Those who know me will not be surprised to hear that I’m a huge fan of aviation podcasts.
For those not familiar with the medium, a podcast is an audio or video show delivered over a computer network on a periodic or occasional basis. Producers record audio or video episodes in files accessible on the Internet and then put together “feeds” that tell subscribers where to find the episodes using a protocol called RSS (short for “really simple syndication”). Users subscribe to the feeds (usually though iTunes or a similar service) so that their computers automatically sense when a new episode is available, download the episode, and place it on the user’s iPod or other portable media device for listening whenever the use wishes.
If you have an iPod, head to iTunes and search in the podcast directory for “aviation” or similar keywords. Just click “subscribe” for each of the podcasts that you want and the show will begin downloading automatically every time you launch iTunes.
Note that you don’t have to have an iPod to enjoy podcasts. Almost any MP3 device will work as well. Additionally, there are podcast aggregators other than iTunes, such as Podcast Alley, Podcast Pickle, Podget, and others.
Further, you don’t even need an MP3 player in most cases. Most podcasters have websites that let you listen to the show right there on your computer.
If you’re subscribing to a podcast for the first time, you’ll probably want to look at the show’s back catalog. Many of the available shows have been cranking out episodes for two or more years and might have more than a hundred back episodes available for download. I say this for two reasons. First, if you like a show that has a large back catalog, you’ve stumbled onto a gold mine of content! W00t! Second, avoid setting your podcast aggregator to download all episodes of the shows to which you subscribe, at least at first. Selecting that mode could result in downloading 100 or more episodes and 3GB or more of data.
I particularly enjoy aviation podcasts because I don’t have much of a local circle of pilots with whom to hang around. It’s just a function of my job, family, and other obligations. Having lots of aviation content put out by people much like me is a great way to keep connected with the dialogue of flying. When the first annual gathering of podcasters at Oshkosh needed a tagline, I penned “Podapalooza: Come and meet the voices in your head!” The tagline has stuck and it’s appropriate. These are benevolent and friendly voices that can keep you connected with the aviation community even when you’re moving the lawn, driving long distances, or working.
Here’s a brief rundown of those to which I listen most. Before I get a bunch of hate mail, please understand that here are dozens of shows out there and I’m only summarizing the ones to which I most often listen. I listen to many more than the ones listed here. I encourage you to check out all of the aviation podcasts and listen in to the ones you like.
The Finer Points (www.thefinerpoints.net). California-based Jason Miller is a great flight instructor and savvy new-media producer. His episodes are short and concise and they cover all aspects of flight training. He produces both audio and video episodes.
The Student Pilot Flight Podlog (http://tinyurl.com/asvjj9). California-based pilot, film producer, and artistic polymath Will Hawkins produced this show between September 2005 and august 2007 and it covers Will’s entire private pilot training experience.
The Pilot’s Flight PodLog (http://pilotwill.libsyn.com/). This is Will-‘s follow-up to The Student Pilot Flight Podlog. It’s a hangar-flying show that features varied guests (including yours truly). David Allen co-hosts from the balmy eastern Florida area, making this a truly bi-coastal show.
The Student Pilot Journal (www.studentpilotjournal.com). Greg Summers put out this video podcast that covers his private pilot training. Greg puts you in the back seat of the airplane and takes you along for lessons and other flights. Really helpful if you’re training for your private certificate and just want to watch someone else fly and learn from his experiences. It wasn’t until I trained in the DC-3 that I had the chance to just sit and watch someone else train. It’s a very valuable experience for any pilot, be they trainee or otherwise.
The Pilotcast (www.thepilotcast.com). One of the original hangar-flying shows. Pilots Mike, Dan, and Kent from Chicago, Connecticut, and Wisconsin, respectively, carved out a big audience in the first two years of the show. The show has also spawned several spin-offs, including the CFIcast and the AMEcast. The Pilotcast itself podfaded a couple of years ago and ceased putting out regular episodes. You can still find CFIcast episodes in the Pilotcast feed from time to time, but the original cast isn’r putting up new content (despite the fact that we elbow them all the time to start publishing again). Check out the back catalog for now and, if you like what you hear, nudge them to publish again.
Uncontrolled Airspace (www.uncontrolledairspace.com). This is a great hangar-flying podcast. Jack Hodgson moderates and shares the hangar with Jeb Burnside and Dave Higdon. It publishes weekly episodes covering the news of the day, flying experiences, and lots of other general aviation content.
Plane Madness (www.planemadness.com). Airline pilot Captain Chris covers everything from airline operations to general aviation, radio-controlled flight, and lifestyle stuff. Probably one of the best-produced shows out there in terms of audio quality.
Last, but not least, is Airspeed (www.airspeedonline.com), my show. Airspeed covers everything aviation and aerospace, and focuses particularly on my experiences training and seeking new opportunities. I even got a Thunderbirds F-16 ride last year and did a full 100-minute episode about it. Lots of cockpit audio and original music. The show has been going for more than three years now and has a back catalog of more than 110 episodes. If you’re looking for good episodes to try out, I’m particularly proud of First Solo, Why I Fly, the DC-3 Summary Episode, and Sometimes Alternates Fly (the big Thunderbirds summary episode).
Check out a few aviation podcasts and get tuned in to the voices in your head.