How and why we created the world's first 360 degree online flight lessons

Four years ago I decided to make the first Australian ‘Recreational Learn to Fly’ DVD series. The reason I created the DVDs was because I discovered students were not remembering everything they learned in the cockpit and they wanted a way to both remember what they had learnt on that particular lesson as well as needing a better way to prepare for the next lesson.

The DVDs sold very well and have received excellent feedback from both students and instructors across Australia. About two years I considered upgrading the DVDs to an online version and also thought wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could also offer the inflight lessons in 360 degree video that could be viewed on a VR headset.

The main issue at the time was internet speed and there where not many VR headsets available and they were very expensive. Added to this, the 360 cameras were also very expensive and editing the footage was labor intensive if I did it myself or very expensive if I got a production company to do it. As the flight school was very busy I decided to put the upgrade project on hold.

I am a firm believer that if you are on the right track then the right people and circumstances will show up in your life to help make your dreams a reality.

Twelve months ago the owner of a production company (Light Studios) rang me wanting to make an online reality tv show. We started making the show last year and we have have now created six episodes of Taking Flight. Stephen, the owner of Light Studios, is also learning to fly and, coincidentally, his production company also creates 360 degree videos.

Over the next 6 months, Stephen, Jeremy (GoFly’s IT guru) and I put our creative hats on and created the world’s first online 360 degree learn to fly videos.

Creating the 360 video was not an easy process. Firstly we had to purchase an expensive VR camera that used two 4k camera and two spherical lenses. We mounted the camera on a special tripod on the student’s seat so the camera was situated exactly where the student’s head would normally be.

Over the next six months I then filmed every Pilot Certificate lesson in detail pretending the camera was a real student. We had many retakes and the biggest bugbear was that the camera kept overheating in the Qld sun and so we had to shoot in 20 minute sessions, wait for the camera to cool down then shoot again. The other issue was that the sound had to be recorded on a separate camera then synched to the 360 footage during the editing process.

When shooting footage there is generally six times as much shot as ends up in an episode, so the raw footage used an incredible amount of data storage to get it through the editing stage.

After three months of editing, Stephen finally finished all the episodes in March 2017.

We also filmed all the pre-flight lessons in standard view and offered the inflight lessons in standard view as well as the innovative 360 degree footage.

We currently use the 360 video as a training aid at our GoFly Aviation school and the feedback has been fantastic. The 360 video can be viewed through any mobile device in 360 format with a $25-$75 VR headset (prices have come down in the last few years). The benefit of watching the learn to fly lessons in the 360 format is that you are completely immersed in the cockpit and your can see exactly what the student pilot sees in 360 degree HD video.

We now sell the complete package through Vimeo and it can be downloaded to your device for viewing offline if your internet is a little slow. I truly believe that this technology can reduce your flight time and make you a better and safer pilot. From May 2019 we will have a standalone website for our online content.

I have included a link to the first flight lesson Effects of Controls, for you for free. The entire package can be purchased for $199 for a 12 month subscription, which is less than the cost of an actual flying lesson in a plane. Enjoy!

Damien Wills

CEO, GoFly Group

Click on this link to read further blogs by Damien.