Seattle, WA – August 2009… Be it a solo vocal performance or flying an airplane, few would argue that, individually, these two activities are demanding endeavors. Now combine them and you have something truly news worthy. In a nutshell, that’s the premise behind Will Allen Airshows. Known as “The Flying Tenor,” Will Allen sings the United States and, occasionally, the Canadian national anthems live from the cockpit of his Decathlon (a two-seat fixed conventional gear light airplane) while flying an aerobatic routine that has been choreographed to harmonize with the cadence and crescendos of the anthem. Through it all, Will depends on the tried and true performance of his Lectrosonics wireless system.
During a series of breath-taking loops, hammerheads, spins, stalls, and other aerial maneuvers, Will Allen performs solo, with keyboard accompaniment emanating from terra firma. Since he can’t hear the orchestral-style keyboard accompaniment, Allen carries one very unusual (for a pilot) piece of equipment—a pitch pipe. “When I’m ready to start, I take my cue from a pitch pipe,” explains Allen. “Once I have the music’s key, I start singing and the accompaniment follows my lead. Allen’s powerful vocal performance emanates directly from the plane to the air show facility’s broadcast system and the technology and coordination behind these performances is nothing short of astounding.
Utilizing a Lectrosonics UM250B UHF beltpack transmitter securely strapped into the rear seat of his airplane and an aviation headset mic with a customized harness to pass signal to the transmitter, Allen communicates wirelessly to a Lectrosonics UCR211 Diversity UHF receiver manned by his sound engineer / keyboard accompanist on the ground. My sound engineer coordinates audio for me,” says Allen, “directing my performances to the PA or broadcast system as required.”
“We’ve been using our Lectrosonics setup for just over a year,” continued Allen, “and throughout all the performances, I can tell you without the slightest hesitation that the system has performed flawlessly. I never cease to be impressed with both the range and sound quality of the Lectrosonics equipment. While the actual aerobatics take place within several hundred feet of the crowd, preparation for the stunt frequently requires that I take the plane almost 5,000 feet away from the receiver in order to position the plane for the maneuver. That’s just shy of one mile and, even then, I’ve never experienced a single dropout, which for a performance of the national anthem would be absolutely unacceptable.”
Allen is equally enthusiastic about the ease with which the wireless system can be configured. “In addition to all the RF congestion in the immediate vicinity of the airfield,” notes Allen, “we frequently encounter RF activity from local broadcasters and other sources. With each new location where we perform, we always run a frequency scan, select the best open frequencies, and lock everything down prior to the start of each show. This process is quick and easy and not once have we ever had to call Lectrosonics for assistance. Similarly, the gear is built like a tank and we’ve never required service. The g-force that the transmitter endures during acceleration and throughout the maneuver is substantial, so that says a lot about Lectrosonics’ quality.”
I’ve been really impressed with Lectrosonics performance,” notes Allen. “Given the results we’ve experienced with our present gear, our plan now is to upgrade to the company’s newer UM450 transmitter and UCR411A receiver. This way, we can take advantage of Lectrosonics’ Digital Hybrid Wireless® technology.”
Before shifting his focus back to preparation for his next show, Allen offered this closing assessment of his Lectrosonics wireless system. “Considering the conditions that we put the equipment through, our wireless gear needs to be extremely robust in both its performance and build quality,” said Allen. “Our Lectrosonics system is all that and more. In addition to these attributes, the system’s sound quality is first class. The sound is so clear that we actually have trouble convincing people we’re broadcasting live from the cockpit of the airplane. In my mind, that pretty much says it all!”
For additional information about Will Allen and his air shows, visit him online at www.willallenairshows.com.
Well respected within the film, broadcast, and theater technical communities since 1971, Lectrosonics wireless microphone systems and audio processing products are used daily in mission-critical applications by audio engineers familiar with the company's dedication to quality, customer service, and innovation. Lectrosonics is a US manufacturer based in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Visit the company online at www.lectrosonics.com.
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