CloudAhoy’s cockpit view, including cockpit view animation, is now available in beta.
Be warned: it’s addictive.
To make it more fun, I now initialize the timeline’s slider to be the beginning of the takeoff roll (i.e., after the taxi to the runway). So you can click Debrief, then set Cockpit POV (wow! you’re on the runway!), then click play, and watch the plane take off into the inviting blue horizon.
Many CloudAhoy users have asked in the past for a cockpit view. If you are one of them, you probably received from me a polite email (recycled in part, to help save the planet) explaining why such a thing would be misleading because of all the unavoidable errors in calculating the displayed plane’s attitude. That explanation was convincing, at least for me, and therefore I never implemented the mode.
Until now, that is. I realize now that this mode is actually rather cool, and that the attitude calculation turned out to be pretty realistic (the link above explains some of the limitations of this mode).
What made me decide to do it? I think it was a last-straw type of thing — last Friday I received yet another request to do it. I was sitting at my computer at 2 PM, and I thought that I have a few hours to play with this before our friends come over for dinner. Luckily Tani, my wife, was the designated cook that afternoon, so I could have several hours of hacking. After dinner (excellant dinner BTW) I connected my laptop to the TV, and showed the hacked version to our guests, as an affordable replacement for a more robust form of entertainment such as a juggler on tightrope, or leopards jumping through rings of fire. The guests liked it so much, that I decided to spend a week and do it right. Soon I was doing physics on a legal pad, deriving the formulae. Two days later I flew the Arrow, mostly for practicing Lazy Eights, but also to create a table of pitch angles in various configurations — as a way to calibrate the mathematical pitch model.
It’s still unclear to me in what ways will this mode aid in debriefing a flight. But I am convinced that it’s as useful for debriefing as it is for just having fun. As I was playing back some landings of mine, I did notice one from several months ago that was high above the glide slope. I must have had four white PAPI lights in my face most of the way down on that landing. Maybe it was a case of being number 2 after a heavy military plane (my home airport is also an AFB), or maybe I was just being sloppy. I could get the same information about the steep approach without the Cockpit POV of course. In fact, turning the “further analysis” checkbox, CloudAhoy measures and reports the exact slope. But I must admit that seeing the steep approach in the Cockpit POV mode gets the message deeper under one’s skin, more than the 5.7° slope number.
I kept playing back other flights, such as a flight that I flew with my son in valleys in the Rutland Vt. area, or a flight over Lake George. It’s very entertaining, and looks pretty realistic albeit without a sound track. One benefit of playing a flight in the cockpit’s POV is that you can click the 10x button and pretend that your humble GA plane is now a mighty F16. Well, sort of.
I’ve had Google Earth crash on me at times when running this mode. I think it crashed much more in Safari than in all the other browsers combined (Firefox, Chrome, IE). Maybe it’s just my setup.
In a previous post I promised to write about Lazy Eights. I never got to do it (and I’m not going to use the pun that I was Lazy). Next week we’re going on vacation, and I will be flying again in February. Maybe I’ll write about the Lazy Eights then.