Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Garmin and a Day's Instruction

I have been running regularly for the last year. I happen to be training for my first marathon on Halloween this year. As a reward for all my hard work, I indulged myself with a super-cool gadget. I am now the proud owner of a Garmin ForeRunner 405 -- a nice running watch that has a GPS logger that I got to track my long distance runs more accurately. The wide range of features that this watch boasts are stunning, but I'll stick to the GPS features for now.

I was curious to see if the functionality of the GPS could work well for flight instruction, so I configured it to record a whole day's worth of instruction that I did on a day in August. I exported the day's recordings and managed to export the proprietary Garmin format (which is essentially XML) into a usable format for Google Earth. Once I successfully converted it into a kmz file, I extracted some really nice 3-D views of this day's instruction in Google Earth.

After viewing these flights in Google Earth, I made some screen-shots of the day's flying, and included them below. There was one spot landing approach that was just barely above the ground during the flare, that it appears to have gone underground. This is possibly due to the proximity to the ground was smaller than the GPS's accuracy, or the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) data that Google uses for Front Royal's airport is slightly inaccurate at that location. Rest assured, most of the landings were on the grass, some were beyond the expected landing area, some were right on target. (Also note there was a tailwind that day).

The color coding is the rate of climb and descent. If you carefully look at the areas that aren't for takeoff or landing, you can see me walking around, dragging the glider back to the staging areas, doing positive control check, etc. These approaches were all done by solo or nearly-solo students, with no interaction from me about where to be in the pattern.

After seeing this form of display, I'm pretty sure this visualization could be used as an excellent opportunity as a reflection and review resource for students -- especially for the situations when the student doesn't realize that they were out as far and down as low as we said they were.

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