Monday, December 29, 2014

I got a drone for Christmas!!!

Drones should never be flown over 400 feet or near an airport.
FAA video about Drone regulations and safety. Please watch by clicking here! 

Dromida Ominus Quadcopter

Yes...  I got a Drone for Christmas.   The proper terminology is RC Quadcopter.  The Dromida Ominus to be exact.   

While flight simulations is enjoyable, there is something magical about flying your own aircraft.

How it all started
Over the past few weeks, I have mulled over the idea of trying RC planes.  This idea was further sparked after meeting some of the members of the Somerset Signal Senders.  This is a radio controlled airplane club that flies out of Somerset County North Branch Park in NJ.  A friend of mine suggested I stop by for their Chili Day event held in November.  While my friend was not there,  the members of the club were very friendly!   They shared tons of advise along with copious amounts of spicy Chili.   They really made me feel welcome.  They didn't appear bothered by my numerous questions for which I was thankful.

The club flying at the field.

Link to Somerset Signal Senders RC Club

It was fun to watch them fly many different types of RC planes.  They had big, small, electric, and gas planes in the air.  One member flew a quadcopter with FPV setup.  Just as flight simulator pilots love to fly many types of planes, I noticed the RC members showed up with 2 or 3 different planes.   

An electric powered RC plane.

Numerous times I heard the members talk about safety and flying.   They realize the dangers these craft can pose to themselves and others.  
     A gas powered RC plane.

They have a training program that is geared towards getting new pilots up and flying at the field in a safe manner.  To fly at the park requires membership to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).  Membership to the AMA includes insurance coverage which is very important.  

Link to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA)

Dromida Ominus
A Dromida Ominus showed up underneath my Christmas tree.   This was an unexpected Christmas present from a relative that really made me smile!!!


The Dromida Ominus is a small quadcopter weighing in about 106 grams.  The kit includes a 2.4 ghz controller, battery, and USB charger.   Basically everything required to fly is included in the box.  The Ominus has easy and advanced modes that can be accessed via the controller.    

The box is great for transporting the Ominus.

This copter uses three accelerometers to provide stable flight.  Before taking off, the accelerometers on the Ominus will calibrate.  When the light on the Ominus stops blinking we are ready to rock. 

The Ominus provides a flying light show!

The Ominus does not use GPS unlike more expensive quadcopters. Some have likened the Ominus to a sport drone.   From some of the videos I have seen, that does appear to be a good description

Real Flight for IOS which is about $3 for the quadcopter add on.
Great for practicing on an IPAD or IPHONE.

In easy mode the Ominus is very "easy" to control.   Keeping the central red light facing me, I can easily get my bearing.  As of now, I have only flown the Ominus on easy mode. 

Link to: Dromida Ominus Videos from

The Ominus is remarkably indestructible!   So far, it has hit numerous objects from a fence, to trees, to the side of our house.   Still there is not one sign of damage.   My flying is getting better and luckily the crashes are beginning to decrease.   I have flown the copter in the backyard, and a little inside the house.   The cat did not like the Ominus.

Here kitty kitty...

The supplied 700 mh battery last from 5 to 10 minutes depending on how agressive the copter is flown.  The battery can be fully recharged in an hour.  Extra batteries have already been ordered.

Stuck in a tree.... RATS!!
FAA, Drones, and Safety.
Of course this is a touchy subject.  Personally, I can see both sides of the story.  Unfortunately there are drone pilots who have flown near airports and over 400 feet.  My hunch is that these people are not affiliated with an RC Club or the AMA.  

The big fear appears to be new people with drones who have no club affiliation and no understanding of the regulations.  To that order the FAA and Drone partners have launched a campaign called "Know Before You Fly".

The Know Before You Fly website contains a wealth of information related to proper usage of drones.  I suggest future pilots to read the posted information. 

Upon opening the Ominus, I did not find one bit of information regarding the FAA regulations to fly below 400 feet and away from airports.  Personally it is my conviction that it would behoove these manufactures to include this information.  In turn the FAA should consider the risk a 106g drone such as the Ominus poses compared to a 50 lb drone when proposing legislation.  

The bottom line is that drones are a lot of fun.  If you got a drone under your Christmas tree then you know what I am talking about. But please consider the safety aspects at all times too.   Know before you fly!   

 FAA video about Drone regulations and safety. Please watch by clicking here!
Know Before You Fly Website
Somerset Signal Senders RC Club
American Model Association (AMA))
Dromida Ominus Videos from

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A run in with "Aviation Careers Podcast"

The Aviation Careers Podcast website at

Let's face it, a career in aviation can be difficult to achieve.  Luckily there is Carl Valeri to the rescue!  Carl, and experienced airline pilot, helps promote careers in aviation through his podcast "Aviation Careers Podcast" (found on Itunes).   The website for the podcast contains a wealth of resources from a "Pilot Jobs Book" to information about various scholarship programs.

Flying into some bad weather!

The Aviation Careers Podcast is a well produced, well organized podcast that gives an in-depth look at the airline industry.   The podcast typically features co-host Eric Crump, the Aerospace Program Director from Polk State College, and Tom Wachowski, an Aviation Professional.

Carl flies and A320, but we do not know for which airline.
He does fly out of KEWR..

During a podcast, Carl and one of the co-host field questions from various newbie pilots.  Questions can range from "do I need a 4 yr degree for become an airline pilot" to "what type rating should I obtain".  Many of the podcast incorporate a topic and Carl is very adept at interviewing professionals from all over the airline industry.   For example, Carl recently did a show where he interviewed Doug Ward, a 737 pilot about flying in China (ACP068).   Recent guest also include corporate pilots, bush pilots, aviation photographers, airline stewardess, military pilots.

An A320 gets marshaled in at KIAD

If you are a flight simulator geek like me, then start downloading Carl's podcast right now!   It is very interesting to listen to.  If you love aviation and want to hear about it from a career aspect, this is a great podcast!   I have generally found that Carl's advise can be adapted to other careers!  

For the Love of Flight, kickstarter page.

You may remember my push to support Danial Shulte's Kickstarter project "For the Love of Flight:An Aviation Film" a few weeks ago.   Around that time I wrote Carl to ask for his support.  While he was not able to officially support the project, he was nice enough to respond to my email.  Carl flies the Airbus A320 for a US airline.  While emailing him, I thought it would be funny to send him a screen capture of me flying the Aerosoft Airbus into some bad weather.  He flies the real thing, and I fly it on my computer..  (What is the difference...... Lol!)  To my surprise, Carl liked the screen capture and used it on his official webpage for the podcast!  I feel pretty honored!

Aviation Careers Podcast

Carl also co-host Stuck Mic Avcast
Stuck Mic Avcast

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Flying for Virtual United Airlines "VirtualUA"

Virtual United Website at

I feel a personal association with United Airlines.  Living in Central New Jersey, the sight of a United A320 or 737 cruising overhead is an everyday occurrence.   The United Express Q400 with it's  distinctive sound buzzing by.  Like bees in and out of a hive, so to fly the United planes in and out of Newark Airport (KEWR).   The airport is United's third largest hub.
Two United A320's meetup at KEWR's 22R

After obtaining a new computer for flight simming, I applied to Virtual United Airlines best known as VirtualUA.   What better way to flight sim than to simulate real world airline flying.  Virtual United (VirtualUA) contains a plethora of opportunities to fly different aircraft, on different routes.     Typical United aircraft are the Boeing 737-800, the Boeing 777, the Airbus A320 and A319.  Each of these aircraft have excellent representation in FSX.   The United routes take you all over the US from East to West coast with hubs at airports like KEWR, KIAD, KSFO, KDEN, and KIAH.   The US has some amazing and varied geography.   
A United Express Q400 departs from KEWR on its way to KIAD.

With VirtualUA pilots can fly for many of the different regional carriers associated with the United Airlines under United Express.  This is the brand name used by United’s regional carriers.  For example, the Q400 is currently operated by Republic Airlines out of KEWR, and flown under the United Express moniker.  Regional equipment varies from the typical small regional jets to turbo props such as the Dash 8 and B1900.  Obviously my favorite is the Dash 8 represented by Majestic Software.   
A United 737-800.

VirtualUA also allows pilots fly for Star Alliance partners along with codeshare.   As you can guess, this adds a lot of variety.

Flight deck of the 737 NGX.

VirtualUA does an excellent job of balancing realism and fun!   Pilots pick a hub, but are allowed to fly from other hubs.  Pilots are not required to fly on Vatsim like some other virtual airlines.  Pilots are also allowed to substitute similar aircraft per route.   There are also opportunities to fly airlines of days gone past!   To me this is a big bonus as I would love to fly the B377 Stratocruiser for a virtual airline.  
A United 737-800 lands at TNCM.

There are three basic requirements.  For starters, pilots must fly once every month (submit a pirep).  Second, once a pilot lands at a destination, he or she must take off from that destination.  So if I fly from KEWR to KIAD, them my next flight will be from KIAD.   The third requirement is that pilots can only fly aircraft they are qualified to fly. 
Flaps extended and ready for landing!

Like many virtual airlines, VirtualUA has setup a rating system.   From 0-30 hours a pilot is qualified to fly regional aircraft such as the Q400.  At 30-60 hours the pilot is allowed to fly the typical United fleet aircraft such as the 737 and Airbus A320.  Past 60 hours you can step into the larger aircraft such as the 777.   I like this system as it gives the pilot something to look forward to.
Landing an Airbus A320 at KEWR.    

Virtual United has gone through some growing pains.   This is to be expected as no one gets paid to set up and maintain a virtual airline.  It is a lot of work!  The people behind the scenes have been very busy to make sure the pilots enjoy their time with VirtualUA.
United Express Q400 cruises across NJ.  

 As of now the website is very functional, along with the ACARS and forum (Crewtalk).   Questions are answered promptly and there is a lot of opportunity.  The airline regularly uses Teamspeak for communication.  VirtualUA also includes other perks such as discounts on flight sim products, Vatsim training, and a points sytem.    This is a growing airline and I would recommend people join!  Its a great community.
Flight deck of the Dash 8.

We search for realism sitting at our computers in relaxed seats.   Daring to believe ourselves real airline pilots we pull up checklist, SID procedures, latest weather data.   While everyone may think us silly we know one thing.  We are not alone, we are part of a community, we are part of a virtual airline!

A United B377 returns to KSFO after a long trip from Hawaii.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Intercity Airways flies Open LC skies!

The new Open LC Europe from the scenery developer Orbx 
adds “land class” data.  The  package works in conjunction with FTX Global.   Together they pack a powerful punch.   So far, my experience with the combo has been very positive.  

The combo creates what amounts to an Orbx region.   The only area that is lacking is the airports.   Still, Orbx comes to the rescue with the release of FTX Global airports for Europe.  Unfortunately all other airports in Europe are default FSX/P3d.

The biggest advantage to the land class data is the reduction of   repetitive scenery patterns.   These patterns are quite annoying when flying high.  My experience has been that the new land class data eliminates scenery repetition!   Orbx has also stated that they are dedicated to removing any repetitive patterns that remain. To me that is almost worth the price of admission alone!!!

What better way to jaunt around Europe but in the Intercity Virtual Airline's Q400.   I have been trying to master the use of FS2Crew with the Q400.   FS2Crew with its automated co-pilot has been very helpful with managing the different stages of flight.  When flying the Q, these stages can occur in quick succession.   

I also purchased the Airline2Sim Q400 training videos too.   What a spectacular set of training videos!  Highly recommended!  The video series answers a lot of those nagging questions.  You know, the ones like, how does a real Q400 pilot fly the approach.

Flight Plan

At EDDL's Gate 51.

Hence, I decided to fly an Intercity Virtual flight from EDDL                 (Dusseldorf) to LSZH (ZURICH).  This flight was recorded with the Intercity ACARS system.  Dusseldorf is an important airport for Intercity Virtual (a virtual airline).  EDDL gives Intercity access to a large stretch of Europe.
VOXATC, FS2Crew, and the Q400.

We started at Gate 51.  While my FS2Crew copilot did the walkabout and prepped the plane, I set up the box.   5000 lbs of fuel was loaded along with 71 passengers.  The flight plan was entered.  Contact was made and clearance obtained via VOXATC 6.   I purchased VOXATC 6 a few weeks ago and it is awesome.  (Expect a future post about VOXATC.) 

We taxi out.
Per ATC, (VOXATC 6), we were instructed to use KUMIK2 departure off of runway 05R.  After take off, we were to ascend to 16000, expecting FL230 10 minutes later.
An Air Berlin jet ahead of us.

My FS2Crew copilot and I sat together going over the departure briefing.  Not much concern given the good weather and dry conditions.  Before long we were pushing back, going over the after start checklist, and ready to taxi.  Ground gave us clearance to taxi down Xray, hold at 05C.   We followed behind an AirBerlin jet.   After a brief hold we were allowed to cross runway 05R, and soon waiting for our takeoff clearance. 

Line up on runway 05 R

Times like this is when FS2Crew really helps.  The automated copilot helped prep the cockpit for take off while I concentrated on ATC communication.  Clearance was given and we were soon barreling down the runway on our 296 nm flight!   For once, everything was going smoothly as we took off, switched on the autopilot, and flew the KUMIK2 departure.   

Flying the KUMIK2 SID.

Dusseldorf's Tower switched us over to our departure frequencey.  From there we were transferred to Lagen1 (If i remember correctly).  Along the way we were cleared to FL230.   Upon reaching FL230, I relaxed and took images of the scenery below. 

A Close Encounter!!!

A little into our cruise we had one of the closest fly byes of another aircraft I have ever experienced in FSX.  The TCAS was going crazy.  If this had been a real flight, I would been arrested for not responding.  A quick screen caught the perpetrator cruising right in front of us.

This would be my first time landing in Zurich.  I was afraid that VOXATC would mess up and not use a STAR.   Luckily I was wrong!
The RILAX1 STAR was put in the box, just in case.

Coming towards the RILAX waypoint.  But no time to RelaX.

We started to descend into Zurich.  ATC (VOXATC) cleared us to fly the RILAX1A STAR.  Now we could get a nice view of Zurich and the surrounding area.  There were clouds upon descent.  The charts, and ND were constantly monitored.  I wanted to make sure we didn't fly into any moutains!

The beauty of Switzerland!

Mountains, lakes, scenery galore!  Switzerland is know for its beautiful scenery!

Vectoring towards final.

ATC (VOXATC) started to supply vectors to final.  This is when things became very hectic!   Configuring for landing, following ATC directions, and soaking up the view out the window!  A lot was going on at this point!   I decided to keep the AP on even though we were visual to the runway.

On final for LSZH's runway 34.

Soon we were on final, switiched over to tower, and reading off the landing checklist.  My landing was smooth, but the approach was only hand flown for a small amount.   Coming off the runway we flicked the landing lights off, and taxi lights on.  

Landing on runway 34.

At this point, my nerves were done.  I called up GSX to direct us to our parking area.  

GSX to the rescue!

A follow me cart showed up and we were soon following hand signals, setting the brakes, and shutting off the engines.  The PIREP was then submitted into the Intercity Virtual ACARS system. 

Cut Engines!

While the airports I used for this flight were not aftermarket, the scenery below was quite spectacular!  This was in no part to Orbx Open LC.   VOXATC was able to use the SID and STAR information providing me ATC from start to finish.  In all this was a great flight with a lot of immersion!


Intercity Virtual

Orbx Open LC Europe

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Please Support.... "For The Love of Flight: An Aviation Film on KickStarter!

What is it like to be a pilot?   What careers are available to pilots?  What does it really look like to cruise over the beautiful Northern California valley?   If only someone could produce a well made  film that answers these questions!
Link to their KickStarter page:
That is exactly what young 18 year old private pilot Daniel Shulte and 747 Co-Pilot Robin Tapmon plan to do.    
 They have ambitious plans to make a movie titled “For The Love of Flight: An Aviation Film”.    To do this they have plan to use a production crew of talented youngsters, tons of aviation fuel, and the beautiful Northern California scenery.  They don’t require what I would consider a large amount of money.   But they do need to raise the money fast!  
Image courtesy of Danial Shulte.

After watching the video on their Kickstarter page and reading the information presented, I was IMPRESSED.  I donated enough to obtain a digital HD copy of the film.   As an amateur photographer, I can appreciate the artistic talent they have.  I can also appreciate their ambition.  As a flight simmer and aviation enthusiast, I can appreciate their love of flying.  Heck, the majority of the money they are raising will cover aviation fuel. 

Image courtesy of Danial Shulte.

So please, check out their video and KickStarter page.  If you can donate please do!  As they say, if you can't donate, then just spread the word!