What is the role of communications in the cockpit for the Aerostars?
DM:In formation aerobatics, communications is of the utmost importance, especially from the lead to the two wingmen. As the lead calls out every maneuver, the wingmen need to hear things very clearly — whether the call is a turn, a pull or a breakaway. It becomes a safety issue if we can’t hear the lead call the individual figures. There is always some exposure in aerobatic flying, but by using Sennheiser and the best quality equipment we can get our hands on, we eliminate much of that potential exposure.
When did the Aerostars begin using Sennheiser?
DM: We’ve been flying air shows for 11 years and we have been with Sennheiser for at least 8 years now and have had nothing but great experiences. We started with the HMEC 460, which was a fantastic headset and far superior to what the competition had to offer. Now we have transitioned to the new Sennheiser S1 digital headset, which we tested at Oshkosh last year and which is superior to anything we’ve ever flown with.
How important is ‘quietness’
DM: Very important. During all our stunts, my attention always has to be on the lead with as few distractions as possible. I can guarantee that the decibel level in a Yak 52 is ten times higher than what you’d find in an eggshell aircraft; the inside is very noisy, and the S1 plays a key part in eliminating that noise. The form-fitting design keeps noise out before the electronics even kick in, and then I just push ‘the button’ and the adaptive noise cancellation takes care of the rest.
Can you describe the fit and why comfort is important?
DM: In aerobatics, the planes we are flying in are relatively slow so comfort is very important because our flights can take so long. We can be wearing headsets for 7 or 8 hours a day when we fly cross-country. It is kind of like a ski boot. If it doesn’t fit quite right, you start getting these hot spots along your feet on the sides. The contact pressure control on the S1 is fantastic — we can clamp it down to the tightest setting for the show and then go to a lighter setting when we are flying cross-country. It is by far the most comfortable headset we have ever used.
How important is Sennheiser to the Aerostars?
As far as equipment goes, Sennheiser is our primary communication tool. There is nothing else, and the S1 Digital is a phenomenal headset. We bring our Sennheiser headset and a backup, which is also a Sennheiser. We have never had a failure with any of our headsets, and in fact still have our original ones from 8 years ago. The only special request we made was for custom straps to go around our chins!
You were among the first to use iFlight Planner.com. Can you describe your experiences?
We use it for all our flight planning with the Aerostars. We simply put all our flight planning numbers and it pops out a flight plan for us in no time. It is great for helping us identify bad weather and creating alternate routes using the rubber band tool. Another thing we really appreciate about iFlightPlanner.com is that it has a slick interface and it is a great visualization tool — it’s not just text and paper like many other competitive tools. We will use it on the road on the way to the airport and check the weather on our flight plans, and then make any changes before we’re actually up in the air. It is a very user-friendly tool and I think you will be seeing much more of this in the airline industry. It is entirely possible to run an airline off of iFlightPlanner.com.
How about the iFlightPlanner.com iPad application?
The iFlightPlanner.com iPad app is a true cloud-based app that allows us to sync key flight data both before and after flights. Once we’ve keyed in our flight coordinates and other planning data on the front end, we can then access all of that during the flight on the iPad. When the flight is complete, we sync again when we are on the ground and the app automatically updates any data that changed. All of our data is safely stored in the cloud and accessible anywhere just by inputting our user ID. We could not ask for a more efficient or flexible solution.