The Fluid Nature of Recording Aircraft

If you follow me on social media you probably noticed that I’ve been going to the local airport to record aircraft of all kinds for the last two months or so. My original intention was to record private jets and maybe get a few prop planes and maybe, just maybe, record some helicopters. Well, after weeks of getting up early and bringing some gear to the airfield I got more than I bargained for. What started out as a small collection of helicopters recorded over the last few years has grown into a large and varied set of rotorcraft sound effects… Fairly quickly I might add. Unexpected? Yes. Totally fun? Yes. Here is the skinny on the transformation of Helicopters HD Mini into Helicopters HD pro.

There are a few locals who hang out every morning for a few hours at the airport, drink coffee, tell stories and watch the planes fly in and out. I’ve become friends with a few of them and they know guys who know guys who have helicopters. Long story short is that on quite a few occasions they have let me know who is flying, who’s arriving and who’s departing. When they hear of someone taking a flight in a helicopter they let me know. Most of the time I have less than 15 minutes to grab my gear, set up and be ready to record. Sounds crazy, right? Believe me, it is. Sometimes I have only one microphone and other times I’m able to set up another along with a hand held portable unit. Sometimes I can place them inside and sometimes it’s a no go. I’ve learned to be flexible and not ask to much of the pilots. There have been a few times when they offer to give me more time to set up.

Now, you may ask: Why not just hire these wonderful flying rotorcraft for a hour or two and record them? All I can tell you is the cost of operating these machines, especially the older military helicopters is extremely expensive. The cost of renting one of these machines to record makes it impossible offer them for sale at a reasonable price. I can’t let you in on the numbers but I can say it will blow your mind how much they cost per hour to run. So, I take what I can get, whether it’s a re-certification flight for the FAA, arrival, departure or start up on short notice. After a helicopter lands I always ask the pilot if I can record the sound of the machine. It’s not always possible when they arrive but when they leave I make sure I explain what I’m about to do and that I will be safe and not get in their way. Most have been very nice about it and I am very grateful.

Recording The Sound of a Chinook Helicopter

When a Chinook flew in last week I just happened to be there to record them arriving, well, most of it anyway. I still recorded some great material but I knew that if they were going to leave or do a short flight to check the machine I wanted to be there. I spoke with the crew and they were very nice about having me record them and called me the night before they left. I was able to set up four stereo microphones around the Chinook and record it starting up and departing. I had a blast!

Other helicopters stop in to get fuel and I’ve recorded a few of them. Sometimes I’m not able to get them landing but I do get them leaving. A couple have returned and I was able to get them landing. There is also a fantastic Life Flight helicopter based at the airport and they fly in and out on regular basis. I’ve been able to record quite a bit of their helicopter from many different perpectives.

Recording The Sound of a UH-1V Huey Helicopter

That’s all for now. I wanted to let you know the situation on how and why the library has grown so much the last few weeks. Thanks for reading and following my crazy days on social media, I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and videos. Namaste. -Frank