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Friday, August 30, 2013

Beyond The Edge Of Darkness

Note: Final Thoughts on the Spectacular Aurora Genesis light system will follow the flying section of this report.

Finally, after literally going through hell (surgery) and high water (a flooded field last week), we got to pitch black night fly the Edge of Darkness.

But first, we had a blistering late summer Florida sunset at Sarasota Silent Fliers, and I took advantage of that to do a final trim and systems check in slightly lit conditions. You can see that in the video below.

I love sunset flights because I love flying and I love sunsets, so it's a natural to mix them. The only unfortunate part is that even with lights it is hard to see the plane. It's too light for the light system to effectively illuminate the plane, and it's too dark to fly without lights, so you are sort of in a limbo, twilight (pun intended) kind of state. It was very difficult conditions, but the sky was so awesome we simply had to shoot.

One thing to note here: don't judge the light system from this video. First, cell phone cameras don't pick up low light conditions very well. The sky is too bright and the plane is too dark. I could see the plane much better in real life than the video depicts. Sunset flights are actually kind of awful except they make for a really pretty video.

For a fairer assessment of the light system, check the second video, which has much darker conditions. Thanks to Ed Boyett for shooting this footage. This was his first time shooting video and as you can see, he never missed a shot.

After letting the sun completely disappear it was time for the big show. Admittedly I was a bit nervous with this being my first night flight in three summers and trying out a brand new type of system, but confidence became high when I plugged the lights in and could see how well it works in total darkness.

You'll see a lot of black sky here, but that's how it is out in the middle of nowhere Florida. We also still had a lot of cloud cover, so there was no moon and no stars to help out. As always, it seems the camera never quite captures night flying, but rest assured the Aurora Genesis really lit the way for us.

Thanks to my new friend Drew for shooting this footage. He's got an Edge EXP and we are planning to go flying again. Another new flyer that I can corrupt.

Aurora Genesis
Very appropriate is my choice of the Aurora "Genesis" system, because like the name suggest, this is just the beginning.

The Genesis was easy to install (though it took a little thought) and it performed past expectations, so I am extremely pleased with it. Since I went to such trouble to make the system detachable, I probably won't need another one. If I want to night fly something else, I can just move the system over.

However, this has been such a good product so far that I will probably set a 64" MXS up to night fly, and for that I will probably purchase an Aurora Andromeda system. Being pleased enough that I am already planning to be a repeat customer is my seal of approval.

With Genesis, I could see the plane just fine and only once while in a spin did I have any orientation problems. It was whipping around so fast that I probably would have lost it even in the daytime.

Flying with white LEDs vrs the old strip type LED is a bit different because with the Genesis you have to fly the plane and it's color scheme instead of the LED pattern. I adapted to this almost right away because the sunset flight give me a lot of visual clues and I almost knew what to expect.
Remember that no one in any of my local clubs night flies, and I have not been to an event since this type of lighting has been available. I had no idea how to install the system or any of the pitfalls to watch out for, so going in I knew this was very definitely going to be an exploratory project. I got a couple of things completely wrong, but since I didn't make anything permanent, they are easily changeable. 
I will be making one change to the system before we take it out again. You can see how well the outside of the SFGs are lit up, and that means that they are blocking that light from getting onto the plane. I'm going to slightly notch out the end of the wing so the light bar will slot into that notch and then the SFG will bolt down over top of it to hold it into place.  I might even hot glue the light bar in there, but we will have to start notching and see how it goes.

I will also be able to go back to the full size EXP style SFGs, because with the lights inside there is no need to use small SFGs.
I'm mildly pleased with the way my canopy mounted light bar lit the tail up, but it is not as good as the ones I have seen that are mounted directly to the tail. I would like to experiment with maybe using a single light bar per side of the canopy, and maybe angle them back. Then again, with  replacement canopies costing $19.99 apiece, plus shipping, I don't want to experiment with too many of those. I'm hoping that  mounting the wing lights inside the SFGs will also cast more light on the tail.
Outside of remounting the wing light bars, I think we have the plane mostly right. We are planning to get some Hi-Def video soon and when I post that I'll include some close up pictures of the new light installation.

In all, this has been a really solid project, but then again, we have had the best of everything to work with, so it is sort of what I expected. Since I love night flying so much and night flying season is just about to get started, you'll be seeing a lot more of this plane slicing through the darkness.

1 comment:

  1. Very sweet setup, Doc! Looks like a blast in Sarasota as well. Wish I could join you there sometime.