This weekend was crap. Yesterday blown out, today early morning downpours, clouds, wind, some drizzle later on; in the late arvo it cleared but I don't think the wind speed was low enough to fly and it was too late anyway.

So what does one do when it's unflyable? Well, from next week onwards I will have a radio-controlled glider -- again, almost 20 years after the first one. No more unflyable days!

But what I did yesterday amongst other things, was to fix up my radio setup -- nicely, I think.

One problem with paragliding is that you rarely ever want to take your hands off the brake handles. Any radio setup that requires you to play around with transmitter, remote microphone or the like is just plain out.

Until recently I flew with a small remote mic+speaker combination on my shoulder harness, and a thumb PTT (push-to-talk) switch plugged into the speakermike. Lean helmet over to the speakermike, press PTT, talk. Works mostly, except that the transmission quality is bad because of the wind noise and because the speakermike gets buried behind the jacket collar and the like.

Earlier on I had a proper in-helmet speakermike, but that was for a different radio. My initial conversion to my current Yaesu VX-5R didn't last long: due to mechanical stresses the plugs gave out and the soldering broke more than once, so I had shelved it.

I have a mild case of the pack rat genes, and throw things away only reluctantly, if I can see a way of building something interesting out of them. (Example: Do you flatten the aluminium foil off the yoghurt pot, thinking about what you might build out of it? I do, but after a few weird ideas and shaping the foil I usually throw it. See, mild case.)

Same with the half-cannibalised in-helmet setup. Which I dug out of the cupboard yesterday and subsequently revamped into the perfect setup. One more thing that sucks about comms is the nest of wires and plugs. If you donned the stuff only once, no problem. But if you like to take your helmet off occasionally while waiting for the wind or get out of your harness altogether, then you don't want to unroute loads of wires, some of which run under your flying suit to your PTT and so on. Simple, easily disconnectable setups are required.

VX-5's are cool radios, but they need 4-ring 3.5mm jacks. Fairly rare beasts, especially if you need the 90° version because otherwise the jack gets destroyed within days (small pocket, things sticking out the wrong way etc.) So I made the Perfect Plug myself, cannibalising a not-so-rare straight one. Soldered a coiled 4-strand cable, angled, then used a bit of shrinktube to strengthen the thing. Afterwards I got out some leftover foam (packrat!) and some epoxy. Cut a form, plug in plug, pour epoxy, wait, cut/sand the plug to form and preference. Neat I think, and it's see-through even! :-)

 2007_02_17-plug-form.jpg  2007_02_17-plug-raw.jpg

A while later I had the circuits figured out and that's the complete setup: the black thingie is a speaker and mike for in-helmet installation (about 4x5cm), the see-through plug goes in the radio which lives in a side pocket of my harness (between hip- and belly-level), and the socket with all the black shrinktube is for the PTT connection. On the second photo you can not see the speakermike well, it's the black wedge on the inside where the black racetape is.

 2007_02_17-in-helmet-spkmic-finished.jpg 2007_02_18-in-helmet-spkmic-installed.jpg

Net result: the PTT wire stays threaded through my suit, and to take the helmet off I only need to unplug the PTT. If I want to get out of the harness temporarily, the helmet stays with the gear, connected to the radio.

[ published on Sun 18.02.2007 18:49 | filed in interests/flying | ]
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