Monday, November 17, 2014

Daring to Be: GPS Track Writing Scholarship Flight

Recently I learned of the generous scholarship for 99s members called "Dare to Be Different". It isn't your typical scholarship, there was is no essay required and it did not contain a list of the usual requirements. The only requirement? Be different. Challenge accepted!

Below is my "application" for the "Dare to Be Different" scholarship. I decided to do my own kind of skywriting-with a GPS track! In case you cannot tell, my GPS track says Dare 2 B (adding different would have taken a lot more time). Someday I hope I can do some "real" sky writing to inspire someone with similar words that they can actually see in the sky. 

Here's how I did it:

1, I picked what I wanted to say then plotted it out on graph paper. I then traced the lines on graph paper to make sure it was flyable. I set all my turns on cardinal numbers to make it easier.
2. Next, I picked an area free of airspace and obstructions so I could fly the route uninterrupted.
3. I determined next the length of each leg. I found a handy website called where I could plot our my words and drag the line to the distance I desired.
4. Finally using, I found the coordinates to each major point in my words and input those coordinates in GPS software. I downloaded a trial of iFly GPS (made by one of my favorite av sites: to do this and we also had Bob's Anywhere Map as a backup. I'll see if I can get in the air again soon and give you a full report on the iFly GPS. So far, so good!

Drawing out the plan
Pre Flight:
1. Thanks to Kyle and Jon for lending me their GoPros! Bob clamped one to the dash looking outside and one to the the sunshade facing in. I obviously scrapped the inside view in the editing process (more on that later).
2. Prior to departure, we set the app GPS Essentials on our phones to track what we flew.
3. We loaded the flight plans on our tablets and were off!

All plotted out on iFly GPS
1. We flew out to middle-of-nowhere Pennsylvania and started to follow the flight plan. I quickly learned that it was best to focus on flying and had Bob call out each turn. 
2. We also had to adjust the track on the fly (pun intended!) to correct for wind and pilot error. The GPS also took some time to catch up with all the turns so it was best to lead the turns and stop a bit early and wait to see where the track ended up.
3. I found the heading bug to be useful to keep track of where I was heading next (all those turns over and over can get confusing). Also, it was important to keep correcting the heading indicator as it deviated often. 
4. D'oh! I didn't factor terrain into my planning. I'd always feel a bit safer doing the maneuvers over flat land, but I did it over mountains. I had to alter my altitude occasionally to make sure I stayed within VFR minimums from the clouds and didn't go too low.

Hello mountains!
1. Once we were home all the video files were downloaded to my laptop and we exported the GPS Essentials file as a KML file. 
2. Next, we imported the KML file to Google Earth and watched our flight play back-it was pretty neat!
3. Finally it was time to edit the video. That took all day Sunday and was painstaking because my computer just did not have the umph required to preview multiple layers of videos. So, to get the video as accurate as possible with what I could manage to see, I took out the inside view which originally was going to be in the left hand corner.
4. After hours of fine tuning, the GPS track and video do not line up, although it does at a few points. I believe that the GPS track plays slower on the turns and faster on the straight areas so it would not ever match up with the video. A possible solution would be to take GPS track and breakit down into smaller clips and then match each by sight. Unfortunately, my computer just could not handle the preview so that would be very difficult for me to do.

The actual flight path
What a fun project this was! This scholarship application was a great exercise in mastering coordinated maneuvers in an airplane. My steep turns were a bit shaky in the beginning and very smooth and coordinated towards the end of the flight. The total on the hobbs was 1.8 (about a half hour of that was DARE2B) including the flight out and back. After landing I was tired and hungry, but in such good spirits after a fun flight!

I intend to use this scholarship to complete my Instrument Proficiency Check. I have not been current in years, and I keep putting this off for when I have the money, but it's no longer OK to me to put off something that could make me safer in the cockpit. Any additional funds I'd like to put towards some fun training...I would love to go for my tail wheel endorsement!

A huge thanks to the "Dare to Be Different" scholarship committee for this opportunity. I pushed myself to do something new and interesting in an airplane and learned a lot while doing so. What will I dare to do to next? :)

Also thanks to my navigator and co-pilot in life


  1. Awesome! You did a great job, better than I would have!

  2. Well done! And very cool. Good luck on the scholarship!


What are you pondering?