RAM® Takes Flight with Gonzo

Photo collage including the view from an airplane window & mounted tablets

Tag along with RAM®'s graphic designer, Zachary Lough, for a first-person point of view as he takes his first private flight in the Pacific Northwest with Jason the pilot and his trusty Cessna 150. 

"Zach, do you like to fly?"

The hustle and bustle of commercial flights is familiar—the expensive food, the security checkpoints, and the slow boarding process that culminates with learning who you will sit next to. Despite my familiarity, I don’t fly often so it’s still a bit of a novelty. There's beauty in the anticipation of takeoff—the brief sense of terror mixed with excitement as the plane's weight disappears when you take flight. In the past, this difficult-to-stomach feeling has always been accompanied by a vacation, so the pros have always outweighed any cons. 

When I got the opportunity to fly with my buddy in his personal plane in exchange for outfitting it with RAM® Mounts, it was a no-brainer. My immediate response to his invitation was, “I love to fly!”. But looking back, that statement was clearly misguided and I didn’t really understand what I was getting myself into... 

As I entered the air field, aircrafts dotted the tarmac, small and large, but nothing like the commercial planes I was used to. These were… tiny. They literally had to be tied down to not blow away. “So I guess it’s safe to assume you don’t pass out peanuts” I quipped. Jason shot me a smile and continued to walk towards his plane. 

Gonzo, Jason's 1969 Cessna 150, sat just outside a large faded blue hanger that resembled the shape of an overturned watermelon slice. Gonzo stood out among the many planes with its orange paintjob and ample 70's flair. Jason put a ton of money and work into getting Gonzo fly-ready and has since put over 500 hours in the air. Tried, tested, and true.

Opening the door required me to bend down to get under the wing. Stepping into the plane required a yoga move, and moving around while seated wasn’t an option. This was all good and fine, but it was a whole different level of no legroom. 

Outfitting Jason's 1969 Cessna 150

Jason was interested in a mounting solution for his phone and tablet, the quintessential navigation aids while in the air. His current mounting setup was far from ideal and posed almost more of a danger than a solution, constantly having to re-adjust the mount as it reverted to a lackluster angle. Combine that with all the glare you can find yourself in while flying and it's safe to assume he was in need of an upgrade. RAM® offers a ton of aviation solutions and I was sure we could find the perfect fit for his needs. I might not know a thing about aviation, but I understand the mounting side of this whole flying gig.

Based on Jason’s mounting needs, we set up his iPhone with a RAM® Quick-Grip® Universal Phone Mount secured by a RAM® Twist-Lock Suction Cup to the left side of the windshield, but swapped the medium arm for a short arm. This kept the phone closer to the left window frame and maximized visibility. For his tablet, we opted for the RAM® X-Grip® Mount for tablets with Yoke Clamp Base. I believe I adequately described how small the aircraft cabin is, so it goes without saying that mounting space is extremely limited and access to controls and gauge readouts can’t be compromised. Putting the tablet right on the yoke is ideal and doesn’t consume any more space. With our setup complete, we started in on the pre-flight checklist.

It's Time for Takeoff

The headset Jason provided me was nearly brand new and dual purpose: communication in the plane and to neutralize the insane amount of wind and engine noise… so we could actually communicate. The RAM® Mounts weren’t the only modern piece of equipment in this plane. I was forever thankful for those headphones when I briefly took them off while taxiing and experienced the full force of the plane noise. Growing up in Seattle I was always familiar but this sounded like you were inside the engine. The headphones stay on. Noted.

I watched Jason tap on his phone, adjusting some information on his tablet, then start chatting with the tower—there was a lot happing here. I could only pick up the slightest bits of information. Tail number … the runway number... It was like trying to listen to a conversation in a different language where you only know three words. Jason would occasionally give me the translation between coms and I appreciated the quick context in this fast-paced environment. 

After letting other traffic make their way back to the ground or up in the air, it was finally our turn. Our plane pushed forward, smoothly gliding down the runway and the exterior noise shifted pitch. It didn’t take much for Gonzo to get airborne and I got a real sense of the miracle of flight that I hadn't appreciated in large commercial jets. I could feel the sharp smile on my face getting bigger as we gained altitude and a whole new perspective of Seattle’s waterfront appeared.

We circled south lake union, the space needle, and then rolled out easterly heading towards the cascades. We could see fog banks lingering in the lowlands, unique blue shapes the bodies of water made, and all the traffic on I-5. Jason pointed to his tablet to show me our heading and where we would turn around. He also showed me the other planes in the air along with their respective heading and altitude. For those unfamiliar with the aviation world, the flight programs that pilots use have everything they need to stay safe in the air, including visibility on others, weather insights, and wind data. Jason explained to me that all the gadgets and screens incorporated into flying these days has created a bit of a rift between the older pilots and the younger ones about distractions in the cockpit. These screens can provide a treasure trove of good information, but there will never be a substitute for looking outside the airplane. It’s important to remember that for 100 years, people flew based off dead reckoning, radio navigation, and basic gyroscopic instruments. The nice thing about RAM® Mounts is the flexibility and variety of products. They enable pilots to incorporate technology in such a way where it’s not actually distracting from the safety of flight. A real win-win! So with just one properly mounted iPad, we brought this 1969 Cessna into the 21st century.

As our time in the air came to a close, I got to witness the skill and focus that it takes to make a landing appear effortless and smooth. As we gassed up the plane and brought it back to his hanger, Jason shared, "Zack, this mounting setup is a gamechanger. The only problem now is that I think I have to buy a new phone to match!”. 

I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t look up the process to get my pilots license after this adventure. It’s not cheap and takes a lot of time and dedication, but at least I would have the mounting solutions figured out.

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