aircraft?

I owned 1/7th of G-BHOR, a 1980 PA28-161 Piper Warrior 2 based at Redhill.  

I used to fly G-CEIZ, a group non-equity PA28-161 share aircraft based at Biggin Hill.

What is a basic service?

Unlike the rest of the world, the UK’s air traffic control services outside controlled airspace are separated into Basic Service, Traffic Service, Procedural Service and Deconfliction Service.  You can read more about the differences in these services here or search for CAP 774 on the CAA website.

How much does it cost to get a private pilot’s licence?

How long is a piece of string?  Ok, I can talk ball-park figures here.  This all depends on where you train, what aircraft you’re flying and how quickly you learn.  The minimum flying training you need is 45 hours, but it took me nearly 80 hours.  The amount of flying training you need can depend on the pace of your learning, which in turn depends on your budget and your availability.  I tried to fly about once a week.  I would guess it cost me about £8000.

Wait, did you say you have a ‘husband’?

Uh, yeah..  some pilots are gay! 


 

Technical & equipment FAQs

What cameras do you use?

2 GoPro Hero 5 Black

1 GoPro Hero 4 Silver

2 GoPro Hero 4 Black

1 GoPro Hero 3+

1 x Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro G2

1 x Sony AX53

How do you eliminate the propeller effect?

Propeller artifacts in the video is a symptom of filming through the prop with a digital camera like the GoPro.  The propeller blades can look quite horrible in the picture unless you do something about it.  In high light situations, attaching a neutral density filter to the camera seems to do the trick.  I’m currently getting the best results by using ND4 filters from Camkix

Cinematic Filter Pack for GoPro HERO 4 / 3+

Cinematic ND Filter Pack for GoPro HERO 6 / 5

Cinematic Filter Pack for GoPro HERO 4 / 3+ – Waterproof Housing

Filters like this, can all-but eliminate the propeller from the recorded image, but if you use a filter that’s too dark for the conditions, the picture quality can suffer significantly.

What camera settings do you use?

I use different settings depending on what I’m doing.  I usually find that 1080, 25fps, and the wide setting works pretty well but I will usually film my flights using the GoPro 2.7k 25fps setting.  I will usually publish my videos in 1080p. 

The higher the resolution/frame rate, the more battery power and memory card space the camera will consume.

Why 25fps and not 30?

Our electrical system here in the UK is at 50hz, rather than the 60hz you may be familiar with in other parts of the world, such as America.  Therefore, our TV programmes are broadcast at 25fps.

 

What do you use to edit your footage?

Currently FCPX

How do you record your flights inc intercom audio?

Cameras

I use GoPro cameras to record my flights.  They’re lightweight, reliable and come with a range of mounting options.

I shall be updating my equipment in due course, but I currently fly with 3x GoPro Hero 4s, 1x Gopro Hero 3+ and 2x GoPro 5.

What settings to use?

For short flights (less than 2 hours) I will usually record at 2.7k resolution, 25fps on the wide setting.  I don’t use ProTune or stabilisation.  For flights longer than 2 hours I will record at a resolution of 1080p, 25fps in order to maximise battery life and storage card space.

Even though I’m filming sometimes at 2.7k, I don’t publish my videos in this resolution.  I downscale the final edit to 1080p.  Filming at a higher resolution though gives you the opportunity to zoom and crop – handy if the GoPro camera hasn’t been perfectly positioned in the cockpit.

Audio

Here’s where it potentially gets a bit complicated. It’s one of the most common questions asked of YouTube pilots. The reason it’s complicated is because there are various ways to do it, and there are a few nasty gotchas that you have to watch out for.

Firstly, you need a splitter cable that will take the audio from your aircraft’s intercom. You can buy these at most of the aviation retailers.

GA intercom splitter cable to miniature jack

Next you need to decide whether you want to record directly into your camera, or onto a separate digital recording device. If recording straight into the GoPro, depending on the splitter cable you choose, you may need to buy an adapter to connect the cable from the aircraft into the GoPro socket.  Again, depending on the cable you buy, you may need to add in an attenuator…see below.

If you buy a separate digital recording device, you must make sure that it will accept a LINE LEVEL audio input. Sadly, such devices tend to be on the more expensive side. You can expect to spend around £100 for this.  If you don’t buy a device with a line level input, your audio will be distorted.

Digital audio recorder with ‘line-in’ socket

The benefit of recording onto a standalone digital recorder is the certainty that you’re going to capture the intercom from the whole flight. I’ve suffered the frustration many times where my GoPro battery has run flat, leaving me not just without pictures, but without audio too. 

Audio attenuator

If you find that your audio sounds distorted, you may want to buy an attenuator. Here’s an example of a 40dB (line level to mic level) version I bought from a seller on Ebay which has cleaned up my intercom sound very nicely. There’s nothing worse than ear-splittingly loud and distorted recordings.  Whether you need an attenuator may depend on your aeroplane’s intercom or your recording equipment.

Be sure to set your digital audio recording device to the same sample rate as your video (typically 48 KHz) as otherwise you may find it difficult to synchronise your audio and video with your pictures when it comes to editing.

 

Camera positioning

I currently use a mixture of suction cups and glue-mounted GoPro shoes to mount my cameras in the cockpit.  I have two mypilotpro tie down mounts on each wing, which I had to have certified for use on my aeroplane, per EASA rules.You need to check the regulations in your country before trying to mount a camera on the exterior of the aircraft. Never use a suction cup on the exterior – it will fall off.

On most flights, I will have one camera filming from the window,  I have one camera pointing back at me, one facing forward just behind the two front seats, and one facing forward looking at the instruments and through the front windshield.

Obviously, use common sense when positioning cameras to make sure they aren’t going to hit you, or jam a flight control if they come loose. It’s worth making sure they are firmly attached before setting off. 

Battery life

This is the biggest issue I’ve had to grapple with. All the GoPro cameras I use will run for an hour without running flat, but beyond that some of the higher spec cameras start to suffer. Most of my flights, including taxying are about 90-120 minutes, so I’ve had to find workarounds for this. I carry spare batteries and can swap those down route (never in flight) to capture the return leg, if landing away.

GoPro battery pack

GoPro used to make a battery pack that you can attach to the back of the Hero 4 Black and Silver versions, and this extends the life considerably.  Later versions are not supported.

You can use external battery banks or even aeroplane USB outputs to keep the cameras powered for longer, but be aware of any rules affecting your aeroplane and more importantly consider the risk of running cables around the cockpit area.

Editing

I’ve used Final Cut Pro X.  How to edit is a big topic in itself and I don’t intend to cover that here.

Synchronisation

So having filmed your flight, you now have a terabyte of footage from multiple cameras that needs to be synchronised. Your audio, if recorded on a separate digital recorder also has to be matched up with the footage.

To help with this, I often clap my hands in front of all the cameras just before starting the aircraft’s engine. This provides a good synch point for your footage.

You can edit in a multi-camera mode in your editing software or you may have to lay the footage onto multiple tracks and then cut through the different tracks, to choose the camera angles you want.

Conclusion

I suggest you start small, perhaps with a couple of cameras, get an audio recording cable and see how you get on. I’ve had many failures during the course of filming my flights and it can be frustrating.

One final word of caution. When you get to the stage of mounting multiple cameras, you really need to give yourself plenty of time to rig them. I allow at least 30 minutes to rig the aeroplane and I do this prior to starting my walk-around. If I’m under time pressure, I ditch the cameras and concentrate on preparing and flying the plane safely.

Filming your flights is a great way to learn from your mistakes, hone your landings and extend your hobby to fill the hours between flights.

Carb heat questions

Carburettor heat is something you’ll find on older piston engine aircraft such as the PA28 and Cessna 152. It’s used to clear ice from, or prevent ice from forming in the carburettor in the engine. Carburettor icing is a common cause of engine failure in the UK.

I receive many questions about my use of Carburettor heat because there are various schools of thought about it, and because my videos are watched worldwide, different climates require different processes.

One question I commonly receive from US viewers is: Why do you use carb heat during descent, or check it during the cruise.  These people often cite the POH which says to only use carb heat when carb ice is suspected.

To that question, I refer to the UK’s aviation regulator (the CAA) who, because of our climate and the prevalence of carb-ice accidents/incidents, advocate much more frequent and routine use of carb heat. Google ‘CAA safety sense leaflet 14 carburettor icing’ to find the advice.

The other common question I get asked from UK viewers is: Why do you switch carb heat off on short final?

I’ve been trained by various instructors, who advocate different approaches. There’s the those who advocate leaving it on and turning carb heat off as they go-around. Then there are those who advocate turning it off on short final.

Each method has merits and downsides.  If you’re a pilot undertaking training, then I would recommend you continue operating carb-heat in the manner in which you have been instructed and if you have any questions, then take them up with your instructor. 

What exterior camera mounts are you using?

The camera mounts I’ve been using for my PA28 videos are from mypilotpro.com in the US. 

MyPilotPro GoPro Airplane Mount

The mounts were approved by my CAMO (aircraft engineer) under EASA CS-STAN (Standard Changes and Standard Repairs).

Standard Change CS-SC403a

PROVISIONS FOR THE INSTALLATION OF LIGHTWEIGHT CAMERAS

https://www.easa.europa.eu/document-library/certification-specifications/cs-stan-issue-2

My engineer, paying regard to the CAA’s Policy and guidance on mounting cameras on aircraft, CAP 1369.

What is a Restricted Instrument Rating

The Restricted Instrument Rating, also known as an IR(r) or IMC rating, is a sub-ICAO rating only available in the UK.  Some refer to it as a ‘get out of trouble’ rating, or ‘get you home’ rating, because of it’s inferior status compared to the full European IR, BIR, CB-IR or US FAA IR.

I don’t know the history of the rating, but I suspect it came about to help private pilots and instructors work with the UK’s climate, which is often worse that many other places in western Europe.  We suffer far more low cloud, than Southern France, Spain or Portugal, and so complying with visual flight rules can sometimes be harder.

The IR(r) only requires you to have obtained 25 hours flying experience since you applied for your PPL, of which 10 hours must be as PIC, and 5 hours cross-country flight.

The training consists of 15 hours flying, of which 10 must be with sole reference to instruments.  There’s a theoretical knowledge exam, and a flight skills test.  The rating is valid for 25 months, and can be renewed by carrying out a skills test.

As you can see, in training temrs, it really is far inferior to a full IR but it is an extremely useful rating.  You can fly IFR in the UK only, except in Class A airspace.   You can shoot IFR approaches to the published minima.  The minimum visibility allowed at your arrival and departure aerodrome is 1500 metres, and they recommend that you play it safe, by having a minima of no lower than 500ft agl for a precision approach, and 600ft for a non precision approach, especially if not in a good practise.

If you keep in good practise, there’s no reason why you couldn’t do a cross country in IMC, fully expecting to take off and land in cloud.  If however you don’t practise the skill regularly, then it does really revert to just a ‘get out of trouble’ rating that it has become so famously known as.

How do you synchronise all of your cameras?

I try to record a ‘synch clap’ on the video at the time of recording.  When all the cameras are recording, I clap my hands, and then when I come to edit the video, I can look for the clap, and synchronise all of the cameras to the same point.

What iPad are you using, and how do you mount it?

In my early videos, Prior to May 2018, I had an older, and rather large IPad. (fourth generation I think)  I mounted it to the yoke with one of these.  http://www.transair.co.uk/sp+Apple-iPad-RAM-Mounts-Ram-iPad-Complete-Yoke-Mount-Kit+1426

I now have an ipad mini 4, wifi/gps/cellular version, and I mount it with the same yoke attachment, but a smaller cradle.  Make sure you get the right attachment/cable for your needs.  

This is the one I currently use: 

https://www.pooleys.com/shop/ram-mounts/complete-kit-with-ez-roll-r-holder-for-the-apple-ipad-mini-4/

Do make sure the flight controls are unimpeded by the mount/iPad.  If you don’t adjust it well, it can get in the way of the mixture setting on the PA28.

How long does it take to edit the videos together?

It usually takes me about 2 days in all.  I start by converting the footage from the GoPro files to something easier to edit with.  I then synchronise the various camera angles and sound, then start a rough cut.  This involves working out what the ‘story’ will be, and being brutal about what to cut out.  A fine edit follows, with a script if required, then a sound mix, then graphics, then a colour grade.