Bombardier Dash 8 Series 300

Volume 7, Issue 142; 07 Aug 2004; last modified 08 Oct 2010

The next time you're in a little prop plane like the Bombardier Dash 8, try this: point your digital camera out the window at the propeller and check out the LCD display.

Every person takes the limits of their own field of vision for the limits of the world.

Arthur Schopenhauer

On balance, flying from Montréal to Ottawa is a bit silly. You could easily drive or take the train, either of which would be more scenic, in the two-plus hours it takes to get through the airports on both ends of the 23 minute flight in between them.

However, the next time you're in a little prop plane like the Bombardier Dash 8, try this: point your digital camera out the window at the propeller and check out the LCD display.

Propeller and Sky
Propeller and Sky

The display is digital and consequently not analog. The pattern is generated in discrete intervals from the information received by the light sensor in the camera. It's refreshed so quickly that you might think it was instantaneous, but it isn't.

The consequence of this is that the display functions as if the world was illuminated with a high-speed strobe that's completely undetectable under ordinary conditions. A roaring propeller is hardly “ordinary conditions”.

The visual effect, at least on my camera on this propeller, was that of a propeller spinning at a lazy 15-20 RPM. Only the slight but chaotic wobbling of the blades and the wildly flickering manufacturing decal in the center belied the facts.

Depending on your camera, and the propeller, it might seem to move faster or slower, or even backwards like wagon wheels in the movies.

Speaking of propellers, you can file this under “D” for “Duh!”

Thanks for Telling Me
Thanks for Telling Me

Yes, that little strip of orange tape really does read “remove before flight”.