This is the time of year that I can routinely be heard complaining about the cold, as if it’s a surprise that I had no idea was coming. In my defense, it’s fair to say that getting more than a foot of snow Thanksgiving weekend is a bit much, even for Boston.
It’s easy during the dark and cold months of winter to let weeks slip by without flying, which isn’t healthy for the airplane or the pilot. Adding to the challenges of winter weather are the advance planning and steps involved with getting the airplane ready. I’m fortunate that my shoveling days are behind me now that I have a hangar, but making a trip to the airport to plug in the preheater can make spontaneous flying impossible, until this year.
Wi-Fi availability opens myriad options with products from the consumer electronics world. Based on some tests with my phone, I determined that I had a very weak Wi-Fi signal inside the hangar. Nonetheless, I decided to run an experiment. For less than $50 online, I picked up an Etekcity 15-watt outdoor, dual-socket smart plug and a Wyze Cam smart camera. I set the switch up to control the engine preheater and an LED shop light.
In the past, I still had to go to the hangar to plug in the engine heater the night before a flight. The new Wi-Fi switch allows me to turn on engine preheating a few hours before I plan to fly. The camera lets me keep tabs on everything.
After a few technical challenges getting the apps downloaded, accounts created, and devices activated, I was absolutely amazed at the results. I now have almost instantaneous surveillance and control over the aircraft’s heating from anywhere. The camera even has night vision and two-way audio, which may come in handy when my boys complete their flight training and eventually achieve their goal of being able to say, “Dad…can I borrow the Bonanza?”
Until then, the camera is mostly there as a verification that everything’s working properly. But, it’s also a comforting way to check in on things and make sure that all is well during bad storms, year-round. For example, we’ve had cases of water infiltration during winter melts and summer storms. Now, I can check on things without having to drive to the airport.
Wi-Fi at the airport is a luxury that’s not available to everyone, but it’s getting more common. And, even if it’s not available, the cost of setting up your own Wi-Fi hotspot is becoming a great alternative to a dedicated cellular switch. If you do decide to add some Wi-Fi tech at your hangar or tiedown, here are a few tips:
With a little creativity, you can turn the world of “home automation” into “hangar and tiedown automation.” The options are nearly endless, easy to use, and remarkably inexpensive. I’m guessing it won’t be long before I’ll be able to tell my airplane to pull itself out, preflight, and be ready and waiting with a red carpet for me. Until then, I’ll take a warm engine and smooth winter air for my next adventure. Until next time, happy flying!