Field Recording: Airplane (Part 1)

A Small Jet

On my last trip to Germany, I still remembered this street on the way to a friends home, which runs parallel along a huge landing site, close to the Munich International Airport, which operates national and international airfare. I associate this area with an interesting memory!  Once in while when I drove down this road in a car, there is a special moment whenever an airplane happens to be right above me – at the right timing. Because the street is fairly close to the landing site and right within the airplanes ‘s flightpath it can get as close as 15 meters from the ground. Its a frightening sound when being situated so close to the source, especially when sitting in the car, not expecting it to happen! A large and tight mid-frequency roar combined with  a powerful engine whine – passing by your head at its peak! Long have I wanted to stack up my library with fresh airplane sounds, but got caught up with life in the meantime (moving to America) and never really had the chance to chase it. Until finally the end of 2010 during Christmas holidays when I visited my family in Munich. Eventually I packed up my recording gear and drove out to the airport, all excited to hit REC button. My goal was to capture the various airplanes activities in a wide set of situations. Approach, overhead, landing, take-offs, shot direct, mid, side, and different positioning etc. Everything I could think of including funny and unexpected random situations.

And this is how near I could position myself on the take-off and landing site of the airport.

Airplane recordings have long been the ultimate sound design resource for everything defined to be larger-then-life sound setting. Since they’re rich in dynamic and cover a wide range of interesting textures, they can be used for many effect layers during the sound effects creation process. Plus, not to forget that each airplane has its own unique character! Plane engines can make their way into audio production for i.e. sci-fi engine power-ups, race car pass-bys or weapons sweeteners for a sci-fi type characteristic such as spaceships or other machinery applications. Especially the take off sound contains rich low-frequency content that can serve well when being filtered for all type of rumble or blasts in explosions or weapons.

Here is a recording of a smaller jet taking-off:

Here is a recording of two direct and a side overhead fly-by:

I recorded about 10 or so airplanes that winged in at the time doing the ‘revers thrust‘  (not sure how its being done) in order to slow down or brake the plane right before touch-down. Apparently, it is a common way to reduce speed whilst landing. Because I was standing in an interesting acoustic space (close to trees in a lowered vally circle), I was able to capture its post-shock wave quite nicely. Listen for yourself! I marked the moment when it happens. There is a  small ‘crack’ the followed by a wave of energy reflecting in the woods. I reminded me of a HUGE whip slap. Imagine for what you could use it for in sound context? I have tried to use it for all kind of interesting textures. It serves well when being filtered and slightly pitched up or down.


Slightly off-topic but perhaps relevant to somewhat airplanes, or at least the telecommunication side of it, security cars drive up and down and sometimes even stop and ask what the hell I was doing. I am used to explaining people my profession and passion for recordings! There was this one guy, a really friendly individual, that I was chatting to for quite some time. However, I was able to persuade him to do a recording of his radio chatter! :)


Oh! Before I forget, here is a little temperature contrast from the cold white winter Munich! I shot this video in Florida at the Regional Airport, where I also did plane recordings and I thought of sharing it with you, since I couldn’t use it anywhere else. I love the shot, with the sunset in the background going down, seeing just the boom in the air! :) awww! The airport is so small, it can be frustrating, as only every hour a airplane either takes off or lands. Sometimes I had to wait even longer – as you can see, till dawn.