A Brilliant Concept – Flight Review Video Series: Interview with Series Host David Allen

8:30 AM


By Dan Pimentel,

Airplanista Blog Editor

We aviators meet people all the time that express interest in learning to fly general aviation airplanes. It might be at a social gathering, at church, or some random meeting, where we mention we are a pilot and the questions start coming. “How much does it cost? Is it as cool as I think it is? Is it dangerous? How do I get started?” These are things we hear from non-pilots when the subject comes up.
    
So we try and paint a verbal picture for them of the process of earning a private pilot’s license, and describe the incredible privileges that we enjoy. We talk about the freedom of flight, about the exhilaration when the landing gear departs the runway, and yes, the costs and hours of dedication involved. But words can only go so far to describe something as complex as learning to fly.
    
That’s where video comes in. If a picture says a thousand words, a video speaks volumes. We can talk all day about being up there in the left seat of a Cessna, your Certified Flight Instructor next to you, working through the lesson of the day. But when we present that interested party with a clean, polished video showing exactly what happens on a flight training mission, it opens the doors to them wanting to take those very important next steps like contacting a local flight school.
    
The Flight Review Video Series is precisely the right tool to show these people what learning to fly is like. The series is a brilliant concept, and it is proof that hard-wired into our aviator’s DNA is a need to promote aviation to anyone that is interested. Series host David Allen and CFI partner Derek Fallon have struck gold with this series, and it is sure to bridge that wide gap between our beautiful world of flying and the non-flying public.
    
After watching a few episodes in the series, Airplanista had to know more. So recently we virtually “sat down” with Allen and dug deep into the backstory of this project. The interview that follows is a good one, you can easily see the dedication these two aviators are putting into the Flight Review Video Series, and the passion each has for flying.
    
Enjoy, and be sure to subscribe to the YouTube channel for the series so you do not miss future episodes. This is “must-see” streaming TV for anyone that has ever wanted to learn what it takes to fly GA airplanes, so be sure to share this post or help promote the Flight Review Video Series on all of your social media channels.

AIRPLANISTA: First, tell my readers about you and your interest/connection to aviation.
DAVID ALLEN: I’m based out of the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport (KMLB) on Florida’s Space Coast. I’ve been around airplanes for most of my life. My dad got his private pilot certificate before I was born. When I was 8, he took me for my first ride in a little airplane. It was a Cessna 152, and I was hooked. As I was growing up, we attended airshows together and regularly flew in Cessnas rented from the local airport. My Matchbox car collection had more metal airplanes that cars, and I never felt the need to put them away since I was always playing with them.
    
The day before my 13th birthday, I took my first flying lesson. It was a Cessna 150 out of the Rockledge Airpark. The instructor let me taxi the airplane and even perform the takeoff - which just blew my mind. Sadly, that was basically the end of my flight training for many years. That same year, I joined the Civil Air Patrol, and got even more involved. I was able to learn more about airplanes, and I got to fly in some pretty cool stuff, like a KC-135 Stratotanker.
    
In 2006, I got my first Apple iPod, a 5th-generation iPod Video. The first thing I did was start subscribing to aviation podcasts such as Uncontrolled Airspace, The PilotCast, the Pilot’s Flight Podlog, Airspeed, and The Finer Points. I got involved in social media, and through it I was able to grow my aviation network to people I’d never met across the globe. In the years since, I’ve had face-to-face meetings with many of the people I’ve come to know on social platforms, and those connections have changed my life.
    
I started podcasting around 2008, joining Will Hawkins on his Pilot’s Flight Podlog podcast as a co-host. Then in 2009, I volunteered at SUN ’n FUN for the first time, and that was a huge turning point for me in terms of my aviation involvement. In 2010, I started my own media company to produce aviation videos as my connections to the aviation community regularly landed me in the cockpit of different airplanes, and I felt like I could share those experiences with the world. I’d mount cameras inside the airplanes I got to fly in, then post an edited video on my Other People’s Airplanes YouTube channel.

Life has slowed me down a little bit over the past several years, but last year, I officially started training to be a private pilot. It’s a dream come true. I’ve waited decades, and now it’s finally my turn to be a pilot! I still get up every morning and go to my day job in data communications, but now I have some pretty incredible aviation experiences to share with the world.


AIRPLANISTA:
Describe the concept behind your Flight Review video series, what you are doing, how far along the project is, and where you see it going.
DAVID ALLEN: Flight Review is simply a YouTube video channel documenting my flight training experience. Derek Fallon, a CFI-I and MEI, and the owner of Melbourne Flight Training based at the Orlando-Melbourne International Airport (KMLB), is teaching me how to fly. Each lesson is recorded on various video and audio recording equipment. After each lesson, I produce an episode of the experience in an effort to show the world what it’s like to train for a private pilot certificate. Flight training is truly a personal experience, but we all start at the same place and learn the same skills. If Derek and I can share that experience with people who may not know what it is like to learn to fly, then we have been successful. To date, Derek and I have flown together enough times for me to produce about thirteen episodes, eleven of which are of lessons. I haven’t soloed yet, but I’m close. Obviously, Derek and I want to see Flight Review continue after I pass my private pilot checkride, but I am not going to stop at a private pilot certificate. There are more ratings to get, adventures to pursue, fun to have, and aviation to share. Season 1 of Flight Review will end with me becoming a certificated private pilot.

AIRPLANISTA:
How did the idea of this Flight Review video series come about? Tell me the precise moment you knew you had to move forward, and was there a bar napkin involved?
DAVID ALLEN: I met Derek through a mutual friend of ours. We communicated by text a few times, and our first face-to-face meeting was at SUN ’n FUN 2018. My good friend Mike Ladd and I run a morning radio show called The Morning Run-up each day before the main radio show goes live on the deck of SUN ’n FUN Radio. Using a mobile broadcast studio mounted on a golf cart, Mike and I broadcast live for two hours from some remote location on the SUN ’n FUN grounds. On the last day of the 2018 event, I invited Derek join us on the radio for our two-hour slot from 7am to 9am. Derek learned a lot about my passion for aviation that morning.
    
Shortly after the conclusion of SUN ’n FUN, I met Derek in his office at the Orlando-Melbourne Regional Airport to discuss how we might work together more to help promote aviation. His idea was pretty simple: he will teach me to fly, on his dime, and I will make a video to be posted to YouTube for each lesson. I couldn’t believe he was willing to take on the financial burden of teaching me to fly - at no cost to me except for my time editing and producing videos - and all I have to do is share the experience with the world. Heck yeah, sign me up for that!

AIRPLANISTA: Who is involved in the project?
DAVID ALLEN: Derek and I are really the only ones involved right now. Derek came up with this idea because he thought it sounded like fun. The idea for the name “Flight Review” was his, and I instantly fell in love with it. Derek trusts me with the storytelling aspect of the show, and with the technology needs. As a brand new YouTube channel (links to: http://youtube.com/flightreview), we are obviously concerned with keeping the costs down, at least for now. We both hope the channel gains a lot of subscribers, and we know that those eyeballs will come if we continue to tell a compelling story. Aviation is fun, and we want to give that to the world.
    
We obviously want to get some exposure for Melbourne Flight Training and for the Fallon Aviation pilot supply shop, and we believe that will come in time. I make it known that I am flying with Melbourne Flight Training, and that we would love to have more students at our school. But if our videos encourage someone to pursue flight training at another airport in another state, Derek and I still call that a win.

AIRPLANISTA: The video production value is very high, sharp and polished, well planned. Who is doing the pre-flight planning and editing? And tell me how much time is being put into each video, from initial concept through production, editing and ultimately deployment on Youtube.
DAVID ALLEN: For each flight, we begin like any other lesson. Derek briefs the lesson, then I preflight the airplane, and we go fly. The only difference is that Derek and I set up a few cameras before each of these segments. When I’m walking into the school, I try to have a camera rolling. Before the briefing starts, I press record on two or three cameras at different angles. As I am preflighting, I might have a camera sitting here or there. And after preflight is complete and we determine that the machine is safe to take into the air, we get to work mounting cameras for the flying portion of the lesson.
    
There is not a whole lot that goes into planning the shoot. We have a syllabus to follow, and we know what skills and objectives I need to learn and review for each flight. Later, when I am editing the footage, I start to look for the story. And that’s what I’m really trying to do here. I want to tell a story. I want to make you laugh, cheer, cringe, or cry. It is my hope that this video series creates some sort of emotional reaction in the audience. Sometimes I am able to shoot some post-flight footage to wrap up my thoughts on the lesson as they are still raw. But even when I don’t do that, I still have the entire lesson from beginning to end recorded in high-definition on as many as 10 cameras.
    
All of the editing is done by me, and it takes an exorbitant amount of time. I haven’t yet figured out exactly how much time one video takes, I’d estimate it is upwards of 30 or more hours. I’m learning faster ways to edit and I’m finding ways to streamline my workflow, but it still just takes time. While I would love to have some help with the editing, it’s hard to have someone else tell my story. In future seasons, we might have some other people shooting and editing.

AIRPLANISTA: Describe who exactly is your target demographic of this video series and tell me how they will benefit from subscribing to your channel and watching current and future videos.
DAVID ALLEN: I can think of four groups of people who we would love to see these videos. First, and possibly the most obvious, are potential student pilots. I would love to reach aviation enthusiasts of all ages who are considering pursuing a pilot certificate. Whether it’s for a career or simply for personal reasons, the journey to becoming a pilot has a lot of unknowns. If this series can answer any questions or spark any interest, Derek and I would be ecstatic.
    
The second group of people we would love to reach would be seasoned aviators who just can’t get enough aviation in their lives. Pilots love to fly, and when they aren’t flying, they love to talk about it. We hope Flight Review can give them a little bit of that “fix” between flights in their own airplane.
    
Thirdly, I suspect there will be some timid flyers out there that may stumble onto our videos looking for a confidence boost to help them cope with an upcoming flight they may have. It might even be a flight with one of the major scheduled airlines. Seeing our video series, where we follow checklists, practice emergency procedures, hone skills, and fly with a purpose from tie-down to tie-down might set someone’s nerves at ease before they board their next flight.
    
And finally, I’d love to reach people who just want to see a good story. I want to be a better storyteller. Telling stories in person, face-to-face, seems to come fairly easy to me. Telling stories in video is a much more difficult task. There are several YouTube channels I subscribe to simply because their creators tell a good story. The content is not really up my alley, but I am still entertained, and I still watch for their next episode. I hope to find people who feel the same way about Flight Review.

AIRPLANISTA: I notice in the “Slow Flight” video, you show everything, warts and all. Was it a conscious decision to include mistakes and struggles you make as a fresh flight student, and if yes, why is this important?
DAVID ALLEN: Absolutely this was a conscious decision. Becoming a pilot is hard! I don’t want to give the wrong impression that I’m some superhero who was born with a Mode-C transponder installed. I’m just an ordinary guy with a larger-than-life dream to be a pilot, and I finally have the opportunity to make that dream come true. But I am still learning how to fly in just the same way anyone else will learn. The FAA requires a minimum of 40 hours of flight training at a part 61 school, and there’s a reason for that. Yes, you can be a pilot, but it’s going to take hard work, commitment, time, study, effort, and drive, and you are going to make mistakes. Mistakes are when we learn.
    
As the old adage goes, ‘good judgment comes from experience, but unfortunately, experience is often a result of bad judgment.’ I want to make my mistakes now when there is a competent flight instructor here to guide and correct me, so that when I leave the nest, I’ll be a safe pilot with all the tools necessary to grow as a pilot. Until then, it’s okay for me to make mistakes, and student pilots should be prepared to make their fair share of them.
    
Seeing me progress from mere mortal to licensed aviator will be fun for viewers, at least that’s my hope. And when I finally do get my certificate, the audience can look back fondly, as will I, at where I came from and the long road I traveled to get here. And maybe, just maybe, they will then be motivated to go chase a dream of their own, put in the hard work, and crush it!


AIRPLANISTA:
Describe exactly what cameras you are using, where they are mounted, and tell me if they are permanent or if you have to rig the airplane for each video lesson.
DAVID ALLEN: Ten cameras on most flights, to be exact, have to be rigged for each flight. The cameras are a combination of Drift and GoPro Hero action cameras. Melbourne Flight Training has several Skyhawks, and I never know which one I’m going to fly until the week before the lesson. We had to be able to take the cameras down after each flight and move them to the next airplane the next week. To accomplish this, we use a combination 3M sticky mounts and suction cup mounts inside the cockpit, and we use FlightFlix mounts for the external angles.
    
Derek and I did several ‘camera shakedown’ flights before we officially started lessons to figure out the best mounting points for cameras. Our goal is to make an immersive video series, so we wanted to cover as many angles as possible. Shots over the nose and out a window are critical so the audience can see the stunning views we pilots (and student pilots) see. There has to be at least one camera facing the pilot(s). Every story needs a hero, and without a face shot, the audience has a difficult time connecting. The PilotCam as I call it is important enough that we fly with two, one on each side of the cockpit.
    
I also feel it’s important to have some sort of instrument panel shot. This airplane doesn’t fly itself, and the audience wants to see the hero use his tools. For me, that all happens with the controls and the instrument panel. The other shots are all bonus shots, there to add depth and context to the videos. The current full list of in-flight cameras consists of the two pilot cameras, one camera directly over the nose, one pointed at the panel, one pointing left and right under each wing, one on the right tie down angled down at the landing gear, one on the tail tie down pointing forward under the belly, one on the left tie down pointing back at the tail, and finally, one on the left strut angled forward over the nose.

AIRPLANISTA:
There are many people out there who have always wanted to learn to fly, but thinks they cannot possibly do it. How will this video series help them overcome those fears and questions and get them into the left seat of a training airplane?
DAVID ALLEN: Four decades. That’s how long I had to wait to make this dream a reality. My friend Michael Combs, who had a serious heart condition that basically left him clinically dead, was able to beat the odds and recover. Michael subsequently got his own pilot certificate and flew an airplane to all fifty states. His mission is to reach 50 million people with the message that it is never, EVER too late to follow your dreams.
    
I’m 42 and just now following my dream. It took a while, far longer than I’d hoped. But I had also come to grips with the fact that maybe I’d never be a pilot. Frankly, I was okay with that. I was still plugged into one of the greatest communities on the planet, and I was able to share aviation with them as more than a mere spectator. I was still a participant, even without a certificate of my own. But now, I get to join the ranks of the precious few who get to call themselves a licensed pilot. And so can you. It isn’t too late for me, and it’s certainly not too late for you.

AIRPLANISTA: What has the feedback been in the aviation and flight training community so far?
DAVID ALLEN: Overwhelmingly positive. People love a success story, and this one is unfolding before their very eyes. Everyone is rooting for me and has expressed just how excited they are to see me finally getting my pilot certificate. It’s been a long time coming. A couple of people have mentioned that they wished someone had done a video series like Flight Review before, one that chronicles the entire process of learning to fly from beginning to end. It might help current and future pilot students prepare for what is to come in their own flight training. Derek and I hope this channel just continues to grow and grow, with new stories and adventures added all the time.

AIRPLANISTA: Last, add anything else here you think my readers need to know about the Flight Review video series that has not been covered above.
DAVID ALLEN: By any current measurement, I am about halfway through my life. Looking back at where I’ve come from, I sometimes wonder why I am not further along than I am. But then I remember the wonderful things I do have, like an incredibly supportive family, many children who love me, and an immeasurable number of friends. And when I stop looking back and turn to look forward, I see that I still have half of my life ahead of me. If I can come this far in 42 years, just imagine where the next 42 years is going to take me.
    
This life is amazing, and I’m just getting started, baby. Flying is so much fun, and I’m ready. Let’s get on it!

Be sure to subscribe to the Flight Review YouTube channel for the latest episodes of this series. And you will be everyone's hero if you kindly share this post or the channel on all of your social channels.

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