Today’s Flight Plan
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to get your Private Pilot rating doing half the training in a simulator, and half in a real airplane? Do you want a high quality aviation headset that can compete with the best headsets out there, but it’s customized to exactly what you want? Those are just two very interesting topics we’ll discuss today with Shane Schmidt.
Shane has been a simulation enthusiast for years, but also recently got his private pilot at Redbird. Redbird is a forward thinking flight simulator manufacturer, flight school, and overall a huge proponent of general aviation.
What’s really cool about Shane, though, is his work at the Squawk Shoppe. If you want an INCREDIBLE aviation headset, you’ve got to check these out. You’ll be blown away!
Hangar Chat with Shane Schmidt
- How Shane fell in love with aviation
Flight Simulation Segment
- You’ve been around Flight Simulation a lot- how well versed would you say flight simmers are?
- How can flight simmers learn more and be better virtual pilots?
- What’s your favorite type of simulation?
- Where do you see simulators going?
Flight Training Segment
- What it is like training at RedBird
A big thanks goes out to Shane for joining us on this episode. It was great to hear this passion for simulation, in addition to all the great work he’s been doing with The Squawk Shoppe. Shane is such a top-notch guy, and he’s no doubt going to do really great things with his career. Thanks again, Shane!
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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This is AviatorCast episode 16, coming in five by five.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. My dream is to live under the approach path of a small airport, welcoming the loud drone of a piston prop anytime of the day. I’m an aviator myself and can’t get enough. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This master is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have real flight training and flight simulation topics, or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators but bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So, thank you for joining us on this, the 16th of episode of AviatorCast. We have a great and unique show lined up for you today, something that you may not expect as a cool subject, and I’ll tell you a little bit more about that here in a few seconds. First, we have a review coming to us from Canada. We have a lot of great Canadian listeners, and this one comes from Shiki Kahn. He says “An aviation podcast for everyone, five stars. Whether you are a pilot, a flight simulation guru or just an aviation enthusiast, this podcast has something to offer. It comes packed with useful information as well as entertaining stories and guests. Another first class product from the people behind Angle of Attack.” Huge thanks Shiki Kahn for leaving that review, and that was left on iTunes. iTunes is our primary source of getting reviews, and our primary way of letting others know about this podcast, and if you feel like you want to leave a review, that will help others learn about AviatorCast, and see by looking at that five-star and by reading these reviews that this is a great podcast. So if you enjoy this upcoming episode, I would encourage you if you do nothing else to go and review on iTunes. We don’t really want to ask for much else than that. This is a great and free and exciting resource for you because I, just like you, am very passionate about aviation and want to share that with you, share what I know, bring some interesting guests on the show, and I hope that we have done that for your so far, and that you’ll continue to enjoy what we do for you in the future.
And so here we are, at this, the 16th episode. We have another one of those great guests with us. Shane Smith joins us today. Shane has been an acquaintance of mine for a while now. He and I are quickly becoming friends. He’s a really great guy from Texas. I seem to align myself with Texans pretty myself as I’m in Alaska and we both have this kind of attitude. I don’t know what it is, we just have this state pride that’s hard to come by. Anyway, Shane is a really standup guy. He has done a lot of work in flight simulation. You may know him from the show called Ten Minute Taxi. He did that for quite a while. It was one of my favorite shows. I’m saddened to know it’s not around anymore. But Shane is on to some great things these days. He is creating custom headsets for flying. Say that you don’t like the drab look of Bose or Zulu or David Clark or any of these other brands, and you want something that’s more you, something that’s more personal. Well, Shane can get one of those headsets for you. He has an awesome company called The Squawk Shoppe. During this interview, Shane talks a lot about the components that go on behind the scenes with headsets and what goes in to making one and what you can customize, and kind of the history of headsets too. And the reason why I mentioned this as a unique show, because this is an opportunity that we’re only going to really have once. I really don’t foresee us ever again talking in depth about headsets like this. Shane just does a really great job, really enjoy his stuff. I’m seriously looking into getting one of these headsets myself, and I think you guys will really enjoy this interview with Shane Smith. So here we go, here is Hangar Talk with Shane Smith.
Now, a special hangar talk segment.
Chris: Okay everybody, we have a very special guest with us today. Some of may have heard of him before. His name is Shane Smith. How you doing Shane?
Shane: I’m good Chris, how are you?
Chris: Doing fantastic. It’s good to have you on the show. You and I are trying to reach out to each other now and again and we finally were able to connect up here. So this will be really good. I was telling you in the email before the show, just getting things coordinated, that I’m actually excited about this because you kind of have this unique angle that I don’t feel like we’ll really ever get again here with AviatorCast. I think it’ll be really interesting.
Shane: Oh… spicy.
Chris: So, before we get into that, the first thing I always ask people is how did you fall in love with aviation? What’s kind of your love story like and tell us kind of the history what it was like as a kid, and then kind of growing up and what your process was like?
Shane: So, growing up as a kid, I was really more into the go-karts and the 4-wheelers, and back in my day, there were 3-wheelers which were just ridiculously dangerous. So I started off with that. I ended up getting into kind of the Motorhead stuff and enjoying that. And then, a buddy of mine said that he was going to the airport one day and I think I was a junior in high school. I wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid and I built models, but I’d never really seen a real small airplane up close. So we went out there and there was a, I’m trying to think of the plane, it’s a push-me pull-me and they use it in Vietnam.
Chris: Yeah, the Cessna 337 or whatever…
Shane: 337, thank you very much. And then way that it looked, it was just so oddball, and I ended up talking to the guy and that was it, I was hooked. I really didn’t get back into it until my early 30s, and I decided I wanted to get back into it, I was going to make myself do it. And so I kept talking to people and this is after I had started the simulation. They just kept telling me, go out to the airport, go hang, go hang out. And it just kind of blossomed from there.
Chris: Great. Yeah, it’s just those contacts and being around people and really the energy of it all that will get you inspired.
Shane: Well, and not only is aviation a pretty tightneck community, but I’m in Texas aviation, so you talk about tightneck community and good ol’ boy network all mixed together, it took some really serious work to kind of work myself into that group, but once I got in there, man it’s great.
Chris: Did you do your training right there at San Marcos or what airport did you…
Shane: I was the test pilot for the brand new flight school, the Part 141 with the brand new Redbird flight simulators. I was student number one.
Shane: Yes sir.
Chris: I did not know that. So you flew that Diesel 172 huh?
Shane: No, I was there before the Diesel. No, I haven’t flown the Diesel yet. We cut the all the panels and laser-engraved all the panels for the new Redhawks. But I haven’t been in one, not in the area, and it’s supposed to be amazing.
Chris: Yeah, those were cool.
Shane: The engine is silent. I did hear the engine run and it is silent.
Chris: That’s crazy.
Shane: It is crazy.
Chris: It just seems like it’s kind of the next thing, if it’s that good and it’s burning that little fuel. People probably actually don’t know what that is and so maybe we’ll talk about that a little bit later because you have spent some time around the Redbird and their facilities which is really interesting, but I didn’t know you were student number one, that’s really interesting.
Shane: Thank you very much. I thought I’d feed you some more juicy stuff you could pick at me later with.
Chris: Yeah, cool. So at what age did you get your license then?
Shane: It was in 2012 so I was 34.
Chris: Great, awesome. The reason I ask is because obviously there are a lot of people like you who love aviation, even people that are into flight simulation and then later on they have the opportunity to get their license and they jump at it and it happens and they realize that it’s something they could’ve done all along and there really wasn’t too many barriers in front of them to begin with. In other words, I think we build up those barriers ourselves, and it’s going to be a lot harder than I think it is, so yeah, that’s awesome man. Congratulations on that.
Shane: Thank you very much.
Chris: And so now, you’re working on what with your flying?
Shane: So with the flying, I’ve just kind of, I’m slowly working in. I know I want to do the instrumentation and I know I want taildragger. What I’m trying to decide is which one is more important to me for what my mission is. I think as we all become pilots, we kind of decide, “Okay, well we have a certain kind of mission that we need to go down.” We can’t do it all. We all want to fly like everything from a Cessa to a DC3 to some C-plane in the middle of Alaska, but we have to focus our energy and focus our direction and so I’ve got to figure out what I want to do first, and I think the taildragger’s going to probably go first and then I’ll the instrument after just because we’ve got a lot of really good sunny days, and there are some really cool taildraggers at the hangar next door and I want to play in one. I got some time in a husky and I fell in love, so I want more taildragger time.
Chris: Yeah. My dream airplane is a Carbon Cub. Out of all airplanes, even the Redhawk or whatever. I want a Carbon Cub. That would be primetime for me. Just drill some tundra tires on there, land wherever I want, it’d be great.
Shane: That’s real flying right there and it’s just about as close to flying yourself with your own wings as you can get. It’s the best.
Chris: Awesome. So, apart from kind of what you’re doing in actual aviation which we’ll talk a little bit more about later because if I’m not mistaken, that’s where kind of your business focuses right?
Shane: Yes. That’s correct.
Chris: Now, before we get into that, I want to talk about flight simulation because you have spent a lot of time in a flight simulation and you’ve had an impact on the community together, and just to start out, you actually run this kind of video podcast if you will for a while called Ten Minute Taxi, and from what I understand you’re not running that anymore, but it was great when it was around and I really loved it, that’s how you and I got in touch because I really enjoyed it. So you’re obviously very knowledgeable about flight simulation. When did that start for you? What’s your flight simulation history like?
Shane: Wow, yeah. The flight sim, that is my drug of choice. When it comes to anything that I want to do, other than fly airplanes to just kind of relax, flight sim just takes the whole cake for me. And it happened by accident. I got the Microsoft Flight Simulator X from my father-in-law right after I met my now-wife. At that time, I was playing other games and he gave me the Flight Simulator X and said “Have you ever done this?” I said “no.” Took it home and it may have been five minutes after I installed it, I was looking for a yoke, I was looking for pedals. I was looking for like six more screens and how can I make this just the awesomest thing I’ve ever seen in my whole life, and then that’s how I stumbled into this whole like underground genre of flight sim addicts. And you guys had this huge community that was all under the radar and I had no clue it even existed. Then it just took off. I was into this and into that and I started flying with other people and then they were into these big virtual communities, and then that turned into “Okay well, I’m going to figure out how to this make my sim better” and that’s when I started seeing the Orbx stuff and the Angle of Attack stuff and the hardware and software and man, I’m hooked and I’ll be always hooked until the day I die and they sell all these stuff off. I will always have a flight sim platform of some kind in my house.
Chris: How many episodes of Ten Minute Episode did you end up doing?
Shane: A little over two years, and I was doing them once a week. I started off doing twice a week and then went back at once a week just because the production time and the prep time was taking…
Chris: Yeah, that’s a lot of time.
Shane: I mean, for 10 minutes’ worth of work, it probably took me 4 hours’ worth of prep at least, so it’s hard to work in your real life around these stuff that you’d like to do. I think I’d probably ran somewhere around probably 40 episodes if I was to guess total, and that’s just because sometimes I took off. It’s probably closer to a 60 or 70 total maybe real episodes. I don’t remember now, but yeah. About two years.
Chris: Yeah. And it was a really good source of information just for what was going on the community at that time, and you had a lot of great contests and things. I really enjoyed it. It was a great.
Chris: To that extent, I wish it was actually more popular than it was. I know at that time, you probably had some good followers, but it deserved a lot more attention than it got. Maybe it’s just kind of wrong timing or something but I loved it.
Shane: That kind of stuff, especially in the niche market that we’re in, not only are we in the niche of aviation but that we’re also in the niche of the niche which is the flight simulation, so a lot of that stuff takes a lot longer I think to really kind of gain traction, and I just ran out of time to be able to fit it in to what I was doing. I had to drop it for a while. It’s not good. I still have everything ready for it if I ever want to launch it again. We’ll see if that ever happens but yeah, thanks.
Chris: So let’s talk about, still in the flight simulation kind of idea here, let’s talk about how flight simulation actually affected your training and what that was like. For flight simmers, we get a lot of people thinking that if you fly in a simulator, you’re going to have really bad habits which technically can happen if you don’t approach it correctly, but it can also be very beneficial. How was your simulator beneficial or how did it harm you and your training. I’m guessing it’s mostly beneficial but tell us a bit about that and how it helped you out.
Shane: Well, as you know, there are two schools of thought on the whole simulation versus actual kind of integration and kind of the older group I think, finds it actual, absolutely necessary and most important and it’d be a waste in your time, unless you’re doing instrumentation training, blah blah blah. And then there’s the other school of thought which is that this is very helpful, it’s all you need, you could fly a plane just off a simulator, and that’s also got some blah blah blah in it right?
Shane: But I think the medium is that I benefited greatly from having the sim experience first, and that’s included in my VFR training. That’s not because it didn’t help me in IFR at all. It probably would help me greatly whenever I head down that road, but I was going to be a private pilot. And I’ll tell you, the best thing it helped me with, there were two areas. First was radio communication. Without flight simulation, without PilotEdge, without all of those things in place, I would’ve been way behind in my radio communication, and I would’ve been spending a lot of my training time on that. But instead, I was already comfortable in that environment and comfortable speaking in that kind of jargon, and so it kept me from having to focus too much time on that, and I got to focus more time on flying. The second part of that was the simulation gives you the ability to pause, so rather than going up and flying in the airplane, you do all of these things, and you’re up there for probably two hours, you have to wait until you come back and then debrief. So you can lose all kinds of things that occurred during that training session that you don’t end up debriefing on, and you have to go back into it later. But with a simulator, whatever happens, if there is a problem occurring, you just press pause and you and the instructor or yourself and whoever you’re flying with, can go over what just happened, and you can debrief right there. You can fix the problem and go.
Chris: How did your instructor integrate a simulator? So you actually did your training at Redbird? I don’t really know how their program works there.
Shane: So they’re a brand new Part 141 school which integrates the flight simulator as an actual training device, and with actual flight training.
Chris: Okay, this is an interesting conversation because this is kind of a new attitude, completely new attitude to a flight school, because Redbird is doing other things that other people haven’t dared to do really, because of this idea that somehow simulators are harmful. I want you to spend a little bit of time on this and kind of explain their program because this definitely unique. We’re not talking about a regular flight school here. We’re talking about maybe one of two or three companies that are doing this type of thing, and it’s changing a little now because Redbird is proliferating their simulators throughout the world but tell us about this program. I really want to hear about this particular program.
Shane: Yeah absolutely. And that’s why I’m so excited about it and that’s why I like talking about it because it does integrate it, it is new but it is working and it’s working very well. I was able to go in, they had desktop simulators, then they had crosswind trainers, and then you have a full big motion simulator, and then the actual airplane. So I was integrated into flying in a simulator base. So the first thing we did was we went on the airplane. We went on the airplane, flew around and got familiar with the actual aircraft and the feeling of flying. Then the next deal was “Ok, let’s step back and let’s start to train you on what to do, so you start out on the desktop simulator.” So it’s just the one screen in front of you. You have your instrumentation in front of you, you have a yoke and you have pedals, that’s it. You start off that way. You learn what the instruments are, you learn what the ball is, you learn how to look outside, etc. Then you move from that into things like the crosswind trainer and the full motion sim, and what the whole program is down there with the Redbirds is that you’re going to train in a simulator, and then all you’re doing in the airplane is demonstrating. So you’re going to train in what you need to be trained in, and then once you got that down in the simulator, “Okay, now let’s go demonstrate that in the actual aircraft.” That keeps you from developing the bad habits that are associated with a flight simulator system because there are some inaccuracies. So that kept you from developing those bad habits but it also allowed you to pause, to stop, to be able to train yourself before you went and actually got in the plane, and it made you more comfortable in the aircraft.
Chris: What about cost? Were there any cost savings involved with this and… actually, I’ll ask that question next, but tell us about the cost of this all.
Shane: So the cost was a fixed cost and that’s something else that Redbird’s doing that’s actually new and dissimilar to what other people have done which is kind of by the hour. This is a fixed cost. It’s 9500 dollars and they guarantee your certificate. Same thing with instrumentation. It’s the same price, it’s three weeks long. So in three weeks, they’ll take you from zero to private pilot for 9500 dollars. Now, of course there is some various in that because of weather, because of availability, because of those types of things. But the point is, that you’re never out any more money. So whether it takes you 30 hours or 200 hours, you’re still not fixed cost ration and you know that you’re going to be certified. The other part of the cost that you don’t have to worry about is instructor. The instructors now are more comfortable training you and not rushing because now they’re on salary, because of fixed cost. So they’re not getting paid by the hour, they’re getting pay the company a salary, so now they don’t feel the need to jam all these stuff don’t your throat. They feel like they can take their time and kind of be with you and they don’t feel rushed and they don’t feel pressured.
Chris: Do it right, do it for competency. I like that a lot.
Shane: And it’s safer, it’s safer. We end up being safer because of it.
Chris: Yeah, total agree. Along with that, I don’t know how much they integrated this but what do they do with scenario-based training throughout this process?
Shane: As far as scenario-based training, they have these preset systems in the simulator. Now we’re talking about, once we start talking about scenario-based, we’re talking about the full motion simulator. So it’s three degrees of freedom, 180 degrees of view, and full instrumentation, all of the gauges work, everything functions as it should very similar to the way it does in airplane. The fell and all that we can talk about later, but the actual simulation or scenario-based training, they had it established already, so there’s a lot of scenarios, and that’s part of your syllabus. So as you go through your different scenarios, you get into the simulator and you basically run that scenario and you do with your instructor next to you, and you run through that scenario and he trains you through that system and then basically you get checked off on that. Once you’re checked off on that, you move to scenario 2A, and so on and so forth.
Chris: You know, for you and I having been in simulation even prior to I guess especially for you, being in simulation prior to you going through your private in this sort of program, and me looking at this from having had a simulation training company essentially, this just makes complete sense to me. Why aren’t we becoming sharp in a simulator and then taking that to the airplane and demonstrating and getting realistic cross-country time where we’re not out there just practicing ground-reference maneuvers you know, but actually getting our hours that way, and just seems like it makes a lot more sense.
Shane: And it does but it takes time for people to get rid of preconceived notions to get rid of slander and things like that come in from people who do the classic form of training and they’re fearful for their job, they’re fearful for their flight school, so they’re going to deliver maybe some bad press or some inaccurate stuff and those things spread unfortunately and it just takes time for people to get on board with things that maybe scare them or don’t make sense at first glance.
Chris: Yeah. And then a lot of I guess gatherings in the last 10 years of aviation professionals, leaders in the industry, the FAA is always there, their top people are always there. King Schools, Redbird seems to always be there, and they’re having these conversations. They’re saying “Okay we have TAA, we have technologically advanced aircraft, we have years and years of training experience yet we still have essentially the same accident rate for the same reasons in general aviation, so now what are we going to do to change it? And I that’s where the conversation is changing now because people are finally realizing, “Well, okay yes, we’ve been doing things a certain way for so long, but it hasn’t been changing at all, and so now, what are we going to do differently. So we’re starting to see things like scenario-based training being introduced as a standard in many schools, not just a few kind of new schools. And then these simulators, we know what Redbird is doing, and the reason why Redbird is so popular right now and will remain popular for the future, is because of that ability. Not only that, but something the Redbird has proven is the cost of it all. Cost for getting a private pilot is becoming prohibitive, and when you’re talking about a simulator, a fixed cost like you were talking about, not wasting time in an airplane while you’re burning fuel. So there are a lot of things being answered here and kind of a shift in thought which helps to alleviate that resistance to change that you were talking about.
Shane: That’s right, and I think that’s exactly what Jerry is trying to do with Redbird. I think he’s trying to reimagine the way in conjunction with King Schools. I think John and Martha have definitely on board, and you got people like the AOPA and things like that. They’re really starting to embrace this and try to really strive to push this type of training forward because of that technical advance. Let’s have the ability to do so, let’s utilize it. Let’s utilize your online, like the Angle of Attack stuff. These are great tools that don’t require avgas. They don’t require jet fuel. They require a person to set at their machine or just like they would in a classroom. It makes sense and it’s going to make us safer.
Chris: Definitely. Let’s see. I have another question here. I forgot, it was a good one too. Is there anything else you share, kind about experience with Redbird or where you see kind of simulation going as a whole?
Shane: Well I think simulation is going to continue to grow in several ways. One is that now, Lockheed Martin has kind of taken that whole P3D and they’re trying to expand that for the commercial market, and for now we have this big burgeoning drone market that’s coming up, so now you’ have virtual pilots that are flying real aircraft. Well, they better be safe because they’ve got real hardware out in the sky and they’re sitting a thousand miles away in some enclosed environment. Simulation has to grow for that reason alone, and for the other is, that we’re only going to get more technically advanced, so we’re going to have to figure out how to train that stuff somewhere, and I don’t know about you but I don’t have a million dollars lying around to go buy some big full-blown simulator that costs 1.5 million that’s made by Airbus or whoever it is. This stuff has to come down in order to develop the demand and be able to provide top quality pilots. Not every great pilot has money. There’s a lot of great pilots that have no money. There’s got to be a way to make that work, and I think this simulation-based scenario training is going to be a growing market. In what way it’s going to grow, I don’t know. I think that’s going to be determined by the technology, what technologies were going to come out in the field that’s going to make us safer. And on top of that, what other technologies are going to come up for us to build with our home-based sims or office-based sims or flight school-based.
Chris: Right, definitely. So I remembered my question and this is kind of a big one for pilots. How much of your time at Redbird in those simulators was loggable?
Shane: Alright, so I want go into the specifics because I don’t know what the exact numbers are, but I tell you it was about half and half. So I spent about half of my time in sim, and half of my time in the airplane.
Shane: So that’s probably a pretty good reference. And FYI, I was ready for checkride at 32 hours.
Chris: Goodness. There’s proof right there.
Shane: Now, did that have anything to do with me? I highly doubt it, I’m not that smart. I wish I was but I’m just not. Do I think it had a majority to do with the fact that I had simulator back training and that I also was able to utilize simulator in my training? Abso-freakin-lutely.
Chris: Yeah, definitely. It had a lot to do with several things in my mind. We had a conversation a few episodes ago with Paul Craig and he actually did some studies right, side by side of a whole body of students. He had some students one year that went through a program with SBT or scenario-based training and then TAA, technically advanced aircraft, so they had G1000 and they had a scenario-based training program. So scenario-based training is basically what you went through as well. You were doing a lot of that in the simulators. That was one body that they studied. The next body was those same technologically advanced aircraft without scenario-based training. And what they found is that the students accomplish things much much faster. They had fewer setbacks. They were soling sooner and getting their licenses with fewer hours. That’s one of the great things that a simulator does, is it gives you that scenario-based training in situations that you couldn’t do it in a real airplane. Because if you got out with your instructor, say you’re taking off from San Marcos or whatever, your plan is to fly to Houston, and along the way you’re supposed to have an emergency and divert, or rather there’s a big line of thunderstorms in front of you right, and your instructors says “What are we going to do, where are we going to go,” and a bunch of different things that happen that way. If you went up and you were burning fuel doing that, extremely expensive. Now, if you went up in a Redbird, you can load up after takeoff, before you even get to that point, just before you get to that decision point kind of and have the opportunity to make that decision there and you’re not burning avgas. And so, I think the scenario-based training plays into that. I definitely thing that the simulator plays into that as well. So you saying that you got your license sooner, zero surprise for me just because it’s been proven time and time again now that it’s working well and it’s working well not just for isolated super good pilots right, it’s for all pilots.
Shane: That’s right, and that’s for all flight schools, because it’s cheaper for the flight school. So the flight school saves money, their planes last longer because they’re not out there doing these emergency diversions, and then on top of that, a lot of these times, whenever you’re doing the off-airport training, you’re flying down to basically a minimum, and then you kind of break off and go back up. In a simulator, you can do the emergency all the way to the ground.
Chris: All the way down.
Shane: That’s right. All the way down to the ground, flare and everything, landing in the middle of a field. Now, are you going to have the adrenaline with that? Okay, probably not as much but I’ll tell, there is some nervousness there. You can feel the movement and stuff.
Chris: And it’s going through the motions too. When you face that situation in real life, then you have already been through the motions, you understand how fast the ground is coming at you, you’ve been there before and you realize how critical some of those moments are and some of those decisions, and that’s why scenario-based training is so effective.
Shane: Muscle memory works man. It works/ It’s been working in the military forever. There’s no difference. There’s no difference. It’s all muscle memory. I don’t care if you’re in a simulator or the real thing.
Chris: Surprisingly, this is the way they use to train. There were instructors that would get permission from farmer Joe, a friend of his, and he would take his student and he would go and he would say “Okay, we’re going to have an emergency landing, I think that’s a good spot over there.” And the student would think they’re just kind of going to the motions, they’re going to pull off right before they kind of get there, but then they’d go all the way down to the ground and just land in this field. That type of experience is very rare today. If you can find an instructor that will do that sort of thing and has the aircraft insured in everything, then by all means probably a pretty wise instructors, but assuming he’s not a new instructor abnd you know that he’s an old wise guy. Those are the sort of things we can’t really replicate anymore or at least it’s becoming extremely rare. The more and more I get into simulators as a training device being an integral part of your training, the more I realize that it has to be there and it’s integral. Heck, we’re in the 21st century now. This is what we’re supposed to be doing and it makes so much more sense to be doing that.
Shane: That’s right. And we’re behind already, so we’re going to catch up now because of all these dragging feet. It should have started a long time ago but better late than never I guess.
Chris: And that’s why I mentioned the loggable hours, because the FAA is dragging their feet and it takes a lot of time for them to change their rules and regulations, and in fact right now, they’re going the opposite direction. They released this news recently where they said “We’re going to revoke a lot of the loggable hours that we’re allowing for pilots.” And the simulation community, meaning professional flight school level simulation has kind of freaked out and said “This isn’t going to work.” Like “This is really short-sighted, we don’t understand what you’re doing” sort of thing.
Shane: Increase the hours needed. They increased the hours needed to be a professional pilot, and to upgrade your classification, but then they reduce your ability to do so in a simulation-based environment.
Chris: Right. And so there’s this loggable argument right? If the FAA is going to continue being stubborn. And there’s a lot of great people in the FAA. I’m not saying there are but we all know that there’s also red tape in the FAA and with government in general, so there’s this loggable hour argument where as a pilot, if I can’t log my hours doing something, should I be doing that thing? My argument is yes. If it’s going to make you a safer pilot and you can’t log the hours, then don’t log the hours and become safer pilot. It just makes sense. And so in a lot of the argument about having a simulator, whether it’s professionally-based like having a Redbird or whether it’s having a home-based simulator, no, you cannot log all the time. You spend in that simulator, but that time is incredibly valuable to you being a safe pilot.
Shane: Whether it’s loggable or not, that’s right. And if it matters, if you want to be a safer pilot and I think a majority of us do, then you’ll do it anyway because it matters more than the legalities.
Chris: Exactly, yep. Alright. So I think we’ve kind of beat the simulation thing. Now, that actually ended up being a much more interesting conversation than I thought because I’ve actually been in the Redbird a lot recently. I’ve been watching a lot of their presentations, the professional seminars, and keeping up with their news, and these guys are really forward-thinking, and it’s refreshing honestly in aviation, because we have a lot of these old school minds that want to do things the same way. Same maneuver-based training, burning fuel in an airplane. Usually an old airplane now because unless you are a really, really wealthy flight school, you cannot afford how much these G1000 aircraft are, $400,000 for an entry level you know?
Shane: What a joke.
Chris: So, that ended up being a lot more interesting than I thought, so I think our listeners will enjoy that. Now, one great thing about what you’re doing or rather, I guess the really great thing about what you’re doing right now, is you are making these really cool and interesting aviation headsets and not just cool and interesting, but super high qualities. So I want to talk about that a little bit because it’s actually a very unique kind of corner of the market that you found there, and prior to the show, as I get listeners I like to make sure that I know who they are in depth and discover this sort of stuff they’ve done. I got on your website and just found myself lusting after some of these headsets, and not only your custom headsets, but you had this lightspeed 2 where you put carbon fiber covers on the…
Shane: You guys are going crazy for that one.
Chris: I know. Yeah. I saw you saying, you know “Is this something you guys would like? Would you send in your new headset? Would you buy a used headset?” I’m like “Yes, yes, yes, yes.”
Chris: So you’re definitely on to something. So I want you to talk about that a little bit. Tell us about first of all why you started doing this. Let’s just start there.
Shane: So the headset thing, it kind of started before, it started with the simulation stuff right. I got the sim. You need the ability to hear, you want the airplane noises to kind of come through your speaker system, and then you want that audio comment stuff to be in a different deal because you can’t hear anybody if you don’t. Then I needed a good headset. Well then you need to start connecting stuff to it like your IR and all that. That’s how the kind of the electronic build thing started, there. But then I started my flight training and one of the first things you have to do as a pilot is pick out a headset. We’re a brand new flight school. There were no loaners. There was nothing. Now, some flight schools have loaners but most of the time they tell you “Hey listen, you need to get a headset.” So I started looking around and I realized after looking around at all these different kinds and brands, that they all had parts of things I liked, and then they all some things I didn’t like, and none of them had everything I liked. So I said “Okay, well. I’m going to build one.” I was like it can’t be that hard and I consider myself a pretty app guy when it comes to electronics. So I decided “Okay, I’m going to build one.” So I took an old carcass of this and electronics of that, put one together.
Then the next thing I realize is with all these headsets, you only get one option. You either take what they offer you, and that color whether it’s baby poop green or you can get this magnesium gold color which “blech” or you can get black. Well thank you very much but no thank you. There are some other options as well. I wanted some variety and we’re children of personalized equipment. Our phones are personalized. Our cars are being able to be personalized, and I wanted a way to personalize my own thing, my headset, it’s mine. Nobody else is ever going to use it. I wanted it to be for me. So I started researching and doing all that. Next thing I knew, I had a custom headset that I had made and I took it in and people started asking. And then someone they said “Can you make me one” and they said “can you make me one” and I said sure. It just blew up. It just turned into this real thing and the next thing I knew, I had a business with a very, very good friend of mine who I fly-sim with by the way. I met him flight simming, he is now my senior vice president for my company, and we talk everyday and we go fly everyime we can and he runs all the hard end of it, and I get to make headsets all day, and I just keep trying to grow it, I keep trying to make it better, I keep trying to make something that people want. And it works well, and it’s actually worth the money that you’re paying. Headsets are expensive and they should be worth the money that you’re paying for them and they weren’t, and not anymore because I made one that is.
Chris: So let’s get a little technical here and this is actually a question I didn’t plan, but let’s have you talk about what goes into a headset, the types of technology, what the components are why that stuff kind of matters, what you’re seeing other headsets out there, and we’ll start there and then eventually I want to get to the point of what do your headsets have but first I’d rather educate not only me but also the audience, so why don’t you tell us about all those components?
Shane: Sure. Well you started out and I’ll just do a quick story and I won’t make this too long-winded. Headsets are actually not that old and believe or not I wanted to do a vintage line but that doesn’t exist. Headsets aren’t that old. They started in the military. They were extremely crude, but they needed a way for radio operators to be able to speak with the pilot so that they could guide them to bombing locations, etc., etc. So that’s how it started and it started with a low impedance system because that’s what the military was using for their frequencies, so very low hertz speaker, very low hertz microphone and so and so forth. Then it moved into the civilian market and the civilian market, they end up burning these high impedance systems for more high fidelity, so they started to mix in things from the audio files. So yeah, these headphones with these high impedance speakers and they started to develop these high impedance microphones that were used for musicians and things like that and integrated those things.
Once they did that, then they knew “Okay, well now we can integrate this into everything.” So we ended up with what’s called a passive headset. The headset clamps on your head, it makes a seal around your hears, it would block out the loud noises from the outside. Then you had a directed mic and that microphone would rest against your mouth and that’s how you would speak outbound through the audio connections. Then, in the 80s, that’s when the ANR came out, this way to electronically cancel out noise by listening to a sound and sending that sound to a speaker which had an inverted impedance and would basically deliver the opposite sound out of the speaker into your ear, and so that will create the illusion of this cancelling out to basically make that sound wave disappear with its exact counterpart. That’s how the technical part of how the headset works.
Chris: So you said ANR started in the 80s. Why did it take so long to become prevalent in most headsets because I bought my headset, my David Clark, I bought it in probably 2001, maybe 2002, that time frame, and I don’t think they had ANR for DCs back in those days and those were the bee’s knees. And then Bose came along and Bose started to do ANR, that’s what Bose does anyway, and then Zulu. Those were kind of the big 3 competitors in the market. I would say the David Clarke probably isn’t so much a competitor these days anymore but anyway, why did that take so long to come to the forefront?
Shane: Well I think it was the way the technology worked, and of course aviation, as we’ve talked before, it’s kind of slow to catch on and kind of take things on and kind them kind of a norm, and you got to realize that these headsets with the ANR were these massive, I mean they were these huge big squares that you put on your ear, and it just required the ability for smaller technology, for smaller components and really kind of take off and be able to be not only practical but budgetary, and the price had to come way down for it to be feasible for everybody to have ANR. And David Clarke kind of went a different way. They kind of got something called electronic noise cancelling which I think is just a reworded way of knowing it, but they do a couple of things that are a little different. That’s how it all started. It just takes a while for this stuff to kind of ramp up and go.
Chris: Gotcha. Okay, well that make sense. Okay, so I am out in the market for a headset say. I have all these choices. I have Bose, the A20, I have Zulu, Zulu has a couple of models, David Clark has several models from the non-noise reduction up to their newer more sleek model. And I’m sure there are some other competitors out there as well that are taking a smaller share. And then you. You come in with these really cool custom headsets. I envision in my mind having this awesome headset with noise reduction, Bluetooth connectivity. Last night I was watching and you even had a connected where I could charge a GoPro while I essentially had my headset on. That was cool too. I have all these options and in my mind I just want this Angle of Attack orange headset and all these stuff. But apart from the customization, what sets you apart as far as the internal components. What are you seeing in competitor products as far as the quality that they have. How is your headset being set apart. I know you’re super super popular yet, but I think you’re onto something. So tell us why your stuff is different.
Shane: Well, I wish it was the different because of the way that it looked. We’ve gone with the traditional style carcass basically and there’s a couple of reasons for that, one being, it takes a lot of money to mold things, but there are some actual functionality reasons why we went with the traditional. But as far as internal components go, we’ll talk about some accessory stuff as well but I needed the ability to expand the hardware and how nobody else got on top of this before I did is beyond me. How nobody got to this custom market before I did is beyond me. Nevertheless, I’m here now and I fully intend on doing it to the nines with everything. With the hardware, I started to look how other people are utilizing that’s available to him and what I realized is a lot of these guys have just basically set up what they had to begin and they never changed. They never updated. They never changed any hardware. They never utilized any of the new technology available to them.
Chris: No innovation.
Shane: No, none whatsoever. Because I don’t think they felt like they needed to. I think each one of them grabbed their little market share and they just kind of sat on it, and I think that’s a mistake, and I don’t plan on sitting on my share at all. What you have things like David Clark, and then a lot of people created what were called David Clark clones, so they went and they just basically took the same carcass and put their label on it. Then next thing you know, you got people making them overseas and they’re importing them here and they’re branding them that way and there are really easy ways to tell those apart by the way, just by looking at them. And then, you had this major market shareholders and they just kind of kept with what they were doing and they were basing their success on. People thinking that there special technology in them where there’s not. People thinking that their name brand basically came with this huge stigma or this huge kind of a class upgrade thing, that they were something special thing because their money… “Well you’re not, you’re buying their name.” “Well okay, that makes sense.” People buy for name all the time because they know what they’re getting and I think that’s a smart thing. I also think there’s a fine line between gouging somebody and providing them something that’s special. So, we went in and I said “Okay, I want to utilize all the technology I can. I want to do it the best way I can, and I need to do it for not a lot of money. Because we are brand new. Because I don’t want to go borrow a quarter of a million dollars to go in and basically create this new headset design. There’s a solid headset design that works well, I want to modify that to basically take care of all the issues that people have, and then I want to put some really nice stuff in it. Let’s put some great hardware in it. And then whenever I shine it up, it looks like a brand new hot rod. But it can’t be hard rod, you don’t have a hard rod unless you got a really good engine, so that’s where we started.
Chris: I like that core component approach that you have to this because at the end of the day, it’s not how your headset looks, even though all of us pilots think we’re B.A. It’s really the core components, how it sounds when you’re talking on the radio, how well you can communicate, all these things. That’s what really matters. So I like that you kind of separated there and really kept the vision stuff separate. And that’s not to say that your headset doesn’t look great, doesn’t look as amazing as all these RND that Bose or Zulu put into their headsets. Heck, who knows how much they put into that as far as time and cost. But what you’re saying is that behind the doors, the components are essentially low quality, and they are innovating in the core purpose of the headset. Rather they’re innovating tin the way it looks which is pointless.
Shane: That’s right. They’re more focused on cosmetic changes, and it’s not that they’re low quality. For these high end headsets that costs you 7, 8, a thousand dollars, it’s not that they have back components, it’s that they make you think there’s something special in them, that there’s some kind of like feathered, gold-enlaid speaker system inside of there or some magic mic. There’s not, there’s not. So we change that, and that’s why we’re a competitor and that’s why we’re going to end up with a good big fat market share in this market because I will innovate and we will continue to push the balance and I’m going to continue to put better equipment in there because it’s going to make us safer environment. It makes for a better… they talk about situational awareness, situational awareness, well, can’t have situational awareness if “we’re talking in the radio and we sound like this,” or if you’re in an open cockpit environment. I’d love to fly a Stearman, but I also need to be able to talk in the radio. Well, you can’t do that. I want my ANR to work whenever my window is open and I’m doing my run-up. Well, you can’t do that with a 12000 dollar headset. You open the window up and do your run-up with a 1200 dollar on, it sounds like… that doesn’t work.
Chris: Those sounds are perfect man, you must have practice that a lot. That’s great.
Shane: I just heard them so I think they’re embedded in my brain.
Chris: Yeah. Nightmares, nightmares, and that’s what’s driving you. Okay. So we have the component. I like that you’re innovating the core. Love, love, love that. You’re convincing me, because I actually am in the market for a headset.
Shane: Oh good. Oh please. Let me seduce you with our wares. I do want to give out credit real quick. I wish I was smart enough to create these create these great components. There is a company called Pilot Communications in Irvine, California. They have created all of our components for us. He listened to what I needed, we created this great environment and he had already made some stuff that he was wanting push out to the market but nobody was taking and I took it. Those guys are a huge… they’re the reason we’re in business and I want to give out credit to where it’s due.
Chris: Awesome, and we’ll make sure to link them in the show notes too so they got some SEO credit and things like that as well. Okay, so we’ve talked about the inner components, we talked about your outer shell. Now I want to customize my headset, my Squawk Shoppe headset. What kind of options do I have to do that?
Shane: You got to make it your precious, right. You got to start out with basically your connection type. Once you’ve worked out what kind of connection you want, then you want to pick out what kind of mic boom. That’s another thing that was missing, is you couldn’t really pick out a mic boom. Everybody was using a full flex but I don’t want a full flex. I want something that’s old school. I like the old steel wire booms. When I found this, there are a lot of other people that like them too. I wanted the ability to provide that option, so that’s what you get to pick. And then you got to pick after that then you get to go in and if you’re an open cockpit pilot, there are some additional options as well. We can get into that technology if you want but it basically it allows you to upgrade the microphone. We have amazing microphone as it is now but we also have an upgraded microphone that’s specifically designed for an extreme high noise or open cockpit environments. There’s a couple of reviews on the PA9-EHN mic but it’s just, if you’re standing behind a B17 Bomber and you got this mic up your mouth, it sounds like you’re in a padded room, so it’s just amazing technology. We don’t have to go into all that. But then now you’re get into the custom stuff. Once you’ve picked all the good hardware, okay well now, let’s make it aesthetically cool. So now you got to pick your color, your graphic, we all kind of graphics, all kinds of colors. I’ve got metallic, I’ve got flame graphics and zombies and wood grains and anything you can possibly think.
Shane: Yeah. We got a zombie one. Got up a zombie one man. It’s the age of The Walking Dead, what can you do.
Chris: It really is. Just strange.
Shane: So then, overhead cables. You get that pick that color. We’ve some great cable sheet thing that looks like neon colors or a diamond-back snake, things like that. And then the headpads. We needed the ability for people to, some people like cotton headpads, some people like the sheepskin stuff, so give them both options. Don’t make them buy both and try them. If they already know what they want, give it to them. If they want to send it back and we’ll swap it out, whatever.
Shane: Then the ear cushions, same thing. Some people like the leatherette stuff. I don’t like the leatherette because I live in Texas and it sticks in my head. I want something cool. That’s what the Gel ear seals, and Pilot Communications have this great new technology which we won’t go into too much but they have a twin layer which basically lets you put on your sunglasses and it still keeps the seal around your head and it’s really cool stuff. And then the last option is laser grading. We let you personalize it and that works great for you guys for Angle of Attack. We’ve done it for MzeroA. We take and laser engrave your logo actually on the ear assemblies, and color match to your company or you know, if you want to put your tail number on there, whatever. That’s it. We’ll grow those as we go, but those are the actual in headset options you can choose just right now.
Chris: That’s awesome. Sounds very, very convincing. So what are the, tell us a little bit about the intangibles. Warranty, shipping, things like that. Tell us about those things.
Shane: So shipping, we ship to over 160 countries worldwide, so you are not limited to geography if you want one of our headsets. As far as warranty goes, we’re going a three-year full warranty. I was going to do a five-year, but I’m not going to need to. I wanted to set the three-year warranty so that no matter what happens, while people are getting used to it, they’re going to feel comfortable just sending that headset right back in, they’ll send it right back in. After the three years, there’s not going to be anything wrong with the headset, they’re going to hold on to it and keep it, and if it’s been five years, six years whatever, and they call me and say “Hey man, listen. I cracked my boom,” or “I bent the wire,” or whatever it is, send it in. We’re going to take care of it. I don’t need to have that in writing. What I do need to do is protect that customer in the first three years, in that first 36 months and say “You know, this should cover anything that’s defective up to that certain point, after the three years.” There’s not going to be anything that’s going to defect after that. It’s just going to keep going until you drop it or break it.
Chris: Right. For me, even just you talking about, I kind of just realize this about myself but that is one of the core functions of my brand loyalty to whatever brand I’m loyal to actually. One brand I’m loyal to is Apple. Another brand I’m loyal to is North Face. And I’m loyal to those brands not because they’re trendy or cool, that just happens to be kind of trendy and cool, but I know that if I have a problem with my apple product, I can take it back and I can get it fixed. I know that I have a problem with my North Face stuff, I can send it back and get it fixed. And I’ve done that. I’ve had phones replaced, I’ve had zippers replaced on jackets and stuff like that, and so you having that sort of warranty in a certain sense not in a total sense, but I really, really like that and that’s honestly one of the most convincing things for me, just knowing that I have someone to go to and it’s not this end all relationship which is what you get sometimes.
I did actually have an experience with another headset company that was actually good. Most of them probably wouldn’t be super great but that’s actually the reason why I bought DCs in the beginning when I first did my training. I don’t think I’d go back to DC ever again but just because their warranty was good at that time, I don’t know what it is now, but yeah awesome. So I like those intangibles. So where can people find you? Where can they keep up with you? Where can they go to get their headset today and start customizing?
Shane: Well, we have this fancy dandy little website. You can go to TheSquawkShoppe.com. We spell shop the old school way, s-h-o-p-p-e. We got a Facebook page, The Squawk Shoppe. You can tweet as @SquawkShoppe. We got great photos on Instagram. If you do an Instagram search for The Squawk Shoppe, you’ll find all kinds of really cool, like customer photos that we found. Once you’re on the website, make sure you look at the features. We’ve changed a lot of things to make it better for the pilot. We’ve tried to take away a lot of the complaints that people had different types of headsets and I think we’ve accomplished that in a lot of ways. Hardware, software, fit and finish, I think you’ll be really happy. We also have that good 30-day no questions, tell us to kick rocks guarantee. You buy one of our headsets, you don’t like it, you send it right back. You’ll get all your money back, you’d move on. We’re not going to be upset about it. Just FYI, we had been open 18 months, I had one headset come back and that’s because his wife had already bought him something else.
Chris: I believe it. It’s awesome man.
Shane: Thank you.
Chris: Well you and I are going to be having a conversation outside of this call that’s for sure. I’m in the market, I think I’m going to go for this.
Shane: We’re going to make you an Angle of Attack one if you’re going to dig it.
Chris: Yeah, that’ll be sick. Alright. Thanks for joining us. This has been very enlightening not only with your experience with flight simulation, your flight training, but I’m really excited about what you’re doing with your business. I wish you all the best success. I’m going to keep up with you, and good luck man. Thanks for coming on the show.
Shane: Thanks too man. And keep doing all the Angle of Attack stuff. I love it.
Chris: Appreciate it. Take care.
Shane: See you.
Chris: It was an absolute pleasure and honor to have Shane on the show. I really liked our discussion about his experience at Redbird and what it was like having a flight school where a simulator was a very big integral part of his training and just exactly what that meant. Also, I’m really loving the work Shane has done with Ten Minute Taxi and all the other stuff he’s done on flight simulation, and what he’s doing now in real aviation, creating these awesome headsets. If you haven’t already, I really encourage you to go check out these headsets. Take a serious look at them. It took me a few minutes to dig in and start to get convinced, but these are great headsets and just speaking to Shane, I know that the quality of product is definitely top notch, the supports being great, and so because I’m in the market for a headset, I don’t want to use my 10-year-old DC Clark anymore, I think I’m going to go with this. I’m going to go and get a headset from The Squawk Shoppe, I’m going to have it customized just how I want it and I’m really excited about that. So go on and check it out, they have a lot great stuff and I like their blog too. They had a couple of interesting things there. So Shane, thank you so much for being on the show, much appreciated. I know that all the listeners here in Angle of Attack will enjoy our conversation and how upbeat it was, and they will appreciate the kind of work that you are work doing right now. So keep it up, all the best success to you, and big shoutout here from AviatorCast.
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