Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Airliners Are Blowing It

I remember as a kid looking up in the sky, seeing an airplane and wishing I could be up there in the plane looking down at the world around me. At that time, it was a pretty unlikely event. Only the rich flew on airliners. It was just too expensive for the average middle class family. 

Comfort was a given, meals were offered and most people dressed for the experience. It was "luxury". Eventually, prices leveled off and everyone flew. People began showing up to airports in pajamas. Meals went away (enjoy your bag with about 3 honey roasted peanuts in it). At least you still get unlimited soft drinks. The term "Airbus" couldn't have been more appropriate.

Well, times have changed (again). Prices for round trip flights are often four figures and many​ of our youth can once again say "they have never flown before". Once again, flying is for the rich.

So, is comfort really too much to ask? United Airline's President doesn't seem to think so. Bold statements in the attached article - given United's recent loss of respect around the Country.

Here's what bothers me. I am an aviation enthusiast. Flying is one of my passions. My heart sinks any time I hear​ someone say that they "hate flying". It's just not supposed to be that way. 

Maybe, Mr. Kirby - it's really YOUR fault.


Thursday, February 23, 2017

What is the best drone to start with that is inexpensive?

Ever since I started flying RC, I get asked the question "what is the best drone to start with that is inexpensive"? With drones becoming the topic of the day, that question seems to get more frequent by the month. For a long time I had a hard time answering, because my multirotor collection was pretty small and my skills were pretty novice. However, I now feel like I can give a confident answer.

First, let me start with telling you what I DON'T recommend. If you are a person with deep enough pockets or are good at hunting down great deals online, you may be tempted to start at the top of the food chain and get yourself a brand new DJI Phantom, Inspire or Mavic. And why not start there if you can afford one (or find a deal on one)? They are easy to fly, have autonomous technology and can land themselves, right? YES! However, that is exactly the problem.

The news is flooded these days with stories of top of the line multirotor UAVs crashing, flying away uncontrollably and allegedly (key word) causing safety risks to pedestrians and manned aircraft (yet to this day, there have been no midairs and most near misses have been proven exaggerations, but that is a discussion for another blog). Yet, nobody can deny that there have been some mishaps and more often than not, I believe a lot of those mishaps are accidental (even though the media likes to paint the picture of intentional misuse any chance they get).

So why do these mishaps happen when these devices are so "easy to operate" and have so many "auto features"? Because people depend too much on those auto features - to the point that people are operating with no real skill development and once they get themselves into a pickle, they don't know how to get themselves out of it without pressing that famous "return to home feature" - which unfortunately has been known to fail.

So how do you save a drone from a mishap without using the return to home feature? By knowing how to bring it home yourself with honest to goodness skill. Your best fail safe will always be "you". You are smarter than the machine.

With all of that said, it's time to weave ourselves back to the original topic. If not a top of the line drone with all the autonomous features, what should a person start with? "I don't want a cheap toy grade" you might say. There has to be something in the middle, isn't there?

Yes, I believe there is. First, let me make a disclaimer by stating that there is no paid endorsement here. This is strictly my opinion from personal experience.

I believe, the very best multirotor UAV to start with is the Traxxas LaTrax Alias.

Here's why...

1. Price. Roughly $100 for just the quadcopter itself. Another $50 if you want to add the camera. Even if you have the money to get yourself a brand new Phantom 4, there is no telling whether or not you will still have the same interest in another 6 months. If for some reason you do lose interest, $100 - $150 is a whole lot less to lose in an impulse buy than $800 - $1000. To say nothing of the difference in loss if you lose it or crash it.

2. Quality. From an esthetic standpoint, it does have the appearance of a "toy grade"  but it really isn't. First of all, Traxxas is a well respected hobby grade company with many years of creating good quality hand crafted hobby grade RC products. Compared to something like an MJX or a Syma - which do indeed make some impressive products for the price (of which I have enjoyed myself), there are limitations to those toy grade type products such as range that can bring the inexperienced pilot (as well as sometimes even the experienced) right back to the world of fly aways and unrecoverable mishaps.

3. Durability and Repairability. I have crashed mine multiple times and it just keeps flying. It does have gear based brushed motors which do tend to wear out periodically but those are very easily replaced at just a few dollars. And the parts can be easily and quickly purchased at your local hobby shop, even if out of stock and you end up ordering for pick up. Where in contrast, many of your toy grade drones have proprietary parts that are not as readily available.

3. Technology. The Alias is built with hobby grade technology that gives you immeasurable range and three different modes to grow with. Mode 1 is self stabilizing and easy to operate. Mode 2 is still self stabilizing but a little faster and offers automated aerobatic stunts with flips and rolls that can even be programmed to perform a certain way through a good controller with duel rates. An improvement from just the "one flip only press of a button" most toy grade fliers are used to. Mode 3 is fully manual and offers no stabilization. NOT a mode for the beginner. Strictly for the experienced pilot, this mode will not self stabilize and flips over with the control of your own fingers on the sticks. Not quite as difficult as a CP Helicopter, but closer to that than an autonomous robot that flies itself.

4. Self reliance. Even in mode 1, you have to take off and land on your own. You even have to control the hover and there is no return to home feature. Any pickles you get yourself in, you have to get yourself out of. Which develops your skill sets in a way that once you finally do get your hands on a top of the line product, you have a far less likely chance at losing or crashing it due your own instinctive reaction. And with the additional modes, you can grow into a skilled pilot that is far above the average. You might say "but Scott, all I want to do is take photos and videos and maybe get my Part 107 commercial certification." That's fine, but the skills you will develop by challenging yourself with a more self reliant flier will pay off when you are finally flying that Phantom 4 over a plot of land for that real estate agent that hired you.

5. Setting yourself up for success in any direction. Whether you want to do professional aerial photography and videography or have aspirations of flying racing drones in National and International competitions, the Alias will prepare you for those goals and the best part, you will never get bored with it - even when you have moved on to a DJI Phantom or a Vortex FPV racer. Mode 3 gives the advanced pilot the ability to continue challenging themselves and press limits on skills and aerobatics with a durable quad that won't cost hundreds to thousands of dollars to repair

The Alias really is a "can't lose" product. I have attached a video link of one of my flights and a couple of photos to get an idea of what it looks like in action. I hope this article has been helpful and if you have any questions, feel free to ask.


1 Timothy 6:17 - Give it a read.

Friday, February 10, 2017

My Review Of The Andalucia AdVance Phase III

Last week I did a post about the AMI line of horns and then a few days later a post about Big Band Music. Today I am putting the two together.

I got my newest addition to my horn arsenal this past Monday. The Andalucia AdVance Phase III Bb Soprano Bugle.

Don't read too much into the name given to the horn. This is a real Bb Trumpet and can be used as such in a multiplicity of settings. However, the specs of the bell are indeed modeled after the powerbore model G Soprano Bugle used by the Velvet Knights Drum & Bugle Corps in the late 80s and early 90s.

The amazing thing about this horn is the versatility. It is remarkably (and SHOCKINGLY) dark in the mid register at softer volume levels - which really shouldn't be too shocking, given the fact that the whole reason for the construction of late model G Bugles was to pull off a soft ballad moment with a warm dark sound that can actually project that sound in an outdoor environment and yet still pack a punch in the upper register at higher volumes when needed.

In the upper register it SOARS with a HUGE broad sound typical of any good large bore horn. And yes - large bore. We are talking about a .469. HUGE! I grew up playing on large bore instruments and have even had the AdVance Phase I since the AMI company started - which is also a large bore but with a different type of choke and no "powerbore" element - and upon my first few notes on the Phase III it felt like I was blowing through the Holland Tunnel. Something for which I do NOT mind and very much appreciate - as I am a "big air player".

This horn is fantastic and remarkably versitle. I have used it in two very contrasting settings this week. On Monday night, I used it in a big band rehearsal. Wednesday night I used it in a Church Orchestra rehearsal. This horn did amazingly well in both settings.

Here is a taste of how it played in the big band setting.

Psalm 150:3 - give it a read.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Big Band Music

Good morning and happy Friday!

Big band music! As a Trumpet player, it's something I grew up with and is a part of who I am as a person. I have spent most of my life both listening and playing big band music and have been blessed to share the stage with some of the finest big bands, big band musicians and big band leaders in the world - and also spent twelve years of my life touring full time with a big band (Denver & The Mile High Orchestra).

Now let's get to the misconceptions. When the average person hears the words "big band", they immediately think Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Duke Ellington etc etc. And those are indeed the pioneers of the genre and make up for some of the finest bands ever to record or take the stage.

However, what most people don't realize is how much the genre (or sun genre) has evolved. When I was with Denver, we didn't just play swing. We played Rock & Roll, Funk, R&B and even Rap. YES.......Rap. One of our sax players even rapped on one of our early recordings.

Then there are artists such as Michael Buble, Harry Connick Junior and Brian Setzer who have taken the genre and made it main stream.

Now for the big secret. There are big bands all over the world that are hiding in classrooms, small clubs, basements and home studios. They are generally referred to as "rehearsal bands". Some of these bands have many of the finest musicians in their selected towns (sometimes in the world, depending on which town) and occasionally even put out a recording under a small indie label (or no label at all).

So here is the challenge. If you know of a. "unknown" or "less known" rehearsal band, list them in the comments below and let's make it a homework assignment for all of us to go through every band listed, look them up online and give them a listen if recordings are available (which usually, you can find something, even if just a YouTube video).

Here are a few that I know of (a few of which I have played with).

Full Faith & Credit Big Band
Cunha Big Band
Nashville Jazz Orchestra
Chris McDonald Orchestra
Tyler Mire Big Band
The Establishment

I'm also going to link a recording of one of these.


Your turn.

Ephesians 5:19 - Give it a read.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Where my passion for flying RC came from

Haven't blogged in a couple of days. Part of that is because I have spent two days trying to formulate how I wanted to word this one.

For people who have known me for any length of time, it is very easy to understand my passion for music. It's what I have lived and breathed my entire life. It's a no brainier. It's literally a part of who I am.

But where did this sudden obsession with aviation come from? For those same people who have known me for any length of time, it seems very random, appears to have come out of nowhere and makes very little sense.

 But is it really all that "sudden" and "random"? The only way to know the answer to that question is to have the mind of Scott Steward - which only I possess.

As a little kid, I can clearly remember looking and pointing at airplanes and helicopters flying by as I was out playing in the yard. Usually, it was prop planes - though jets interested me as well. I also vividly remember riding with my mom to Thursday Night Band practice in Orangevale California (Paul Tulga's Youth Band) and seeing a private Biplane flying low in a field every week in rout to rehearsal. Always thought it was so cool. A little too young at the time to remember for sure, but I am guessing it may have been a crop duster but not completely certain.

I can remember the first time I ever saw an aircraft actually land. It was a helicopter at Cal Expo - as we left Water World one summer evening. At the time, it was the most amazing sight I had ever seen.

Then there was my first airplane ride. Age 12 in a Cessna. Then a few months later another ride, this time in a Biplane in Vallejo California.

Then there was my first ride in a commercial airliner. My mom, brother Ryan and his wife Nancy on our first trip to Disneyland. Everything about that vacation was a blast - but the plane ride there and back honestly stands out the most.

So fast forward to my adult years - flying is nothing uncommon for me, having worked many years as a road touring musician. But even as an adult, I was always secretly like that typical kid wanting "the window seat". The interest was always alive - I was just quiet about it.

So a few years ago when a trumpet playing friend of mine named Buddy Burris offered to take me up in his Luscombe 8A and even give me a flying lesson, I accepted with no hesitation and just like that - that passion came out of hiding and I was hooked.

So where did RC models come in? Well, back to childhood - my brother Ryan also had a control line plane as a kid. Always thought it was the coolest thing. Always wished he would let me fly it. Eventually he bought me my own for Christmas but somehow never got it built (oh to know what I ever did with it and where it might be today).

So after that flight with Buddy, I went home and started looking up airplane videos and it didn't take long to run into a bunch of RC videos. At first, before I finally clicked on one I thought "bah!! Those are just toys". Then I finally clicked one and the first one I clicked was a turbine jet. I was awe struck! Then I started watching 3D Aerobatic planes, Scale planes, RC Helicopters and Quadcopters (AKA "Drones") and suddenly, I wanted one of my own and to learn.

Upon my 3rd flight with Buddy, we flew to Eagleville to visit the glider field. Turned out that gliders were not the only activity at this airstrip. At certain times of the week, they also have an RC club that meets and flies out there. Didn't get to witness any RC action that day but there was a gentleman there who flew with the RC club and I got to talk to him for a while. I remember him specifically talking about how difficult RC airplanes can be to fly.

On the flight back, Buddy and I talked about RCs (I also knew that he flew them) and he mentioned he had a small J3 Piper Cub that he hadn't finished assembling that I was welcome to take. I gladly accepted and while I waited for the opportunity to get the parts to complete the Cub, a guitar player friend of mine mentioned he flew RCs and offered to give me a lesson on one of his small trainers. It was there that I learned just what that guy was talking about with regards to how difficult they are to fly.

So almost two years later, here I sit with a good sized collection of mostly small RC aircraft and I am completely hooked. Bringing me now to the following video, beginning with that first lesson with Bobby all the way up to just last week.



John 10:10 - Give it a read.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

This blog is going to be mostly of interest to Trumpet Players.

After getting my butt out of bed, into the family van and off to church, I sat myself down in my seat in the Brentwood Baptist Church Orchestra and began sound check with my newest horn from the Andalucia Company (which I am a rep for). The Andalucia Pasion (see photo).

I have always had a thing for horns that have changeable parts and this horn is a dream. Heavy weight set up, two bells (solid bronze and yellow brass), a 25 leadpipe and a 43 leadpipe).

All I could think about as I sat there soundchecking and rehearsing this morning's worship set was how great the horn felt (this morning's set up was the bronze bell with 43 leadpipe). 

Great equipment makes for a happy player. If you want one of these great horns from this awesome company, hit me up.

Psalm 19 - Give it a read.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Hello everyone!

Started my day at the flying field. It.......got.........WINDY! After a few wind related scares with my UMX J3 Piper Cub, I spent the rest of my morning flying my racing quad and my larger 450 quad (see photo). Even in the midst of wind and some cold temps, it was still an enjoyable morning and nice to go out on a Saturday and do something I love.

After spending time at the RC field, I got the urge to watch some of the real thing in action, so I stopped by the Smyrna Airport and enjoyed watching some full scale aircraft take off and land.

And there was a nice surprise sitting there when I got there. Can anyone name this Naval Aircraft? Leave a comment if you can. ;)

Calling for snow tomorrow. We'll see.

John 14:1-6. - give it a read.