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I recently had the very good fortune of surviving a winter forced landing in a single-engine airplane in a remote part of Canada.  As luck would have it, just prior to that trip, I decided to begin filming my flying adventures in order to start a YouTube channel. Little did I know how exciting my first couple of episodes would turn out and how valuable that footage would be as a learning tool to share with others. That full story can be found HERE, but what I want to talk about today is how the process of creating my YouTube channel has made me a better pilot.


Just prior to my lake resuce trip, I decided to begin filming my flying adventures.


I know what you’re thinking. We are all tired of seeing “grownups” blathering into cameras pointed at themselves, held by themselves, claiming this and that with just a little too much enthusiasm. These self-created reality TV “stars” are clogging up the ramp, FBO and just about everywhere else in the world — and what do they really know anyway? Well, now that I’ve been one of these people for a little while now, I suggest that there may actually be good justification for at least some of these new content creators. Here’s why:

First and foremost, now that I have the channel I’m flying more. A lot more! In 2022 I logged just over 40 hours of flight time. This year I’m up over 170 hours, and many of those trips were further away and more challenging as well (Oshkosh & Florida Keys etc.).  No, I didn’t do all that flying just for the sake of the channel, but I definitely went out of my way to use my airplane more often because I had one more reason to do so. Let’s be honest, we all love flying but most of us don’t have the time or resources to fly just for the sake of flying. It helps if there are tangible reasons for it, and I find that filming and sharing those videos with others has become one more reason to aviate. The more often I fly, the better I get at piloting AND the more content I can create. This is all a good thing!

tom comet

Watching and listening to my flights after the fact during the video editing process has helped me immensely.

Watching and listening to my flights after the fact during the video editing process has helped me immensely. The great YouTube content creator Steve Thorne founded his extremely successful channel FlightChops on this basic premise. The legend is that, while he was learning to fly, he found a lot of value in the postflight debrief process. Initially he wrote everything down and then, in order to capture more resolution and a greater level of detail, he started using small GoPro cameras to record every flight, including the audio com feed. After the flight he would comb through his footage, take notes, make adjustments to his process and slowly he grew and became a better pilot. Eventually, Steve started editing the footage and publishing the videos on YouTube and the rest is history. Now, both Steve and his 360K+ subscribers can learn from his flights and the world is better for it. I know I’ve learned from Steve and I bet you have too if you have ever watched his channel — which I highly recommend.

For me it can be a humbling experience to hear myself mess up a radio call or see myself land a little long in dazzling 4k video resolution, but I also get valuable feedback on my flying from those same videos. They help me learn and visualize how to do it better next time. Video is an invaluable tool for pilots and I highly recommend videoing your own flights. If you choose to share those videos with your friends and family, or even to the greater internet, then all the better.

I often learn from my viewers’ comments and feedback. Real pilot stuff too! When I started the channel I was concerned that people would be mean and say nasty things in the comments, but so far that has not been the case. Maybe it’s that my content is aviation-specific and aviators tend to be more polite than the general public, so thank you for that. My audience has made some very good points and I’ve learned a lot from them over this past year. For example, one viewer reminded me of the 50/70 rule for takeoff GO/NO GO decisions, which was something I had learned early in my flying career but had promptly forgotten. Now I use this rule on every takeoff roll and it may save my bacon one day.

In one of my earlier videos entitled “I Love My SkyMaster”   I messed up while describing the difference between adverse yaw and asymmetric thrust, and a bunch of folks gently reminded me that what I was saying was incorrect. I now know this distinction very well, so  thank you… really! The lesson that day was to not talk about stuff that I’m not 100% confident about. I now do more research before the cameras start rolling. I now also spend more time reacquainting myself with the fundamentals of flying, which all of us should be doing anyway. Everything from reviewing the POH for my airplane, to looking stuff up in the AIM and the CARs, and even re-reading the old textbooks from when I first started working on my PPL. Serving as a great review and a valuable refresher, this is an important part of my lifelong learning process.

Now that I film my flying missions, another layer of flight planning needs to go into my trips. The real pilot stuff like weather briefing, mission planning, pre-flighting and actually flying the aircraft ALWAYS takes precedence over any filming activities. In order to still have the mental bandwidth left to film the trip and tell a cohesive story after all of that stuff, I need to be even more organized, give myself more time and have a very solid game plan in place. Just mounting and rolling a bunch of cameras randomly doesn’t make for good content, just like hopping in the plane and launching off into the wild blue doesn’t make for a good (or safe) flight. Now I pre-plan all aspects of the flight even further in advance, and this includes more detail than before I was filming. This frees me up to then plan how I will layer the video content over all of the practical flight details. This pre-planning and visualization process makes me a better, safer pilot, and it makes for better video content too. It’s a win, win!

Filming my trips certainly adds another layer of complexity to flying, but this has made my brain stronger, too — never a bad thing. Common knowledge among “normal” humans is that multitasking is bad, but as pilots we need to be good multitaskers (switch-taskers, actually) in order to successfully navigate the skies. I remember early flying lessons when my instructor would ask me to make a radio call while doing something as simple as taxing the airplane in a straight line. Back then, I found it virtually impossible to get any intelligible words out of my mouth while doing anything else with the airplane. Now, eight years later, I can easily interpret and respond to an ATC call, keep the plane straight and level, make a minor power adjustment and continue my scan, all while carrying on a conversation with my passenger.  To record my trips, I must add awareness of the rolling cameras and thinking about what is being filmed to the equation, and my brain has seemingly grown even more agile in order to add this capacity. Of course I place anything to do with cameras and recording at the bottom of my priority list while flying, and I remind myself of this before every flight. Always fly the airplane first!

In filming my flights I have to up my flying game, simply because people are watching me fly. I’ve always pushed myself to be the best, most professional pilot possible, but now that other people are watching I try to be even better. I have cleaned up my act and strive to be better each and every flight. It helps to see and hear everything with so much detail in the editing process, making it impossible to not become aware of little flaws or missteps in my piloting performance. That said, I stay positive and don’t beat myself up about it. I will never be perfect but, like the Japanese concept of Kaizen, I am constantly seeking small, measured improvements over the duration of my flying career. Yes, I was doing this before the YouTube channel, but now I have more and better feedback to help me refine this process. Already I can look back and clearly see my improvements over time on the screen, and this can be very rewarding.

I now seek out more and better mentors and I fly a wider variety of aircraft.  I only know so much and I have just one airplane which is amazing but this can be limiting too…. Adding other people and aircraft to the mix adds variety to my channel and it keeps me on my toes too.  Sure, I could fly my trusty Skymaster every single episode and that would certainly be a lot easier but why not diversify and learn about other people and equipment?  Pilots who I may not have approached in the past and introduced myself to are now fair game and I find, more often than not, folks are happy to talk on camera and sometimes even invite me along to fly in their unique airplanes and have me along on their adventures.  This was how my channel got started with that fateful ferry flight in a Lake Buccaneer across Canada and most of the way back again and that turned into a life changing event!  I will continue to fly with others in order to learn, experience and share more and I have big plans for this in future episodes.  Everyone has a story to tell and I am in a unique position to tell those stories and this is a very rewarding part of the process.

We now live in a world where nearly anyone can produce their own online content, and this is amazing. However, it’s important that such content be created with a purpose. Otherwise it just becomes more self-obsessed, ego-stroking pablum that no one wants to eat. For me, aviation adventure is the through-line in my stories, and having this focus has helped me curate my content accordingly. I may not be trying to teach anything but, if education is a by-product of the process, then that’s a bonus. My goals are simple: to have more and greater flying adventures, to become a better pilot, and to share my unique perspective from above with others. I recognize my good fortune in being able to have this airborne perspective, and it is an honour to get to share it with my viewers.

Sharing my flights on YouTube has given flying more value to me and, hopefully, to others, and I’m inspired to do more. Not everyone has the opportunity to pilot their own aircraft, and our unique view from above should be shared with as many people as possible. Don’t keep it all to yourself! Follow my example and share your experiences in the airplane. Take others flying in real life, or virtually through the magic of video and the internet. Flying is an amazing experience and the more people who get to see or experience it the better. If you can learn to be a better pilot along the way, then that’s great too.

Fly safe and have fun!

Tom Comet
9 replies
    • Tom Comet
      Tom Comet says:

      In that part of the article I was talking about Steve Thorne (Flightchops on YT) and he does have 360,000 subs.

  1. GaryC
    GaryC says:

    The most relevant perspective was the recognition of debriefing the flight. One doesn’t need to be a YouTuber to do a debrief, personally and effectively. Just imagine that someone else is there to hear your honest evaluation of the flight, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And, what coulda, shoulda, and woulda happened if other techniques or circumstances prevailed. Put on the “story telling hat” think about how you would describe the flight in the next hangar-talk, EAA, or … don’t stop by logging your time and closing the book.

  2. Peter C. Millard
    Peter C. Millard says:

    Hi Tom, enjoyed your post. I’ve been dabbling with GoPros and flying for several years now. For me the biggest challenge is editing, particularly when using multiple cameras. I use DaVinci Resolve ( because it supports multi-cam and it’s free) but find it very cumbersome. Plus I’m not a particularly creative type so I struggle with adding cool shots, slow mo, transitions etc. Any suggestions??

    • Peter N Steinmetz
      Peter N Steinmetz says:

      That article makes a very good point! If there is any question about takeoff distance (say when less than 150% of the normally required distance), then just compute it from the tables.

  3. Patricio Mackenna
    Patricio Mackenna says:

    I am writing to you from Chile. I congratulate you and thank you for your humility, honesty and contagious enthusiasm of your YouTuber activity. I will follow your steps and record my flights in this corner of the world to share them with all those who are interested in continuing to grow with the successes and multiple mistakes of this pilot in constant learning.


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