Photos in Flight Recording Equipment Placement

Photo By: Christian Plesu

Photo By: Christian Plesu

Becoming a member of the “Pilots of Instagram” Club

Step No. 2: Placement

The placement of your recording equipment is just as important as your choice of equipment. In addition to the location, you must consider whether your mounting point will be temporary, semi-attached, or permanent. We will review those three scenarios in a later segment. Equipment placement falls into three categories:

Interior

Exterior

First Person View (FPV)

Interior

The placement of your audio/video equipment can be in one of countless locations within the cockpit. When choosing a spot, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will this position cause unsafe conditions for operation of the aircraft?
  • Does it impair any flight control full operational movement?
  • Does the mounting location have potential to fall and harm me or my passengers?
  • Will this position impair sight picture or scanning capabilities?
  • Does the mounting position hinder emergency operations including exiting the aircraft?
  • Will conditions of the flight work with this location? – Time of day considerations – Reflection considerations – Equipment operating temperature limitations – Route of flight considerations with respect to sun location and reflecting materials
  • Do you know how to install and remove the mounting equipment without damaging the aircraft?
  • Did you review the space requirements and limitations with the mounting equipment and choice of video equipment when attached?

A recommendation is to start with interior setups and locations that are simple and either out of sight or on the other side of the interior cabin. This will force you to just set it and forget it. The placement learning phase will result in you finding the best locations that work with your flight parameters while reinforcing a habit of avoiding distraction by operating the recording equipment. Remember: AVIATE — NAVIGATE — COMMUNICATE.

As stated before the best way to start is with a simple one camera setup and then advance from there. Here is an example of a seven camera setup. Please note the customization of the mounts as well as the restricted exterior visibility created from these vantage points chosen. Always factor in your personal minimums and ability as a pilot before adding additional equipment in the cockpit that may obstruct normal operations or cause a distraction both for interior and exterior. 

Exterior

The exterior placement of your recording equipment unlike interior has several more considerations, especially with airworthiness and safety regulations. For more information on Airworthiness regulations please view this FAA link and review all applicable categories for you location. For example if you have a camera on the wing strut of a Cessna, review the following: airframe requirements, mounting equipment limitations, and most importantly mounting redundancy should your primary point get loose.

For review of the Airworthiness requirements of each category of aircraft review the following from the FAA:

Another consideration is the worst-case scenario:

  • What if my equipment falls off?
  • Will the position place potential harm to required control surfaces?
  • Does the position have a secondary attachment point? (Not required, but suggested)
  • Did you speak with an A&P regarding your installation and placement?
  • Will the equipment fall over populated* or unpopulated land?

As PIC we must remember that safe operations of the aircraft and maintaining a safe airspace are of the utmost priority. If the worst-case scenario were to occur, realize that the following basic regulation applies:

§91.15   Dropping objects

No pilot in command of a civil aircraft may allow any object to be dropped from that aircraft in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property. However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of any object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.” 

To summarize, with exterior applications you must take into consideration airworthiness requirements, primary and secondary latch points, and lastly — should the worst-case scenario occur — Did you comply with eCFR Title 14 91.15?

An example of exterior views here

First Person View (FPV)

This view is possibly the most striking view point and has led to the success of companies such as GoPro and trends such as the selfie. This is also one of the most distracting since the equipment is on your person and requires the most attention. This view can be achieved through body mounts, straps, wearing a helmet with a mount and having another person on board taking the photo or video.  

When dealing with this choice of recording, I encourage every pilot to remember to Aviate. Don’t be distracted from the recording device. Also take into consideration the time you will have this mount on and the comfort level of the harness. If you have the ability to wear the harness without any discomfort for several hours in a seated position during “extreme” heat/cold or changes in temperature, may I suggest you first test your ability outside of the cockpit prior to learning your limitations inside during a flight? The last thing you want midair is to require a wardrobe change due to discomfort.

Future Pilots of Instagram, as always, we encourage safe operations for the pilot and crew while taking consideration for the flight path land environment for choosing mounting locations for your equipment. Ideally start with one camera — inside the cockpit first is my best recommendation to limit distractions and become comfortable with your new equipment and its mounting limitations.  

When choosing an exterior mounting location, consult your local mechanic and properly ground test your installation for safety and redundancy. I recommend you review the FAR’s for airworthiness and limitations you have as a PIC for all applications, but most importantly keep safety for pilot, crew, and ground as your No. 1 objective. The rest should fall into place accordingly. Lastly remember to Aviate, as distractions can lead to unwanted results;

Suggestions for Mount Equipment:

Command Brand

Scotch

Fat Gecko Mounts 

Fat Gecko Co-Pilot

Ram Mounts

Berkey System

**Downloaded cover photo is by Christian Plesu

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