Flight Log Recording
When a new pilots attends their first hang gliding competition there is lots of new information to learn and integrate into their flying routine. On of these processes that may be new is flight track log recording.
In the early days of competitive flying flight verification was done by taking 'turn point photos'. A pilot would use a camera that imprints date & time and take a photo of each turnpoint in a task. Scorers would then stay-up all night developing rolls of film, checking and validating all photos before scoring the task. Thankfully this all changed with the advent of GPS technology and affordable handheld receivers in the late 90's.
These days track validation is done by computer. To be scored a pilot must record and submit a GPS track of their flight. Most competition pilots have a combination GPS/vario that can be programmed with the days task before launching. These units will then guide the pilot around the course while also recording a track log of the actual path taken. This track log can later be downloaded in .igc (International Gliding Commission) format and submitted for scoring.
Pilots new to the sport usually will have entry-level equipment. It is common that new pilots have a basic vario that does not have an integrated GPS. It is fortunate then that smart phones all have integrated GPS. You may already be using a phone app as your primary flight instrument.
There are several free apps available for Android. Go to the app store and search .igc flight recorder. Some popular ones include XCSoar, XCTrack, Airtribune, SeeYou Navigator.
There are also options for iPhone users. ie:flyskyhy, Thermgeek, Sensebox, SeeYou Navigator.
Many of these apps also have integrated vario & navigation features. I would recommend SeeYou navigator for several reasons:
- It is available for both Android & iPhone so it will be easier to find someone to help you with programming on launch.
- The basic free version of the app is quite capable.
- You can choose to purchase a subscription for additional features (recommended if this is your primary instrument).
- You can store and review your flights in your online portal https://seeyou.cloud/
- Wes has made a short video to outline the process of getting your tracklog down from the cloud into your phone and then uploading to xc.highcloud.net
Many pilots who have integrated GPS/varios will also use their phone stored in harness to record a backup track log. It's easier to submit/email a tracklog from your phone than connecting your vario to a PC. Just be sure to store your phone where it gets good satellite signal. ie not under your backplate.
Once you have selected and downloaded an app, spend a lot of time to become familiar with it's operation. This is extremely important if you plan on mounting your phone for in flight navigation. Learning to operate a fight instrument while flying is a bad idea. Practice while walking, or riding a bike off-road, not in the air.
You will need to be able to recover your track log from the app in .igc format and then email it to the scorer or upload to the scoring website. This also is worth practicing before your first competition. Most apps store the tracklog on the app's server, not on your phone. So you will need to download to your phone and then upload the the scoring site.
Once you have a .igc file there are several software options that allow you to review your flight in 3D such as https://seeyou.cloud or www.sportstracklive.com, or Google earth (will require .igc to .kml conversion). Just search 'igc flight analysis'.
Flight analysis software can help develop your in flight decision making by showing other options to your in-flight choices and how other pilots handled similal situations.